“You’re gonna need to have some napkins at the ready,” chef George Mendes warns as we dig into his new Spicy Wood-Grilled Piri Piri Chicken Sandwich ($8). “It’s not the cleanest sandwich to eat, but that’s the beauty of it.”
Indeed, by the time we’re done eating, Mendes has to excuse himself to change his chef’s whites thanks to the Portuguese sauce. The piri piri chicken, served frango style at Mendes’ Chelsea restaurant Lupulo (835 Sixth Ave.) was already a hit, so he decided to turn it into a sandwich as an alternative to the “too many delicious fried chicken sandwiches all over the city.”
And when you taste the smoky result, you won’t miss the breading at all. “Thigh meat is perfect for a sandwich because you can get a real nice char on the wood-burning grill and it remains really, really juicy,” Mendes explains. (It also travels well, in wax-coated bags that keep wayward juices on lock.)
The sauce does give it a kick, but not enough to make your eyes water. A smoky mayo echoes the flavor of the meat, while three large bread-and-butter pickle slices and the potato roll lend a little sweetness. If you’ve got the napkins, this sandwich is the best way to put them to use. Get it as an off-the-menu special only available during lunch (11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.) at Bica, the “quintessential Portuguese cafe” and takeaway window inside Lupulo.