I tried the new King’s Hawaiian Pork & Slaw sandwich at Firehouse last night and all I can say is that if this sandwich is indicative of Hawaiian-style BBQ sandwiches, I now know the first place I’ll be visiting if I ever visit Hawaii…
…and it will not be a Hawaiian BBQ stand! The picture of this sandwich looked very good on the menu signage so it lured me into trying it. All I can say is that this was a little creative photography.
It’s slaw the rage these days
As some background, when we go to our favorite BBQ place (Jim ‘n Nick’s is the bomb), my wife and I get our BBQ sandwiches “Memphis Style”. This is the special variation of the sandwich that adds coleslaw on top of the sandwich. When the slaw is made to not be too creamy and a little vinegary, this adds a great flavor and crunch to the BBQ. When I saw in the picture that Firehouse essentially had a pulled pork sandwich “Memphis Style” on their menu, I was all over that! Not knowing how the Hawaiian-style slaw was at Firehouse, I opted to get it on the side. There’s nothing worse than ending up with a soggy bun because the slaw was too creamy. At least I thought there was nothing worse until I was presented with the sandwich.
When the sandwich arrived, the slaw was in it’s proper place in a bowl on the side but turning my attention to the sandwich, it was dripping some kind of liquid. I peeled back the bun to find a mix of white and yellow liquid oozing about. My first fear was that there was mustard and mayo on this sandwich and I hadn’t noticed it on the signage. I double-checked the sign and here is what it reads:
Steaming hot 12-hour smoked pulled pork, pepper jack cheese, and Hawaiian cole slaw, piled high on toasted King’s Hawaiian® bread for an eruption of island flavors.
I quickly realized that the oozy white liquid was steamed pepper jack cheese. I typically wouldn’t order cheese on my BBQ sandwich but I can handle this. This leaves one mystery unsolved: what is the yellow liquid dripping from the sandwich? I asked the “cheerful” employee about it and she said that it was a sweet mustard sauce. When I told her that I was not aware of any such sauce for this sandwich, she replied “it’s on the sandwich description” and she offered to make another sandwich for me without it, if I’d like. I have a great disgust for the flavor of mustard. It’s one of the foods that I still can’t stomach the taste (don’t worry oysters, you’re still on the list). I thought this would be a great opportunity to face one of my culinary rivals and decided to go ahead and eat it as-is. For fun, I challenge you to find in the sandwich description quoted above any reference to a sweet mustard sauce. I’ve been looking since last night and still can’t find it. Of course, I could never see the sailboat among the weird lines at the mall either so it may be hidden in there somewhere and I’m just blind to it.
It was now time to attack this sandwich. I go to pick up the bun and it was downright slippery. King’s Hawaiian bread has a very smooth crust on it as-is. When you add a copious amount of dripping sweet mustard sauce, it’s like trying to catch a greased hog. After I finally was able to get a grip on it, the sandwich developed a constant drip from that point on. I will say that after taking a bite of it, I didn’t taste a very strong mustard flavor in it but the texture of saturated King’s Hawaiian bread was just too slimy for me. I’m a texture freak and don’t like soggy things at all so this sandwich was turning into quite an adversary for me. I told my wife about three bites into the meal that I was honestly afraid to put the sandwich down because I was certain that the bread would just suck up all the juice that had dripped onto the basket. After I finished the sandwich, I had a pool of yellow-ish liquid that had dripped from the sandwich. I have never had that much liquid left on a plate from anything that I’ve ever eaten. I really wish I would have taken a picture of this…it was a sign to behold.
The taste of the sandwich was just OK. I really couldn’t tell that the bun was a King’s Hawaiian bread except for the afore mentioned highly polished exterior. I’m not sure the cheese added anything to the sandwich except for moisture. I picked out some of the pork and ate it by itself and it wasn’t very flavorful and some fatty pieces were present. I will say that I’ve had worse BBQ’ed pork at so-called “good” BBQ places here in the South.
The real star of this dish is the coleslaw. The slaw was made exactly how I like it. It was flavorful, crunchy, and not to creamy. In fact, digging down to the bottom of the bowl revealed no pool of creamy liquid from the slaw. Definitely the highlight of the sandwich. When I spooned (or rather forked) some slaw on the bites of the sandwich, it definitely improved the experience dramatically.
I can honestly say that I will not be ordering this sandwich again. I ventured away from my beloved Hook & Ladder and have learned a valuable lesson in doing such: if you find a sandwich you love at Firehouse, stick with it. This is the second time I’ve tried something different and both were huge disappointments (I’m looking at you Smokehouse Beef and Cheddar Brisket sandwich).
When I left the restaurant I thought I was done with the sandwich but I was dead wrong. I was left with a nasty feeling in my belly for a few hours afterwards. I think it was just too much liquid, fat, and cheese. I’m beginning to think the sandwich won this battle.