Review: Hattie B’s Hot Chicken of Nashville

Hattie B line

Expecting we would need plenty of energy for the night’s Nickel Creek and Secret Sister performances, dinner in Nashville was a high priority. We wanted somewhere local. I suggested hot chicken to my visiting friends from Kansas City. Hattie B’s Hot Chicken was (relatively) close to the Ryman, so off we went.

Hattie B’s rates well on the food sites, and I was eager to compare it to my earlier brush with Nashville’s hot chicken, Bolton’s Spicy Chicken and Fish. Hattie B’s is a much more respectable place than either Prince’s, which I had to drive around a ‘Road Closed’ sign to access, or Bolton’s, in a painted cinderblock shack. Hattie B’s is in the same building as a GiGi’s cupcake shop.

Hattie B menu Hattie B order

The line to order was out the door, which I took as a positive sign. While I had gone full-on hot at Bolton’s, I knew I had the rest of this evening to spend at the Ryman, so I opted to notch the heat back a little at Hattie B’s. There are five levels of heat at Hattie B’s, starting with no heat with “Southern.” I stepped past Mild/Medium up to “Hot!”for my small white meat order. It was the right choice.

The heat doesn’t register at first, but then it sinks in. As I discovered at Bolton’s, the key to handling the hot breading is to get plenty of meat in the same bite. The taste was good, the heat level was about right. According to the young lady when I ordered “Hot” is supposed to be 3X hotter than Mild/Medium. I would be willing to go up another heat level on another visit.

Hattie B chicken

My hot chicken compatriots tried the “Southern” (no heat) and Mild/Medium. The Southern still has a spicy taste, and I was told the Mild/Medium had kick without distracting with too much heat.

Hattie B banana puddingI chose standard sides, beans and fries. Both were fine, no complaints about either. The banana pudding was creamy and tasty, which lived up to the billing. I wish the sweat tea was a bit sweeter. My eating companions tell me that I missed out by not having the pimento mac and cheese. I won’t make that mistake next time.

I admit it’s tough for me to compare Bolton’s with Hattie B’s. I chose a much higher heat level at Bolton’s. Location and facilities makes Hattie B’s more accessible and eater friendly. I think if you like hot chicken you would be happy with either one.

If you’re new to ¬†Nashville hot chicken, Hattie B’s is good place to start. The chicken is tasty, the sides solid, and the banana pudding excellent.

Hattie B’s Hot Chicken
112 19th Ave South
Nashville, TN
Monday – Thursday: 10 am – 11 pm
Friday – Saturday: 11 am – 12 am | Sunday 11 am – 4 pm

Chicken That Lights You Up: Bolton’s Spicy Chicken & Fish of Nashville

Bolton's

When you think of Tennessee and barbeque it’s Memphis, not Nashville, that comes to mind. Nashville is just a bit too far east and bit too far north to be a real barbeque town (not to say there isn’t good BBQ in Nashville). But Nashville has been wisely promoting itself as a hot chicken capital.

Hot chicken is fried chicken that has been seasoned heavily with spices dominated by cayenne pepper. A lot of cayenne pepper. It began as “soul food,” but has caught on popularly. This is a long way from your father’s KFC.

Hot chicken has been in the news, has its own website, and even has its own festival–The Music City Hot Chicken Festival, tomorrow, July 4. With a family appointment in Nashville recently, I figured it was high time I found out what the hot chicken fuss was about.

Probably the most famous of the hot chicken joints is Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack. The name alone demands a visit, and visit I intended to do. I even dodged a ‘No Through Traffic’ sign across the road only to find this:

Prince's Hot Chicken Shack

Closed on Mondays. But having seen the front window I want to eat there even more.

My crew was anxious for food, so a quick search turned up Bolton’s Spicy Chicken & Fish as the right alternative. A phone call confirmed they were actually open.

Bolton's exteriorBolton’s turned out to be far more of an actual shack than Prince’s (which is in a strip mall). The parking is wonky, and you probably won’t figure it out until one of the guys there tells you what to do. Although I would advise visiting during daylight hours, the folks at Bolton’s were very friendly and helpful.

Bolton’s is really designed as a carry-out place with just a few odd tables for those waiting to pick up their orders and the odd customer who stays around to eat in (that would be us). You knock on the door when you’re ready to order and the window slides open. The gracious Tee took our order and waited on us. We were there during the early afternoon, but past the lunchtime rush. Some hipsters were hanging around to pick up their carry-out order.

Knock to Order

With the family in tow, we ordered chicken wings for one daughter, catfish for another. My lovely wife got the leg quarter. I ordered the breast. You are presented the options of hot, medium, or mild for the chicken. We went mild on the chicken wings, but full bore hot on the leg and breast quarters.

Those of you who have had hot chicken know this already, but hot chicken is aptly named. Our food was made to order, so when it came out it was doubly hot. We had to let the food cool a bit in order to eat it (no heat lamp food here). But there is no moderating the spicy heat.

Hot Chicken Breast

Prepare for your lips to burn, for sweat to break out on your brow, and for your nose to run. I was told my face turned red. This is Nashville hot chicken. The key is to get plenty of the juicy meat in your bite with the spiced skin. It helps control the heat per bite plus adding flavor to the meat. The chicken was well prepared, moist and tasty.

One of the benefits of bringing family with you is that you can steal bites of their order, too (hey, I was paying). The wings were also quite good, although I’m not a big wings guy. The mild chicken tastes like simply good, perhaps slightly spicy, fried chicken. If you’re leery of the heat, then try out their mild. Alas, I’ve not tried the medium heat level. The catfish is also quite good, and is recommended.

The Catfish is also recommended.

The Catfish is also recommended.

MenuHaving your first hot chicken is not an event you will forget. It is not for the faint of heart or taste bud. I admit to being a hot chicken novice, but I’m ready for more. And while I will certainly be heading to Prince’s sometime soon, I’m not at all sorry that circumstances led me to Bolton’s. Put it on your list the next time you’re in Nashville.