Restaurants / Openings

Spicy South African Cult Favorite Is Finally Here In Houston — Nando’s PERi PERi Brings Serious Restaurant Buzz

Uptown Gets a Major Chicken Boost

BY // 08.06.23

South African fast-casual restaurant export Nando’s PERi PERi is set to officially open in Houston this Monday, August 7. (It’s currently in a soft opening phase.) The very first Nando’s to open in Texas, it is poised in a prime Uptown location at 1717 Post Oak Boulevard in the recently revamped Post Oak Plaza.

“We are so excited to bring the flame, flavor and feel of Nando’s to Houston and Texas, marking our first major market expansion in nearly a decade,” Nando’s PERi-PERi CEO John Fisher says in a statement. “Uptown is just the beginning of an exciting journey for us in Greater Houston, and we look forward to becoming an integral part of this cosmopolitan, food and art-centric city.”

The spicy Nando’s was born 35 years ago with just one restaurant in Johannesburg. Now, there are Nando restaurants in 24 nations from Australia to Zimbabwe. It first landed in the United States in 2008. (A rigorous mail-in campaign by its legions of fans is credited with bringing Nando’s to Texas.)

This restaurant chain is named for the small fiery red African bird’s eye chili pepper (nicknamed peri-peri) grown in Nando’s native South Africa and the surrounding regions. The famed pepper was introduced by Portuguese explorers in the former Portugal territories of South Africa and Mozambique.

A Look at Houston’s Own Nando’s

The rapidly expanding Nando’s tapped Texas-based Michael Hsu Office of Architecture to create its new vibrant Houston restaurant space with soaring ceilings replete with a modern structural take on a traditional thatched roof built inside the dining room. No cookie-cutter concept, each Nando’s locale offers a peek inside the restaurant’s Portuguese-South African heritage. There is also a connection to the community it serves with  Nando’s collaborating with South African and Houston-based artists to create one-of-a-kind paintings that hang about the space.

The exterior of Nando’s PERi-PERi
Nando’s PERi-PERi, the South African fast-casual restaurant has arrived in Uptown at 1717 Post Oak Blvd. (Photo by Michael Anthony)

The 79-seat Houston restaurant with a signature open flame grill (a “braii”) as its focus is also a showcase for South African makers who created the indoor and outdoor dining chairs, cabinetry, cork paneling and tile work inspired by tribal designs.

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Nando’s sources all its per-peri peppers through its network of 1,400 local farms in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawi and South Africa. The idea is to empower farmers with upfront access to funds, equipment and seedlings, as well as a guaranteed commitment by the company to buy their crops at a fair price determined before the growing season even begins.

Curious about how spicy a peri-peri pepper can be? Apparently, its Scoville units (the measurement in which a chile pepper’s heat is determined) can range from 50,000 to 175,000 Scoville heat units (SHU). For some context, that’s somewhere between the heat of a cayenne pepper (30,000 to 50,000 SHU) and a hot, hot, hot habanero that starts at 100,000 SHU and can reach a whopping 500,000 SHU.

Marinated Tomato, Halloumi and Chicken Salad at Nando’s
More than just grilled chicken plates, Nando’s also features salads and bowls like this marinated tomato, halloumi and chicken salad. (Photo by Greg Powers)

The Nando’s menu is broad with flavor-packed dishes from starters like grilled halloumi cheese sticks with a chili jam dip ($8.29) to peri-peri wings with their own proprietary ranch dressing ($8.79). “Handhelds” include the Nandocas’ choice ($15.79), a chicken breast sandwich on garlic bread topped with coleslaw, and a sweet and spicy chicken wrap ($11.99) made with the thigh meat, veggies, sweet chili jam and a cooling cilantro-tinged yogurt sauce.

Bowls and salad options range from the peri chicken rainbow bowl, a vegetarian option ($13.99) with avocado, grilled halloumi slices, tomato and cucumber salad, pickled cauliflower and hummus built atop Portuguese rice. Salads include a spicy chicken kale Caesar salad ($12.49).

Most known for its flame-grilled peri-peri chicken marinated for 24 hours in a bath of a secret blend of spices and herbs, Nando’s lets you simply select the part you desire from breast to legs to the whole dang bird and then the level of heat of its basting sauce. There are five levels from plain-ish to extra hot and a side or two.

Prices range from $15.39 for a half chicken with a regular side to $31.59 to a full platter composed of the whole chick with two large sides meant to feed two to three people. Nando’s sides include its version of mac n’cheese, crispy Brussels sprouts, red skin mashed potatoes, coleslaw and macho peas, a mashup of whole peas with parsley, mint, garlic and chili.

Nando’s PERi-PERi is located 1717 Post Oak Boulevard. It is open Sundays through Thursdays from 10:30 am until 10 pm and Fridays and Saturdays from 10:30 am until 11 pm.

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