Flavortown isn’t Flavortown without sauce.
That much is clear from Guy Fieri’s first South Florida restaurant, Chicken Guy! (exclamation theirs) at the Aventura Mall. Here the draw, like games at a carnival, are its 22! sauces (exclamation mine).
So let’s play.
I tried all 22 sauces at Fieri’s chicken shack, and now I’m ready to go on tour with Nickelback. But before then, let me tell you which were the best — and which were just mayo.
A scorecard of all 22 on the back of the menu reads like a dare. Each is labeled with a different chicken avatar that looks suspiciously like Fieri in a chicken suit.
You’ll find Chicken Guy! tucked away on the third floor of Aventura Mall’s food court. When you’re done, you can go pick out your own bowling shirt with flames.
Still, people have found it. A steady stream of diners around lunchtime lined up for Guy’s chicken, including an employee from nearby Shake Shack (which makes a pretty mean chicken sandwich), who came for one of Guy’s instead.
I ordered an $8 pack of five tenders and two sauces came with the order. Each additional sauce costs 50 cents — which is how I’ll explain to our accountants how I spent $28 on mall food.
You’re going to need them: Chicken Guy!’s tenders are bland. Even though the four-inch long tenders are tossed in a spice blend and supposedly brined in lemon, pickle juice, buttermilk and herbs, they’re under-salted and insipid.
However, they’re thinly battered and satisfyingly crunchy — which makes them a perfect canvas for dipping.
That’s why you’re here. If a chicken tender falls into Donkey Sauce and no one is there to taste it, does it give you heartburn?
1-3 Best of the Best
Looking just at the names of the best-tasting sauces at Chicken Guy! makes one thing clear: We’ve seen them before.
The three sauces my colleague Connie Ogle and I liked the best were also sauces you can find at Pollo Tropical or Chicken Kitchen. They just work. Feel free to double dip.
Cumin Lime Mojo: These flavors fit the Miami profile and are instantly familiar. It’s tropical, smoky and has enough acid to perk up your palate.
Garlic Parmesan: Like Pollo Tropical’s garlic sauce, slathering it on makes the chicken better.
Curry Mayo: It really does go with all things chicken.
4. Wasabi honey
This is the first sauce I went back to dip twice. It’s sweet and strange, and does the wasabi thing where it opens up your sinuses. It’s probably too weird for your kids, but maybe your kids are weird.
5-9. Live dangerously
Peri Peri: This roasted red pepper sauce with garlic, paprika and chilies has the biggest bite and is creamy enough to stick the chicken. Look at you, being international.
Buttermilk Ranch: It’s hard to get excited about ranch dressing, but this one adds a healthy dose of dill, and that works.
Chipotle Ranch: It’s like the buttermilk ranch with a tang.
Sweet Sriracha: If the regular barbecue sauce is just too sweet (it is), this one adds a bit of tartness with heat.
Nashville Hot Honey: This won’t turn your tender into a Prince’s Hot Chicken, but it will make it spicy-sweet tasty.
10-11. Combine these
Neither the buffalo sauce nor the bleu cheese are anything special on their own, but combine them and it tastes like football Sunday in front of the big screen.
12-17 Poor life choices
Donkey Sauce: What’s the big deal with this again? It’s garlic mayo. Garlic Parmesan eats it for lunch.
Special Sauce: It’s just Thousand Island with tartar sauce. Special? Nah.
Teriyaki: Shouldn’t you be at the pan-Asian food court hole with chicken of indefinite origin? Is this an anagram for diabetes?
Honey mustard: You drive a Camry if you like this sauce.
Sweet and Sour: If you like Pollo Tropical’s pineapple rum sauce (I don’t), you’ll like this.
Bourbon Brown Sugar BBQ: I mean, it’s just barbecue sauce, if that’s your thing.
18-22 Surprise! You’re in the Bad Place
Spicy mayo: Yes, it is.
Avocado crema: Just because it’s green doesn’t mean it’ll taste like avocado.
Lemon pepper: False advertising. It’s not tangy or peppery. Sure this isn’t just mayo?
Ranchero: By which they mean roasted tomato salsa. It’s runny and doesn’t work at all with the chicken. Now, if they sold some fresh-fried tortilla chips with it....
Habanero hot sauce: A runny vinegar sauce with not enough heat. It does taste like habanero, though, if you like that pepper flavor.