Photo by Matt Hembree (C’20)
By Morgan Pruett
A new restaurant opened up just down the mountain in Cowan and it is a gift from the gods. Almost every college student shares a deep love for a Chipotle burrito bowl, but now you can get one “at a lower cost and much higher quality,” according to German Martinez (C’18). The ingredients are fresh, the meat is high quality, and one can guarantee a lot of love went into any item ordered at Chicken Itza, from a beloved burrito bowl to a carefully cooked charcoal chicken breast, or, my personal favorite, some deliciously smothered nachos.
Julio Hernandez, Chicken Itza’s artful owner, was born in Lima, Peru and grew up in a family with a deeply rooted passion for cooking. The black bean recipe came from his own grandmother’s recipe from deep in the Peruvian Selva, and the cilantro lime rice paired with the charcoal roasted chicken is the perfect combination for the wander-lusting foodie.
Chicken Itza boasts a careful combination of Peruvian and Mexican influence as Hernandez and his partner, Adrian, bring to the table “a combination of experiences and a lot of emphasis on quality,” says Hernandez. They guarantee that all of their sauces and salsas are completely homemade and backed up by Hernandez’s 61 years in the food industry.
Two years ago, Hernandez came up with the idea to create something new and exciting, causing him to step back in the kitchen and start creating. He says, “I decided to go back to the basics. It was a lot of work, but we really love what we are doing.” He decided Chicken Itza would really “focus on the food more than décor and atmosphere. We wanted to take a minimalistic approach that really focuses on quality and flavor.” All the hard work really shows. He and his passionate group of cooks arrive at the restaurant at 7a.m. in order to slowly and delicately cook their famous charcoal chicken as well as the Peruvian creamy chicken.
Hernandez hopes in the future to be able to change up the items in the bar and start creating more intricate dishes to really bring a mix of traditional Peruvian and Mexican foods to the attention of customers. Things can only go up from here for Chicken Itza as the continue to grow and grab the attention of more foodies like myself.
What Hernandez is already doing with Chicken Itza can be described as nothing other than art. The food is crafted with the utmost care and creativity, backed up by quality that one would not expect from such a rural town. Chicken Itza truly exceeds the norm with its extremely kind and passionate team of experienced cooks, its quality, and its exceptionally reasonable prices.
“From the bottom of my heart, thank you for supporting our restaurant, and a special thanks to Luis and Juan Vera. Chicken Itza would not have happened without you,” says Hernandez.