If you live in the U.S. and you haven't heard of Nando's, you can be forgiven. But if you live in the U.K. it's inexcusable: This international chain is absolutely beloved there, with nearly 300 locations. There are only about 40 in the U.S. and 30 of them are clustered in the Washington, D.C., area.
But Nando's is definitely a chain worth knowing about, especially if you're a fan of grilled chicken. In fact, when Prince William admitted that he'd tried it and loved it, the news caused a huge stir across the pond. The South Africa-based chain was founded in 1987 and today has more than 1,000 locations in a whopping 35 countries; in the United States, beside the majority around our nation's capital, there are 12 locations in the Chicago area. But wherever you travel, it seems as if a Nando's isn't too far off; locations are as far-flung as New Zealand, Singapore, Pakistan, and Namibia.
So what makes Nando's so special? Its signature marinated and grilled chicken, of course, but also its wide variety of salads, vegetarian options, and sides like garlic bread, Portuguese rice, and stellar fries.
So if you see a Nando's open up in your neck of the woods, we suggest you drop by and see what this global phenomenon is all about. In the meantime, check out these 10 facts you may not know about Nando's.
It Was Founded by a Portuguese-Born Engineer Near Johannesburg
When a Portuguese-born audio engineer named Fernando Duarte discovered that a Portuguese-style chicken joint had opened in a Johannesburg suburb, he took his friend, an entrepreneur named Robert Brozin, to check it out. They were such big fans that they bought the restaurant outright in 1987, and renamed it Nando's after Duarte's son. Within 10 years, more than 100 locations had opened in South Africa.
It's All About Peri-Peri Chicken
Nando's success is due to its flavorful chicken, which is marinated for 24 hours in a Portuguese chile sauce called peri-peri (also called piri-piri), made with African bird's eye chiles, garlic, and lemon (here's a recipe), and basted with it as it grills over an open flame. Chickens are sourced locally for each location, and are never frozen.
They Work With 1,400 Farmers
Nando's sources its bird's eye chiles from more than 1,400 farmers in 18 growing regions in Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe. They provide these farmers with education on the latest farming techniques, seedlings, a fixed outlet for their crops, and stable incomes.
Nando's Owns a Huge African Art Collection
Many Nando's restaurants display South African art from emerging artists, ranging from oils and sculptures to weaving and beadwork. In fact, the chain is the world's largest purchaser of contemporary South African art.
You Can Sample All the Sauces in the Restaurant
Indecisive? If you're dining in a Nando's restaurant, you can belly up to the sauce bar and try all the different bottled sauces, from mellow but flavorful wild herb to scorching extra hot.
U.K. Customers Can Play Chicken Wing Roulette
U.K. customers who like to be daring with their dishes can order Wing Roulette. Your server will bring you a dish of 10 chicken wings sauced in the various levels of heat. Be careful, the next wing you pick up might be mild, or it might be blazing! (They all look the same, so there's no way to cheat and skip around the dish!) Sadly, this challenge isn't yet available in the U.S.
You'll Learn a Little Portuguese
Signs and artwork in the restaurants teach you a tiny bit of its founder's native tongue. Gosto delicioso means "great taste," and Bom proveito! means "Enjoy your meal!"
Its Logo Has a Story
The rooster that shows up in Nando's design is the Barcelos Cockerel, and there's a 14th-century legend to go with it. The story claims that a pilgrim passing through Barcelos, Portugal, was about to be executed for theft. In desperation, he declared that if he was innocent, the roast cockerel on the judge's plate would get up and crow. And according to the legend, that's just what happened. Ever since then, the Barcelos Cockerel has been the symbol of faith, justice and good fortune.
Bringing the Whole Family?
Nando's can serve a group with its Jumbo Platter, which is advertised as serving 4 to 6 people, and consists of two whole chickens and five large side dishes, such as chips (you may know them as fries), Portuguese rice, coleslaw or "macho peas," which are mashed peas spiked with chile, mint and parsley.
You Can Buy the Sauce
If you don't have a Nando's near you but want to recreate its chicken at home, you can buy its lemon herb, garlic, medium, hot, and extra extra hot sauces at many retail locations, including Walmart. But be careful: The extra extra hot sauce is right up there with the hottest hot sauces on Earth!
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