Food & Drink

The 8 Best Spicy Foods in Charlotte

Published On 08/19/2015 Published On 08/19/2015
Cristina Wilson/Thrillist

Charlotteans like their savory cuisine the way they like their four-season weather: mostly mild. Melt-off-your-face food is tough to find on most menus, but if you know where to look (and explore a few off-the-beaten-path spots), you can find dishes that bring the burn and keep the flavor. Almost all the dishes on this list can be made spicier on request -- so go nuts. But don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Cristina Wilson/Thrillist

Pad prik

Deejai Thai (address and info)
Myers Park
There is some healthy competition (and thus deliciousness) in the Thai food category in Charlotte, but for pure fire Deejai’s bell and chili pepper-based pork pad prik is a go-to. Unlike curries with creamy or coconut milk bases, this light broth doesn't accidentally tone down the spice. Honorable mention here goes to Thai Taste, for making its Thai spicy flakes available upon request so you can burn your mouth off as quickly as you’d like.

Cristina Wilson/Thrillist

Bun bo Hue

Ben Thanh (address and info)
Plaza Midwood
This local pho favorite always offers rich layers of flavor, and it’s no exception when this place brings the heat. The spicy beef and pork stew is delivered hot off the menu, but can be pushed even further on request. The restaurant knows its audience well, serving up a solid pile of jalapeño slices along the other garnishes of cilantro, basil, and lime.

Cristina Wilson/Thrillist

Malaysian curry

Cuisine Malaya (address and info)
With an eclectic menu of Malaysian and Japanese specialties plus a sushi bar, you can satisfy your spice craving with just about any curry variation, with the traditional Malaysian spicy shrimp paste as the base. The lamb and shrimp especially suit the basic curry -- or just dip into it and take it straight to the face with an order of roti canai flatbread (as pictured here).

Cristina Wilson/Thrillist

Chef’s Blazin’ Hot Wings

Kickstand Burgers -n- Bar (address and info)
Plaza Midwood
When you want a good, hot chicken wing, you want a smoky flavor that you can still taste through the kickin’ hot sauce. Kickstand’s variation does just that, with spice that builds bite after bite. Start with the wings, and then build your own spicy burger (you’ll regularly find chef’s special Fire in the Hole sauce on the menu, concocted with homegrown jalapeños) for a two-course calorie fest that will leave you sweating.

Cristina Wilson/Thrillist

Salsa de arbol

Las Lupitas (address and info)
You’ll be disappointed if you visit Las Lupitas (look for the “Carniceria Tortilleria” sign rather than the name) expecting a sit-down taqueria. But when you find out that the tender carnitas and barbacoa are sold by the pound -- along with house-made tortillas by the pound for $1 -- you’ll grab yourself a hot sauce and happily take that party to go. The arbol sauce, sold at the front of the store, offers nicely layered heat that you can douse each taco with, especially since the tortillas hold up 10x better than most.

Cristina Wilson/Thrillist

Golden Tuna roll

New Zealand Cafe (address and info)
If you couldn’t tell by the slightly aggressive presentation of this roll, the “spicy on the side” sauce is just that. The super-tender oversized tuna is lightly tempura fried and should be immediately soaked in the red sauce. Plus -- familiar theme yet? -- you can ask master sushi chef Jackie Chen to kick the spice up as many notches as you’d like. For a refreshing cool-down roll afterward, order the off-the-menu cilantro roll with red snapper, crabmeat, thinly sliced lemon, and ponzu sauce.

Cristina Wilson/Thrillist

Vegetable vindaloo

Woodlands Vegetarian Indian Cuisine (address and info)
Hickory Ridge
If you’re stuck in a chicken tikka rut, it’s time to break free at Woodlands -- and you should start with the fiery vegetable vindaloo and the paneer chili (#18 and #19 on the menu). What you think you’ll miss in meat is made up for with flavor and spice. Be sure to check it out during the lunch buffet on Saturdays and Sundays -- and wear your stretchy pants.

Courtesy of Grant Baldwin

Go Reap Yourself American IPA

Ass Clown Brewing Company (address and info)
Sip your spice at Ass Clown Brewery, known for its constant rotation of funky flavors and small batches. Both the Ghost Chili IPA and Go Reap Yourself IPA are draws for fire-seekers, but the expert use of world record-holding Carolina Reaper peppers (bred in Fort Mill) in the latter makes it a brew worth driving for. Good thing you’ve got 20 other flavors on tap to wash it down.

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1. Deejai Thai 613 Providence Rd, Charlotte, NC 28207

This family-run restaurant serves Thai cuisine in a modern space with an outdoor patio. Come for sushi, hibachi or curry.

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2. Ben Thanh 4900 Central Ave, Charlotte, NC 28205

This local pho favorite serves up Vietnamese eats in an unfussy atmosphere. Stop in for the bun bo hue if you love a little spice.

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3. Kickstand Burgers -n- Bar 1101 Central Ave, Charlotte, NC 28204

This lively bicycle-themed haunt serves craft beer alongside a build-your-own-burger menu. Count on sports on the television and try to grab a seat on the patio.

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4. Las Lupitas 5210 N Tryon St, Charlotte, NC 28213 (Noda)

This tiny little taqueria makes up for its complete lack of seating with some of the best Mexican food in the Charlotte area. This well-kept secret has homemade tortillas and meats by the pound, so you can customize your meal and still have plenty to take home for later. Make sure you bring cash to this hole-in-the-wall, and don't skip the selection of homemade sauces, either. They've got everything you need to assemble the tacos yourself, including cheeses, avocados, and pico de gallo ready to take away. And if you're feeling really adventurous, they also sell their raw meats (including pork belly and chorizo fresco) for you to cook yourself.

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5. New Zealand Cafe 1717 Sardis Rd N, Charlotte, NC 28270

This casual space serves cuisine from New Zealand, China & Japan. Count on a great selection of sushi and hibachi options.

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6. Woodlands Vegetarian Indian Cuisine 7128 Albemarle Rd, Charlotte, NC 28227

This unassuming spot situated in a strip mall is a great stop for vegetarian and vegan South Indian food. You won't miss the meat with all the flavor and spice in each dish. Wear your stretchy pants for their weekend buffet lunches.

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7. Ass Clown Brewing Company 10620 Bailey Rd, Cornelius, NC 28031

This brewery and bar hybrid has a constantly rotating selection of small batch beers and funky flavors, served up in a cool, fun atmosphere.



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