Alpaca bringing popular Peruvian rotisserie chicken to Durham’s Ninth Street

By Jessica Banov

jbanov@newsobserver.com

April 17, 2017 04:59 PM

Chicken cooks over wood charcoal briquettes at Alpaca Peruvian Charcoal Chicken. The rotisserie chicken has been marinated overnight in special house seasoning. Alex Tricoli NEWS & OBSERVER FILE PHOTO
Chicken cooks over wood charcoal briquettes at Alpaca Peruvian Charcoal Chicken. The rotisserie chicken has been marinated overnight in special house seasoning. Alex Tricoli NEWS & OBSERVER FILE PHOTO

Ten years ago, Nora Palma – known as Mami Nora to pretty much everyone – and her family opened their first rotisserie chicken restaurant in Durham.

It was then known as Mami Nora’s, for the namesake who introduced the juicy Peruvian chicken fast-casual concept to the Triangle.

Since then, Mami Nora’s has been rebranded as Alpaca Peruvian Charcoal Chicken and has expanded to Raleigh, Cary and Sanford.

Next month, the family will bring it back to Durham by reopening another location on Ninth Street. It’s expected to open mid-May in what used to be Tijuana Flats.

“We’ve had a lot of people in Durham asking for another location,” said Ranbir Bakhshi, one of Palma’s children who runs the restaurants with his siblings. “We came across this location. It’s a great fit for us, for the concept and for the area.”

The concept is pretty simple. The restaurants specialize in rotisserie chicken that’s been marinated overnight in special house seasoning. “A family recipe,” Bakhshi says.

“We cook it over wood charcoal so we can get that smoky flavor,” he says.

Diners can order quarter-chickens (dark or white meat), half-chickens or the whole bird. They come with sides. There are some traditional ones, like fries, cole slaw and baked beans.

There also are sides like rice, steamed yucca, yucca fries and fried plantains. The steamed yucca, a root vegetable, is served with a garlic mojo sauce.

There are specialty drinks, too. Like the chi chi morada, which is made with purple corn, pineapple, cinnamon, cloves and fresh lime juice.

“We make that in-house,” Bakhshi said. “It simmers for two hours. The purple corn gives it a deep purple color.”

The four restaurants are owned by Palma (originally from El Salvador), Bakhshi, his brother Amarbir Bakhshi and his sister, Ruby Bakhshi. The location on Wake Forest Road maintains the Mami Nora’s name but has different owners.

The family renamed the Mami Nora’s restaurants in mid-2015 to Alpaca Peruvian Charcoal Chicken.

“We wanted something different, something a little funky, something they’d remember,” Bakhshi said, explaining the name change. “Alpaca is a symbol of Peruvian culture.”

Bakhshi said business has been brisk as usual, thanks to the restaurant’s loyal customers. The catering part of their business continues to grow, too, for private and corporate events. His mother still works behind the scenes, he said.

They were so successful that they opened a restaurant in Sanford in February 2016 and made plans to continue forward with the Durham expansion to Ninth Street. The other Durham location is on Davidson Avenue.

They have redone the inside and have put the “Alpaca touch on it,” he said. It will look similar to the Morrisville location, where customers can see the grill masters loading the grill and rotisserie ovens up front. Rather than have the meals prepared behind the walls of a kitchen, diners can watch their meal be prepared in front of them, from the chicken being cut to the sides being scooped into containers.

The family hopes the new location appeals to both students at nearby Duke University but residents who like to head to the diverse dining options along Ninth Street.

“It’s something that’s home cooked, that feels like home,” he said.

Info: 703A Ninth St., Durham; alpacachicken.com; facebook.com/alpacaperuvianchicken

Jessica Banov: 919-829-4831; @JessicaBanov