I remember going to a sushi restaurant in high school and experiencing wasabi for the first time. My friend, Mike Mackey, was just about getting high from hit. He dropped a huge dollop in his soy sauce and piled it on top of his already spicy tuna roll. Each time he would take a bite, his nose would crinkle and tears filled his squinted eyes, but he continued to keep going, bite after bite.
It seems a common thing for guys to treat spicy food like weight lifting. It is a test of manliness to consume the hottest of pepper and power through a bowl of fiery food with the same fervor as flipping a tire. Don’t get me wrong, I like spicy food. I order my Thai Diner American Hot. I just do not feel the need to blister my internal organs with blazing food to prove anything to anyone.
I was, however, pretty close to crying uncle, on our recent trip to Tio Pablo (1703 East Franklin St). I was not super hungry, but I could not pass up the deal that is their taco plate, two tacos and two sides for $10. I got a taco de cesina (thinly sliced cured beef topped with cilantro and diced onion) and a taco de pollo chipotle (chipotle chicken with Oaxacan cheese), guacamole and rice on the side.
As I dipped my first tortilla chip into the little dish of salsa, I felt like someone put a match to my tongue. No biggie. I just took a big swig of my Negro Modelo and the fire went out.
My eyes went wide when they brought out the plate. The soft corn taco shells were stuffed with delicious looking fillings. The only thing that I thought was funny on the plate was a single slice of cucumber. I ate the beef taco in a few big bites and it was sweet and fresh. I took a couple bites of rice and it was spot on.
Then I took a bite of the chipotle chicken taco. The heat of a thousand suns was slow burning through my face. I quickly dipped a chip in the guac. It was spicy, too! I tried to play it cool and take a couple more scoops of rice and swish some Modelo around in my mouth before taking another bite of the fire taco. After a second and third bite, I felt like my lips were starting to swell up. I grabbed the slice of cucumber and rubbed it all over the outside of my mouth and inside of my lips. A move that I am sure was extremely attractive. It surprisingly provided the relief that I was looking for. I wanted to tough it out and finish the taco because once you got past the blaze it was really tasty. In the end it was just too much for me.
The waiter came by to clear our plates and said that the chilies were particularly spicy sometimes. I guess he noticed the beads of sweat on my forehead and was trying to make me feel better. Or he saw my display with the cucumber slice and was hoping that today was a day that chilies were hot.
I guess I am not cut out for a Man vs. Food style chipotle taco eat-a-thon, but I will definitely be back to Tio Pablo. Next time, I will plan to taste some of the salsa before making my taco selections to determine the scorch level of the peppers that day. If the salsa is too much, I’ll stick with a non-spicy taco or at least order extra cucumbers.