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The Budlong’s Super Crazy Hot sandwich at the Budlong Hot Chicken. Photo by Greg McBoat
Eat and Drink

6 of the Hottest Hot Chicken Sandwiches in Denver, Ranked by Spiciness

One brave food writer willingly scorched her taste buds so you wouldn’t have to.

It’s the burning question on everyone’s lips: Who has Denver’s hottest hot chicken sandwich? With Nashville-style spicy chicken restaurants spreading like wildfire—Dave’s Hot Chicken, the Blazing Bird, and Lea Jane’s RiNo location all opened within the past few months; Chicken Rebel announced a drive-thru spot in Westminster debuting this summer; and Fort Collins’ Music City Hot Chicken will open on Broadway later this month—we wanted to know which sandwiches were actual fire and which were for, well, chickens.

The delicious trend of emulating Nashville’s famed fried chicken covered in a fiery pepper paste took a while to gain momentum in Denver, but heat-loving culinary pros have certainly made up for lost time. It’s possible that with all these new openings, and even Burger King jumping on the spicy chicken sandwich bandwagon, that we’ve officially reached Peak Hot Chicken.

From top: hot chicken sandwiches from the Budlong, Lea Jane’s, and Lou’s Hot and Naked. Photo by Greg McBoat

So, armed with a bottle of Pepcid and a jug of milk, I assembled a hot-chicken-sandwich-tasting crew to scientifically measure (if trying to calculate pain while our faces melted off is scientific) which of these six hot chicken spots is making the hottest hot chicken. It wasn’t a pretty picture—there was liquid pouring out of our faces in the form of tears, sweat, and even snot—but we willingly burned through our stomach lining and singed our taste buds so that you, dear readers, wouldn’t have to. Here, six Denver-area hot chicken sandwiches, ranked by spiciness.

#6 Lou’s Hot and Naked, $7

Of all of the sandwiches we tasted, Lou’s was the palest in color. That absence of a hot pepper coating indicated we weren’t about to be gobsmacked with fire, and judging by color proved to be accurate. The chicken had a nice crisp to it, but the bird is not going to scald your face off. 1800 Wazee St.

#5 Chicken Rebel, $11

The Firebird at Chicken Rebel is like an upscale Chick-fil-A sandwich, in the best way possible. The organic chicken breast is sous vide to lock in the juices, the batter has a nice kick, and it all comes together in a just-greasy-enough hearty bite. But like with the sandwich we sampled from Lou’s, your taste buds will remain unblistered. 3618 Tejon St.

#4 The Budlong Hot Chicken, $12

Things are starting to get hotter. The Budlong’s Super Crazy Hot brings the heat, and considering that this sandwich features the biggest hunk of meat with just a thin layer of spicy coating, the peppers in the batter must be working extra hard. A solid sandwich for pepper aficionados who still want to, you know, taste some flavor. 81 S. Pennsylvania St.

#3 Lea Jane’s Hot Chicken, $14

Lea Jane’s bucks the bun by serving its hefty hot chicken on toasted white bread. The sturdier bread helps absorb the grease, which was more apparent in this sandwich than in the others. Give your tongue the break between bites it will need with some of the best wedge-style fries in town (they’re cut into a V-shape, so there’s more surface area to crisp in the fryer). 3200 N. Pecos St.; 1441 26th St.

#2 Dave’s Hot Chicken, $5.45

Carolina Reapers hold the Guinness World Record for being the hottest chile pepper on the planet, so you know you’re in for it when you order the Reaper at Dave’s. The California-based mini chain started as a parking lot pop-up but garnered a following for its tenders and sliders with spice levels ranging from non-existent to that eye-watering, afterburning Reaper. If you can stand the heat, the flavor-to-spice ratio is high on this one. 99 S. Broadway

#1 The Blazing Bird, $8.99

Just how hot is the Blazing heat level at Arvada’s the Blazing Bird? Hot enough that if you order it, the restaurant makes you sign a waiver. Few people are dumb brave enough to try the Blazing chicken sandwich—the restaurant says it only sells about three a day—but those who are won’t be disappointed by the stinging heat. This sandwich starts hot and stays hot; it feels like it burns on the cellular level. The chicken itself is thinner here, too, with a thicker, darker coating of batter loaded with ghost, cayenne, and various other peppers. It even looks dangerous. The Blazing provoked tears, sweat, and snot, and is our clear winner of hottest hot chicken in the Denver area. 12368 W. 64th Ave., #12, Arvada

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