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Jul 01/13

Post-festival Guide to Nashville’s Hot Chicken Posted by: Dan | 0 Comments

Forget chicken soup; Nashville feeds its soul with hot chicken. We’re not talking just any kind of hot, though. This is a “slap ya mama, burns you twice, putting Wendy’s Spicy Chicken Sandwich to shame” sort of experience.

I feel like I might be a little biased when it comes to hot chicken, considering I am the freak that craved the stuff after a bout with the stomach flu last fall. However, with the Music City Hot Chicken Festival in its sixth year, it’s not hard to believe in the hot chicken craze.

Every Fourth of July, East Nashville plays host to the free festival from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m., where the first 500 attendees are treated to samples from some of the city’s top hot chicken. Don’t pass on the white bread and soul pickle slices, which serve as a way to take the edge off the heat. Of course, the slices of Tennessee watermelon and a visit to the beer garden won’t hurt either.

If you miss the festival’s free bird or are unable to attend, your hot chicken dreams are not out of reach. Here is a list of places you can find hot chicken around Nashville, and a few tips to help ease you into the experience.

Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack
123 Ewing Dr #3, Nashville
One of the most widely known hot chicken spots is the iconic, family-run Prince’s, which recently earned the right to add James Beard Foundation award winner to its long list of accolades. For generations they have been using a cayenne-intense wet rub, before coating it in flour and frying it up. Here the temperatures come as low as “Mild” (still packs some heat) up to the “XXX Hot” (known to induce labor in overdue pregnancies). My personal preference and recommendation is “Medium,” which has extra pickles.

Bolton’s Spicy Chicken & Fish
624 Main St., Nashville
This place is known for chicken, though they are also known for being featured in the B.o.B./Taylor Swift video for “Both of Us.” Dry rub is the method of choice for this small spot not far from 5 Points in East Nashville. I would still recommend the “Medium,” but be sure to get a side of the unique mac & cheese. If you like good vinegar-based slaw, get a side of that, too.

Hattie B’s Hot Chicken
112 19th Ave S., Nashville
While the aforementioned chicken restaurants go back generations heating up the mouths of Nashvillians, the family behind Hattie B’s is better known for serving up meat-and-threes at Bishop’s in Franklin. However, it not only gives you authentic flair, it is the only hot chicken joint in town where you can cool down your mouth with an ice cold beer. While this is also another wet application, I would suggest getting the “Hot,” which is not as potent as others in town. However, if you are like me and prefer to bring major heat then go with “Damn Hot,” which is, indeed, damn hot.

Pepperfire
2821 Gallatin Pike, Nashville
The first time I drove by this place, which is also on the beloved East side of town — I am not going to lie — I thought it was as random fast food joint. Boy am I glad I didn’t stick to my original assumption, or I wouldn’t have experienced their “Tender Royale.” This concoction is hot chicken combined with a deep-fried grilled cheese sandwich. It is intense in a good way, if you don’t think too much about an increased risk of heart attack.

400 Degrees Hot Chicken
319 Peabody St., Nashville
A new spot from another Nashville native, yet this one grew up on Prince’s and decided to start cooking her own. I tend to eat more of the skin than the actual meat if the fried chicken in question is crispy and thick. That would be the case with this variety of hot chicken. This wet and dry rub combo method has three heat levels to choose from – go with the 200 degrees. It definitely packs a punch, but that is what you came there for in the first place.

Nashville Jerk
Nashville Farmers Market – Metro Center
If you could bottle what makes hot chicken so awesome and use it to create other fabulous dishes, then this is the place to go. Dave Price won the Hot Chicken Festival in 2010 for his jerk style take on the infamous dish, and has since decided to sell his fabulous seasonings. From use in dips to your own hot chicken, these seasonings have a wide range of uses (and even a warning label instructing its use be in a well-ventilated area). He has a stand set up under the produce tent and is more than happy to share his experience of being king of hot chicken for a summer. Tell him Lauren sent you.


Lauren Weintraub is a Little Rock native residing in Nashville. When she isn’t making improvements to her porch parties, such as the addition of a slip-n-slide, she moonlights as the owner of The Solution Girl – providing professional organizing, party planning and problem solving services to clients throughout the South.


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