Downtown NashvilleFood & Drink

8 Surefire Places to Taste Nashville’s Hot Chicken

By April 17, 2016 No Comments
Acme Feed and Seed Hot Chicken Sandwich

Acme Feed & Seed offers old and new Nashville vibes, plus a killer hot chicken sandwich. Photo credit: Ashley Hylbert

 

Think you know what makes Nashville a must-visit attraction? Well think again, because it’s not just the liveliness of the honky-tonk music scene. It’s the eye- and mouth-watering goodness of the Tennessee capital’s “hot chicken” — a down-home culinary masterpiece made by pan-frying chicken marinated or brined in almost too-hot-to-handle spices.

And the dish’s roots are decidedly Nashville. While the origins are often disputed, the most-accepted lore goes like this: Back in the 1930s, a local woman tired of her man’s wandering eye (and hands) cooked up the hottest, intentionally pain-inducing batch of fried chicken she could. But her playboy liked it hot, and she unknowingly started a local sensation.

So next time you’re in Nashville, get a taste of this historical dish at one of these eight joints serving up their own twist on the classic.

Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack, 123 Ewing Dr, #3
As one of the originals, Prince’s is where the hot chicken craze began. And it’s remained a bare-bones, off-the-beaten-track dive with an ambiance that is all about the chicken, not the décor. The focus here is on cooking up the hottest, most mouthwatering recipe. And you can be sure it’s some of the best hot chicken anywhere, as Prince’s has been lauded by the James Beard Foundation.

Bolton’s Spicy Chicken & Fish, 624 Main St & 2309-A Franklin Pike
Another of the originals, Bolton’s has two centrally located dives in East Nashville and on Franklin Pike. And though you can get some of the most authentic hot chicken here, Bolton’s also gives you the choice to switch up proteins, serving tasty hot fish (either grouper, catfish, whiting or tilapia).

400 Degrees, 319 Peabody St
This is the hot chicken stop closest to the downtown action — and less than a mile from Hotel Indigo Nashville Downtown. What it lacks in atmosphere (think more mall food court than restaurant), it makes up for in taste. The recipe is one that’s spicy enough to be interesting without being I-can’t-taste-anything hot.

Hattie B’s Hot Chicken, 5209 Charlotte Ave & 112 19th Ave S
Some purists dismiss Hattie B’s as a newcomer since it has the audacity to offer credit card processing, air conditioning and an option for boneless chicken tenders. But while Hattie B’s doesn’t have the dive-like charm of a Bolton’s or a Prince’s, the recipe is legit — spicy enough to singe your eyebrows yet flavorful at lower heat levels. (The sides — such as red skin potato salad, pimento mac and cheese, and cole slaw — are mighty fine, too.)

Acme Feed & Seed, 101 Broadway
Thanks to a super-hot historic location at the corner of First and Broadway, Acme has become the go-to spot for people to enjoy the new Nashville while remembering the old. So of course they have their own interpretation in the form of a hot chicken sandwich or hot chicken bites, which are perfect if you just want a taste of the spicy stuff.

Pepperfire, 1000 Gallatin Ave
East Nashville’s Pepperfire serves six different levels of hot chicken heat, with an option for tenders for those who prefer boneless. There’s even a spicy deep-fried grilled cheese sandwich for vegetarians who don’t want to miss out on the action.

The Southern Steak and Oyster, 150 3rd Ave S #110
Locals love this downtown restaurant/bar for its good energy, great crowd, tasty drinks and, believe it or not, a hot chicken salad on the menu. Best yet: it’s an easy half-mile walk from Hotel Indigo Nashville Downtown.

Chauhan Ale and Masala House, 123 12th Ave N
Celebrity chef Maneet Chauhan (of Chopped fame) designed her menu to offer Indian fusion cuisine. What could hit the mark more than hot chicken pakoras? For the boldest of the bunch, you can even intensify the heat by dunking them in a spicy dipping sauce.

(Local pro tip: Drink milk if you can’t take the heat; beer or water doesn’t cut it.)