We travelled 3,000 kilometers (1,800 miles) on our southern USA road trip, and we ate a lot of fantastic things.
But, here it is, the most amazing, delicious food we tried in the South: Nashville Hot Chicken.
Hot Chicken is spicy fried chicken and it's a Nashville local specialty. It's said that it was invented when the original owner of Prince's Hot Chicken was out carousing and his wife decided to punish him by serving him chicken so spicy he'd regret his sins. But he liked the chicken so much he decided to sell it.
We didn't make it to Prince's but we tried Hot Chicken anywhere we could get it in Nashville and it was fantastic!
The chicken pieces are marinated in buttermilk and spices, then coated in a spicy coating, shallow-fried and then smothered in more spice paste. It's then served on top of a piece of white bread with pickles on top. It comes in mild, medium and hot plus extra hot versions (and extra mild too sometimes) and it is very, very spicy but also amazingly tender and juicy.
Our first experience with Hot Chicken was lunch at Hattie B's in midtown. We pulled up to the chicken shack and placed our order at the counter. I ordered a small dark plate, medium and Matt had a small white plate, hot.
Each plate came with two sides so we tried the potato salad, mac & cheese, black eyed peas and a banana pudding for dessert. I usually have a preference for dark meat because it is more juicy and flavourful, but I needn't have worried. Both orders were amazingly juicy. The medium was just above comfort level for me and the hot was perfect for Matt. They even served craft beer so Matt got to try a local Turtle Anarchy Stout, which he loved. We were blown away by the chicken though.
The next day we went for brunch at Pinewood Social, a huge restaurant complex with a cafe and bowling alley inside.
The menu was fantastic but I was drawn to the fried 1/2 chicken. It wasn't very spicy, but it was very tender and juicy and our waiter gave us hot sauce with it. He asked if we'd tried hot chicken yet and recommended another place for us to try. It was a great tip...
So the next day we stopped by Pepperfire for one last Hot Chicken meal before leaving Nashville. Like many Hot Chicken places, Pepperfire makes their chicken to order so it takes about 25 minutes. The very friendly clerk told us she'd text us when it was ready, and also told us their chicken is hotter than other places and we might want to order a level down from what we normally would.
I ordered the mild this time and I have to say, it was way too hot for me. They have extra mild for wimps like me. I got the mac & cheese, which was fantastic and the potato salad. I should have ordered french fries because it would have helped to cool down my mouth.
Once again, Matt had the winner. He ordered chicken tenders and they were perfect. My whole breast was a little hard to eat with a plastic fork, but the tenders were perfect, juicy and very hot, and he only ordered medium! He also got fried okra which was super crispy and delicious.
I miss this chicken so much. I am going to try out some recipes to make it at home and I hope I can get it right because it's the best thing I've had in a long time! If you are in Nashville there's no excuse not to try Hot Chicken.