Two-week old Hot Sauce and Panko is hidden on a quiet side of Clement Street. The modest exterior looks like a hardware store. Once inside, the menu confirms that we're in the right place.
HSP is part hot-sauce retailer and part snack shop. HSP's friendly owner Terence Luk explained that since it's not a restaurant, the business license limits the type of equipment and food HPS can offer. Given that, the menu is longer than one might expect, listing 10 varieties of chicken wings ($4.99, party size trays also available), Belgian waffles ($1.99 - $4.99), three sandwiches, sides, and drinks.
We picked a wings & waffle combo ($5.99) with a Korean hot sauce, plus a side of potato salad ($1.99). Currently it stocks 92 brands of hot sauce priced from $5.49 to $15.99, and has open sample bottles of many of them. The only other place we've seen with such a wide selection of independent hot sauce producers is Draeger's in San Mateo.
The store stocks popular names like Pickapeppa, Cholula (a favorite of local taquerias), and Dave's Insanity Sauce. Like Dave's, many brands are enhanced with pure capsaicin extract, which is several million Scoville units hotter than scotch bonnet or habanero peppers. When you read names like Pure Death, Fire Ant Juice, Scorpion, Afterburner, and Hellfire, you should be sure to take a cautious approach.
We didn't feel like incinerating our tongue and not being able to taste the food, so we played it safe and limited our hot sauce sampling to Georgia Peach and Vidalia Onion Hot Sauce ($7.99) and Kato's Island Sauce Habanero and Mango ($6.99). They were sweet, fruity, flavorful, and non-volcanic. Both are multiple awards winners too, including 1st place in the mild hot sauce category of the Scovie Awards (the Oscars of the hot sauce world, apparently): Kato's in 2001 and Georgia Peach in 2003.
And what about the "panko" part of the name? In this case, it's simply used as a name (it's a valid surname in some foreign countries). The reason: Luk just loves it so much that he had to use it, even though he doesn't make anything with panko breadcrumbs. It's just another side of his quirky sense of humor, which can be seen in decor accents around the store.
We liked the food, we loved the prices, and we left with taste buds intact.
1545 Clement St (at 17th Ave)