Las Vegas Sun

May 28, 2017

Currently: 85° — Complete forecast

Pollo Campero fanatics flock to first Las Vegas location

Image

Steve Marcus

Customers wait in a line that extends outside the new Pollo Campero, 1025 W. Craig Rd., Wednesday, April 5, 2017. The restaurant, founded in Guatemala, is the first Las Vegas location for the popular Latin chicken chain.

Pollo Campero Grand Opening

A chicken order with french fries and cole slaw is shown during the grand opening of Pollo Campero, 1025 W. Craig Rd., Wednesday, April 5, 2017. The restaurant, founded in Guatemala, is the first Las Vegas location for the popular Latin chicken chain. Launch slideshow »

The line at this new chicken restaurant in North Las Vegas wrapped out the front door and around the side of the building. The wait in the drive-thru was more than 30 minutes.

No, Chick-fil-A hasn’t opened another Southern Nevada location. Rather, it is Pollo Campero — a Latin speciality chain with roots in El Salvador and Guatemala dating back to the 1970s.

When Chick-fil-A opened two locations earlier this year, many locals waited in line hours at time for a taste of chicken that reminded them of home. The city’s Hispanic community is doing the same this week in celebration of Pollo Campero’s opening at 1025 W. Craig Road.

“It reminds me of going there with my family as a child,” said El Salvador native Alejandra Dominguez, who stood outside a side door of the new restaurant shortly before ordering a plate of citrus-flavored fried chicken legs and empanadas. “It was one of our favorite places back home.”

The now Dallas-based chain, which was started in Guatemala in 1971 by Juan Bautista Gutierrez, opened its Southern Nevada doors on Tuesday. Originally started as a Guatemalan and El Salvadorian specialty chain, it serves Latin American fast food favorites like chicken bowls and “campero” pinto beans with pork in addition to its signature chicken legs, and desserts like flan and dulce de leche empanadas.

Dominguez, 33, and her family stood in line, which started extended about 100 feet from the entrance, for more than 80 minutes. Mexican nationals Marie Herrera and Hector Nunez waited more than one hour on their lunch break, but were rewarded with the “camperito” chicken boneless bites and a corn, cheese and pepper salad.

“I heard it was good,” Herrera said. “When there’s good food, word gets around here pretty fast.”

Franchise owner Paul Kular was born and raised in Las Vegas, but his mother, Maria, is from Honduras.

Kular, like many of his patrons on Wednesday, said he was introduced to Pollo Campero as a child, visiting his mother’s hometown of San Pedro Sula. When the opportunity to bring the brand to Las Vegas arose, his family capitalized.

The newly opened location is one of four Pollo Campero restaurants Kular, 24, is under contract to open in the Las Vegas Valley over the next two years, he said. Two additional stores will open this year — one at Charleston and Lamb boulevards by August — and the fourth will open in 2018, he said.

After a relatively calm start to the restaurant’s opening Tuesday morning, Kular said the line had been nonstop from Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday after word of the opening spread on social media. So far, Kular said his most popular seller by far has been the traditional citrus-flavored fried chicken legs.

“It’s authentic in the way it’s prepared,” Kular said. “It’s healthy, good stuff and really good.”

Last year marked the first time that Pollo Campero surpassed $100 million in sales across its 74 U.S.-based restaurants. It has nearly 400 worldwide locations in countries like Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Spain, Italy, Bahrain, China and the United Kingdom.

A company spokesman said Pollo Campero aims to double the number of its U.S.-based operations over the next three years, and that millennials make up nearly two-thirds of the chain’s customer base.