When people start talking about Southern cooking, fried chicken is sure to come up. But, lately, my taste in chicken has been running a little farther South.
Every week or two, I like to stop by Las Brasas, a brightly painted hole-in-the-wall in Decatur, Georgia, and pick up one of their Peruvian-style rotisserie chickens to take home.
Las Brasas translates variously as “hot coals” or “flame-grilled,” and the chicken it serves has a distinctively smoky but juicy taste with hints of wonderfully mysterious spices. You can buy a whole bird for $9.99, a half for $6.99 or a quarter, which runs $3.99 for dark meat or $4.99 for light.
When you order and are asked whether you’d also like hot sauce, be sure to say yes. The salsa de huacatay, a green sauce made with peppers and a minty herb known as huacatay, is not burn-your-mouth hot but it has a little kick that grows on you.
Las Brasas offers an array of sides including mixed vegetables, corn on the cob, sweet potato fries, pinto beans and rice. My favorites are the the big, flaky homemade fried tortilla chips with avocado dip ($1.99 for a small order, $2.99 for a large) and the potatoes with huancaina sauce ($4.99). The potatoes are sliced and served over a bed of lettuce with hard-boiled egg and olives. The huancaina sauce is made with cheese and Peruvian pepper, but to me it tastes like a creamy mustard sauce.
Las Brasas also offers sandwiches (served with an avo-mayo dressing), tea and soft drinks, including the Inca Kola beloved by many Peruvians, and a flan dessert that many people rave about.
While the food is great, I also love going by the place because the owners, John and Maria Koechlin, always greet customers so warmly. Originally from Lima, Peru, they opened Las Brasas in September 2007 and work side by side there except when John is away at his “day job.” He is an Atlanta-based international flight attendant for Delta Air Lines and periodically jets off to Japan or Brazil or Chile.
And, yes, sometimes John does still fly back to Lima just to do a little shopping for spices. Once you’ve tasted the food at Las Brasas, you’ll be glad he does.
Las Brasas is located at 310 E. Howard Ave. in Decatur. Phone 404-377-9121.