Like Beyonce and Hillary Clinton before me, I put hot sauce on fucking everything. To me, a meal isn’t complete unless my tongue goes numb and I’m sweating between bites. Now that winter is here and the temperature has dropped lower than Donald Trump’s old nutsack, I tried some of the spiciest foods Columbus has to offer so you know the best way to heat your world up. Spoiler alert: You won’t need to pack spare hot sauce for any of these.
First up was Hot Chicken Takeover, one of Columbus’ hippest eateries and one with ‘hot’ in the friggin’ name. They advertise flavors ranging from ‘Cold’ or plain, up to ‘Holy &#%!’, a flavor as profane as it’s name implies. But I was there for something even more blasphemous. I had heard tell of something called ‘Extra Holy’, packed with twice as much heat as it’s predecessor, so daring it’s not even on the menu. Gimme.
I ordered a boneless chicken breast in the ‘Extra Holy’ fashion, and as soon as I opened the box the smell made my eyes start to water. The crispy skin of the chicken had a dark, crunchy shell of sauce and cayenne pepper coating it’s entirety, and began to sweat without taking a bite. I dug in and almost immediately, my lips began to burn. The sweat beaded on my furrowed brow and my nose started to drip. The hot chicken had taken over. It was definitely intensely spicy and I couldn’t quite finish the sizeable chunk of meat, but I could withstand the flames, barely. It was time to turn up the heat a bit.
Next up I went to Hounddog’s Pizza, widely considered among the best ‘za in the city. They serve up a pie called the ‘Hot Mama’, topped with hot cajun sausage, ham, bacon, sauerkraut, and finished off with their spicy sauce. Naturally, this wasn’t enough so I upped the ante with their ‘Howlin’ Hot’ sauce and ordered an extra beer, just in case.
The first slice heated me up with a slow, creeping burn that overtook my senses more with each bite. The spice level was not overwhelming, and the distinct flavors of the ingredients shone through, but unfortunately those toppings are far from my favorites. I polished off another for good measure but I don’t think I’ll be ordering this one again, just because Hounddog’s has so many other great options.
I had heard about a deadly spicy ramen dish served up by Fukuryu in Upper Arlington, about six miles north of campus. I ventured up and one look at the menu revealed what I was looking for- ‘The Red Dragon.’ It’s prepared with minced chili pork bits and you can choose from three levels of spiciness. You can probably guess what I went with.
The beautifully plated bowl was placed in front of me and the spiciness of the chilies rose with the steam off of the noodles, blasting me in the face. I scooped up a big bite and the impact was immediate. The sweat began to pool and the snot began to drip, this was what I was looking for. I had to take rests between bites as I fought through the mound of noodles, egg, and pork belly, and I almost thought I wouldn’t make it but after nearly 30 minutes, I had devoured the whole thing. I felt quite victorious, and a little like death.
After a few days rest, I got up the nerve to try something I knew would be a real challenge. Cazuela Grill’s infamous ‘Mucho Macho Burrito’. This son of a bitch is nothing to scoff at, a foot-long tortilla filled with your choice of beef or chicken and slathered in a layer of thick habanero sauce. I ordered the chicken and leaned back in my booth to reevaluate my life choices.
When the plate came out, I knew I had made a mistake. The rich orange sauce coated every inch of the hefty burrito, but it was too late to back out. This was the boss level. I cut off a sizeable chunk and stuffed it in my mouth, and to my surprise, it wasn’t that bad. I was feeling confident as I swallowed, but as I reached for my second bite, it hit me, hard. My mouth felt as though it was engulfed in flames, and my stomach began to turn. I choked down a couple more bites as quickly as I could, but the inevitable truth had revealed itself. I had met my match. I put my fork down, less than halfway through the meal, and accepted that I was not macho enough.
The higher the heat, the harder you fall.