By Elizabeth SanFilippo
Spices might not have much of a nutritional value, but they sure can make a meal absolutely delicious. Whether you have a hankering for a spicy sandwich or a thick soup that makes you want to reach for the crackers or bread, there’s something for you in Chicago. Just be prepared and hope your iron stomach holds up. All of these restaurants and dishes pack quite the spicy punch.
Ba Le Sandwich & Bakery
5014 N Broadway St
Chicago, IL 60640
This Vietnamese cafe offers just about everything — including some suspicious-looking drinks and French baguettes. That’s because this sandwich place has fused two delicious cuisines: French and Vietnamese. That fusion is most apparent in the reasonably priced sandwiches, which clock in anywhere between $3.50 to $5.95. What makes these sandwiches so spicy are what comes on top, other than the meat. Many are topped with the house mayo, pickled daikon and carrots, onions, cilantro, and jalapeños — a delicious but near tear-inducing spicy combination.
2047 Division St
Chicago, IL 60622
The space at this Ukrainian Village hot spot is vast, as is its pub menu. But owners Scott Weiner and Greg Mohr like to boast that the entire menu is based on secret sauces and recipes, including house-made barbecue and Louisiana hot sauces. A large chunk of the recipes consist of the extensive sandwich and burger menu, which includes a fiery hot Hell Burger for $12. Be prepared for the server to ask you, “Are you sure?” when ordering, because this burger is crazy hot with its toppings of roasted jalapeños (still with seeds), Fifty/50 housemade hot sauce, habanero salsa and cheddar cheese. The knotted burger bun helps tame the heat a bit, but not by much.
Related: Spiciest Food on the North Side
Jake Melnick’s Corner Tap
41 E Superior St
Chicago, IL 60611
In most bars around Chicago, chicken wings can be ordered ‘spicy,’ but Jake Melnick’s takes this spiciness to a whole new level. Jake Melnick’s uses an extract from Red Savina — one of the world’s spiciest peppers and twice as hot as a habanero — to flavor the wings. This spice is so potent that you should be prepared to sign a waiver for a bell before your order arrives. And trust those that have been brave enough to attempt this feat: you’ll want that bell. If the heat becomes too much, ring the bell and a waiter will swing by with cooling agents, like sour cream and milk, to take away the sting.
3454 W Addison St
Chicago, IL 60618
German food might be known more for its meats and sauerkraut, but this traditional restaurant — in both food and decor, including some massive steins decorating the shelves — has one of the spiciest soups in town. The Hungarian-style goulash is thick, verging on chili, and is packed with veggies like carrots and peas. But don’t be fooled; this soup winds up a serious punch to those taste buds, which is only slightly tempered by crackers that come with your appetizer. Note: the goulash soup is entirely different than the beef goulash entree, which is a heaping delicious pile of meat — but not nearly as spicy.
The Indian Garden
247 E Ontario St, 2nd Floor
Chicago, IL 60611
Not only does The Indian Garden offer traditional spicy Indian dishes, including a plate of tandoori chicken, but the relaxing ambiance with windows overlooking Ontario Street is hard to beat. Choose your level of spice at this Indian restaurant, with choices ranging from no spice at all to very spicy. Those who choose ‘no spice’ will miss out; this Indian food is known for being chock full of delicious spices, ranging from cinnamon to curry and cumin. Try the Gosht Pasanda, which is lamb served with pickled onions and potatoes… and a fire-hot gravy sauce. If the smells don’t lure you in, the prices will. Most entrees are below $15 with only a few dinner specials around $20.
Related: Best Indian Food in Chicago