The many cultural foods and experimental cooking styles of Bay Area restaurants offer the chance to enjoy excellent spicy food. Chefs take pride in blending sauces and herbs in unique ways that transform meat or vegetarian dishes into something hot and flavorful. Traditionally spicy cuisines such as those from India or Thailand are part of the local mix with America’s New Orleans cooking and, in one unusual example, even the common hamburger. No matter what your taste buds enjoy (or can reasonably handle), there are plenty of great Bay Area cooks ready to spice up your life.
1477 Plymouth St.
Mountain View, CA 94043
Chef Zareen Kahn transitioned from a popular catering business and sold-out cooking classes in Saratoga to opening her Mountain View restaurant about two years ago. It didn’t take long before word spread (especially to nearby Google) about Zareen’s unusual contemporary Pakistani and Indian cuisine which has garnered rave reviews. Family recipes feature cumin-spiced crackling samosas, a madras paneer wrap with savory curry, and a Punjabi chicken burger with spicy fries. This is a small restaurant with everything cooked fresh and made-to-order, but it will be well worth the wait.
845 Irving St.
San Francisco, CA 94122
If you have a burning desire for inexpensive, savory Korean food, then Manna is your ticket to a great meal. The ever-popular kimchi combines spicy heat with a salty crunch and is a great accompaniment for anything else ordered from this restaurant’s diverse menu. There’s a spicy-hot tofu stew for foggy San Francisco evenings, and buckwheat noodles in a spicy-sweet sauce that can be found in other Manna dishes. Crispy fried chicken wings and the seafood pancakes are also fan favorites for this Inner Sunset institution, which makes for a nice stop either before or after a visit to the nearby California Academy of Sciences.
106 E. 25th Ave.
San Mateo, CA 94403
There’s spicy and then there’s toe-curling, molten lava-pouring, nuclear-scale spicy. The Swinging Door’s legendary habanero burger, which is covered in a sauce made from three of the hottest peppers in the world (habanero, scotch bonnet, ghost), definitely falls in the latter category. According to the restaurant, only ten percent of the people who order the ultra-spicy burger, which requires a signed medical release, ever actually finish it. The Cooking Channel sent two of their spicy food experts to check it out and they met their match. Enough said.
1665 Mount Diablo Blvd.
Walnut Creek, CA 94596
Jinko Laongsuwan, one of the owners of Kacha Thai, learned his craft at Manora Thai, one of the key restaurants that pioneered the adoption of Thai food as a Bay Area favorite nearly 40 years ago. He has successfully carried on that tradition at this large, attractive Walnut Creek bistro, whose open kitchen specializes in traditional Thai curries and noodles with lime, fish sauce and chilies. The pumpkin curry is popular and diners also enjoy many of Kacha Thai’s specialties made with red curry. There’s even a green curry with beef that combines many of the hallmark flavors of classic Thai cuisine.
1761 Alcatraz Ave.
Berkeley, CA 94703
One of the great things about Easy Creole is that, in the true tradition of New Orleans cooking, their sauces and chilies change daily, sometimes even hourly. Every dish comes with a base of brown or white rice, plus spiced bread, and there are many varieties of hot sauce placed on the table. Specialties can range from a spicy chorizo étouffée to chicken creole. The restaurant has more of communal dining setup inside, so you can make friends while enjoying creative Cajun cooking and gulping plenty of water between bites.
Related: Best Cajun Food In San Francisco