If you’ve ever visited this lardy corner of the internet, you know that I rarely gush about food. Oh, wait… yeah, OK, fine. I do. But I don’t usually gush about food outside of NYC unless it’s something special.
On a recommendation from a Peruvian pal from New Jersey, I deliberately engineered a layover in Miami a few months ago, primarily to eat Peruvian food. And also to go canoeing in the Everglades with the alligators and crocodiles — which, for whatever it’s worth, I strongly recommend, even if you don’t plan to eat the crocodiles. It’s crazy fun, though not quite as much fun as a huge plate of Peruvian chicken. Then again, not all that many things are as fun as Peruvian chicken, except for maybe Peruvian ceviche, or Peruvian beef in cilantro sauce, or a really great plate of Peruvian lomito with fries, or some Peruvian empanadas.
Wait… where was I? Right. Miami. Got it. On my pal’s advice, I headed to a place called El Pollo Inka, almost literally within spitting distance of the Miami airport. It’s one of those places that’s buried in a two-story strip mall, with multiple South American restaurants sharing the same parking lot. I’m sure that the others are perfectly lovely, but stay focused: El Pollo Inka is all you really need.
As you may have figured out, I’m a fan of Peruvian food, and El Pollo Inka absolutely nails many of the classics: great pisco sours, an excellent rendition of chicha (a sweet punch made from fermented purple corn), perfect roasted chicken, and outstanding ceviche. But where the place really shines is in a few of its lesser-known dishes, including the rare treat of purple sushi rolls.
Yes, purple Peruvian sushi rolls. They’re called causa rolls, and they aren’t exactly dainty: chunks of unusually tender octopus and avocado, rolled in a layer of potato and topped with a tangy sauce made from a deliciously pungent Peruvian olive. It’s amazing, and possibly the first sushi-like dish I’ve ever encountered that was actually filling. I love Japanese-style sushi, but I’m a really expensive date at a typical sushi joint. (Related: does your corporate AMEX card want to take me out on a sushi date? Huh? Huh? Please?)
Another hit was El Pollo Inka’s conchitas a la parmesana — scallops in a half-shell, baked with white wine and Parmesan cheese. Definitely not a light appetizer, but pretty darned phenomenal.
The place is, in a sense, the holy grail of restaurants. Excellent execution of Peruvian classics like ceviche and roasted chicken? Yup. Great pisco sours? Hells yeah. Reasonable prices? Sure. But the place deserves some serious bonus points for creative, gut-busting, off-the-beaten path dishes that aren’t offered in all that many Peruvian restaurants in the United States.
So if you’re flying somewhere – like, I don’t know, how about from New York to Boston or something – it really isn’t hard to arrange a layover at El Pollo Inka – er, I mean, the Miami International Airport. That’s, like, totally worth it for Peruvian food, right?
El Pollo Inka
7285 NW 36th St, Miami, FL
Transit: I recommend Delta, mostly because of those cinnamon cookies they serve on flights