This weekend, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden comes alive with the sound of people trying not to cry as the Chile Pepper Festival gets underway. Can’t make it (thanks, Obama/midterms)? Here are four of the spiciest venues in NYC that will light up your taste buds 365 days a year. Hot hot hot!
The Halal Guys
You read that and thought to yourself, “Can’t I just get my halal food from the cart at 115th and Broadway?” Well, you could. But while that cart’s employees and food are great, their hot sauce leaves a lot to be desired. The spicy sauce at this cart, right near the Museum of Modern Art, is the hot sauce you need and deserve. You may cry when you eat it, but those are tears of spicy joy.
53rd Street and Sixth Avenue
One of two tiny Indian restaurants in the East Village, Milon is a good place to get your fix of chicken vindaloo that packs a wallop. Even though the restaurant is a pretty serious fire hazard—chili pepper lights hang down from every inch of the ceiling and the space is rather cramped—it’s also a good place for seriously spicy dishes. Fear not—it’s a BYOB restaurant, so you can wash down that ghost pepper you ate by accident with your favorite (read: cheapest) wine. Take note, though: It’s cash-only.
93 First Ave. #2, between Fifth and Sixth streets
New World Mall
Nobody said finding food that will slowly kill your tastebuds was easy. But if you hop on the 7 train and ride it to Flushing, Queens, you’ll end up at the New World Mall, where you should make a beeline for the food court. With several different restaurants to offer any kind of spicy food you want—dumplings, hot pot whose broth will make you cry, and even Sichuan-style lobster—you’ll feel like Stefon when you realize that this place has everything. And it’s not constrained just to main courses—if you need to put out the fire in your mouth, there are bubble tea and ice cream crepes. Yeah.
136-20 Roosevelt Ave. at Main Street, Flushing
Taqueria y Fonda La Mexicana
Sure, this place isn’t far from campus, but its salsa is far from mild, so it merits a mention. It’s one thing for a taqueria to make delicious Mexican fare (I’m always partial to lengua tacos), but it’s another thing entirely to make salsa that not only flavors the food, but also gives it just the right kick, and Taqueria y Fonda does that with its house salsa. I’ve had a lot of bad salsa in New York (by which I mean, most salsa in New York is bad), but the salsa closest to campus is also the best and spiciest.
968 Amsterdam Ave., between 107th and 108th streets