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A Nashville Tradition That’s Hotter Than Hot: Nashville's Own, Hot Chicken

Stephanie
Published Jan 11, 2016

Food in the South is typically battered and fried leaving you full, and more often than not, unable to move. But this Nashville food tradition will get you up and moving, reaching for the nearest glass of milk or piece of bread to curb the heat! Hot Chicken has been a staple in this Southern town for decades. Legend has it that recipe came about by accident. The girlfriend of a man-about-town named Thornton Prince attempted to trick her cheating boyfriend into eating the spicy plate after she learned he had been unchaste. She prepared what was seemingly a plate of typical fried chicken, but instead of preparing a plain, buttery thigh, she doused the fried bird in a mix of cayenne pepper and hot spices.

But Mr. Prince wasn’t tricked; he instead loved the dish, and soon opened his own restaurant featuring the blazing rub. Most recently, restaurants around Nashville have caught on with the craze and have left little to be desired on the Hot Chicken front.

Hot Chicken goes like this: White bread beneath a perfectly fried chicken (breast, tender, wing, or leg) smothered in a cayenne pepper rub, toped with a dill pickle, and served with a side of ranch dressing. At each of Nashville’s different locations, you can typically choose from two sides. Personally, I prefer cold coleslaw to curb the heat of the spices. And I recommend you do not bite in until you have at least 1 chilled beverage near by!

And you have been warned, Nashville’s Hot Chicken IS HOT! The recipe (made with a cayenne pepper and various other hot spices, which vary depending on the location) is spicy even in its “mild” form. Only experienced Hot-Chickeners will order anything more intense than medium.

Across Nashville, diners can enjoy a plethora of hot chicken plates. The following are my reviews of Nashville’s 4 HOTTEST (or, best) Hot Chicken spots.

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4. Bolton’s Spicy Chicken and Fish

Bolton’s Spicy Chicken and Fish offers more than just a few chicken plates. You can also choose from a spicy version of southern fried catfish, tilapia, or grouper. Bolton’s recently opened a new dining area, but their main kitchen is situated in small shack off the side of Gallatin Road. It may not be the fanciest place to dine, but the roadside shack gives you the feel of enjoying a meal in the midst of a small town.

*Bolton’s is the spiciest of all the locations, so be prepared to sweat eating the medium rub.

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3. Hattie B’s

Hattie B’s is one of the newest and most popular of all the hot spots. They have two locations, both convenient for travelers and locals alike. Their Midtown location is close to Vanderbilt University and just a hop and a skip from Broadway. The Midtown location is known for its long lines that generally wrap around the building any given time of the day but it is definitely worth the wait! If you want to avoid the crowds, you should check out the Charlotte Road location on the west side of town.

You can sit at a picnic table and enjoy your meal that is served in a small basket. There are several local beers on tap, and great music playing in the background. This hot chicken spot is best for families with small children as there are options for kids on the menu.

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2. Pepperfire

My personal favorite so far has been Pepperfire in the neighborhood of East Nashville. For a quick, convenient stop, I highly recommend this spot for an evening meal or great sit-down lunch. Pepperfire is located near one of Nashville’s favorite local spots: 5 Points. The location recently moved and is updated with bright, clean, Nashville flare. They have several beers on tap, plenty of sides (and they most recently added coleslaw to the menu!)

Their rub is a little drier than most, but that only means one thing: more spice! They offer more than just your typical thigh and bread, diners can enjoy Southern style chicken and waffles, AppleFire (tenders topped with sweet apples), or Peppercheese (a deep fried stuffed “grilled” cheese).

See our full list of recommended hotels in Nashville and also compare the prices with vacation rentals in Nashville

1. Prince’s Hot Chicken

For the sake of keeping in line with Nashville tradition, I have chosen Prince’s as the best spot for hot chicken. No one does the original like, the original! Though Prince’s is not located very close to town and is a small trek to get to their location, if you have reliable transportation, it is worth the drive!

The small restaurant has the look and feel of family. The interior is small, kitschy, and can only fit parties of 4 or less. And be prepared to order when you get the tiny window in the back of the dining room, the locals know what they want, and don’t have time to wait in line behind you!

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You cannot go wrong

I have tried several other locations for hot chicken as it has become a staple, it is easy to find on menus throughout the city. But between these four, you cannot go wrong. If you enjoy spice, hot chicken is a must try during your visit to Nashville!

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Stephanie has been a photojournalist and adventure writer for several international non-profits. She has travelled the world, lived aboard, and eaten her fair share of local cuisine. She is a dog...Read more

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