Nestled in a seedy part of town, I was reminded of a now-defunct catfish restaurant here in Shreveport, LA. I never went at night because I was scared of getting stabbed, but this place was filthy and the ceiling was falling apart due to a leaky roof. I was concerned about food poisoning, but the catfish was worth any risk.
I wasn’t feeling like liquidating my innards, so I just ordered the hot chicken. I didn’t order the hottest on the menu and there was mild wuss chicken so that wusses could eat too. I ordered the middle-of-the-road “hot” and the heat level was perfect in that it satisfied my sinuses and my mouth and esophagus enjoyed a low burn for a couple of hours.
What I found lacking was flavor. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but the flavor profile was rather one-dimensional. It was hot and not much else. Don’t get me wrong, it was good, but easily outshined by Prince’s budding competitor.
You’ll wait in line for an hour when you go to Hattie B’s. It’s time well spent.
Since Nashville is near Memphis, TN, I felt that I may have a chance at some incredible barbecue. Bar-B-Cutie was recommended and the long lunch line showed promise. We waited thirty minutes to be served, which set me up with empty hopes.
The baby back ribs looked promising, but all hope was lost as my teeth discovered that they were overly cooked. They tasted okay, but the meat pratically fell off the bone and I could taste that they were definitely finished off in the oven.
The barbecue chicken looked institutional, like the middle school lunch lady would award as a penalty for cutting in line. It definitely basked in the warm glow of an oven.
The best part was the pulled pork. It was average and predictable. If you want authentic barbecue, try another joint.
I’m always up for a road trip, and it has been a couple of months since I’ve been out of town. This week I’m in Nashville, TN, and I have heard that Hattie B’s is where you go for hot chicken.
I’ve had hot wings, but hot chicken brings this fowl medium an entirely different direction. It’s not sauced like hot wings, and it’s not just spicy fried chicken. After it is marinated, seasoned, breaded, and fried, it is slathered in a cayenne-based paste. For a more detailed exposition of Nashville’s hot chicken, you can consult Serious Eats.
I didn’t feel like torching my palate so I settled on the hot chicken. There were two hotter grades, but I was quite satisfied with my choice. The chicken was alive with flavor. At first you are hit with a wall of cayenne. Then subtle notes of sweetness and hints of paprika bubble to the surface. It was incredibly juicy and shrouded in perfectly crackly-crunchy skin. The flavors were nicely balanced. It wasn’t like eating a blowtorch, but nearly two hours later, my lips still retain a touch of heat and my esophagus is simmering with warmth. I knew the line out the door was a good sign and I’m glad I braved the wait in the summer heat. If you want hot chicken, you need to try Hattie B’s.