A new fast-food joint has opened near the corner of 34th and Madison: Hot Puffs. It's been the subject of some speculation around my office: Was it a donut shop? Was it an obscure chain restaurant? After the handwritten "Help Wanted" had been in the window for three weeks, we wondered whether it would ever open at all. The doors to the vast, spotless, bright, and strangely empty space are finally open, and if my experience there today was any indication, they probably won't be for long.
The menu board is difficult to read and the offerings are strangely foreign: there's a choice of Crespuffs, the sinister-sounding Topuffs, Recpuffs, and Toastpuffs, which seem to differ only in their fillings (chicken, spicy chickpea, beef, scrambled eggs, etc.) One sweet puff filled with ricotta and raisins is on offer, and puffs are served baked or fried. Add-ins include "Brown Boiled Egg," "White Boiled Egg," feta, and smoked salmon. They also serve "Belgium Waffles," frozen yogurt, coleslaw, insalata caprese, and mixed pickled vegetables.
Service was friendly but chaotic - as goes with newly-opened territory, of course - even comic. The wait was so long that the woman ahead of me asked for and received store credit, redeemable for lunch another day because today's was so long in coming. This food could not be called fast, though the staffers bustling somewhat confusedly certainly were.
$5.85 bought me a puff, salad, and large cola. The spicy chickpea puff was neither spicy nor particularly puffy, though the baked crust (like that of a calzone) was toothsome. The caprese salad was fresher than one usually finds in fast-food land, yet unmemorable.
Though I admire the Israel-born owner's entrepreneurial spirit (it isn't a chain - yet, though I'm sure his wheels are turning), I regretfully advise my fellow 'hound to give these puffs a pass.