Being the foodie destination it is, Austin has a lot to offer in the spicy department. I took it upon myself (and my poor friends) to seek out and try the top five spiciest dishes in Austin, inspired by this article I came across a few months ago. I ended up combining dishes from that article and this one in order to come up with a list of places that are, a) close to campus and the downtown Austin area, and b) under $15—we are college students after all.
I recruited four of my friends to be my taste testers, whose palates ranged from spicy food wimps to unflinching champions...but not even the champions could handle Austin's spiciest dish. Here are the five dishes' rankings, from least spicy to most.
The dish that had promised to be the spiciest dish in Austin disappointed. In fact, this salad, loaded with fermented crab, fish sauce, cherry tomatos, shrimp paste, lime, peanuts, and lots of Thai chilis, turned out to be the mildest dish of the day. Granted, it was the last dish sampled, meaning the subjects' taste buds had already been battered. And mild in this roundup by no stretch actually means mild.
The subjects discussed the unpleasant sensation of their tongues being stabbed—yikes. Regardless, the papaya salad did not move on to the next round of American Idol.
Ranking: Amateur hour
4. XXX Chili from Texas Chili Parlor
As the first dish sampled of the day, the XXX chili was daunting. I garnished it with every single extra jalapeño the restaurant provided, giving the chili an almost insidious smell that filled the entire room. It had a crafty burn, the kind that makes the eater believe the coast is clear before hitting them like a wall after a few bites. For one subject, getting a tattoo felt better than this burn.
Ranking: I'm uncomfortable
3. Jungle Curry from Titaya's Thai Cuisine
Titaya's jungle curry was more of a brothy soup than a classic thick curry, which seems strange until you realize that's because the chefs forgo the coconut milk to kick up the spice level. Unusual vegetables like young green peppercorns and white jelly mushrooms harbor pockets of spice, making each bite a gamble. Some major sweats set in for all the subjects, despite disagreement on just how spicy the curry was. This dish was a tossup.
Ranking: A cruel combination of spicy sweats and meat sweats
2. El Diablo from Hopdoddy Burger Bar
You know you're in trouble when your burger is named after the devil. El Diablo gets its heat from habanero and serrano chilis piled high on top of a patty with pepper jack, caramelized onions, salsa roja, chipotle mayo, lettuce, and tomato. The subjects found one half of the burger to be much more pepper-heavy, so not everybody got the full heat of this dish. Rest assured, if you do get the full experience, you're in for a rough ride—and a damn good burger.
Ranking: There's a fire in my mouth
1. Holy Schnikes Wings from Tommy Want Wingy
This is without a doubt the spiciest dish in Austin. I knew we were in trouble when the cashier made me confirm twice that these really were the wings I wanted—wings from the bowels of hell. The sample site was not a pretty place after these wings hit. There was crying, shouting, sprinting to the bathroom to run cold water into people's mouths for minutes at a time. Some favorite descriptions of the pain were, "I feel like I'm breathing fire," "this is what an allergic reaction feels like," and "it's pain that's going to my knees." The Holy Schnikes sauce is truly wicked.
Ranking: Reserved for arch nemesises and worst enemies
This article was brought to you by sheer willpower, determination, and an emotionally draining few hours.