LOCATION: Smorgasburg D.C. (Tingey Plaza, Washington, D.C. 20003)
As we were walking around the market, I started spotting some people carrying around this pretty sizeable chicken sandwich. Decked out with spices and served on a sesame bun, the fried chicken definitely looked like it would hit the spot. It wasn’t long before my hunt for the chicken brought me to the Hot Lola’s tent in one corner of the Smorgasburg marketplace.
The team from Hot Lola’s was serving one thing only: that fried chicken sandwich, served either spicy or not spicy. I wasn’t about to stop at a hot chicken stand, however, and not give the hot chicken a go. The guys working in the back were really cranking out the sandwiches, so my friend Mark and I both got ours in no time.
This particular rendition of the hot chicken was at their “dry hot” level, with just the spices coming through and no hot sauce that would cling to the side of your throat. A mix of Sichuan peppercorn, star anise, cumin, and Thai chili is tossed with the fried chicken thighs right after it comes out of the fryer. Take that, put some coleslaw, pickles, and their Comeback sauce (which I suspect was a form of chipotle mayo) onto a sesame bun and you’re ready to rock.
I tell you what: after my first bite into the sandwich, I just couldn’t stop eating it. The dried spices were enough to give you that initial wave of heat and slowly built up as you ate more, but never punched you in the face. It had a nice blend of spicy, earthy, and sweet notes, which definitely gave the chicken sandwich a good amount of heat, but still remained flavorful. The coleslaw helped provide a bit of a cooling effect, and the Comeback sauce still kept some of the spice level while making sure your bites didn’t dry out between the bread and fried chicken. I’m always a fan of the pickle addition as well to help give that acidic bite to periodically cut through some of the other flavor profiles.
It was definitely a hefty chicken sandwich, that’s for sure. I had to grip it with two hands when eating it to prevent things from falling out. For just the price of $10, I think the sandwich was definitely worth it, from both the flavor and value perspective. Every bite you took would give you more layers of flavor, to the point where you wouldn’t really mind the heat level of the spice. If you spot people at Smorgasburg digging into a fried chicken sandwich, be sure to keep an eye out for Hot Lola’s. A stop is well worth it.
Let’s now take a look at the Hot Lola’s Dish Spotlight. Asterisks (*) below mark my recommended dishes.
** Sichuan x Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich **
Fried chicken thighs tossed in Sichuan peppercorn, star anise, cumin, and Thai chili, topped with coleslaw, pickles, and Comeback sauce, served on a sesame seed bun.
And finally, here are my rankings for Hot Lola’s:
Food: 5 / 5
When you’re able to achieve that delicate balance of spicy to give you some burn but yet flavorful so you’re enjoying it while you’re breaking a sweat, that’s a winning combo in my book. The chicken was cooked nice and moist, and the breading wasn’t too excessive, just enough to give you that crunch.
Smorgasburg D.C. was arranged into a smaller space than the one in LA, but I think that gave it the advantage of having more of a community feel. I never felt like the space was ever too crowded, as there was plenty of room in the immediate area around the market to sit and chill out.
Service: 4.25 / 5
We got lucky that when we stopped by, there wasn’t any crowd in front of the tent. We put our orders in, and a few minutes later, the sandwiches were ready. They must’ve had a pretty good rhythm going to turn the sandwiches out the door.
Price: 4.75 / 5
In a marketplace environment, I believe that you’re paying for both quantity of food you get as well as quality of the food. For the hot chicken sandwich, it definitely gets high marks in both those categories.