Took a stroll yesterday to our newest dining choice, Nando's Peri Peri in lovely "downtown" Silver Spring. I was not aware, but according to the company's website they have locations in 34 countries and 5 continents. They first opened in DC a couple years ago, and now they have made it to our neck of the woods.
The place is mainly about chicken, but non-chicken eaters can find a fair amount to eat on the restaurant's menu. If you are into pollo, you'll have many choices with many different sauces (more on that soon).
If you haven't tried it before, which we had not, they have a certain system they use with their customers. At least for us, we were seated, explained the system -- ordering at the counter, getting your own soft drinks, napkins, silverware, etc -- and then having a server deliver your food. I suppose if the line at the counter is not long, it's easy enough to do this. But it could be annoying if you were seated and the line quickly grew before you got back up. Seems odd to me. Why not just give out table tents with numbers so the servers know where to drop food?
Anyway, I did find it odd but didn't want to hold this against them. So we got up and joined the line. We decided on our order as we waited. We wanted a bit of a mix, so we did a bowl of olives, an order of hummus, a roasted portobello sandwich with grilled halloumi cheese and the country salad. The olives are sitting right on the counter so if you are starving when you order and need to eat fast that's a decent choice. Next to the olives are a selection of spicy nuts, so that's another option for ya. Next time I'm going for the nuts ($2.95). The olives at $3.75 weren't terribly exciting and I know large garlic cloves are added to the container for flavor, but they also become part of your small bowl and take up precious room that olives could occupy.
Soon after we grabbed our silverware, napkins and a couple teas our hummus arrived. We both thought this was a good choice. It came with a tiny sauce container that we drizzled over the hummus. Was a tangy and tasty sauce. I also should mention there are numerous sauces available for use that come in larger containers and can be brought to your table. A few we tried were the hot, garlic and herb, but there were more. The hummus was flavorful and was accompanied by pita slices. We both agreed we'd order it again. We tried it with a couple of the different sauces and they mixed well with it. But once you start adding a sauce or two it quickly transforms into something really other than hummus. But again, still good.
Even before we finished our hummus and olives our two other dishes arrived. Even with the opening day crowd - which just after 12:00 went out the door - the service was very efficient. It did seem like they had a ton of staff on board for the first lunch -- half of whom stopped by our table to ask how things were going. After the fourth or fifth time it was a bit much. I assume once they know what they're doing there will be fewer staff per shift; we'll see how that affects service.
My sandwich was decent sized and appetizing. It was on a Portguese roll with some lettuce, a tomato, the roasted 'shrooms and the grilled halloumi. Was the first time I had tried this style of cheese and I liked it. It was however very salty. It was not too noticeable on my sandwich, but pieces of the cheese also came on the country salad and there it was kinda overwhelming.
The salad on its own was pretty standard. In addition to the cheese it contained romaine lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and croutons and there was not too much dressing, which is something we often encounter at places like this. But all in all pretty run of the mill outside the halloumi.
Other things of note, they did a very nice job remodeling the place. It looks well done. In addition, Nando's does serve alcohol. They had a few Portuguese beers for $4.95 and others in bottle. They're also serving wine by the glass and bottle. I believe these were exclusively from South Africa and Portugal. Prices were very reasonable, $6 per glass and there were many bottles in the teens, twenties and topped out at $38. I neglected ask about happy hour, sorry.
I did however ask if you were drinking a glass of wine or beer and wanted another if you had to get back in line. I was happily informed you did not. You simply have to flag down a server and they will retrieve it for you. I do like that.
All in all was a good lunch and we do have plans to return. And I assume once the allure has worn off, folks will be back at other destinations in downtown for lunch. Felt a little bad for Baja Fresh as we walked by on the way home. 12:30 and no one in line ordering. I'm guessing they'll be OK.
And on another topic, underground dining in Silver Spring, aren't we something?