This week’s blog post is by The Paternity Test co-host Matt Boresi, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood of Chicago with his wife (“Professor Foster”) and their 6-year-old daughter Viva, who seeks the Merciless Pepper of Quetzalacatenango.
My 6-year-old daughter, Viva, and I love an episode of “Teen Titans Go!” called ‘Spice Game’ in which the heroes get themselves caught up in “the spicy life” by seasoning their food with peppers of escalating heat until finally consuming a cursed pepper called “The Tears of Zephos,” which causes unimaginable suffering. I feel for the Titans because I’ve been playing the spice game since childhood, eating the punishingly hot jalapeños, serranos, habañeros and Thai chilis my dad grows in his garden. Viva can be a picky eater, so I never thought she’d want to live the spicy life. Then one day when she was one or two, I was (foolishly) letting her crawl around on the kitchen island, and she got into a container of Spicy Wings from Dak wings in Edgewater. I’ve seen many an adult demure partaking in these wings due to their intensity, but Baby Viva stuck her face right on one and ate it, skin and sauce and all. I was ready to call a Wahhhmbulance, but … nothing. She liked it. She wanted “mo.” And thus, she too got into the spice game.
One must be careful with spicy foods, especially with kids. They can do some damage on the way in, in the middle and on the way out. They should be partaken slowly and carefully and with some dairy nearby, but if your family lives the spicy life, here are some far north side places with very spicy dishes. (But not dangerously spicy — Viva isn’t on the wall of fame for Jake Melnick’s XXX wings yet.)
1104 W Granville Ave.
This storefront, mostly take-out but also cute inside neighborhood Korean wings place is one of our favorite restaurants in Chicago. The Dak wings are good, but the spicy wings are special — and the dukbokki with bulgogi is pillowy, spicy and delicious — like feisty Asian gnocchi ready to light you up.
5352 North Broadway
Nashville hot chicken is a thing these days. It’s very spicy fried chicken in an open face sandwich with refreshing pickles on top. Like an actually tasty (and very hot) version of those nasty southern chicken biscuit sandwiches everybody drones on about from that chain that gives you Bible verses with your food. Viva can’t get through one on her own but she likes to share it with me. These are a special available on Mondays.
6120 N Broadway St.
How can a kid not like Ethiopian food? It’s mushy and colorful, and you dig into it with your hands. It’s practically a craft project that you eat. Ethiopian Diamond makes its own spicy “Diamond Berbere Sauce” that’ll keep you coming back to this neighborhood favorite. We like it on the Tibs Watt.
4953-55 North Broadway
Tank is our favorite of the glorious BYOB Vietnamese places in Uptown where we go for big bowls of pho. (Everyone has their favorite place for pho and someone will probably fight me over this pick.) It’s best not to tell your kid they’re eating tendon, tripe and oxtail, but they’re also eating brisket, sliced beef and meatballs. The pho comes with basil, sprouts, lime and jalapeño that’s fun to play with and you can control how much jalapeño and Sriracha you put on it — so just how spicy this gets depends on how much you wish to escape from your prison of blandness.
5406 N. Clark Street (and other locations)
I might get some flack from the hipsters for this pick because this Chicago-based place is popping up all over the city, and because it’s a very expensive bowl of ramen — ramen is the cheapest food on Earth and everyone has their chosen hole-in-the-wall to get it — but if you’re willing to go someplace pricey and popular, Furious Spoon serves an incredible, and spicy, bowl of soup. Get the absolutely loaded Furious Ramen (it’s got dumplings, meatballs, mushrooms, eggs and more) which is quite aggressive in its spice. Share it with your kids, and you yourself can wash it down with a Surly Furious beer. This meal is pure bliss for me, and both tasty and fun for Viva.
It’s time to get your family past mac and cheese and PB&J and into food that bites back. Know your limits, have fun and join Viva and me in the spicy life!
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