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My Go-To ‘First Day Back From Vacation’ Meal

Pollo a la brasa eases me back into my routine

Plate of pollo a la brasa with fries, two dipping sauces, and rice. Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images

This post originally appeared in the May 10, 2021 edition of The Move, a place for Eater’s editors to reveal their recommendations and pro dining tips — sometimes thoughtful, sometimes weird, but always someone’s go-to move. Subscribe now.


For some reason, figuring out what my first dinner should be after arriving home from out of town has always been a fraught internal debate for me. We could try to hit a restaurant on the drive back from our trip or from the airport, but I’m usually a little worn out and just want to get home. Ordering delivery, like pizza or Chinese, feels like a good lazy option, but also indulgent after I’ve spent a lot of time eating out over several days. I could cook something pseudo-healthy, but odds are there aren’t a lot of groceries in the fridge. I could pull a meal out of the freezer, but that would be just a little anticlimactic for Last Day of Vacation eating.

Enter Peruvian chicken.

Pollo a la brasa places are a dime a dozen in the area of Northern Virginia where I live. It’s definitely possible to put together a takeout order loaded with fries and yucca, but I tend to go the route of mostly focusing on the chicken and its fabulous accompanying green sauce, and then augmenting with sides like salad or beans if I’m feeling a little gross after travel. (My husband tends to have no such qualms, so we typically end up with some fries in our order, or chaufa, which is the Peruvian take on fried rice.) Peruvian chicken joints here have always had quick service — even in pre-pandemic times — so there’s no real need to call ahead. You can stop by for takeout on your way home if you know you’ll be starving by the time you pull into your driveway. It’s also pretty affordable, so justifying the expense is easy even if you stretched your restaurant budget while you were out of town. But it still feels festive, and it means I can put off cooking for at least one more night.

An order of Peruvian chicken also sets me up for success for the rest of my week. I’ve never ordered less than a full chicken for the two of us, so that means leftover meat can be eaten for lunch, folded into chicken salad, or repurposed in any number of ways, even before I have time to restock my fridge. Sides can play a similar role: Frequently, my breakfast the next day will either be an omelet made from chaufa or some stewed beans with a fried egg on top.

But Peruvian chicken is more than just our no-brainer post-travel meal (which is a good thing, since travel isn’t exactly a frequent thing these days). We pick it up whenever the world seems to get the better of us and cooking just feels like too much effort. Massive fail in the kitchen? Work went until 8 p.m.? The pork roast I ambitiously defrosted now just looks unappealing? Peruvian chicken is the answer.

If you aren’t lucky enough to have access to Peruvian chicken close to where you live, I’m sorry for your loss. A store-bought rotisserie chicken might accomplish a lot of the same goals as you prepare for that dreaded first week back from being out of town, but I can’t promise that it will be quite as satisfying. Maybe if you make your own green sauce? Though that sounds like an awful lot of work after just getting back home.

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