Pollo Tropical sounds like it might be a Mexican restaurant, but it isn't. "We are a chicken brand," says Jacqueline Kleis, senior manager of culinary restaurant and development. It's a Caribbean chicken brand, you should note.
"The last thing we wanted to do when we came to Texas was look like a Mexican restaurant," said Tim Taft, president and CEO of Fiesta Restaurant Group. That company, in fact, owns the popular Taco Cabana brand in addition to Pollo Tropical.
Walk into a Pollo Tropical, then, and it looks and feels different than the original stores launched in Miami in the late '80s. In the remodeled Pollo Tropicals in Texas, you'll get a festive, beachy vibe, the walls splashed with painted palm trees.
There are no tortillas here, no bowls of chips for queso dipping; save that for Taco Cabana.
The new Pollo Tropical on Greenville Avenue is the first in Dallas, though nine Pollo Tropicals already exist in suburbs such as Plano, Addison and Hurst. It's located in the former Beck's Prime, located near Southern Methodist University and the M Streets in Dallas.
Pollo Tropical moved into Dallas-Fort Worth in a big way in 2014. They hope to open 12 restaurants in the region in the first year and a half here. By the end of 2015, plans call for 23 Pollo Tropicals in Texas, Taft says.
The restaurant sells proteins such as chicken, roast pork and beef, with sides.
The citrus-marinated grilled chicken, which is astonishingly moist, is a popular pair with the Caribbean corn soufflé. The fried plantains are worth a try, too.
Pollo Tropical gets trendy with its low-cal menu called Tropical Lite. It also has a "saucing island," where diners can load up on curry mustard, guava BBQ, cilantro garlic and others. Treat the cilantro garlic like ranch (and don't count the calories).
The man behind Pollo Tropical's parent company used to be the president of Whataburger. "We know Texas," Taft says. "We know the customer."
Can the fresh, fun Pollo Tropical become the Lone Star State's next beloved brand? With Taco Cabana as its best friend, maybe.
Opened Sept. 30 at 4622 Greenville Ave., Dallas. 10:30 a.m. to midnight every day. Drive-thru. Catering available. pollotropical.com.