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A plate of rice-cured, fermented pork from Thip Khao.
Rice-cured, fermented pork from Thip Khao.
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

13 D.C. Restaurants Perfect for Spicy Food Lovers

Where to feel the burn

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Rice-cured, fermented pork from Thip Khao.
| Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

Thanks to a plethora of Sichuan, Thai, Indian, and even amped-up burger restaurants, D.C. diners who like a heavy dose of spice have no shortage of options. The places on this map won’t serve the kind of heat that requires customers to sign a waiver, but they have seriously piquant dishes that pack in a ton of flavor with a pleasant burn.

Have another favorite spicy dish? Sound off in the comments.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Quarry House Tavern

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8401 Georgia Ave
Silver Spring, MD 20910
(301) 844-5504
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At this classic Silver Spring dive bar, the “Afterburner” burger with four-alarm sauce, jalapenos, and pepperjack cheese calls out to heat seekers. Wash it down with a cold beer to calm the burn. 

2. Pho Viet

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3513 14th St NW
Washington, D.C. 20010
(202) 629-2839
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Pho Viet’s Spicy Lemongrass Pho is made with two kinds of chile and flavored with lemongrass, ginger, onion, and shrimp paste. Order it “quarter spicy” and you might still be sipping water between bites. Real chile heads get it “medium” or more. 

3. Thip Khao

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3462 14th St NW
Washington, D.C. 20010

Just about anything from this restaurant's jungle menu will satisfy heat-seekers, but the The tam muk houng phet phet is especially spicy. This Lao papaya salad made with an assortment of Thai chile peppers, shredded green papaya, fish sauce, cherry tomatoes, lime, shrimp paste, crab paste, and dried shrimp packs a whole lot of funky flavor.

4. Panda Gourmet

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2700 New York Ave NE
Washington, D.C. 20002
(202) 636-3588

This Sichuan staple inside a Days Inn has a lot of spicy items on their menu, but the boiled fish filet in hot chile sauce deserves to be singled out. A heaping portion of fish boiled in a spicy broth swarming with red chiles and chile oil delivers a slow and steady burn.

5. Lucky Buns

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2000 18th St NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 506-1713
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You probably wouldn’t expect a place like this to be in consideration for spicy food, but Lucky Buns isn’t your average burger joint. Try the “Hot Tiger” bun, a fantastic fried chicken sandwich with Sichuan pepper paste topped with pickles, onions, and Chinese yellow mustard. Or get the “Hot Amato” bun, which has a single beef patty in addition to that spicy fried chicken.

6. Astoria DC

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1521 17th St NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 754-0065
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This recently opened cocktail bar from CopyCat Co. founder Devin Gong gets its Sichuan peppers shipped from a source in Chengdu, China. Don’t sleep on the water boiled beef—- tri-tip in a fragrant stock of mustard greens, celery, and a ton of chiles that get cooked with a ladling of hot oil at the end. The brave should slurp that sauce right from the bowl. 

7. Little Serow

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1511 17th St NW
Washington, D.C. 20036

This basement spot with a fixed menu is known for serving some of the spiciest Northern Thai food in town. The menu changes frequently, but there always will be multiple course brimming with chiles that bring out sweat and tears from customers. A side plate of cold greens and herbs helps to combat the burn.

8. Pappe

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1317 14th St NW
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 888-8220
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Although the vindaloo is the most popular spicy dish of at this Indian spot on 14th Street, the fiery red junglee laal maas is even hotter. Made with dried red chiles and bone-in goat, it packs a lingering heat.

9. El Sol Restaurante & Tequileria

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1227 11th St NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 815-4789
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Partner and chef Jessica Solis personally oversees daily salsa production to ensure enough chiles make their way into squeeze bottles of house verde and rojo. Hot, epazote-laced chilaquiles are a true wake-up call at any time of day, and the chicken tinga boasts a smoky spice of chipotles. — Gabe Hiatt

El Sol chilaquiles
Chilaquiles and carne asada from El Sol
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

10. Laos in Town

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250 K St NE
Washington, DC 20002
(202) 864-6620
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Spice levels run high at this new spot in NoMa as long as customers request their food “Lao spicy.” To really feel the fire, order the crispy rice salad, a signature item that has bits of curried rice with fermented pork, cilantro, peanuts, and an added kick from a heap of julienned ginger. It can be made vegan upon request.

Crispy Rice Salad at Laos in Town
Aparna Krishnamoorthy/Eater DC

11. Bombay Street Food (Multiple locations)

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524 8th St SE
Washington, DC 20003
(202) 558-9506
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At the Capitol Hill location of this hit Indian spot, the lal mirch (red chile curry) comes with a choice of lamb, chicken, or goat. These bring on a warming heat with a slow burn, and so does the spicy goat monsoon wedding, which packs in heat from peppercorns in addition to chiles. On Capitol Hill and at the original in Columbia Heights, a street food section includes kheema pav, a minced lamb dish served with buttered bread that’s served on the spicy side, just like it is at some roadside stalls in Bombay.

12. Hot Lola's

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4238 Wilson Blvd Level C
Arlington, VA 22203

This Sichuan-spiced hot chicken restaurant from Himitsu founder Kevin Tien serves up four different heat levels. Go for the OG Hot for a comfortable spicy heat, or the Too Hot, if you really want to push it. 

13. MaMa Chang

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3251 Old Lee Hwy Ste101
Fairfax, VA 22030
(703) 268-5556
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There are a number of dishes at the latest Peter Chang restaurant that bombard diners with spice, but one that stands out is the pickled chile flounder pot. Fish, vermicelli, and tofu are all carriers for heat and respites from it, depending on how many chiles sneak onto each bite.

1. Quarry House Tavern

8401 Georgia Ave, Silver Spring, MD 20910

At this classic Silver Spring dive bar, the “Afterburner” burger with four-alarm sauce, jalapenos, and pepperjack cheese calls out to heat seekers. Wash it down with a cold beer to calm the burn. 

8401 Georgia Ave
Silver Spring, MD 20910

2. Pho Viet

3513 14th St NW, Washington, D.C. 20010

Pho Viet’s Spicy Lemongrass Pho is made with two kinds of chile and flavored with lemongrass, ginger, onion, and shrimp paste. Order it “quarter spicy” and you might still be sipping water between bites. Real chile heads get it “medium” or more. 

3513 14th St NW
Washington, D.C. 20010

3. Thip Khao

3462 14th St NW, Washington, D.C. 20010

Just about anything from this restaurant's jungle menu will satisfy heat-seekers, but the The tam muk houng phet phet is especially spicy. This Lao papaya salad made with an assortment of Thai chile peppers, shredded green papaya, fish sauce, cherry tomatoes, lime, shrimp paste, crab paste, and dried shrimp packs a whole lot of funky flavor.

3462 14th St NW
Washington, D.C. 20010

4. Panda Gourmet

2700 New York Ave NE, Washington, D.C. 20002

This Sichuan staple inside a Days Inn has a lot of spicy items on their menu, but the boiled fish filet in hot chile sauce deserves to be singled out. A heaping portion of fish boiled in a spicy broth swarming with red chiles and chile oil delivers a slow and steady burn.

2700 New York Ave NE
Washington, D.C. 20002

5. Lucky Buns

2000 18th St NW, Washington, DC 20009

You probably wouldn’t expect a place like this to be in consideration for spicy food, but Lucky Buns isn’t your average burger joint. Try the “Hot Tiger” bun, a fantastic fried chicken sandwich with Sichuan pepper paste topped with pickles, onions, and Chinese yellow mustard. Or get the “Hot Amato” bun, which has a single beef patty in addition to that spicy fried chicken.

2000 18th St NW
Washington, DC 20009

6. Astoria DC

1521 17th St NW, Washington, DC 20036

This recently opened cocktail bar from CopyCat Co. founder Devin Gong gets its Sichuan peppers shipped from a source in Chengdu, China. Don’t sleep on the water boiled beef—- tri-tip in a fragrant stock of mustard greens, celery, and a ton of chiles that get cooked with a ladling of hot oil at the end. The brave should slurp that sauce right from the bowl. 

1521 17th St NW
Washington, DC 20036

7. Little Serow

1511 17th St NW, Washington, D.C. 20036

This basement spot with a fixed menu is known for serving some of the spiciest Northern Thai food in town. The menu changes frequently, but there always will be multiple course brimming with chiles that bring out sweat and tears from customers. A side plate of cold greens and herbs helps to combat the burn.

1511 17th St NW
Washington, D.C. 20036

8. Pappe

1317 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20005

Although the vindaloo is the most popular spicy dish of at this Indian spot on 14th Street, the fiery red junglee laal maas is even hotter. Made with dried red chiles and bone-in goat, it packs a lingering heat.

1317 14th St NW
Washington, DC 20005

9. El Sol Restaurante & Tequileria

1227 11th St NW, Washington, DC 20001
El Sol chilaquiles
Chilaquiles and carne asada from El Sol
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

Partner and chef Jessica Solis personally oversees daily salsa production to ensure enough chiles make their way into squeeze bottles of house verde and rojo. Hot, epazote-laced chilaquiles are a true wake-up call at any time of day, and the chicken tinga boasts a smoky spice of chipotles. — Gabe Hiatt

1227 11th St NW
Washington, DC 20001

10. Laos in Town

250 K St NE, Washington, DC 20002
Crispy Rice Salad at Laos in Town
Aparna Krishnamoorthy/Eater DC

Spice levels run high at this new spot in NoMa as long as customers request their food “Lao spicy.” To really feel the fire, order the crispy rice salad, a signature item that has bits of curried rice with fermented pork, cilantro, peanuts, and an added kick from a heap of julienned ginger. It can be made vegan upon request.

250 K St NE
Washington, DC 20002

11. Bombay Street Food (Multiple locations)

524 8th St SE, Washington, DC 20003

At the Capitol Hill location of this hit Indian spot, the lal mirch (red chile curry) comes with a choice of lamb, chicken, or goat. These bring on a warming heat with a slow burn, and so does the spicy goat monsoon wedding, which packs in heat from peppercorns in addition to chiles. On Capitol Hill and at the original in Columbia Heights, a street food section includes kheema pav, a minced lamb dish served with buttered bread that’s served on the spicy side, just like it is at some roadside stalls in Bombay.

524 8th St SE
Washington, DC 20003

12. Hot Lola's

4238 Wilson Blvd Level C, Arlington, VA 22203

This Sichuan-spiced hot chicken restaurant from Himitsu founder Kevin Tien serves up four different heat levels. Go for the OG Hot for a comfortable spicy heat, or the Too Hot, if you really want to push it. 

4238 Wilson Blvd Level C
Arlington, VA 22203

13. MaMa Chang

3251 Old Lee Hwy Ste101, Fairfax, VA 22030

There are a number of dishes at the latest Peter Chang restaurant that bombard diners with spice, but one that stands out is the pickled chile flounder pot. Fish, vermicelli, and tofu are all carriers for heat and respites from it, depending on how many chiles sneak onto each bite.

3251 Old Lee Hwy Ste101
Fairfax, VA 22030

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