I’ve seen DiChickO’s Peri-Peri Sauces available in markets throughout the Augusta area, and always thought, “Oh, another locally-made hot sauce.” But when friends (and male friends at that!) mentioned they love the condiment so much that they actually bring it with them into restaurants I thought, “OK, this is serious. Let’s find out the deal with this sauce!”
So imagine my surprise when I learned DiChickO’s is also a café. Tucked inside New Life Natural Foods inside Fairway Square on Washington Road (both owned and operated by the same family), the café is warm and charming, with wood-and-tile floors, bright yellow and red walls, and a comfy waiting area should you order your food to go.
Business was brisk for lunch (the café is also open for breakfast and dinner). Although there are only about 10 tables inside the restaurant-within-a-store, most were full of families, medical professionals wearing scrubs and business people munching away on DiChickO’s fresh offerings.
From paninis and salads, to rice bowls and flaps (a grilled wrap), most entrees are between 400 and 500 calories – hard to beat if you’re looking for a good meal that’s also good for your waistline.
I chose the turkey avocado flap (flap is just fun to say, after all) on a spinach tortilla; other options are wheat and tomato basil. The combo also came with a drink, chips and a cookie for just $7.99 – also hard to beat.
If you’re eating at a restaurant inside a natural food store, you expect the food to be just that – natural – and this sandwich didn’t disappoint.
The flap was fresh and tasty with crisp, bright greens, tomato, avocado and turkey, folded inside a green spinach tortilla properly decorated with brown grill marks and still warm. Expect it to be a little wet – a folded napkin placed in the basket will catch the warm veggie juices.
The chips were standard and the cookie was small, wheaty and likely very healthy for you, but not what some would call a cookie.
What I was most excited about was the peri-peri sauce bar – to find out what I’d been missing.
According to their Web site, DiChickO’s sauces originated with the family’s Italian grandfather, Giuseppe DiCicco (Dee-Cheek-O), and the recipe was tweaked in the 1950s by his son, Mario, who emigrated to South Africa where he added peri-peri peppers and spices.
The bar is just a row of bottles and a stack of disposable plastic cups. Fill them with one (or like me, all) of the sauces. It took two trips to gather them all to my table so I could try a different sauce with each bite. I don’t like hot sauces that are just hot.
These deliver flavor that ends with a kick. Mild was tart and vinegary; Lemon-Herb was heavy on the herb and less on the lemon; Extra Hot had a strange flat taste but didn’t taste much hotter than Hot to me; and Habanero? Well, for me, one drop left a fiery trail down my tongue and throat, so douse it on your food at your peril. My faves were Garlic and Hot – both with great flavor and warm heat.
The sauce that stood out most was the Peronnaise – a mixture of mayonnaise and Peri-Peri Marinade that reminds of that other ethnic hybrid, Japanese white sauce. My sandwich suddenly became not quite so healthy, but the mayo is worth a few hundred extra jumping jacks.
As I lavished on the delicious spread, it seemed appropriate that the large flat screen in the dining room showed Paula Deen cooking with what seemed like a pound of butter.
The sauces are all made locally and of course are available at New Life Natural Foods. But they are also shipped worldwide thanks to the Internet. The Web site also features a number of recipes including the sauces.
I love the DiChickO’s story – local family opens natural foods store, develops delicious sauce, conquers the world. But the big question is, will you find me toting a bottle of DiChickO’s everywhere I go? To be honest, I’m not sure I would ever be that obsessed about any food, but I sure find myself talking about DiChickO’s. A lot. And taking the drive up Washington Road every few weeks.