Arts & Culture

‘Spicy with’ boasts long and storied history as Josiah’s staple

The spicy chicken sandwich with cheese contains 40 percent of one’s daily saturated fat

Staff Writer
Friday, April 5, 2013

Crispy on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside, a fried chicken patty is smothered in melted cheese and drizzled in a special spicy sauce. All garnished with lettuce and tomato and served on a chewy hamburger bun.

The spicy with, as it is affectionately called, is served at Josiah’s Cafe and known as a widely loved late-night treat for many carnivorous Brown students.

Only open from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. and primarily considered a late-night eatery, Jo’s features various items including sandwiches, quesadillas, chopped salads and mozzarella sticks on its menu. But even with the plethora of options available, the spicy with remains one of the most iconic selections.

“We believe it debuted as a special around 1997,” wrote Sean DeBobes, assistant manager of retail operations at Jo’s, in an email to The Herald. “It was an instant hit and soon made its way onto the permanent menu.”

There is a correlation between drinking alcohol and late night consumption of foods high in fat — such as spicies with ­— according to a study by Elizabeth Lloyd-Richardson, assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior at the Alpert Medical School.

“Eating patterns for a significant number of college students are altered before, during and following drinking episodes,” the study read. A significant number of Lloyd-Richardson’s subjects, all college students, reported overeating and making unhealthy dietary choices after consumption of alcohol, according to the study.

“On typical drunk nights (Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays) the grill station is definitely more popular than the salad station,” wrote Mike Bohl ’11, unit manager for the Brown University Dining Services at Jo’s, in an email to The Herald. “Whether people are buying spicies or just loading up on mozzarella sticks though, I can’t say.”

But the spicy with, despite common conceptions, is not the most popular item at Jo’s, wrote Aaron Fitzenry, culinary manager for retail operations, in an email to The Herald. “They consistently represent around 30 percent of all items sold at the grill …(but) salads outsell them every day of the week.”

Still, the sandwich has a strong following. Broghan Zwack ’16, a self-described Jo’s frequenter, said she “lives for spicy withs.”

“There was this time I got a spicy with five nights in a row,” she added. “It’s delicious.”

Bryant Estrada ’13 also said he enjoys spicies with, adding that he decided to give them up for Lent but recently started eating them again and appreciates them more than ever. “I usually eat about two a week,” he said.

“It’s a classic,” said Yao Liu ’15, who said he savors his sandwich with the bourbon and spicy sauces.

But Elizabeth Goodspeed ’16, a dual-degree student in her second year, disagreed. Describing the sandwich as too spicy and “kind of dry,” Goodspeed said she is disappointed that the other hot food stations at Jo’s close after 11 p.m. or midnight.

“If the only thing they’re offering from (midnight) to 2 (a.m.) is mozzarella sticks and French fries, I think it’s setting a bad example,” Goodspeed said, noting the health ramifications of such fried foods.

While many students said they don’t know the specific nutrition information, the spicy with weighs in at 560 calories and contains 40 percent of a person’s daily saturated fat and 67 percent of daily sodium, Ann Hoffman, director of administration of Brown Dining Services, wrote in an email to The Herald.

Zwack said she is aware of the health risks of the sandwich and describes herself as relatively health-conscious, but she said she finds it difficult to resist the sandwich’s allure.

“My problem is that when I’m going to the salad bar, I always walk past the grill,” she said. “Seeing the spicy with … as you’re going to the salad bar (is) so depressing.”

Liu also acknowledged  the spicy with is not a healthy option. “I don’t know the nutrition facts, but I’d rather not,” he said, describing the sandwich as a personal “guilty pleasure.”

Lorin Smith ’15 also chooses spicies with despite the potential health consequences.

“I’m definitely going to die young because of these,” she said. “It’s like a patty full of hormones, sodium, breading … (who knows) what else is in there.”

  • Michael

    Can we take a moment to recognize that “health risk” is not the same as “unhealthy”?

  • wow

    Really, an article on spicy chicken sandwiches?

    • Anonymous

      Holy crap. Lighten up.