Question For The NashVega$ Bastardate

A friend (yes, I still have some) from another region is soon visiting Nashville and has asked me which restaurant is most favored by local hot chicken cognoscenti. I’ve eaten at a few, but the only name I remember is Hattie B’s (there’s one in Memphis). Any suggestions?

8 Replies to “Question For The NashVega$ Bastardate”

  1. Thank you. I suspected as much about Hattie B’s. I like it, but I’ve had better. Similar situation to the Rendezvous in Memphis. Tourists go there for ribs, but there are far better here.

  2. Must be something in the air, because on the day you posted this, the top story on page 1 of the Tennessean was:


    [history lesson to follow]

    Hot chicken is Nashville’s only truly indigenous food, one that has evolved into the city’s worldwide culinary calling card.

    Lately, though, it feels like the hot chicken scene is shifting away from its 88-year-old roots. Blame homogenization caused by competition, commercialization, and possible cultural appropriation.

    In its heyday in the 1990s and 2000s, customers waited 35 minutes to two hours for their made-to-order breast quarters or leg quarters perched atop slices of white bread that absorbed the spicy, juicy run off.

    Fans found the chicken in hole-in-the-wall greasy shacks in working class, racially-mixed neighborhoods. Locals took out-of-town friends for a unique experience that was completely devoid of pretense.

    And order takers cast a wary eye at tourists or newbies who asked for “hot” chicken, instead of the medium or mild.

    “Are you sure, baby?”

    After all, most longtime Nashvillians know hot chicken was created nearly a century ago to punish a philandering boyfriend named Thornton Prince. After Prince came home late on a Saturday night, the story goes, his lady put extra hot peppers and spices in his fried chicken the next day.

    But Prince loved it, and he opened Nashville’s first hot chicken shack in North Nashville in 1936. About 44 years later, his great-niece, Andre Prince Jeffries, took over and ran the flagship Prince’s out of a strip mall off Dickerson Road for decades.

    In the 1970s, the cook, Bolton Polk, had a falling out with management and started his own place, which eventually morphed into Bolton’s Spicy Chicken and Fish. (Prince’s current owners dispute that there was a falling out with Polk.)

    Hot chicken was served and eaten almost entirely in Nashville’s Black neighborhoods.

    But Bolton’s — and a Nashville mayor, Bill Purcell, who became a hot chicken cheerleader and ambassador in the early 2000s— helped open the floodgates for more competition and a larger and more diverse customer base.

    The new places, though, kept opening in working class neighborhoods, kept making the chicken to order, kept being opened by Black business owners — until 2012.

    Nick Bishop, and his son, also named Nick Bishop, had served hot chicken at their Cool Springs meat-and-three called Bishop’s for years. In 2012, they opened Hattie B’s in trendy midtown Nashville.

    The place sparkled. It served craft beers and regular (non-spicy) fried chicken and chicken tenders. They’d even grill your chicken tenders instead of frying them.

    What the cluck??

    Hattie B’s stripped away the grit, the heat and the soul from Nashville hot chicken — and people freakin’ loved it.

    I’m talking lines-out-the-door loved it. Bought-the-T-shirts loved it. Snapchatted-it-Instagramed-it loved it.

    Hattie B’s exploded, adding locations in the trendy Charlotte Avenue corridor, hip Melrose neighborhood, and touristy Fifth + Broadway. It opened eateries outside of Tennessee.

    Then tragedy struck Prince’s Ewing Drive location just after Christmas 2018 — an SUV crashed into a store two doors down from the hot chicken shack, starting a fire that effectively shut it down for good.

    Another Prince’s restaurant in South Nashville looks and feels different than the original, even though owner Andre Prince Jeffries chats with customers there. That location serves chicken tenders, wings and Yazoo beer.

    Prince’s and Hattie B’s now have locations at Fifth + Broadway, and both are geared toward tenders-loving tourists, who don’t want to wait five minutes for their food, let alone two hours.

    Today, Nashville hot chicken is more popular than ever, showing up all over the South, in a Las Vegas casino and even on the KFC menu.

    You’ll find a Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich at Buffalo Wild Wings locations nationwide — or at Six String Grill in Foxborough, Massachusetts, next to the stadium for the New England Patriots.

    Schwan’s Home Delivery will even send two pounds of “fully cooked Nashville Hot Recipe Breaded Chicken Strips” to you for $18.99 (plus taxes and fees).

    But there still are some real-deal original hot chicken shacks here in the home of hot chicken.

    Though fewer than before, the iconic eateries are where many locals go.

    Bolton’s, for now, remains open on Main Street in East Nashville, despite its building ownership changing hands. It’s still slinging the city’s hottest chicken along with fun warnings on the wall such as “Please wash your hands before rubbing your eyes or babies!”

    Check out Moore’s Spicy Fried Chicken in Hendersonville or the 400 Degrees at 3704 Clarksville Pike, Bordeaux’s only sit-down restaurant.

    Let the tourists have chicken tenders downtown; let’s hope we locals can preserve the places that honor Prince’s legacy.

  3. Thanks for all the info. Guess I’ll recommend Prince’s or Bolton’s. I’m pretty sure one of those is where I’ve eaten besides Hattie’s. I’ll probably check out Moore’s or 400 Degrees next time I’m up there, whenever that is. But don’t worry, I won’t help wreck the scene: I never order tenders, I don’t mind waiting for fresh, and I have enough southern accent not to sound like a total alien.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *