Takeout Review: HotBox by Wiz | Restaurant Reviews | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Takeout Review: HotBox by Wiz

click to enlarge CP PHOTO: MAGGIE WEAVER
CP Photo: Maggie Weaver
Pittsburgh-native rapper Wiz Khalifa has joined the ranks of celebrity restaurant owners with the launch of his national delivery-only chain, HotBox, in Los Angeles, San Diego, Chicago, Denver, Houston, New York City, and of course, the Steel City.

The HotBox menu, labeled as a “top-shelf munchie menu” and curated by the rapper, dropped in his hometown of Pittsburgh on Oct. 1. For the most part, dishes were what I expected — fried — aside from a somewhat unexpected list of healthy eats that included blackened salmon and grilled chicken.

I chose to stay away from the healthy side of the menu, instead going for fried mac ’n cheese bites crusted with Hot Cheetos, tangy Fuffalo wings, a fried chicken sandwich, “Blazed Ends,” and a dark chocolate brownie.

The prices were a bit outrageous. I’m used to getting my mac ’n cheese bites from Sheetz for around $3. The HotBox iteration, almost neon-red from the Cheetos, ran for $8. Wings went for $13, and a fried chicken sandwich and Blazed Ends cost about $15. But the real kicker was my brownie: a drizzle of hot fudge was $2 extra.

Price aside, the flavors were just fine. Everything fell in the category of mediocre bar food, something I wouldn’t normally have delivered to my house, but would be satisfied with at my neighborhood pub.

I expected a kick of spice from the Hot Cheetos mac bites, but it was barely detectable. The bites, however, were good. Inside, the mac ’n cheese — made with big noodles — was still cheesy and creamy; the outer crust crunched with every bite.

The wings were average at best, sporting very dry meat and a lackluster sauce. Khalifa’s Blazed OG Fried Chicken Sandwich followed in dryness, but, matched with cheddar cheese (another $2 upcharge), honey mustard, and pickles, was given new life. It was surprisingly good, save for the chicken patty.

“Blazed” brisket ends — wordplay on the Kansas City barbecue staple burnt ends — were the best-treated meat in the box. They were actually tender — I credited that to the fatty brisket — with a nice, crispy edge. My small cup of meat squares was drowned in a sticky, sweet barbeque sauce, which, if too much was added on one bite, made my mouth pucker.

Aside from some disappointments with my main dishes, I would have called HotBox pretty decent. But then, I bit into the brownie.

It was terrible. The edges were crispy in the way that brownies crunch after they’ve been left out on the counter for three days. All of the chocolate flavor was fake, leaving an aftertaste that I can only hope was an accident.

While I understand the relevancy of a delivery-only, ghost-kitchen restaurant concept in the current times, HotBox was a huge letdown.

HotBox by Wiz

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