“Manna” is a term used in the Columbus food scene to describe any delicacy that yields an uncontrollable craving and results in an unhealthy addiction. The word gets tossed about quite liberally since, well, everyone’s got a foodie obsession they claim is the best. By definition, manna isn’t a particular appetizer, entree, or dessert, on the contrary—it’s an item that elevates a food or accompanies a meal. It could be the bread, a salad dressing, or a side dish—as long as it’s something you could eat your weight in or mainline, if say, your mouth was wired shut. Judging from a fridge packed with half-full plastic ramekins and bottles of various shapes and colors, for me, manna equals sauce.
I’m a hoarder of hot sauces, a connoisseur of Cholula, a sucker for Sriracha, and a fiend for any fiery flavors that can transform a frozen Totino’s pizza into a culinary work of art. Late-night Saturdays, I’m often guilty of mixing lethal concoctions of take-out relish to augment a breakfast sandwich. But there’s none I covet more than the “green sauce” from Pita Hut Grille.
Usually when talking gyro shops and Mediterranean restaurants, the proof is in an establishment’s tzatziki or tahni—sauces that favor savory over spicy. To be honest, in Columbus there’s not much disparity between one gyro and another, which makes the unassuming Pita Hut a frequent destination if only because you can buy their incredibly fresh and tears-of-joy-inducing hot sauce in bulk. Each morning, owner Lutfi Ayoub grinds jalapenos, coriander, cilantro, and olive oil into a piquant gift from the gods. There’s no secret, no technique, nothing fancy, or celebrated. It sort of thrives in its own anonymity.
As far as heat goes, it’s not one of those intolerable, tongue-melting, ghost pepper arrangements that inflict more pain than pleasure. There’s just enough flame to manage a swift punch in the nose if not handled with care. The gram or so they give you with your gyro or shawarma is enough to last a week, which is why I find myself coming back to the green sauce long after my falafel is gone. It’s versatility is key, as tiny dabs of the stuff can really accent anything from Mexican food to leftover pasta sauce.
The green sauce is on the menu as a side, but it’s not an automatic addition with your order unless you ask for it. When you do, you’ll usually get a knowing wink and a smile from the staff that you’re now part of the club. Be forewarned, once you cross the line with the green sauce, you’ll find yourself making up reasons to tackle the traffic nightmare of Graceland just to visit the Hut and get your fix.