The wait for globetrotters living in Chicago who miss the grilled chicken from Nando's Peri-Peri is over. Chicago's first Nando's opens at 11 a.m. today on Randolph Street. Here are a few facts to keep in mind while devouring that first bite of spicy chicken.
1) The first Nando's opened in 1987 in Rostenville, South Africa (a suburb of Johannesburg). It was first called Chickenland, until founder Fernando Duarte rennamed the spot by shortening his first name. Duarte and friend Robbie Brozin owned the chain, and the first location still remains.
2) There are more than 1,200 Nando's across 23 countries including England, Fiji and Switzerland. Melbourne, Australia has the most locations with 95 within about a 60-mile radius.
3) The Chicago expansion is Nando's second area in the U.S. The chain arrived in 2008 in Washington, D.C.'s Chinatown, and now there's two dozen in the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area.
4) The Randolph Street spot is the first of three Nando's planned to open this year in Chicago. A second location will open in June at 670 W. Diversey Pky. and a third in September at the New City development at 1500 N. Clybourn St.
5) Though debuting in South Africa, Nando's food is actually an interpretation of Portuguese cuisine, as European settlers harvested African spices.
6) Though Nando's spells it "peri-peri," but it's also known as "piri-piri." Still, the words are derived from "pili-pili," a Swahili word describing the African bird's eye chili which powers the spicy sauces and dishes at Nando's.
7) Nando's has sold its sauces at Chicago retailers for years. Hot sauce sales were one of the many things management looked at before picking Chicago for expansion, beating out cities including Boston and Philadelphia.
8) Nando's offers counter service and the average tab for a customer is $13.50. Items come ala carte, but sides like chips (fries), macho peas and flame-grilled corn on the cob are easily added to entrees.
9) The grilled chicken, marinated overnight in peri-peri, comes in six different heat levels or flavors. The most mild is Plainish which is grilled without added spice. There's Lemon Herb and Mango, two flavors that offer a hint of spice. Medium's the default, followed by Hot and Extra Hot.
10) The menus at the three Chicago spots will remain the same, and there's some new items for Chicago. One is the Nandacos' Choice is a chicken breast topped with cole slaw served on a garlic bread bun.
11) Each Nando's is decorated with a variety of South African art, as the company claims it's the owner of the largest South African art collection displayed in the world. The displayed collection features more than 8,000 pieces shown at restaurants.
Nando's Peri-Peri, 953 W. Randolph St., Website.