Many cooks create dishes through a process of trial and error. The stuffed hot pepper cakes at Mandy’s Cafe (3796 Clinton St., West Seneca, 771-1553) started out by just plain error.
“When I would leave my cooks here, they could never get out the stuffed peppers the way I like to look at it,” said owner David Ohl, who opened Mandy’s 26 years ago. Getting a properly tender pepper that didn’t have the cheese stuffing oozing onto the plate was challenging.
“So I said ‘The hell with it, I’m going to do something you can’t goof up,’ and that’s what I came up with,” he said. They’ve been on the menu for about 10 years.
Mandy’s stuffed hot pepper cakes are yet another chapter in the efforts of Buffalo-area restaurants to make the cheese-stuffed spicy chile the most riffed-upon Buffalo standard since the chicken wing. At Mandy’s, Ohl has also offered a stuffed hot pepper quesadilla and a stuffed hot pepper pasta. “I put them on a fried bologna sandwich, that’s a big hit,” he said.
The pepper cakes start out with the same yellow Hungarian peppers, chopped fresh. They’re mixed with a blend of Italian cheeses and spices. Since the fresh peppers can vary considerably in heat level, Ohl adjusts the amount of chiles he adds to each batch. How hot does he want them? “You can taste the pepper, but it’s not going to burn you,” he said.
Sausage was part of the mixture until one Lenten season, when he took it out because people weren’t ordering the cakes. “People seemed to like the ones without sausage better.”
The mixture goes into a cooler, and when an order comes in, a scoop of cheese-pepper mixture is rolled in panko breadcrumbs and squished onto the hot griddle. An order of two cakes with a side of tomato sauce is $5.95.
“Our hot pepper cakes are made fresh to order, every single time,” Ohl said. “Nothing frozen. That’s why they’re so good.”