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Some Like It Hot

Spice up your life with these flavorful dishes

By Wendy Lemlin | Photography By Bryan Oster AND Noushin Nourizadeh

Craving spicy food? You’re not alone and with good reason! The chili peppers that turn up the heat in everything from sauces to sausages can actually be addictive. This is due to the stimulating and endorphin-producing properties of capsaicin, the chemical in the peppers that gives them their bite. For people who like spice, the effects are cumulative: the hotter the pepper, the better the happiness-inducing endorphin buzz. So the next time you visit one of these restaurants, say “Hey, Hot Stuff,” and get happy with some heat.

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1. Spice & Rice Thai Kitchen
When it says it right in the restaurant’s name, you know the flavors are all about the spice! One of the most popular signature dishes here is the Spicy Basil Seafood, which combines sautéed shrimp, mussels, scallops and calamari with a mouth-watering aromatic sauce of garlic, Thai basil and chili paste. The Thai basil imparts a uniquely fresh spiciness to the mélange when cooked with the garlic and chili. As for the chilies, go as hot as you dare—from tongue-tingling to sensory-steaming!.

2. Harry’s Coffee Shop
At about 4 out of 10 on the spiciness scale, Carne Asada Tacos will wake up your taste buds with a pleasant zing. Thinly sliced steak in a traditional spicy Mexican marinade, grilled onions and tomatoes, lettuce, cheese and guacamole are wrapped in soft corn tortillas and served with rice and beans for a south-of-the-border lunch favorite.

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3. Broken Yolk Cafe 
Spice up your brunch with a Golden State Benedict that combines the best of breakfast in one dish. First, there’s the toasted English muffin mounded with sliced grilled tomato, avocado, applewood smoked bacon and two poached eggs. Then, there’s the topping of silky Hollandaise sauce. But it’s the addition of Sriracha—the popular go-to hot sauce—that turns up the heat, making this Bennie egg-sactly right for spice lovers.

4. Pomodoro
Pasta made with squid ink has a silky black color and a slightly briny flavor, reminiscent of all your maritime favorites. The Squid Ink Linguini with Shrimp and Scallops served at this intimate Italian eatery on Shelter Island features savory linguini and seafood that partner with a spicy house made tomato sauce that derives its heat from small red Italian peppers called pepperoncini. The spiciness complements, rather than overwhelms, the fresh seafood and flavorful pasta.

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5. Americana Restaurant
The City by the Bay and the Louisiana bayou come together in a bowl of Cioppino from this Del Mar favorite. The hearty seafood stew that originated with San Francisco’s Italian fisherman in the late 1800s is given a good dose of Cajun spice with the addition of andouille sausage, adding a smoky hotness to the mussels, shrimp, squid and fish. A bit of fennel conveys a savory, slightly sweet, depth of flavor to the rich broth.

The next time you need an endorphin boost, think chilies, and watch the healthy addiction grow.