It's hot out. Like standing sweat, hair-matted-down, ass-stuck-to-the-seat hot. And thanks to the six months of virtual summer we get around here, it doesn't look like it's going to be relenting anytime soon.
When it's this hot out, all you want to do is sit inside with a cold drink and get fanned by attractive music video stand-ins. But food can also be a great way to escape the heat. Specifically spicy food, preferably served with a cool beer. Wait a second: Spicy foods cooling you off is actually a contradiction, right? Wrong. The secret is that eating something hot doesn't drop your body temperature; it makes you feel cooler. How that works is when you eat something spicy, it gets your blood flowing toward your stomach. That in turn takes blood away from your extremities, which is what makes you feel like your skin is actually cooling off. Couple that with a little bit of habanero-induced sweat and eating something tongue-numbingly spicy should cool you off in no time.
So take a look at our list of five local restaurants where, thanks to food that's actually hotter than our Florida sun, you can feel just a little bit cooler than anywhere else.
I don't know if you've ever visited the Caribbean islands, but I'm told
it gets pretty hot there too. And what do Trinis do when the sun grows
too sweltering? They hole up with some spicy-as-hell roti and a super-cold lager beer. You can do just that at Lovey's, where the mango
kuchela is tart, the sada and bussupshut is freshly baked, and the
fiery-green Scotch bonnet sauce known colloquially as "peppa" will have
you sweating in no time flat. Order a cold beer or a grape soda to go
with it and you'll be cool as a cucumber (which, incidentally, you'll
also find in their famous aloo pies).
It's no coincidence that barbecue is most popular in the summer, when
the weather in most parts of the country makes standing over a barrel
smoker for a few hours sound attractive. Here in South Florida, that
can be a painful experience. But not if you don't have to do the
smoking, and definitely not at Sheila's, where the smoky, hot barbecue
pairs best with the cool flavors of conch salad. The meaty, smoky pork
has a perfect pair in that salad, all tart with lime and kicked up to
extra-hot levels, if you prefer, with the addition of slivers of orange
Scotch bonnet pepper. That conch, all chewy and light, takes you away
to a breezy island. A seat at a stone table under the shady overhang at
Sheila's helps as well.
The Vietnamese chain serves some intensely hot Asian food, starting
with boiling pho that you can kick up with the absolute hottest slices
of raw jalapeño you'll find. But soup may not be on your priority list, and
that's OK. Then try a cold chicken salad with vermicelli rice noodles,
slathered with tangy nuoc cham and plenty of ridiculously hot,
lemongrass-infused sambal chili sauce. The cool/spicy salad, paired with Pho Hoa's
ice-cold boba smoothies, is dynamite. Those smoothies, by the way, made
with fruit or tea or tapioca, are the absolute best around.
East Coast serves about the hottest hot salsa you'll find anywhere in
South Florida. Made with habanero peppers, this stuff once made me
physically cry when I decided not to stop at the clear warning signs --
loss of vision, weakness, and a feeling like someone had set off a nuclear
bomb in my stomach. Of course, you can opt for the mild salsa on your
big-ass burrito. But where's the fun in that? East Coast doesn't serve
beer, so here's my suggestion: Get your burro loaded with hot salsa
to-go. Grab a couple of cans of Tecate or Modello Especial and wrap them
in foil, the way Mexicans do. Take that combo to the beach and enjoy
the sun like only someone with his mouth on fire can.
The Trove, as it's known in these parts, has everything you need to
embrace summertime in Florida. It's an open-air bar that's so informal
(and frankly pretty divey) that you can totally come straight off Fort
Lauderdale beach in your swim trunks and not feel out of place. The
beer is cold and plentiful, with decent options on tap and almost
constant specials on Corona. It also serves some halfway decent Mexican
food for a bar of its ilk. And lest there be any questions about the
food's providence, you can nuke your tacos (which on Tuesdays are just
one buck a pop) with a veritable cavalcade of hot sauces. There are so
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many varieties of hot sauce up on the Trove's wall -- habanero-based, Texas and
Louisiana-style, Caribbean, and more -- that you can literally change up your poison with every bite. Ah, hot sauce, tacos, and beer. Sounds like
summer's best friend.
Got a suggestion for spicy summer food? Let us know in the comments field below.