Spiciest Dish in Columbus Series: Cazuelas Mexican Cantina
Many have tried, many have failed…
The legend of the Mucho Macho Burrito had been a story told by many in our time in Columbus, but we’d never given it a shot…until this past week.
Perched on High Street just north of the Ohio State campus, Cazuelas was built inside of a former house (as were several other restaurants in the area). The inside is a maze of rooms from the entry way to the back by the kitchen and the music is upbeat with fun art along the walls. Cazuelas is not only a stationary location in North Campus, they also have food trucks that roam around Columbus.
It’s a fairly expansive menu and reminded me of most other Mexican restaurants I’d been to. Plenty of weekly specials, margs on margs, and a 22-inch burrito called The Anaconda, but we were here for one thing and one thing only. The Mucho Macho Burrito.
The Mucho Macho Burrito is one of a few spicy challenges in Columbus. If you can eat the 12-inch burrito that is slathered in sauce and loaded with peppers on the inside in under 20 minutes, the burrito is free, you get a shirt and you go on their Wall of Fame. From the above picture, I (the lady of the farm wouldn’t get near this one) was unafraid. Yes, it looks like a lot of sauce, but I eat buckets of sauce per week, so no problem.
After bringing our drinks and some chips and salsa, our waiter asked what we would like to order. Standard fare from the lady of the farm, and then I requested the Mucho Macho Burrito. I got a cold stare. The waiter said “it’s super spicy.” “Oh I know,” I replied. He warned me again. I again leaned into wanting this fire cylinder. Hesitant, he wrote it down and let me know I’d need to sign a waiver to partake.
They only had one waiver (assuming it’s not as popular when the college kids are away), so I signed with another human that I assume survived a month prior, but didn’t ask. The waiver states that you’ll have 20 minutes to finish the entire thing. All of it. Not just the burrito, you have to finish pretty much everything on the plate, sauce and raw jalapeños included (to the discretion of the staff). The habanero sauce I’d heard so much about was actually a Ghost and Habanero sauce, but how spicy could it be?
No crying allowed, no sour cream, milk, or bathroom breaks. If you attempt the challenge, you are in your chair until you finish. I read through carefully just to be sure I wasn’t missing anything and signed my stomach away.
Our waiter came back, gave me some side eye and said in a “you’re going to regret this” tone, “Alright, we’ll get those out to you.” Success. It was go time. And then I was given a pitcher of water with a straw.
This should have been a sign that I should be worried, but I laughed and said “ha, I won’t be needing that” and pushed the pitcher to the side. I waited patiently as the lady of the farm’s food came out. A few minutes later, the Mucho Macho Burrito sat before me.
The waitress bringing it out asked if I was ready. She had a timer prepped and after I took the above picture, I said let’s roll.
At first glance, the burrito isn’t too crazy. The inside is filled with rice, refried beans, grilled chicken and their mucho macho sauce. It’s wrapped in a 12″ flour tortilla and slathered in the same Mucho Macho sauce that inhabits the inside. If you couldn’t tell, there are also roughly 30 raw jalapeño slices on top. Day-to-day the amount of sauce and jalapeños on the outside seems to change (based on other photos we saw) and today they were layered on thick. I believe it was my initial arrogance that led to the full smattering of peppers and sauce as a “oh, you think you can handle this?” question from the staff.
Clock running, I got after it. The burrito itself is awesome. I’m a sucker for rice and refried beans in general, so this burrito was right up my alley. The sauce is heavy, full of peppers with a hint of vinegar. Thick, but not overly so, the sauce doesn’t worry about being sweet, it just punches you in the face. I pounded through the burrito, careful to not drink anything in fear of spreading the heat around. The sweat started to form on my brow, my eyes started to get misty and my nose went into full-on leaky hydrant mode.
Five minutes in, I was mostly through the burrito, but the arrogance had completely worn off. This was insanely hot. By itself, the Mucho Macho sauce isn’t the spiciest we’ve had, but when you’re staring down roughly four ounces of the stuff, the relentless heat and the speed you have to get through it takes its toll. I took the last bite of burrito, asked the lady of the farm how we were tracking and I had twelve minutes remaining on the clock.
Awesome, this will be easy. I counted the remaining jalapeño slices and examined the remainder of the sauce. 14 slices, roughly 1.5 ounces of sauce to get through in twelve minutes, no biggie. The heat was within me now. It continued to well and each bite became more excruciating than the last. With no rice or refried beans to aid me in chomping through the jalapeños, the burrito began to lose its luster.
Raw jalapeños are bitter and overall hard for me to eat because the flavor isn’t all that pleasing. A time check revealed that I was down to five minutes remaining. I suddenly got sweaty. Time slowed and I could see the entirety of the matrix. The spicy high had hit me and the coming down period was not going to be fun. Noticing that my full body was starting to shake, the lady of the farm reminded me, “You don’t have to finish.” I had come this far. I had to. The chips I had acquired to help with the sauce and peppers cheered me on. The Mucho Macho had me hallucinating again.
Between heavy exhales I said, “this isn’t fun any more,” the first time in our spiciest dish journey where the spicy toll was beginning to become too much. I was ready to throw in the towel, but something gave me a fourth wind (probably the Browns shirt) and I powered through a few more bites, wrapping up a majority of the sauce and jalapeños. The waitress timing me came back and said, “all good?” I thought she was asking if I was throwing in the towel, but she really meant that I had made it far enough to be considered complete. We checked the time, 2 minutes remained. I had done it. I was the Mucho Macho Master.
It was finished. I finished my beverage, drank some water, ate some chips and salsa and blew my nose a thousand times. My throat burned, my stomach burned, and after ten minutes things started to subside.
T-shirt in tow, we left Cazuelas. My brain had mostly left my body from the heat of it all and there was a bubble in the top of my stomach that remained for a full day. Having completed the challenge, it’s hard to recommend. I can see why lots of people attempt it and fail. The sauce alone isn’t too much to handle and if we went back we’d definitely get the Mucho Macho sauce on whatever burrito or taco we ordered. The incessant heat and the raw jalapeños though, take the dish to an entirely separate spiciness plane. It’s funny how you can “prove” how macho you are by finishing this burrito, but by the end of it you feel anything but.
We’ve thought long and hard about where Cazuelas ranks and as this is the Spiciest Dish in Columbus Series, we have to give Cazuelas the top honors for spiciest dish in the city (to date). We’ll be creating a secondary list for spiciest sauce in the 614 and The Filling Station still takes the cake for the time being with their 911 sauce. I’d never felt more like death after eating a dish in Columbus, so congratulations to Cazeulas on that. The full experience of the dish made this the spiciest overall and we’re glad to have it checked off.
For those of you crazy enough to give the challenge a try, or just the Mucho Macho sauce, Cazuelas can be found at 2321 N High Street, Columbus, OH.
Look below for more in our spiciest dish in Columbus series and hit us up if you have any suggestions that are not already on our list!
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