Guy Buonadonna started out cooking old-school Italian favorites at the Upper Darby standby Bona Cucina, which his brother, Pat, still owns.
But a bite of Peruvian roast chicken at Pollo Rico in Arlington, Va., flipped an unlikely switch.
The result is Barbacoa, the casual Ardmore BYOB scented with wood smoke from an oak-fired hearth. The menu is quirky and eclectic, from great barbecued brisket to smoked chicken egg rolls and that bacon-wrapped Philly relic, shrimp Lejon.
The best reason to visit, though, is that succulent chicken, taught to Buonadonna by a Peruvian chef. It's memorably juicy due to a soy, cilantro, and lime brine, plus a slow roast over the embers.
The final touches are the sauces - a cilantro chimichurri, and a white aji pepper puree emulsified with garlic - that actually "took longer to get right than the chicken." I doubt it'll take very long to devour them both.
- Craig LaBan