There’s spicy. And there’s SPICY -- the face-melting, sweat-inducing, belly-burning, everything-in-all-caps kind. For those who are into the latter, we put a little something together for you: these nine dangerously spicy dishes in Chicago.
Chicken vindaloo Naanwich
Naansense (address and info)
Whether you like yours in a rice bowl or wrapped up in naan, if you order your Naansense lunch covered in vinegar-based vindaloo sauce, you’ll definitely feel the burn. And if you’re truly hardcore, you’ll be able to stop in for a chicken vindaloo naanwich with a side of masala fries before making it back to the office without any telltale face sweat.
Nashville Hot Chicken
Leghorn Chicken (address and info)
Put aside all thoughts of "spicy" chicken sandwiches with quotes that indicate it's not actually spicy, ‘cause Leghorn’s Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich totally is. Order your choice of breast or leg meat on a biscuit (or a buttermilk bun, even though that’s clearly the inferior choice). The sandwich is the way to go here -- the addition of tangy pickles cuts through all the heat without dulling it. But if you’re avoiding carbs (weird), you can order up the fried chicken tenders in the Nashville Hot variety instead.
Jake Melnick's (address and info)
The Downtown bar is known for its wings for good reason. Whether you like your chicken mild (come on, bro) or super spicy (that's better), you’ll probably be happy with your order. That is, unless you opt for the XXX wings, which are genuinely punishing for even the most die-hard heat heads. Make no mistake, these are amazing wings -- they’re just... intense. Packed with habanero, ghost pepper, and scorpion, they just might live up to the claim of being the “world’s hottest” chicken wings.
Som tum Thai
Andy's Thai Kitchen (address and info)
Here’s a word you don’t often associate with spicy food: refreshing. Why is this relevant? Because that’s probably the first word that’ll come to mind if you order the som tum Thai at Andy’s Thai Kitchen. The second word will probably be an expletive, though, ‘cause once you make it past the light, crisp freshness of the strands of papaya, you’re left with a painfully intense, tongue-burning spice. The papaya salad is topped with tomato, peanut, and long-bean, but it’s the Thai dressing that really delivers the heat.
Dance with EL DIABLO pizza
Big G's Pizza (address and info)
You know a dish is going to melt your face when the wait staff gives you a verbal disclaimer before serving it, as is the case with the Dance with EL DIABLO pizza at Big G’s. This punishing pie, which is also available by the slice, comes topped with spicy marinara, chicken marinated in Valentina Mexican hot sauce, jalapeño havarti cheese, Diablo chipotle sauce, and grilled jalapeño and habanero peppers.
Kanabo spice ramen
High Five Ramen (address and info)
This popular ramen spot’s menu may be tiny, but don’t underestimate the level of heat the restaurant’s Kanabo spice ramen packs. This bowl takes High Five’s already spicy signature pork ramen and ups the fire element by several notches. If you’re thinking about ordering this one, the restaurant only has one piece of advice for you: don’t. They actually encourage you to not order it. If you do it anyway, you’ll be rewarded with a seriously delicious bowl of mouth-scorching noodle soup and our eternal admiration.
Diabo Curry Stew
Fat Rice (address and info)
The Logan Square resto is drowning in awards and accolades, but here’s something you may not know: its family-style Diabo Curry Stew is packed with plenty of meaty goodness (chicken, turkey, beef, AND pork, FTW) and some serious heat. The stew, dubbed Devil’s Curry, is flavored with mustard seed and scorpion pepper with culinary roots in both Singapore and Malaysia, where they know a thing or two about spice.
Mixteco Grill (address and info)
The habanero salsa may not be a dish in its own right, but this sauce, which is served as a side dish, has something most of the other dishes on this list don’t: the ability to elevate any other item on the restaurant’s menu with its serious heat. Granted, spice is sort of the point of salsa, but the heat level of this stuff is beyond anything you’ll find in a glass jar. Even if you can’t get it all down, rest assured that with its $2 price tag, this is a relatively low-stakes gamble on your spice threshold.
The Fifty/50 (address and info)
If you order The Fifty/50’s Hell burger and find it too spicy, you’re SOL. They’re not granting any refunds for heat intolerance. The burger comes topped with jalapeños (with seeds), house hot sauce, and pepper jack, all on a brioche bun that doubles as a heat stroke buffer.
1. High Five Ramen112 N Green St, Chicago
2. Leghorn Chicken959 N Western Ave, Chicago
3. Jake Melnick's Corner Tap41 E Superior St, Chicago
4. Andy's Thai Kitchen946 W Wellington Ave, Chicago
5. Naansense171 N Wells, Chicago
6. Big G's Pizza3716 N Clark St, Chicago
7. Fat Rice2957 W Diversey Ave, Chicago
8. The Fifty/502047 W Division St, Chicago
9. Mixteco Grill1601 W Montrose Ave, Chicago
Brought to you by Brendan Sodikoff, this West Loop resto is a cozy, dimly-lit space offering a concise menu featuring both traditional and modern ramen offerings, eye-popping “canzillas” of Asahi beer, and boozy slushies to temper the heat of the noodles.
Leghorn Chicken is one of the best fried-bird establishments in Chitown. Get their chicken-fried fries, or even some free condoms (seriously).
Jake Melnick's Corner Tap is a beer bar in River North, Chicago that's serving up some killer hot wings and other bar foods.
It’s possible that Andy’s Thai Kitchen of Lakeview is BYOB because Chef Andy would rather you choose what potion you use to douse the Thai hot spice in your throat. Powerful flavors bathe Andy’s dishes, from the appetizers, salads, soups, entrees, curries, to, most of all, the slurp-worthy noodles. Speaking of noodles, hop the pad Thai fence and explore new noodle terrain, with the boat noodle, a dish complete with beef brisket, thin rice vermicellis, Chinese broccoli, bean sprouts, garlic, onions, pork skin, and cilantro.
This "fast-casual" Indian resto is more than just a clever play on words. It also serves a number of delicious and modern Indian dishes. But you gotta admit, the name is pretty sweet.
The masterminds at Big G's Pizza in Chicago's Wrigleyville neighborhood offer pizza for the adventurous and crazy. You'd have to be insane to try their infamous Dance with El Diablo pie with habanero peppers, or perhaps insane to not try it.
This perpetual hot spot in Logan Square specializes in the cuisine of Macau, which translates to a mix of European and Asian comfort foods. The signature dish is arroz gordo, aka fat rice, a paella-meets-bibimbap bowl of layered rice packed rich with clams, prawns, sausage, chicken, eggs, olives, and chilis. Everything about Fat Rice is conducive to sharing, from the appetizers and entrees to the communal tables.
The 50's a tri-level sports temple serving gluttonous fare like in-house smoked meats (ribs, pulled pork, wings), mac 'n' cheese toppable with everything from chicken to chili, and the "Double-Secret Probation"-esque "Triple Secret:" a tri-meat fatburger with a classified recipe.
Mixteco Grill is all about flair, from the walls' warm golden tones to the Oaxacan-inspired dishes. Don't expect anything less from the Lakeview Mexican spot, which may have you turning colors with its habanero salsa.