Taste buds, just like people, mature a bit in their old age. It takes something bigger, bolder, and in some cases spicier to get the same kick you used to back in the day. Of course, then there’s some people born ready for heat.
Whether you’ve been a five-alarm chili person for life, or you’re just not getting the same oomph from your chicken sandwich anymore – Chicago has plenty of places to spice up your palate.
Jake Melnick’s Wings
41 East Superior St.
Few titles are fought for as vigorously as hottest wings, and Chicago has many contenders. But Jake Melnick’s on the near north side is one of the few venues who’s extreme enough to use Bhut Jolokia – the (recently dethroned) Guinness record holder for hottest pepper in the world. Customers who wish to eat the XXX wings have to sign a waiver, and then get a small bell with their order. Those who can’t take another second of the fire can ring the bell, prompting staff to bring out ice cream, bread and milk to sooth the burn.
1909 N Lincoln Ave
Chicago, IL 60614
While a big pile of cheese should help cool down any spices you’d find in a pizza, don’t underestimate the potential of Bricks Pizza to singe some taste buds off. Their Julius Peppers pizza will test you with a mix of red, banana, and jalapeno peppers, or the Painful pizza mixes spicy pepperoni, red onion, fresh jalapeno, and garlic. For those looking for extra credit, the chefs can make an “Extra Painful”: all the heat of the Painful, with the deadly addition of Scotch Bonnet peppers (over ten times hotter than your standard jalapeno).
Heaven on Seven
111 N. Wabash – 7th Floor,
Chicago, IL 60602
Rush Street, Chicago
Jimmy Bannos is third in a family line of four chefs. His signature style is Cajun, and there’s plenty to be said for his po’ boys, hoppin’ john and etouffee. But for those craving heat, the real draw of Heaven on Seven is the hot sauce collection – some 400 bottles line the shelves on the wall, and it’s not just a museum: many are available for customer use.
Opart Thai House
4658 N Western Ave
Chicago, IL 60625
Spicy means spicy here – the servers make sure to inquire how hot want your dish, because they’re not kidding around. Order the popular Tiger Cry appetizer (consisting of barbeque steak strips in a spicy-sweet glaze) or the Khao Soy meat and noodles with dried hot peppers in a coconut curry soup) and see how much heat you really want to handle.
Dan Morgridge is a writer from Ukrainian Village who always adds one hot sauce drop too many.