Near Tufts: Machu Chicken
First and foremost, Machu Chicken is not the same as Machu Picchu, which is across the street with the same owner, Rosy Cerna from Peru. It is similar in that it is authentic and delicious Peruvian food, but far more casual and less expensive than its sibling restaurant.
Machu Chicken is a small, cozy Peruvian restaurant in Union Square. If you walk too quickly, or are distracted by the haphazard traffic conditions of Union Square, you might just miss them. But if the menu by the door or the “ZAGAT 2013,” “ZAGAT 2014” stickers catch your eye, then get ready, because a deliciously good time is coming your way.
That is, if you’re not vegetarian. It’s not that Machu Chicken doesn’t have great vegetarian offerings. It has a spread of salad options from $6-9, as well as delectable meat-free desserts (Torta de Tres Leches, three-tiered milk cake, Mazamorra Morada, purple corn pudding, and Alfajores, caramel-filled Peruvian pastry). But its specialty is meat: lots of meat, lots of interesting types of meat, lots of mouthwateringly-marinated meat.
Before we dive into its food, a few general things about the restaurant. While Machu Chicken has a whole bunch of charcoal grilled dishes (which Machu Picchu doesn’t), ceviche is one Peruvian national dish that is only found in Machu Picchu and not its smaller counterpart. Also, be prepared to wait for a little while, especially if you order food that needs to be charcoal grilled. On the two occasions I visited Machu Chicken, our tables waited for upwards of fifty minutes (once when it was full, once when there were only two tables). If our mouths weren’t occupied by conversation and intriguing purple corn juice (Chicha Morada), we’d probably be grumbling about a wait we didn’t realize was necessary.
A big thing with Machu Chicken is chicken, where you can order a quarter, half or whole chicken accompanied by a house salad and a choice of sides like golden potatoes, fried plantains, boiled yuca etc.
If you want more vegetarian protein, their side orders include thoroughly Peruvian dishes like tacu tacu (Peruvian beans & rice), frijoles canarios (canary beans) and ajies (hot sauce with green rocoto peppers and Peruvian chili paste). Other than that, their appetizers, charcoal grill options, and sandwich options feature a lot of juicy charcoal grilled meat. And not just steak, pork ribs or grilled chicken; try some of their gizzards, beef tripe, chicken hearts and beef hearts.
During my first visit, I fell deeply in love with the costillas (ribs). The next time I ordered it, however, it wasn’t as fantastic as I remembered. Diminishing returns, or bad timing? Perhaps a third trip will settle the score.
Food (taste): A-
Food (presentation): A
– Min Yi Tan
Cover photo source.