Hot Sauce Williams, Cleveland
What the Cuban is to Florida, frozen custard is to Milwaukee and the Juicy Lucy is to Minneapolis, the Polish Boy and Polish Girl are to Cleveland. It’s the official sandwich of Cleveland, with some locals going as far to say that if you haven’t eaten one or the other, you can’t claim to be from Cleveland.
Basically, a basic Polish Boy takes a kielbasa on a bun and adds barbecue sauce, cole slaw and french fries to it to complete the meal. A Polish Girl goes a step further, adding smoked pork shoulder to the mix. I’m not sure why the Polish Girl offers more on it (this might be proof that women are supposed to be bigger than men), but I’m totally fine with that. In both cases, Hot Sauce Williams on Cleveland’s East Side is widely known for serving some of the best in a city that features a lot of options for the Polish Boy or Girl.
Subscribing to the belief that you cannot go this far and not go further (thank you, Homer Simpson), I had to go for the Polish Girl, which was actually the sandwich featured on Man vs. Food, although they said it was the Polish Boy. Not sure what happened there, but regardless, the dish is best described as a complete mess that comes together. Like the Thurman Burger, it’s darn near impossible to pick it up.
This is partially because of the number of things you have to pick up, and partially because Hot Sauce Williams goes heavy on the sauce. After loading on the crinkle-cut fries, slaw and shoulder, they ladle on more of the sauce to add to what was already on there, basically taking any thoughts of picking it up and eating it out of the equation.
But the taste works great. The spice inside the kielbasa is good but not overwhelming and works as a counter to the creaminess of the cole slaw. The pork shoulder really stands out in the sauce, and the fries are a nice complement and work well with both the sauce and slaw. Basically, every bite was excellent.
A word about the sauce: I’m sure at least some of you are, like me, not the biggest fans of spicy food. You don’t have to worry about that here, this is not Prince’s Hot Chicken. Hot Sauce Williams is actually a misnomer. Its hot sauce is anything but. It’s actually a barbecue sauce that has a little sweetness and complements everything in the sandwich well. I’m guessing they chose the name for marketing purposes, as Hot Sauce Williams sounds better and is easier to say than Barbecue Sauce Williams, despite the fact that the latter would be a much more accurate name.
Besides its Polish Girl, Hot Sauce Williams also features soul food staples such as fried chicken, mashed potatoes, baked beans and macaroni and cheese, which I’ll have to try the next time I find myself in Cleveland. I couldn’t manage it this time, because I was just filling up on the Polish Girl.
Then again, maybe I won’t ever get to try them no matter how many times I come back, because when you have the Polish Girl, you really don’t need much else. It’s totally worth the visit on its own.
Time to go: It’s open late, but I’d make sure the sun is out when you visit. Cleveland’s East Side is not in a particularly nice location, and if you go after dark, there’s a chance of meeting some unsavory characters. If you’re tough enough to chance it, it’s open until 1:30 a.m.
Wait during my visit: None. There are plenty of tables and not much of a line in the shoddily-decorated place. Don’t let that scare you off. You’re here for the food, not the looks.
Location: The main location is at 7815 Carnegie Avenue in Cleveland.
Cost: Affordable. You’re not going to top $10 here. A Polish Girl combo, which includes a can of soda (this being Ohio, they call it pop), can be had for about $8.
Parking. They have a parking lot here, and it shouldn’t fill up.
Website: None. They’ve got a domain name, but the site has never once worked, and I’ve tried about 25 times.
Specialty items: Polish Boy, Polish Girl