Can’t-miss Spots for Nashville Hot Chicken

Can’t-miss Spots for Nashville Hot Chicken

Visit one of these four fiery locations if you can stand the heat

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Nashville Hot Chicken is a must-try when visiting Music City. Its story dates back to the Great Depression, and started with a man named Thornton Prince III. He was a fun-loving man about town who earned a reputation of being quite the ladies’ man. One night a scorned lover suspected him of being unfaithful, so, using Prince’s love of fried chicken, she set out for revenge.

She added a devilish amount of peppers and spices to a chicken dish, thinking it would be almost inedible and burn his tongue. However, much to her dismay, Prince loved it — he even asked for seconds.

Since then, hot chicken has been a Nashville staple. Several restaurants feature versions of the fiery bird; here are four hot chicken joints to help you on your quest to find your favorite.

Prince’s

Prince's Hot Chicken
Prince's Hot Chicken

Yes, THAT Prince. He loved the hot chicken his lady served him so much that he perfected the recipe and opened the original hot chicken restaurant in 1945 — putting the dish on the map. There are six heat levels ranging from Plain to XXXHot (which is not for the faint of heart).

In addition to the chicken, Prince’s has a variety of delicious traditional sides like potato salad, coleslaw and pickles. This Nashville staple now has two locations, making it even easier to stop in and give it a try.

Hattie B’s

Hattie B’s is a more modern take on Nashville Hot Chicken. Even with four locations around the metro area, the lines can be long, so make sure you build in extra time to enjoy the hotness. When ordering chicken, you’ll be asked to choose from one of six heat levels — from Southern (no heat) to Shut the Cluck Up!!!. Make sure you leave room for the famous banana pudding.

Besides the chicken, other favorites include the pimento mac and cheese, southern greens and the black-eyed pea salad. There’s also a killer chicken sandwich and a variety of local beers to wash it all down.

Bolton’s

Bolton's Hot Chicken
Bolton's Hot Chicken

Bolton’s uses a dry rub on its hot chicken, which is different than the oil-based rubs in most recipes, making it a unique and delicious stop on your tour. You can choose from six spice levels, but ordering the hottest might get you a doubtful look (our team voted it the hottest out of the four places we visited). It’s so hot that warnings are posted by the cash register. Pro tip: After eating, wash your hands before touching your face.

All chickened out? Bolton’s also serves mouth-watering fish at the spice level of your choosing. Plus, there’s pork and a variety of traditional sides like beans, greens, corn on the cob, and slaw.

Pepperfire

Pepperfire started in 2010 by self-proclaimed “hot chicken evangelist” Isaac Beard. Pepperfire offers seven levels of spice and menu items you won’t see anywhere else, such as the AppleJack — a deep-fried grilled cheese topped with three chicken tenders (made to your spice preference) and covered in baked apples.

But have no fear, Pepperfire has more traditional hot chicken items (tenders, wings, quarter chicken and half chicken), and dishes that incorporate waffles and unique sides like fried okra. Want a little burn without the bird? Try the vegan-friendly hot tempeh sandwich, a special collaboration with local veggie restaurant The Wild Cow.  

No matter your heat tolerance, each Nashville hot chicken restaurant is bound to have something you’ll love. Stop in and grab a couple tenders during your travels or make a whole day searching for your favorite haunt. Make sure to ask for seconds — Thornton Prince III would have wanted it that way.

For more on Nashville’s food scene, check out this article on Music City’s award-winning cuisine.

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