By Taylor Hartz | Staff Writer
Nando’s newest restaurant opened in the Loop on Sept. 4, serving up plates of Peri-Peri chicken just minutes after opening their doors. As chicken-loving Chicagoans awaited the 11a.m. opening, lines wound up the stairs under a 21-foot installation of brightly colored aluminum cans. Hanging from the ceiling of the entryway through the dining area, the chandelier is just one of many indigenous South African artworks visitors can expect to see at the new flagship store.
Creating its signature dish with the South African Bird’s Eye chili pepper, Nando’s strives to keep close to its roots, including South African dishes on every menu, and sourcing all decorations from indigenous artists.
On the new restaurant’s second day in business, lines grew even longer as Grammy Award winner Chance the Rapper put on an apron and served up Nando’s specialties.
Chance, a Chatham native, volunteered his time at Nando’s to launch a three-day fundraised for Chicago Public Schools. All proceeds from Nando’s new store from Sept. 5 to Sept. 9, except alcohol, were donated to Chance’s charity, SocialWorks.
Earlier this month, Chance announced that SocialWorks had raised more than $2.2 million for CPS. Across the U.S., Nando’s aims to partner with local public schools and other organizations, said company spokesperson Jim Popkin, and has raised more than $225 thousand nationwide.
“Nando’s loves to pair with people who love to give back to the community,” said Jessica Reicher, Chief Operations Officer for Nando’s.
Throughout the evening on Sept. 5, the 24-year-old rapper cooked with the chefs, saw guests to their tables, and delivered food orders to fans.
The extensive food menu at Nando’s includes their most popular dish, Peri-Peri chicken, and a variety of sides, salads and vegetarian options. The succulent Peri-Peri chicken is marinated for more than 24-hours with Bird’s Eye, a South African chili pepper. The chicken is then flame-grilled and basted in a variety of flavors, from mango lime to “xtra hot”, based on your choice from the “peri-ometer” spice scale.
The restaurant, which first opened its doors in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1987, came to Chicago just two years ago after establishing a heavy presence in the Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia areas, with over 35 locations. The new restaurant, at 155 N. Michigan Avenue, is the largest here in Chicago.
Serving over 50 people in their first half hour, Reicher said its also going to be one of the busiest.
The expansive dining room and lofted patio area make room for a vast collection of indigenous art, with several original paintings decorating the walls.
“Every Nando’s is different by design, we never wanted anything to be cookie cutter,” said Jim Popkin. But one thing is the same, all their designs are made by hand by South African artists.
Though the restaurant has more than 1,200 restaurants in 23 countries and on five continents, Popkin said “Our Michigan Ave. address is a big deal.” Reicher said the Nando’s team is excited about the location, and hope it will reach a variety of customers.
“It’s a great area because its near Chicago locals but its also on the tourists’ path,” said Jessica Reichier, chief operations office for Nando’s.
The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday. It closes at 3p.m. on Tuesday and stays open late on Friday, until 11p.m. The location features a full dining menu, with the option to order online, along with outdoor patio seating and a beer, wine and sangria menu.