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  • True Religion.
    Nashville Hot Chicken.

    Culture Travel September 03, 2018 By Denver Cramer

As the story goes, the whole Nashville hot chicken craze began with an angry wife annoyed that her drunk husband had come home too late, so to sort him out she made the hottest chicken she could. And he loved it. Eventually he began inviting his friends around for his wifes chicken, worked out the recipe, broke up with the wife and started Prince’s hot chicken.

Opinions are like assholes. Everybody has one and in Nashville the assholes are strong. As we got off the plane into the uber we asked the innocent question. Where’s the best hot chicken? Out came a list as long as your arm for the 30 minute ride to our accomodation rolled into a history lesson of nashville and why the drivers choice of Bolton’s was the best. Certainly made for an entertaining ride when Bolton’s was prefaced with a warning. “Don’t be picking the hot level of chicken ere’. You’ll be sitting in the bathtub tomorrow.” The assholes must be strong around here after all.

 

Princes is on everyone’s list so we decided to skip this naturally. After a few more passionate conversations with the locals over the next 24 hours we finally rounded it down to a list of 3 which was to gave us the best mix. Old School - Bolton’s (2nd Nashville hot chicken store to open up). Staple - Pepperfire. New school - Hattie B’s.

Honorable mentions go to 400 degrees, slow burn, husk and the one that started it all - Prince’s.


Nashville hot chicken basically consists of the dirty bird cut up into white meat and dark meat sections, bathed in a hot sauce, coated in a chilli mix of some sort and fried at volcanic temperatures. Then dusted with secret satanic spices. As if it wasn’t hot enough.

Bolton’s - Order through a hole in the wall. Legit old school building with fans for cooling your body and coke for cooling your mouth. The chicken itself is the OG version of hot chicken. Plain spicy with a burn that keeps on increasing. Make sure you order the sides.

 

Pepperfire - This is closer to chain feeling with big communal tables and some great beers on tap. The chicken itself has a curry like seasonsoning in the coating. Super interesting taste but a couple of steps down in the ‘hotness’ compared to the 'blow your face off' Bolton’s.

Hattie B’s - New kid on the block who has taken the recipe of the single shop, old school nashville chicken and scaled it up. Feels and is a chain. Slick service, merch when you walk in the door, soul music on the stereo and strong branding. It is good chicken there’s no denying that but kinda lacks the old school, single shop soul. The thing is if this brings hot chicken to the masses then we’re all for it but not if it kills the places that it was inspired by. Ah capitalism.   

It’s super interesting how chicken has become part of the fabric of Nashville and by extension the south. With it’s rituals, passion and places of worship it’s simply a must if you ever make it. There are a couple of things to note tho.

  1. Be Prepared - this stuff can get seriously hot like nothing you’ve ever encountered.
  2. Wash your hands before and after - a burning mouth is one thing but a burning….you get the idea.
  3. The white bread is there for a reason - this ain’t the time to lecture us on high sugar white bread - this shit will save your life. And your tongue.
  4. Get the sides - these are really the unsung heroes of the day. Mac’n’cheese to collard greens to the black eyed peas. Each more amaze than the next.
  5. Get Coke and Water - This for us was the magic combination of cooling. Fizz it up and blow it away. 

People live and breathe Nashville hot chicken. I’d have to admit that the first experience at Bolton’s was traumatic but weirdly, by the end of the trip, we were wanting more. It’s the strangest thing. But a wonderful thing. We are certainly converts. Hallelujah.

 


The Easter Egg

After enduring what can only called a spiritual experience try this on for size when you get home. The ying to your yang. The Robin to the Batman. Drizzle flakey sea salt onto freshly sliced watermelon. Eat and repeat. You can thank us later.

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