Welcome to Spice Route, in which food writer Warren Rojas connects diners to the most fiery and flavorful dishes in area restaurants.
Location: Bub and Pop’s, 1815 M St. NW; (202) 457-1111; bubandpops.com
Vision: Food fights waged on social media between fast food outlets are cute and all, they’re just no match for Chef Jon Taub, the zeitgeist-seizing sandwich artist behind the incredibly timely “Popeye the Sailorman.”
The fun-loving co-owner of hoagie haven Bub and Pop’s estimates that he’s experimented with close to three dozen different chicken sandwiches since opening up shop with his mother, Arlene Wagner, in 2013. But the feeding frenzy sparked by the recent turf war between Popeyes and Chick-fil-A convinced Taub it was time to slay some giants.
His champion: a two-handed monster pairing a Southern-style, hot sauce-streaked bird with silky creamed spinach.
Execution: “I always wanted to do a fried chicken Florentine-style,” Taub says of the inspiration for his latest crowd-pleaser.
He starts things off with tender chicken breast seasoned with salt and pepper. After sealing the natural juices inside a golden brown crust, Taub hits it with a house-aged hot sauce forged from multiple hot peppers, garlic, onion, and white vinegar. The whopping pieces of audibly crunchy chicken would probably be enough to woo most diners away from skimpy, heat-lamp shrunken fast food fare for life. What makes this ripped-from-the-headlines sensation truly irresistible is the masterful balancing act between the funky hot sauce and the comforting, slow-cooked greens. Each bite packs a serious punch of smoky heat.
Looking to put your own stamp on the spicy chicken craze? Spread a mound of sweet-hot hoagie relish across the toasted brioche bun for an extra kick. Or pile on pickled cherry peppers—Taub’s go-to condiment—and enjoy the fireworks.
So far, Bub and Pop’s has plowed through orders for Sailorman every day it’s been offered. “Even though we increase the amount prepped, it sells out very quickly,” Taub says of the burgeoning demand. The sandwich will be available through Oct. 1.
Intensity (out of five): Three sirens