Flame On: 10 Spicy Dishes in the Valley That Really Bring the Heat

It was a heat-seeking mission — and a dangerous one. Chow Bella's contributors dispersed through the Valley, in search of the hottest, tastiest, and most creative culinary offerings. Read on at your risk.

Desert Tears at Carefree Station: "Do you like spicy food?" This will be the (seemingly) innocent question you're asked after ordering the aptly named Desert Tears at Carefree Station (7212 Ho Hum Rd., Carefree, 480-488-8182, www.carefreestation.com). These four fresh jalapeños, blanched and stuffed (two with chorizo and blue cheese and two with shrimp and spiced cheeses) will make you suffer: the chorizo and blue cheese with a slow, sinful burning and the shrimp and spiced cheeses with the first hell-hot bite. Well into consumption, there may be a moment, when you're wiping the sweat from your brow or the tears from your eyes, that you'll wish you were given more warning. No matter — you will enjoy them — even as you're draining your umpteenth glass of water or, hours later, still feeling them in the depths of your soul, burning like embers of Hell's eternal fire. Laura Hahnefeld

Evil Jungle Noodles at Thai Rama: Thai Rama's Evil Jungle Noodles offers a choice of meats (I like the shrimp) with tons of veggies and rice noodles in a fiery coconut and chili broth. At Thai Rama (1221 W. Camelback Rd., 602-285-1123, www.thai-rama-az.com), the servers ask you (for any dish) whether you would like mild, medium, hot or Thai hot one through five. In other words, the five levels of Thai hot begin where American hot ends. If you do not specify, the Evil Jungle Noodle dish comes out as a Thai hot 1. This level gives me a light sweat yet still allows the flavors of the other ingredients to shine. The basil, bell peppers, and sweet coconut flavors become intensified. I've had many super-spicy dishes that burn the flavors right out of everything else in the bowl, but this dish is well done. Thai Rama offers a $1 draft beer (Kirin or Sapporo) that helps cool the mouth off. The best part about this broth (what Anthony Bourdain would call a hellbroth) is that upon leaving the air-conditioned building to go out in the 115-degree Phoenix heat, you don't feel quite as hot. Michelle Martinez

Habanero cheeseburger at Carlsbad Tavern
Jackie Mercandetti
Habanero cheeseburger at Carlsbad Tavern
The papaya salad at Lemon Grass Thai Cafe brings the heat.
Jackie Mercandetti
The papaya salad at Lemon Grass Thai Cafe brings the heat.

Location Info


Carefree Station Grill & Bar

7212 Ho Hum Road
Carefree, AZ 85377

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Carefree

Carlsbad Tavern and Restaurant

3313 N. Hayden Road
Scottsdale, AZ 85251

Category: Restaurant > Mexican

Region: Central Scottsdale

Lemon Grass Thai Cafe

818 W. Broadway Road
Tempe, AZ 85282

Category: Restaurant > Thai

Region: Tempe

Thai Rama Restaurant

1221 W. Camelback Road
Phoenix, AZ 85013

Category: Restaurant > Thai

Region: Central Phoenix

NY Boyz Subs & Wingz

2070 E. Apache Blvd.
Tempe, AZ 85281

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Tempe

Boulders on Broadway

530 W. Broadway Road
Tempe, AZ 85282

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Tempe

Caribbean Spice

219 E. Baseline Road, Ste. H001
Tempe, AZ 85283

Category: Restaurant > Caribbean

Region: Tempe

Jade Bar

5700 E. McDonald Drive
Paradise Valley, AZ 85253

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Paradise Valley


501 N. Arizona Ave.
Chandler, AZ 85225

Category: Restaurant > Korean

Region: Chandler

Fired Up Grill

7131 W. Ray Road
Chandler, AZ 85226

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Chandler

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Shishito Peppers and a Fiery Mandarin Martini at Jade Bar: It's the end of the summer, and it's damn near impossible to be happy around here. That's why we suggest a spot located high up on Camelback Mountain. Oh, c'mon, silly, not to jump from — to remind us what loving our desert lives feels like. Jade Bar at Sanctuary Resort and Spa (5700 E. McDonald Dr., Paradise Valley, 480-948-2100, www.sanctuaryoncamelback.com) has a mountaintop view beautiful enough to make us quit our bitching and a spicy dish with a cocktail counterpart that brings the kind of heat you find only in the desert. Jade Bar's shishito peppers tossed in a sweet and savory caramel sauce is the perfect accompaniment to a gorgeous view. And might we recommend the Fiery Mandarin martini shaken with Serrano chiles to round out the evening? Nicole Smith

Soondobo at Chodang: Soondobo is a ridiculously spicy stew that looks like a bowl of molten lava with chunks of tofu and beef poking through the bubbling surface. Chodang (501 N. Arizona Ave., Chandler, 480-855-7712) serves several varieties of this popular dish, including one that is seafood-based. Accompanying each bowl is a stone pot filled with fresh rice and at least six different pickled sides. The best way to consume soondobo is with a spoon, taking a bit of rice and drowning it in a spoonful of stew. The sides are there to comfort your palate in between thermonuclear mouthfuls of stew and rice. Ando Muneno

Suicide Wings at NY Boyz Subs & Wings: If you live in Tempe, you probably have driven by this wing shop (2070 E. Apache Blvd., Tempe, 480-773-6588, www.nyboyzsubz.com) a million times on your way to Mesa without ever giving it a second glance — hell, it took NY Boyz' getting the first-place trophy at Wingstock (the annual chicken wing/music festival) in April before I even considered venturing inside. Don't expect the "boyz" to be remotely nice to you (and God forbid you mention the price discrepancies on their website), but I'll take the abuse for a dozen of their rich and spicy hot wings with homemade blue cheese. If you're really looking for some heat, or maybe you need to find a creative way to make rent, give their suicide wing challenge a go. Shannon Armour

Spicy Chicken Noodle Soup at Fired Up Grill: If you get a cold this winter and need a remedy, look no further than Fired Up Grill's spicy chicken noodle soup, the Chandler restaurant's fiery twist on your Nana's classic cure-all. The broth at Fired Up Grill (7131 W. Ray Rd., Chandler, 480-940-4040, www.firedupgrill.com) is made using serrano and jalapeño peppers, then filled with chicken guisado, pasta, corn, carrots, celery, and cilantro. The kicked-up version of this timeless dish grew out of owner Joe Busone's well-known love of the spicy. Busone — the same man whose fiercely loyal staff staged the famous Buca di Beppo walkout of 2008 — eats ghost pepper sandwiches without breaking a sweat. Ghost peppers are available in the kitchen for daredevil diners who want their soup fired up another notch, but Busone has your best interests at heart: As he tells his servers, "Ask 'em one more time." Either way, pack your Puffs-to-go for the spicy sniffles; this savory soup is sure to clear out your sinuses. Amanda Kehrberg

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