As a gluten and dairy-free diner, I meticulously research restaurant options whenever I know I will be dining out. Most of the restaurants I visit are selected from this process, but in the case of Viva Chicken in Charlotte, NC, my decision to dine there was based purely on a whim.
I was visiting North Carolina for the holidays, and my mom and I were out running errands after Christmas. We had already planned on stopping by Sabor Latin Street Grill (a place I had reviewed before), when we spotted Viva Chicken. The location was convenient and was closer to the stores we wanted to go to, so we pulled in to see what (if any) gluten-free options were available. Once confirming they were allergen-aware I couldn’t wait to to put their food to a taste test. Without spoiling the review at the get-go, I can definitely say that this surprise find of a restaurant delivered one of my favorite dining experiences all year.
Viva Chicken’s menu is built around Peruvian-style rotisserie chicken that’s naturally gluten-free. That certainly makes selecting a meal easier, and for other menu items they have a helpful allergen guide on hand that outlines gluten, dairy, nut, soy, egg, egg, and sugar-free items. Of course the presence of an allergen list does not mean food is automatically safe, but it does help to narrow your options and see what would be safe. When I ordered, I also let the staff know I was a gluten and dairy allergy, and that was communicated with my order.
Although their chicken is clearly the star of the show at Viva Chicken, I actually ended up ordering a dish that was meat-free: the tacu bowl. Built on a base of cilantro rice, the bowl features canary beans, salsa criollo (onions and tomatoes marinated in lime), avocado, and green onions. The ingredients were beautifully arranged and came out after a few minutes of wait time.
I fell in love with this bowl from the first bite. Every component was flavorful with the fragrant rice and spicy beans earning the highest regard. I loved how the perfectly-cooked rice not only had cilantro, but had peas and carrots in it which made it far more tasty and interesting than other fast food chain’s rice. The beans added plant-base protein that filled me up and left me satisfied throughout the afternoon. The other ingredients rounded out the bowl so that every spoonful left me marveling at how much Viva Chicken passed my expectations.
While Viva Chicken certainly offered a slam dunk in the food department, their in-house crafted beverages are noteworthy as well. I ordered a glass of the herbal limeade, which featured a bright and bold lime flavor with added nuance from fresh basil, rosemary, and mint. It’ll put any limeade to shame, and I wish I could have purchased a gallon (or two) to take home with me because it was absolutely a revelation. Even better was that the limeade was sweet but not sickeningly so. All in all it was a refreshing and delicious complement to my tacu bowl.
I am so glad my mom and I made the split second decision to stop at Viva Chicken because it proved to be one of the best fast food experiences I have had to date. The quality of the food was unparalleled and the affordability made the experience that much more sweet. I know I will make a point to stop by again whenever I am in the area, and look forward to eating one of their chicken dishes next time (washed down with more of that marvelous limeade!).