I've been in a mall food court exactly six times in the past decade, each time to satisfy an acute Cinnabon fixation.
So when a foodie street teamer pointed me toward Latin Chicks my skeptic's antennae went all wobbly.
Despite having to roundhouse kick my way through a day-after-Christmas crowd, I have to admit the recommendation was solid.
Latin Chicks is a family-owned-and-operated fast food vendor that specializes in "coal fired" roasted chicken, home style sides and other dishes, like ropa vieja, that you don't usually see in the mall. In this land of franchised chicken joints and other generally chewy but flavorless options, Latin Chicks is a standout.
I chose a 1/4 chicken - breast and wing - and was very pleased with its seasoned, mildly spicy and crisp skin. The chicken looks good, despite service in a foam clamshell. The meat was moist and tender.
A+ for the chicken. Dip each bite into a mild green chile sauce for added layers of goodness.
My side dishes included rice with peas and carrot slivers - again, great flavoring and nicely moist. For the other side , I selected slow cooked carrots and green beans. I don't know who chose the seasonings, but again, the dish resonated with flavor and freshness.
As I was moving to the cash register, I spied a small stack of fresh, handmade tamales... yes, please!
The masa was filled with tender pieces of seasoned beef. Tamales aren't offered every day, so I was happy to have caught the right day. The young woman behind the counter told me different specials come along from time to time.
The restaurant's churros - fried bread pastries - offer something for the sweet tooth.
It's unpretentious food made with integrity, and a well-placed option to the usual mall fare. I'll go back for ropa vieja, more chicken and a tasting session with the variety of housemade hot sauces.
There is an interesting choice of beverages. I chose a Columbiana Kola flavored soft drink - which carries a decidedly vanilla or meringue flavor.
Oglethorpe Mall food court/354-2537
More chicken fast
Tropical Chicken is open in the former Quiznos next door to Harbor Freight Tools at 12313 Largo Dr. The fast casual menu offers a variety of fried and grilled chicken entrees - and a huge selection of side dishes that range from conventional veggies to things like fried yucca.
It's a different set of flavors for a neighborhood punctuated by large chains. I'll get in soon with a dining report.