If you’re craving peri-peri chicken, look no further than Galos in Ballard. Courtesy of Galos Flame Grilled Chicken

Washington State is in the first phase of the planned expansion of a Canada-based franchise called Galos Flame Grilled Chicken. Its first location here opened in Ballard at the end of June, in a newish development that includes a controversial New Seasons Market. It is basically modeled on the world famous Nando's, a peri-peri chicken chain founded in Johannesburg, South Africa, with locations spanning five continents and encompassing the UK, parts of the United States, and, of course, British Columbia. Nando's is amazing!

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And the closest you'll find to what they serve at Nando's, in Seattle, is Galos, which also flame-grills its chicken in the Portuguese style—it's flavored by fire and peri-peri sauce. (Peri-peri is a Portuguese-bred pepper that got its name in Mozambique—a Southern African country, and former Portuguese colony—in the 16th century. "Galos" is Portuguese for "roosters.")

Also like Nando's, the interior design of Galos' Ballard location is somewhere between casual dining and fast food. You order at the counter (like a McDonald's), but you eat in an area that attempts to look respectable (think Olive Garden). You can also order beer or wine to wash down your meal. This is a place where you are encouraged to sit, talk, and dine without a rush or a hurry.

That said, is the grilled chicken at Galos as good as that at Nando's? It is not. But it's not bad, either. Galos does the job, which always requires that one can really taste the flames in the meat, and the char on the peri-peri pepper, and the smoke in the bones.

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When I visited the Ballard location recently, I ordered three different types of grilled chicken. One was flavored with lemon sauce, the second by a medium-hot peri-peri sauce, and the third by the hot peri-peri sauce. (The menu also offers a "very hot" version.) The lemon chicken was fine, but I will never order it again because its flavor failed to transport me to Southern Africa, to the history of the Portuguese civilization (which also includes Angola and Brazil). Believe me, when I eat a chicken grilled in the Portuguese style, I want a taste of empire. The empire is nowhere to be found in the lemon sauce, but it is present in the medium-hot peri-peri chicken, and very much present in the hot peri-peri chicken, which, to be honest, is only as hot as the Nando's medium peri-peri chicken. I never tried the "very hot" chicken.

Though I did try some of Galos' sides (grilled corn, coleslaw, spiced rice), they ultimately held no interest for me. The same goes with Nando's—the sides at that South African restaurant are also inconsequential, they need only to be edible. What matters above all else is the chicken, and the peri-peri sauce, and the flame-charred flesh, and the juices in that flesh. Do this right, and you do right by me.