U.S. Road Trip, Part 2: Nashville Hot Chicken

The music scene wasn’t the only thing that opened my eyes in Nashville. On the advice of our Indianapolis friends, who said it was a “can’t miss,” we tried the Hot Chicken. Who knew it was an iconic Nashville dish, and that there is even an annual Music City Hot Chicken Festival? Not me, nor my husband. We were still savouring the excellent dinner of southern barbecue we had on our first night (at Jack’s Bar-B-Que on Broadway) when we ventured into a world of hurt.

We both love spicy food, and I can tolerate it a little better than my husband. On our list of options our friends gave us were Prince’s, Hattie B’s and Pepperfire. We went to Pepperfire, placed an order for two, with medium spice–and there was no going back. I didn’t mention it was easily 35 degrees Celsius outside, and humid. In the corrugated metal shack with picnic tables that served as shade from the sun, but a hotbox where fried chicken was being churned out to lunchtime customers, it seemed like the hottest place on earth. That was before we even tasted the “medium” spiced chicken.

Pepperfire. Describes the ambience, and the food, very well.

Pepperfire. Describes the ambience, and the food, very well.

Served traditionally, on a slice of white bread with a few pickle chips (plus we ordered sides of collard greens and slaw), it looked innocent enough. But man, what a sensation taking that first bite. It was delicious, and so, so spicy. Burning-mouth spicy, the kind that makes you frantically wave your hand in front of your face, and not even cold Cokes and water helps. But you had to keep eating. It was absolutely delicious.

Heeeellllppppp!

Heeeellllppppp!

Jules, taking it one bite at a time.

Jules, taking it one bite at a time.

I later learned about how it’s made. Every hot chicken place in Nashville has their secret method, and ingredients, but here is one example that I found, an Epicurious recipe . Basically, you dip chicken pieces into a buttermilk batter made with hot sauce, then dredge it in flour and deep fry it. Then comes the Yikes Factor: You brush it generously with a sauce made from some of the hot frying oil and LARGE amounts of cayenne pepper.

My order of Pepperfire's Nashville style hot chicken

My order of Pepperfire’s Nashville style hot chicken

I’ve only found one place in Toronto that serves it, Parts & Labour on Queen St. West, and it was fairly similar to the stuff we had at Pepperfire, but I have to say, it did pale in comparison (and was much pricier). If you like spice, you have to go to Nashville just to try this unique meal.

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