Gimmick, gauntlet or just a good way to clear your sinuses? I just like when it feels like my face is melting.
A taste for spicy food is said to be derived from genetics to self-conditioning, or even masochism. Whatever your reason for eating it, Fort Collins has a few restaurants where you can count on if you want to really feel the burn.
This is not a comprehensive list of restaurants with the spiciest food in town, but a guide that highlights some of the more interesting places to get it.
Music City Hot Chicken
“Oh-my-fucking-hot,” were the first words out of my mouth.
After taking a bite out of a chicken sandwich seasoned what the restaurant calls “white hot” sauce, a cayenne-based heat began to bloom in my mouth.
Several dips of ranch are a necessary relief for the lingering burn, but the tender, crispy fried chicken is well worth the pain.
The sandwich comes on a big toasted bun with special house-made sauce, slaw, pickles and a piece of chicken coated with your choice of hot sauce.
Heat levels range from “Southern,” with no heat, to what the restaurant calls “flammable solid,” which tends to be an agonizing experience for most.
A sign in the restroom warns patrons to wash their hands before and after use, implying a painful story of a customer with incendiary sauce left on their hands after eating.
Having opened in April 2016 at 111 W. Prospect Road, the restaurant is owned and operated by Colorado State Uuniversity grads Jordan and Sam Graf. It offers sandwiches, wings, chicken fingers and more.
Hot chicken is a regional specialty said to have originated in Nashville, Tennessee, the “Music City.” The Graf brothers have put their own spin on the style, serving it in an atmosphere emphasizing craft beer with a punk-rock vibe.
Have you ever cried into your soup? And no, not because you were eating a sad bowl of instant ramen.
Pho Duy offers its rendition of a traditional Vietnamese street food called pho: a big, steaming-hot bowl of rice noodles and a variety of beef cuts served in a broth with rich depth of flavor.
The dish is served with a side of bean sprouts, lime wedges, fresh basil and jalapeños, with sriracha and hoisin sauce at each table.
Tucked away in a lot near the cinema at the intersection of Drake and Shields, this unassuming restaurant allows the diner to personally customize their spice level.
As served, the soup is mild, herbal and beefy. When the jalapeños are added, the dish begins to slowly take on a more sinister nature.
The hot broth begins to steep the jalapeños, causing their spice to infuse with the soup’s potency. Coupled with a little sriracha, it makes for a very spicy soup. In fact, I had to remove a few of the jalapeños, fearing an even more forceful assault on my sinuses as I began to tear up.
The soup originated in the early 20th century in Northern Vietnam and was popularized in the West by refugees after the Vietnam War.
Pho Duy, at 902 W. Drake Road, has been open since 2002, serving pho in a casual atmosphere at a very reasonable price—under $10 per bowl.
Star of India
For those who crave a face-melting, tongue-slashing heat, Star of India likely serves the spiciest food in town.
The chicken tikka masala at Star of India is a dish of roasted chicken in a creamy tomato curry with herbs and spices. All entrees are served with a side of basmati rice.
Masala is likely the most familiar Indian food to Western diners, and it is even the national dish of England.
But this restaurant allows diners to put their own spin on the food it serves. It offers sauces to be added to any dish that fall on a heat scale of one to 20, the hottest being a house-made ghost pepper sauce.
According to the Jacob Laxen of the Coloradoan, “the ghost pepper sauce is ordered only once in about every 100 customers. But when it is, the staff has to make sure to soak the dirty dishes in cold water before sending them through the dishwasher.”
The restaurant, at 2900 Harvard St., has been offering traditional Indian food since 1977, including classics like tandoori, biryani and curry. With a cozy atmosphere and attentive service, Star of India is a comfortable place to let loose and singe your taste buds.
A full vegetarian menu is also available, giving those who do not eat meat a chance to sample the heat as well.
Collegian reporter Max Sundberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jmaxsun.