Since Covid-19 is still here and restaurants continue to stress alternative options to dining in, we’ll bring you each week a roundup of takeout meals recently enjoyed by dining editor Timothy Malcolm.
As I noted last week, I've been eating my fair share of spicy foods recently. In the search for mind-altering heat, I was told to try Thai Gourmet by a neighbor. Sure, I've heard that they enjoy turning up the heat to extreme levels, but was it really that strong?
I ordered the spicy chicken noodles—a golden gravy of finely chopped chicken, tomatoes, and onions over flat noodles and served with a healthy heft of iceberg lettuce—and asked for the Thai Hot version, which is the deepest burn listed on the menu and comes with a disclaimer that you can't send back the dish because of heat. Awesome. It certainly looked spicy. Its taste? Fantastic. Its heat?
Hmmm. I'm not sure, of course, but I think they dulled it down for me. It was relatively easy to eat with a pretty nice burn that made me feel only a little tingle. I was also told upon picking up the food that I could've ordered Extra Thai Hot. That's off-menu. Come on!
Lankford Grocery & Market
On the other hand, Lankford Grocery & Market's entry into the Heat Hall of Fame met my expectations exactly. Its legendary Firehouse Burger was featured many years ago on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, and I thought it was high time to take the plunge myself.
For those who don't know, the Firehouse has habanero sauce, cayenne butter, and jalapeños—a three-alarm recipe of sorts. It looks mean, too, especially since Lankford's burgers are always a little clumsy and sloppy in the best way.
And like any Lankford burger it's a good eat, perfect for a weekend lunch. But the heat? It delivers. Midway through the burger I had a good little sweat working up, and by the end I was audibly "wooping," a good sign that I endured a small butt kicking. Five minutes later I was perfectly fine, the fire extinguished, and the belly full.
There's definitely a nice kick on the fried chicken at the Toasted Coconut, the bar and restaurant whose food focuses on the 20th parallel north (think Vietnam and Thailand, plus Hawaii, Mexico, and the Caribbean). That's because they make their own chili crisp that bejewels the crispy, well-browned bird.
You get a half bird at the Toasted Coconut, and may I suggest a side of fries similarly spiced and served with an irresistible chili aioli? That stuff is good.
The Toasted Coconut is a happy place. If you're lucky you'll find a cute drawing on your takeout bag, and if you dine in, you can always chill out at the palapa while sipping a tropical beverage. I bet A Broken Clock—cachaca, pineapple shrub, cinnamon, citrus, Angostura bitters—goes well with the chicken.