While there is no way to verify this anecdote the simple fact is, it’s way too good a story and as far as I’m concerned, can now be considered the genesis of Nashville Hot Chicken. A subsection of fried chicken. Though they say the current incarnation only dates back to the 70’s, Thornton's idea of incinerating peoples mouths with fried chicken still remains.
There are no less than a half dozen places that serve only hot chicken and a number of others who have it as a menu option. Of course, every restaurant will make it a bit different but the basics are pretty much the same. As you can well imagine, recipes are guarded like state secrets. A couple things you can be sure of are that the chicken is marinated in a molten liquid and finished with a fiery paste. It’s served on white bread and topped with pickles. The word is that Prince’s puts cayenne in just about every step of the process. From the dredges right down to the cooking oil. The specimens at Prince’s are fried up in a cast iron skillet.
Stories of this fiery chicken are the stuff of legend. "Some guy came in here once and ordered the extra hot chicken. He said it filled him up, cleared his sinuses, and killed his Athlete's Foot." Another story sees one man not showing up for work for 2 days after consuming the Extra Hot version. Supposedly there's no shortage of people who, um, bite off more than they can chew as it were and have to make a mad dash outside to, shall we say, divest themselves of their meal. I read that one customer brings a half gallon of chocolate milk with him. Ya, it's freakin' hot.
Prince’s is located in a strip mall about a mile off I 65 in the Brooklyn Heights neighbourhood. Their hours are mostly geared towards the late night, after the bars close crowd. Word is, it can get pretty crazy by the time they wind things down around 4am. Thornton himself is long gone but his great niece, Andre Prince Jefferies now runs it. Soon, it’ll be passed along to her daughter.There’s seating for about two dozen and a number of chairs for those who are taking away to wait. You go up to the window behind the Cake Lady and place your order. Then you wait. And wait. It’s so busy they just crank it out piece after piece after piece. Every piece of chicken they serve is fresh cooked. Mostly because it’s all they can do to keep up with demand.
When I first started this little blog I began searching for places to visit. Prince’s immediately turned up and went to the top of the list. Sadly, it took me almost 4 years to finally make it. Well, let me tell ya, I’m sorry I didn’t make it sooner. It was well worth the wait. Let’s have a look.
There are a few different sides from which to choose. Mrs. Sippi decided she wanted beans. Pretty much your standard pork and beans done very nicely. We can’t decide if they were doctored, canned beans or made from scratch. I asked and just got a smile. Whatever their pedigree, they were very good. The gravy was a little thinner than usual and a little sweeter.
The chicken comes in 4 different heat levels. Mild, Medium, Hot and Extra Hot. It also comes in quarters, halves or whole. We ordered 3 hind quarters in the mild, medium and hot heat levels. Each comes pinned, with some pickles, to some white bread by a tooth pick. The pickles were quite good and I didn’t bother with the bread. (cw from bottom right: mild, medium, hot)
The chicken is rather salty but definitely in a good way. The heat isn’t just in that crispy coating but all the way through. If you could eat the bones I’m sure you’d find them spicy too. Honestly, this stuff really isn’t for the timid. It’s all about fire so caveat emptor.
What most wing places would parade out as medium, Prince’s calls mild. Easily hot enough to discourage those not into the spicy stuff. At this level the saltiness in the spice blend really stood out. All in all, really good but this chicken was too mild.
The hot was absolutely Blazing. While I’ve eaten hotter things, this was close. Way hotter than what you might expect. At this heat level I found the spicing and chicken flavour were overpowered by the heat. This chicken was too hot.
The medium was the perfect balance of heat, spice and chicken. This chicken was juuuuust right.
I suggest making sure there’s room for dessert. The Cake Lady (Irene. That’s her daughter in the picture) makes several varieties and if the two samples we had were any indication, they’re all good. The thing is, I dove into a piece of cake and by the time I surfaced the raging inferno in my mouth was gone. The cake had put the fire out. So let’s have a look at what we had.
The Cream Cheese Chess Square is basically a chess pie made into a sheet cake and cut into squares. The cream cheese added a bit of flavour and some structure. It wasn’t as custardy as the Chess Pie I make but it was mighty tasty.
The Mississippi Mud Cake was phenomenal. A nice chocolate, almost brownie like, cake topped with fluff and covered in a rich chocolate icing. There were a few pecans on top that I let Mrs. Sippi have. Being a chocoholic I absolutely loved it.
Well there you have it folks. The dish that put Nashville on the fired chicken map.
You can find Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack at 123 Ewing Dr in Nashville, Tn.
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You can also find them on facebook.
Well that’s all for now folks, see ya next time in the food court. Now where’s that Alka-Seltzer??