Friday, March 16, 2012

Grass Roots Cafe (Part 2)

(Original Review -- January 2012)

(UPDATE: Looks like Ellis is just doing catering gigs now, from what I've been told....)

On March 6, 2012, I showed up to Grass Roots Cafe to take on the Fire Eater Challenge. I honestly didn't show up to rate the challenge. I merely wanted the thrill of taking down a previously unconquered spicy undertaking.

Ellis Bradley is the co-owner and chef at Grass Roots Cafe. He amassed over 10 years of catering experience even before attending culinary school. Without a doubt, he is one of the nicest cart owners I've ever met. He has that enthusiastic, laid-back vibe, with just enough seriousness to showcase the passion he has for preparing great food. Coming to the cart and chatting with him is like talking with a long-lost family member.

Located in the Mississippi Avenue Kultural Korner pod
(Corner of N Mississippi and Fremont)
I also met his business partner, Keontay Pitts. He's only 20, but has a high food IQ!

Keontay (left) and Ellis
Ellis had mentioned a couple months back that he would revamp the menu with a spicy challenge and a large burger. He came through on both promises -- with a few other tasty morsels to boot.

The Fire Eater Challenge involves taking down 12 wings, coated in his insane heat sauce, in 15 minutes or less. I had all smallish drumsticks on my attempt, making the challenge much easier. You're allowed about eight minutes for the wings to cool down, so you don't struggle with both temperature heat and spicy nukage. Winners get their picture on the business website -- on the Wall of Fire Eaters -- and a $5 coupon for your next meal.

(Yeah, I know, as of 3/16/12, my picture still isn't on their site. Figure Ellis is busy....)

The insane heat sauce has ghost peppers, capsaicin, and probably some other fiery goodies. As of that day, five people had attempted it. No one succeeded. Gee, those are great odds!

Fire Eater Challenge
(Grass Roots Cafe)
Having previously tried the "Bro, that's stupid hot" chicken burger (which also uses the insane heat sauce), I had an inkling of what type of heat to expect.

Ellis started the timer. Biting into the first wing, I could gauge right then that the challenge wouldn't be very difficult. When the heat didn't get overwhelming by the fourth and fifth wings, it was only a matter of time. The wings had a crunchy exterior from the frying process, yet the meat retained some juiciness. Honestly, the wings could have been pulled from the fryer some five minutes earlier. Not the best wings I've ever had, but I've had worse.

Looking back, I coulda easily cleaned the wings up better, but Ellis counted it anyway. The official time was 2:51. Way to christen the Fire Eater Challenge, eh? Ellis admitted that he "held back" on this batch of insane heat sauce. Now he knows there are people out there that can take these volcanic gutbombs!

Oh! I forgot to sign the waiver before the challenge started! Oops. Didn't matter anyway.

Ellis wrote the waiver on the order pad again!
And it's all on video!

As a bonus to my small, stunned audience, I took a sampler cup of insane heat sauce and chugged it, cleaning the remnants with a spoon. Consuming it like applesauce! Yeah!

Only when I took the sauce straight did I discover its potential power. Over the next few minutes, my throat burned and my stomach threatened mutiny. As time passed, the irritability subsided, with no horrid aftereffects. (I was fine that night and the next morning)

I challenged Ellis to make the sauce hotter, one of massive spicochistic proportions. You know, he should name a sauce after me. I think "spicochist" has that appropriate evil ring to it. For the record, I had previously challenged another chef to up the heat twice for his spicy sauce, so there's precedent here. You may thank me or curse at me later.

Ellis has a seriously huge menu. For a "normal" meal, I'd consider such items like his stuffed wings (he has four types) or his Wednesday chicken and waffles special. Fridays and Saturdays feature pork spare ribs.

Are you one for quantity? The "B.F.D. Burger" is a four-pound mass of humanity. It's normally $20, but $15 as a Tuesday special. I've seen a photo, and the bun appears thicker than the meat patties. Damn.

One of the most popular burgers is the " Burger" ($8). bacon, two beef patties, one egg, mild poblano remoulade, Tillamook cheddar, sweet pickled red onions, lettuce, and fried pickles between...two grilled cheese sandwiches!

Ellis with the " Burger" (plus fries)
I love those grilled cheese sandwiches on the top...beautiful!
Ellis also pitched the Rick Bear Burger ($10): two 7 oz. patties, one hot link, one egg, two slices of bacon, mild chipotle mayo, American and provolone cheese, sweet grilled onions, lettuce, and fried pickles between...wait for it...two grilled cheese sandwiches! I think there's a recurring theme here with the grilled cheese sandwich.

How the hell can I forget dessert? Deep-fried oreos and Twinkies. A Cherry Bomb ("spicy") milkshake. Even a bacon caramel milkshake. WTF. This is torturous food porn material. And to think, I write this stuff all the time. Argh.

Head to Grass Roots Cafe to take the Fire Eater Challenge, destroy a huge burger, or get sinful with some other awesome dishes. As stated earlier, I'm not rating the challenge itself. I'll return in the future to redeem my $5 coupon and get a "normal" meal here. 6.5/10

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