In the eyes of the beholder, or taster in this case, heat is relative. The Scoville Heat Scale (a measure of hotness) ranks capsaicin chili peppers a tongue-lashing 16 million, but this article covers five Denver restaurants that all scored high on the heat scale. Here’s a great list for some of Denver’s spiciest menus and hottest restaurants (ranked by the author’s own Heat Sauce Index).
Vesta Dipping Grill
1822 Blake St
Denver, CO 80202
Heat Hot Sauce Scale: 12 million plus, sauces can be made hot, hotter and hottest
Vesta isn’t your typical salsa bar or squeeze-bottle sauce joint. The upscale LoDo restaurant, owned by Josh Wolken and kitchen driven by Chef Matt Selby, is hot not only for its popularity over the years and its menu, but also for its selection of dipping sauces gracing the menu. The restaurant has so many sauces, it created a glossary for diners to choose from. With each entree, you can opt for three sauces for dipping. They are ranked by one through four stars, with more stars denoting hotter sauces. A few that rank high in the heat index: Hudson barrel hot sauce with red fresno chilies, onion and garlic packed in vinegar, and then whiskey-barrel aged for 60 days garners four stars. Sunset hot sauce with habanero chilies, onion, garlic, cayenne, chili powder, lime has three stars. Smoked-habanero salsa with habanero chilies, red onion, tomato and lime also has three stars. Vesta’s entrees don’t need to be hidden behind a hot sauce, so the sauce is an accessory and not a heavy curtain on dishes like the three-pepper-grilled flat iron steak with manila clams, pommes frites, linguica sausage, chimichurri butter and charred tomatoes or garlic-grilled scallops with fingerling potatoes, fennel-arugula salad and bacon aioli. Vesta’s Monday night special offers two entrees for $52.80, check the website for details. Hudson barrel hot sauce is available for purchase at Vesta’s sister restaurant, Steuben’s on 17th Avenue.
Georgia Boys BBQ
237 Collyer St
Longmont, CO 80503
Heat Hot Sauce Scale: 10 million plus, try the Fire Sauce for the most heat
The Georgia Boys moved up in the world last year when they got a roof. Matt Alexander and Nick Reckinger, both Georgia natives, used to sell their tasty wares in the Lefthand Brewery parking lot for hungry beer drinkers. In 2011, the two got a little house on a sleepy street in Longmont. With a roof over their heads and front porch that welcomes guests, they are now able to offer full-on Southern hospitality and a barbecue menu both is sweet and hot. Sandwiches, on Texas toast or a bun, are pulled pork, pulled chicken and hot links. Platters are heaped high with a half pound or full pound of the same. Their hottest sauce, ghost sauce, is hidden behind the counter, so you’ll have to ask for it. The next level down, fire sauce, is on the tables. Jars of sauce can be purchased for $5. Georgia Boys BBQ also has Southern spicy specialties that vary each day like jambalaya, gumbo, crawfish etouffee, stuffed peppers and brisket chili. Most loved about Georgia Boys are the sides like slaw for a sandwich topping, mashers and gravy, sweet potato casserole, squash casserole, chicken and cornbread dressing, green bean casserole, spicy BBQ beans and macaroni and cheese. The dessert menu changes often, so friend Georgia Boys on Facebook for an update. But just to tempt you ahead of time, current desserts include banana puddin’, bread puddin’, pecan bourbon pie, ugly brownies that taste pretty and key lime pie to cool the senses.
2900 E 2nd Ave
Denver, CO 80206
Heat Hot Sauce Scale: 12 million plus, adjustable per your taste buds
When chef Mark Fischer announced he was opening a Phat Thai in Cherry Creek, Denver was in for a Thai treat. The Carbondale location has been receiving rave reviews for years, and his fine-dining restaurant, Six89, was deemed a ‘best of’ by Esquire Magazine last year. Phat Thai’s location in Cherry Creek may make you wonder if a trendy, hip spot like this can deliver over a mom-and-pop Thai restaurant. But don’t worry; Fischer knows Thai food and it shows on his menu. The menu is numbered and dishes can be ordered mild, spicy and spicier. Start with a #13 Crisp Pork with watermelon served with Thai herbs, watermelon pickle, chilies, lime, mint and crisp shallots. You will be crying for more. If spice is still your friend, try the #20 Spicy Mama Phat made with ramen noodles, ground pork, cabbage, mint, coriander, nam pla fish sauce, oyster sprouts and crisp shallots; #25 Kaeng Kiew Wan made with spicy green curry of chicken Thai eggplant, Thai basil, coconut; or #27 Kaeng Massaman Pae created from Colorado goat with cardamom, peanuts, tamarind, red chilies, lemongrass, sweet potatoes and coconut. To cool off your taste buds, wash it down with rice beer, available on tap. Phat Thai charges for rice, but the proceeds from jasmine rice go to relief aid funds to help flood victims in Thailand and Southeast Asia, just another reason why this place is a must-try.
Related: Best Barbecue In Denver
US Thai Cafe
5228 W 25th Ave
Edgewater, CO 80214
Heat Hot Sauce Scale: 14 million plus, the dry spice mix will take off skin if you use too much
At US Thai Cafe, curry (keng) is King and hot spices are the crowning glory. US Thai is the perfect place to bring a friend who thinks they are man or woman enough to eat the hottest of the hot. A good starter for is the Pik Kai Laoding, a Thai version of chicken wings. If you are not into pain, try tasting your food first, let the heat sink in and then decide if you need more. For many, the medium heat at US Thai is hot enough. The curries, which can be ordered mild or scorching hot, come in a hue of flavors like golden paneng, green curry, paneng, masman and jungle curry. Each curry is served with your choice of meat, seafood or tofu. All but one curry dish comes with coconut milk, which tempers some of the heat. Traditionalists will like the Paneng, a yellow curry bathed in a silky coconut milk. The Green Curry is chock full of vegetables. The Jungle Curry, typical of northern Thailand where coconuts are typically not found, is made with your choice of meat or tofu cooked in jungle curry paste with zucchini, bamboo shoots, baby corn, carrots, basil, rice powder and green beens. The Fish curry is bold and big. Share it with friends or be prepared to take a box home for leftovers.
2527 W 26th Ave
Denver, CO 80211
Heat Hot Sauce Scale: 11 million plus, ask for the roasted jalapeños for caramelized heat
La Loma’s never disappoints when it comes to spicy Mexican green chile, roasted jalapeños and spicy entrees. Two dishes come to mind when heat is what you want: the South Of The Border Sirloin Tips with La Loma’s hot salsa and fresh corn tortillas and Carne Guisada made with sautéed sirloin tips, sliced serrano peppers and flour tortillas. The family recipe for green chile is also a spicy favorite, it comes as a side but you will want a whole big bowl for yourself.
Related:Top Mexican Food In Denver
Kimberly Lord Stewart is a food author and journalist for CBS Denver local, Organic Food Reporter for Examiner.com, and the Food, Wine and Spirits editor for Denver Life magazine. Her book, “Eating Between the Lines” tells readers about the truth and myths of food labeling. Stewart is the recipient of two Association of Food Journalist awards for food news reporting and the Jessie Neal Business Journalism award. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.