It's true. Sometimes I can't help but crave the unforgettable feeling of burning my lips and tongue with my food. Some people call it masochism, but I can't help it. Eating real spice that makes my glands swell is heavenly it's all I could ask for in a meal. Need a better reason? There's a saying that eating spicy food gives you a fiery personality. Follow that logic and fiery people make for spicy relationships. And what do you suppose comes from spicy relationships? I'll let you decide. Mmm, tasty. So what are you waiting for? Amp up your life and get your fire on at one of these gems.
Fire fiends all over the Bay Area will tell you that one of the spiciest cuisines is Sichuanese, which is what Spices II in the Richmond District specializes in. They'll have your sweat glands working on overload with their mapo tofu, cumin lamb, and spicy Chinese bacon. Beware, though. Sichuanese dishes are made with a special tongue-numbing peppercorn. Don't be surprised if you leave a bit teary.
291 Sixth Ave., SF. (415) 752-8885
If you're more in the mood for something hearty to fill you up, then move on from the flames of southern China and to My Tofu House's Korean delights, like its whip-ass kimchi, soondubu, or an order of kalbi. While it can be tough to get a table during peak hours, waiting guarantees a great meal that warms you from the inside out. The stewlike soft tofu soup is especially adept at combating those foggy, wet city nights.
4627 Geary, SF. (415) 750-1818
Every fire-lover knows that a staple mascot for spiciness is curry, and there's no better place to find it than at Indian Oven in Hayes Valley. Tikka masalas of all kinds will bowl you over with their exquisite balances of tongue-searing and flavorful. Also be sure to sample its tandoori and samosas. You can even bring friends with mild palates here; just make sure you specify the level of heat when you order.
237 Fillmore, SF. (415) 626-1628
Thai cuisine makes a strong showing in the ring of fire with Chabaa Thai in the Sunset District. Taking no prisoners, Chabaa's tom yum soup, pad see yu, or any of its curries leave lasting impressions. I admit this is one cuisine I was cowed by after asking for "as spicy as possible," and was soon brought close to tears as I feebly attempted to lift the chili oilcovered chopsticks to my lips. You win, Chabaa. You win.
2123 Irving, SF. (415) 753-3347
Not in the mood for Eastern-influenced fare? Mosey over to El Castillito in the Castro, which boasts some murderously hot avocado salsa. Add its gigantic super burritos and mouth-wateringly good quesadillas to the other noteworthy tongue sensations of its many meat selections the carne asada is a winner and you'll be begging for more, even with a food-baby ready to be birthed as you walk out the door.
136 Church, SF. (415) 621-3428
If you're looking for a more hands-on approach to your spice adventures, Café Colucci offers a kick in the pants with its spicy green lentil soup; the chicken, shrimp, and lamb tibs; and injera for some doughy goodness to balance out the flames. Ethiopian cuisine also gives you a chance to really dig in, using your manos to scoop up the goodies. Vegetarians will find plenty to satisfy their cravings and given such huge portions, consider bringing friends.
6427 Telegraph, Oakl. (510) 601-7999
East Bay residents rally around this fabulous addition to the Bay Area spice race. An ideal location for large dining parties, China Village excels at all the typical provincial goodies that make hotheads ecstatic. Their water-boiled beef, appetizer beef tripe and flank (featuring the tongue-numbing peppercorns), and the West-style fish soup with "1,000" chilies will have you crossing the bridge again and again.
1335 Solano, Albany. (510) 525-2285 *