Local Flavor: Hot Chicken in Nashville

“Hot chicken” is Nashville’s most famous dish. With two equally famous establishments in the city, Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack and Hattie B’s, residents love to argue who fries it best.

> Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack :

Origin: In the 1930s, according to local legend, Thornton Prince came home late again. It wasn’t the first time he’d cheated on his girlfriend, but it was the last time she was going to put up with it. She doctored his fried chicken with an incendiary level of cayenne pepper.

A Depression-era romantic comedy resulted—Prince loved the super-spicy bird, created a secret recipe, and opened Nashville’s first “hot chicken” joint in the mid ’30s.

Famous for: Today, the tiny, seat-yourself location (which on busy days serves up as many as 500 orders) is run by his great-niece André Prince Jeffries and offers four spice levels: mild, medium, hot, and extra hot.

Served in a basket with sliced white bread and pickles, the chicken is wonderfully juicy inside, fried to perfection outside.

Women tend to order on the spicier side, but Prince’s gives the same advice to every customer: Don’t touch your eyes—that bird is saturated with seasoning.

Strategy: Arrive a few minutes before the place opens or on a Wednesday, when it’s quietest. Each piece is fried to order, and devotees will wait two hours or more in line.

> Hattie B’s:

Origin: Nick Bishop, Sr., opened his first location in 2012, four blocks from Vanderbilt University.

Named after the three women in his family named Hattie Bishop, the restaurant has since become a classic. Bishop now has a second location in West Nashville, and his third will open in Birmingham, Alabama, this spring.

Famous for: Mild/medium is the most popular spice level, but the brave can shoot right to “Shut the Cluck Up.” “That one’s generally sold to guys who lost a football bet or bachelor parties,” says Bishop.

The chicken’s secret brine and marinade ensure a crispy skin and a flavorful center at every level. And the pimento mac-and-cheese and black-eyed pea salad are popular choices to temper the burn.

Strategy: Despite seats for 80 at one location and 130 at the other, expect to wait at peak lunch and dinner hours. It’s a perfect opportunity to enjoy the large selection of Nashville craft beers.

This piece, written by Jenny Adams, appeared in the February/March 2016 issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine.

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Comments

  1. Jerry Dunaway
    Nashville, TN
    March 12, 2016, 1:13 am

    Prince’s is the originator of the Nashville Hot Chicken, and Hattie B’s IS good, but so many more are here in Nashville that shouldn’t be overlooked. The first one is Bolton’s, which was started by a former employee of Prince’s, now run by his family. Others worth mentioning include Pepperfire, Nuttin’ But Wings, Knockout Wings, The Hot Spot, 400 Degrees, Helen’s Hot Chicken, Harold’s Chicken, Smokin Thighs, Brother Z’s Wangs, Moore’s Famous Chicken, Hot Stuff, Big Shake’s Hot Chicken & Fish, Rooster’s Hot Chicken and Bishop’s…