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Why Is That Chicken Smiling?

Pollos el Paisa brought Colombian chicken to central Nassau nine years ago and the crowds have been flocking (pardon the pun) there ever since.

Roughly translated, Pollos el Paisa means Happy Chickens; certainly the customers are happy enjoying these succulent rotisserie birds. With the exception of the quiet of the mid-afternoon, the little mustard colored and maroon diner is packed with customers  from South, Central and North America.

Manager Frank Toro estimates that 70 chickens are sold every day, either whole, halved, quartered, or in specialty dishes such as arroz con pollo What’s left goes into the restaurant’s delicious soup (which can be ordered with innards or without).

The chickens are seasoned for two days in a blend of fresh herbs, wine, beer, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper. Then they are put on the rotisserie. The skin is beautifully browned and the meat is juicy.

There’s lots more to Pollos, however, than chickens. Skirt steak brought sizzling to the table in a cast iron pan is deliciously seasoned and especially good with chimichurri sauce of finely chopped green herbs, garlic, olive oil, vinegar and more. The skirt steak is so well-flavored that it’s a toss-up as to whether or not to add the chimichurri. The restaurant’s extreme dish, generally ordered by men, is Bandeja Paisa—“Mountain Platter”—with ground or grilled beef, fried egg, beans, pork rinds, sweet plantain, rice, avocado and corn cake. You can go lighter with some of their many seafood dishes. Whole red snapper is prepared steamed and slather in vegetables or fried with a crispy skin.

The menu is written in Spanish and English and still know what you’re getting: side dishes include yucca (cassava), tostones (fried green plantain), maduros (fried sweet plantain), arepas (corn cakes), and frijoles (beans).

In addition to the chicken soup, which is available every day, there is a soup of the day such as tripe on Monday and green plantain on Wednesday. Saturday’s oxtail soup is most popular so you need to be there early in the day to make sure you get some and the native soup of boneless chicken with white, red and yellow potatoes, cream and capers, served with avocado and rice, is a crowd pleaser. “People are crazy about that soup,” says Toro.

Two popular desserts are flan and dried figs in syrup with white cheese on the side. The coffee, of course, is from Colombia.

Pollos el Paisa is at 989 Old Country Rd., Westbury. Call them at 516-338-5858.