On a brisk, sunny Thursday afternoon in Nashville, Belmont students sit lazily at the glossy tables of the nearby Latin-themed hot-spot Chago’s Cantina.
Jewel-toned plates holding heaping portions of Latin-inspired dishes leave the kitchen, as onlookers momentarily pause their conversations in awe, anxiously hoping that their order is next.
One of the most popular dishes among Belmont students is the Pollo Gringo, a simple concoction of Spanish rice, grilled chicken, and queso cheese.
“When a group of students walk in here, I can always guess that the Pollo Gringo is what they’re going to order,” said waiter Lynn Reed.
And her predictions are usually right.
“We don’t even need the menu anymore when we get seated,” said Belmont student, Devon Watts, 22, who always orders the chicken dish.
In fact, the menu item is so synonymous with the restaurant that at the mention of the eatery’s name, Watts is compelled to ask nearby companions, “Have you had the Pollo Gringo?”
After touring Central and South America for two months, owner Chad Head, 37, was motivated to bring the flavor of Latin cuisine to Nashville.
“I find inspiration from the people I surround myself with. I love entertaining friends and family and being the host. Seeing people smile when they eat my food or taste my drinks makes me want to make each meal better and better,” said Head.
Belmont student, RiTara Williams, 21, assures Head that his food brings more than smiles.
“I’m not being dramatic when I say the Pollo Gringo makes my day. Having a lunch break at Chago’s and eating a plate of the Gringo is one of the best pick-me-ups.”
But what is it about the Pollo Gringo that keeps students like Williams addicted?
“Is there crack in the Pollo Gringo?” asks Belmont student and Chago’s frequenter, Taylor Phase, 21.
“Well, not really,” says Head.But what does go into the dish is just as powerful—handcrafted food made from fresh ingredients. The magical creation begins with the foundation of all good Latin cuisine—the rice. Made with a simple mix of tomatoes, garlic, onions, and a traditional blend of seasonings, the rice is sautéed until the golden brown.
But what would the Pollo Gringo be without the pollo—the chicken? Head is very protective of his spice, ambiguously referring to it simply as “the marinade.” Once grilled to a perfect gold, the chicken is then nestled into a mountain of the Spanish rice.
But Belmont students Watts, Williams, and Phase all agree that the queso cheese is what truly makes the dish enchanting. “There’s no secret ingredient here. It’s just plain old queso,” says Head.
But the white cheese sauce is far from plain, driving Belmont students to the nearby cantina.
“The Gringo has to be eaten with the chips. It’s like queso on crack,” says student Kevin Dole, 22.
To visit Chago’s Cantina click here.