Fiery South Indian Chettinad Curry at Aachi Aappa Kadai in Sunnyvale

I must be a sick person, but sometimes I enjoy watching my friends squirm and turn bright red while experiencing authentically spicy food. This wasn’t the first time this week that I had nearly brought a buddy to tears of spicy pain. On this evening, four of us headed to a restaurant called Aachi Aappa Kadai in a very Indian-heavy area of Sunnyvale, CA to sample food from the Chettinad region. With a name like that with so many A’s at the start, I’ve got to wonder if they did it to get their name at the beginning of the Yellow Pages (when they were still relevant).

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Awesome, My Mouth Went Numb at Lers Ros Thai in SF

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I might be a little sadistic when it comes to spicy foods. I love consuming them, but I also love watching my friends squirm eating them. Among the many spicy cuisines out there, I’m particularly fond of authentically hot Thai food, although my body usually disagrees with that decision within a few hours of the meal.

In NYC, I’ve often found it hard to find Thai restaurants outside of Queens that will take a white guy seriously with regards to flavors and spice levels. I often find myself let down by the mild and watered down dishes served to me and if I really want it made right, I have to be very insistent that I know what I’m getting myself into. This is definitely not the case at the San Francisco mini-chain Lers Ros Thai. Everything on their menu is very authentically prepared, spice level included.

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It’s So Much More Than Just Plain Old Greek Yogurt at Chobani in SoHo

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In a neighborhood where models, fashionistas, and shopping enthusiasts roam wild it’s almost unsurprising that a cafe like Chobani exists. I’ll be the first to admit that I openly scoffed at the idea of a fresh Greek yogurt specialty shop when they first opened up in SoHo, but I’ll also be quick to tell you that everything is actually incredible.

You, like me, are probably saying “Really? It’s just Greek yogurt with toppings in a bowl?” Well yes, that would be the simplistic way of looking at it. But, there are actual chefs back there behind the glass wearing actual chef coats putting together super-fresh, interesting, flavorful sweet and savory Greek yogurt and gourmet topping combinations.

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Solid Bowls of Ramen & Other Japanese Pub Food near Port Authority at Tabata Ramen

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Hell’s Kitchen, well not really. That chunk of New York City on 9th Ave. between 34th and 42nd tucked away behind Penn Station and Port Authority. It remains one of the seediest corners of the city even after the much publicized Giuliani and Bloomberg crackdowns on the lesser loved aspects of NYC. It’s not often that I find myself in that god-forsaken corner of town, but since I was there, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to check out the ramen and other Japanese pub food at the nearby Tabata Ramen outpost.

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Excellent Fried Chicken and Ramen at Maru Ichi in Mountain View
Excellent Fried Chicken and Ramen at Maru Ichi in Mountain View, CA

Excellent Fried Chicken and Ramen at Maru Ichi in Mountain View

By this point I think I’ve proven that I’m passionate about ramen. My time in NYC has given me plenty of opportunities to learn what I love and what makes a great bowl. So now that I’m spending most of my time in Silicon Valley, there’s no reason not to hunt for that perfect bowl out here as well.

Since I’m working in Sunnyvale and Mountain View is a short eight minute drive from the office, that always seems like an obvious and easy choice for a post-work meal. Feeling a bit ill and in need of a great bowl of curative soup, I decided to find a good ramen joint in town. After a bit of research, I decided on a shop called Maru Ichi which sounded like it would serve exactly what I needed.

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Deliciously Spicy Momo Dumplings and Lamb Curry at Himalayan Kitchen in Mountain View
Deliciously Spicy Momo Dumplings and Lamb Curry at Himalayan Kitchen in Mountain View, CA

Deliciously Spicy Momo Dumplings and Lamb Curry at Himalayan Kitchen in Mountain View

*Editor’s Note 7/17/14: I have recently returned to Himalayan Kitchen and the entire restaurant and shopping center has been remodeled and is much nicer now. The food is just as good as ever, maybe even better.

Way off the beaten path, in a seriously run-down shopping center in Mountain View, California you’ll find a sketchy looking restaurant called Himalayan Kitchen. Had I not read good things about this place online before driving over, I might have been turned off by the truthfully off-putting appearance, but I followed my instincts and continued on with my hungover Himalayan quest.

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Chinatown’s Perfect Hangover Cure at Congee Village in NYC
Chinatown’s Perfect Hangover Cure at Congee Village in NYC

Chinatown’s Perfect Hangover Cure at Congee Village in NYC

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OH DEAR GOD, what have I done? Why the hell was I out ’til 4 in the morning last night? Why on earth did I drink so damn much? Ergggghhhhh.

Does this sound familiar to you? I guess from time to time it happens to the best of us and when it does, you’re gonna want to fix that hangover as soon as humanly possible. For me, it’s become a bit of a hangover tradition to come to Congee Village for that awful New Years Day hangover. I almost always head there for a soothing and healing meal but New Years is certainly not the only excuse I need to go.

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Get the Noodles at Best of Thai Noodle in SF
Get the Noodles at Best of Thai Noodle in San Francisco

Get the Noodles at Best of Thai Noodle in SF

*Editor’s Note 10/23/15: Best of Thai Noodle is under new ownership and is for some reason rebranding as Hippie Thai Street Food, presumably with a similar menu. Only time will tell if the food is the same.

In the vibrant, artsy, dirty hippie-filled San Francisco neighborhood of Haight Ashbury, amongst the many clothing and bong shops, there are many dining options. Wading through the good and the bad isn’t always an easy task, but I found a wholly unnoticed gem of a lunch spot called Best of Thai Noodle hidden in plain sight right on the main drag.

It was a fairly small restaurant by Californian standards, but still had a tall, lofty ceiling and a big kitchen with fiery flaming woks open to the dining area. With just one glance at that wok setup and inferno, I knew this was gonna be great.

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Chicken & Waffles and Authentic Home Cooked Soul Food at Amy Ruth’s in Harlem
Chicken & Waffles and Authentic Home Cooked Soul Food at Amy Ruth’s in Harlem

Chicken & Waffles and Authentic Home Cooked Soul Food at Amy Ruth’s in Harlem

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I’m sure you’ve heard of the Chicken and Waffles phenomenon by this point. If I’m in NYC and feel like getting my soul food on, there’s one place I go to, Amy Ruth’s up in Harlem.

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Serious Beer and Excellent Gastropub Fare at Liquid Bread in Campbell
Serious Beer and Excellent Gastropub Fare at Liquid Bread in Campbell, CA

Serious Beer and Excellent Gastropub Fare at Liquid Bread in Campbell

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In northern California, neighboring Cupertino is a small town called Campbell. It seems like kind of a nothing town with chain restaurants and not much else. But, there’s actually a cool little strip of town called Historic Campbell with a number of fun, upscale restaurants.

For some reason they all have the same fiery torches illuminating their front walkways. The walkway torch empresario must have had a hey day selling these tall flickering lanterns to every upscale hotel and restaurant up and down the California coastline. Nestled in amongst the high-end restaurants is a tiny gastropub called Liquid Bread serving gourmet, modern American cuisine along with a ton of quality beers rotating on tap.

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