The holidays have passed; that February malaise is upon us. Now your daily burden is trudging through rain and sleet that same half mile to the subway, 30 minutes on a stuffy, damp train, from the station to work, and back again. You make the trip so often the sidewalk is covered with a thin layer of shoe rubber, and you recognize the morning AND evening conductors’ voices.
You need to break the routine, get out of the tunnels and off the beaten path. Somewhere … warm. Since most of us can’t just hop a plane to Cuba, we’re going to have to some find heat in our own backyard — namely some of the spiciest foods found in the outer boroughs. We’ve put together a road trip guide that will take you to new and exotic places right here in the city.
The places below would take years (OK, hours, but still …) to reach by train from Brooklyn. Instead, we’ll be traveling in style with a ReachNow, a new car-sharing network from BMW now available in Brooklyn. Unlike some other car sharing services, you get your pick of two sweet cars: the BMW 3-series and the MINI Cooper. Free-floating service allows you to pick-up and return the vehicle from anywhere in the home area. Round-trip and one-way rentals — perfect for a trek to IKEA or a quick ride home from the grocery store. Plus if you need to make a couple of short stopovers, park the car and keep it reserved at a discounted rate. For a grand adventure, the day rate can be less than Hertz and Enterprise without the hassle of picking up and rushing back to drop off at the lot.
We’ll be taking advantage of that day rate today on our road trip around the city. So pick a car, grab some friends, and join us as we leave downtown Brooklyn on a winter-busting, spicy-food tour with ReachNow. And we’ve got a special Brokelyn discount for you too.
415 Tompkins Ave., Bed-Stuy
Our first stop is the Deep South: Peaches Hothouse to be exact, which lies just 15-minutes by car from downtown Brooklyn. This “country cafe” in the heart of Bed-Stuy has a great selection of Southern eats like the House Smoked Sausage sandwich, the Full Jim Cade (a burger with fried green tomato, onions and bacon), blackened catfish and all your favorite sides like collard greens, creamy grits and more. We love the Nashville-Style Hot Chicken, but be careful: Only the strong survive the extra-hot sauce.
Láo Chéng Dū
37-17 Prince St., Flushing, Queens
We’re heading overseas to Central China, and deep into Flushing’s Chinatown — an easy 35-minute drive from Bed-Stuy (that’s well over an hour on the LIRR!). There you’ll find Sichuan specialties, the traditionally spicy cuisine of the PRC. Your corner Chinese might have a Sichuan dish or two, but it won’t give you the knock-your-socks off heat from it. For the real thing, we’re eating at Láo Chéng Dū, an authentic Sichuan restaurant with some really spicy treats. The cold noodles in red chili sauce are a great hot appetizer, as are the whole green chilis. But if you really want to test your tongue, try the Láo Chéng Dū shāo jī gōng, house-special chicken and vegetables in a dark broth filled with dried chilis and peppercorns.
64-13 39th Ave., Woodside, Queens
Let’s bid goodbye to the foothills of Central China and speed down the Malay Peninsula, just a 15-minute drive in our Beemer. Our sights are set on Thailand, home of sunny beaches and spicy coconut curries. SriPraPhai will our stand-in, an excellent place for Thai food. Despite its small size, the menu is gigantic (and a bit daunting for the first timer). We’re partial to the green mango salad and tom yum soup, if only as preludes to the very spicy “Jungle Curry.” Asking them to make it extra hot is only for the foolhardy or the brave. But it’s oh so goooood. If you tried to get there by train the LIRR would take 48 minutes and one transfer.
75-04 Roosevelt Ave., Flushing
Three minutes down the road is our next stop, Jackson Heights, which is teeming with restaurants from the Indian subcontinent. We’re hiking high up into the Himalayas to Spicy Tibet, just the place for comfort food to get you through this dark winter season. Their momos, or Tibetan dumplings, are out of this world and come with beef, chicken, pork or vegetable fillings. We recommend their specialty fried Momo Sizzlers and hot butter tea, perfect for that last-minute Everest summit attempt.
322 Victory Blvd., Staten Island
We’re zooming over the Bay of Bengal — and the Verrazano Bridge — to Little Sri Lanka in just under an hour. The Tompkinsville neighborhood of Staten Island is home to a large Sri Lankan community, which has brought with it their particularly delicious cuisine. Our favorite restaurant is Anthony Bourdain-approved New Asha. Inside you’re immediately greeted with the smells of exotic spices and fried goodness. The dhal vadai (fried lentil patties) appetizers are just enough to get you ready for a kottu roti, or spicy roti bread stir fry (vegetarian and meat options available). Careful — the motherly owner will definitely suggest you eat more, more, more! When you’re done, stave off the wonderful food coma by exploring the Sri Lankan grocery stores in the area. Taking the train? Fuggedaboutit. It’s two hours including the ferry. You’re better off chartering a yacht!
Peppa’s Jerk Chicken
738 Flatbush Avenue, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn
Alas, all good road trips come to an end, so we’re making it count. Our final drive takes us halfway around the world to the West Indies — and back to our home borough of Brooklyn — in just 35 minutes. The spiritual descendant of South Asian cooking, Caribbean food combines all of those exotic spices with West African staples, synthesizing a whole new cuisine. Prospect Lefferts Gardens is filled with jerk chicken spots, but only one carries the crown for spiciest: Peppa’s Jerk Chicken. The menu is super simple, with classics like escovitch fish and curry goat. But definitely go with the jerk meal — for just $9 you get rice and peas, salad, and a whole half chicken! While the heat is up there, it’s not something a ginger beer can’t cure. The B41 and a ReachNow would get you there in about the amount of time, but for the price of an Express bus fare, you and your pals could roll up in a gleaming BMW 3 series, not a bus.
Feeling hungry? Don’t delay. ReachNow has temporarily waived the sign-up fee and has special promotional rates that make it way cheaper than a JetBlue flight — and way roomier. So grab some friends, pile into a Bimmer and take a trip somewhere wild with ReachNow. Plus you can enter the code “BROKELYN” under promos and receive $15 driving credit.