Pollo a la Brasa and More Peruvian Delights on South Street

At Brazas, chef-owner Juan Placencia is showcasing the street foods and party foods of Peru.

Brazas BBQ chicken

Juan Placencia, Brazas’s chef and owner / Photograph by Jauhien Sasnou

Brazas is half a restaurant operating as an entire restaurant, and it’s already so good that I want to go back for lunch every day for a week.

It lives on South Street, right in the middle of the Weird, surrounded by tattoo parlors and galleries, bars and boutiques and the Theater of the Living Arts just a couple doors down. Last time I was there, teenage girls were camped on the sidewalk, sitting on tarps, curled on sleeping bags, waiting for something. My first thought was that they were all lined up for chicken. They weren’t, but that’s where my head was at.

Pollo a la brasa — that’s the specialty here. Peruvian rotisserie chicken, brined for a day, marinated in chili and garlic and vinegar, salt and black pepper and cumin, then roasted until the skin crisps and the meat is moist and tender. Chef-owner Juan Placencia opened Brazas to showcase the street foods and party foods of his native Peru. Educated at the Culinary Institute of America, he trained under Jean-Georges Vongerichten, did his time in fine dining in North Jersey, then walked away and came here.



Brazas BBQ Chicken
326 South Street, Queen Village

CUISINE: Peruvian


Order This: Half chicken, fried yuca, maduros, and papas la huancaína so you can dip everything in the sauce.

Brazas has taken over a former Primo Hoagies location but hasn’t quite completed the renovation. There are tables in the front half of the space, chairs, bare white walls, but Placencia is still building. There’s a bar that used to be Primo’s bar (stools removed, but still, you know, a bar) that serves now as a counter for takeout orders, and the back half of the restaurant is just empty — a half-dark void that servers pass through between the kitchen and the front of the house. It is, as I said, unfinished but serving anyway. Filling in the pieces as it goes. Slinging chicken and papas a la huancaína in a smooth duckling-yellow aji pepper and cheese sauce; rocoto pepper hot wings; Peruvian-Chinese chaufa rice; and soft, pastry-shelled empanadas as big as your fist, stuffed with pulled chicken and huancaína sauce. It’s not pretty — the room, the space. But you gotta admire the hustle.

Also, you gotta admire the yuca fries — steak-cut, fried perfect golden-brown, crisp on the outside and pillowy on the inside. You gotta admire the maduros, sweet and sticky and done with an expert’s eye for pulling them at that instant between full dark, sugary caramelization and burned-completely-to-hell. You gotta admire the chicken, of course — whole birds, halves and quarters, juicy all the way to the bone — and the half-dozen house-made sauces perfect for dipping almost everything else on the menu into.

So don’t wait is what I’m saying. Go now, order big, walk away smiling. Because while Brazas might not be all there yet, Placencia and his crew absolutely have the kitchen together. And here, that’s all that really matters.

2 Stars — Come if you’re in the neighborhood

Rating Key
0 stars: stay away
★: come if you have no other options
★★: come if you’re in the neighborhood
★★★: come from anywhere in Philly
★★★★: come from anywhere in America

Published as “It’s the Chicken That Counts” in the May 2023 issue of Philadelphia magazine.