1. Five Guys Little Cheeseburger
Add-ons: jalapeños, green peppers, and hot sauce
When I eat something really spicy, I feel a rush of panic. I get flustered. It's like having a hangnail -- it's a consuming, temporary pain that seems like it'll be with you forever, but it turns out you're just a wuss who needs to stop picking at his nails. Moral of the story, this burger is hot! Scorching! And not an artificial type of hot like the other burgers; we're talking an all-natural steaminess that I actually felt in my cheeks.
Despite the intense heat, I kept eating. Despite the fact that I had three more burgers to try in the next hour, I kept eating. This burger was just right on. The hot sauce gave it a complex flavor, the green peppers had great crunch, and the cheese offered a nice dairy reprieve from those hard-hitting jalapeños. My only complaint is that when I asked for a single patty, the woman at the counter said, "Oh, you want a LITTLE cheeseburger". And that made me feel like less of a man.
Next time your coworker says, "Hey, you like spicy food, right?" You say, "No, I don't. Andy Kryza does. You should talk to him!" And then he'll have to eat 15 spicy foods in three days.
Spiciness is not something that fast-food joints typically excel at. Look, I'm no snob. I will get down on a BK Whopper. I've had plenty of Fourth Meals in my life. But it's rare that you can find some genuinely tasty spice from a drive-thru.
That said, several of these places surprised me, most notably McDonald's, KFC, and the reigning champion of spice: Five Guys Burgers and Fries. I will be returning there just as soon as my esophagus stops burning.
Dan Gentile is a staff writer on Thrillist's Food and Drink team. He ate 10 TUMS during the making of this article. Follow him to salad for dinner at @Dannosphere.