If you’ve never heard of the Halal Guys, they are a chain. I believe the original opened in New York City while there’s another in East Brunswick, New Jersey and more popping up all over the place. Last month I had the pleasure of trying their food for the first time after much anticipation. The menu is very simple. This is important because the place was jam-packed and they needed to keep people moving. Chicken or beef gyro, or falafel, that’s it. What I noticed is that in several places there were warning signs saying that their hot sauce is hot. I actually laughed, scoffing at the idea that a chain restaurant could really bring the heat. In this ultra-sensitive world, my brain conjured an image of some poor, weak soul burning their tongue on something slightly hotter than Tabasco and then threatening a lawsuit. Perhaps I should not let my imagination run so wild next time.
When it was my time at the counter, I asked for the hot sauce. The server said, “Are you sure?” Me being a lover of all things spicy answered in the affirmative. She proceeded to squirt a trivial amount onto the top of my platter. My eyes widened, “A little more, please.” Again she asked if I was sure. On went another tiny dab. Finally, I said, “I really like spicy, so go ahead and give it to me.” She shook her head and smiled (as if to say, “Okay, you asked for it”, and doused my meal with the sauce. Yes, I was happy. My friend next to me said that maybe I was making a mistake, because her husband loves hot too, but even he has trouble with this. Yeah, sure.
And so we sat down to eat. Was this really going to kill me or did I get what I expected? It didn’t take one bite before I realized I made a grave mistake. In a split second, that hot sauce managed to skip my mouth and head right for my throat like a knife. Searing, burning, pain. The kind that takes your breath away. Go ahead and grab the water. Make it worse. I did, out of instinct. I think my eyes actually watered.
Lost in all that madness was some amazing flavor. The meat was flavorful and the creaminess of the Tahini meshed so well with the hot sauce. It was a match made in heaven. I scurried for some of that lettuce and tomato to give my mouth a relief. It was to no avail. I learned a lesson that day. When there are warning signs literally plastered in front of you, heed their advice. Anyone who knows me knows I can handle heat. This caught me off guard and kicked my ass. But was it worth it? Yes. Would I try it again? Absolutely.