Tag Archives: fried chicken

Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack–Nashville, TN

Last week I was in Nashville, TN to attend the Send North America Conference.  Listening intently to the likes of Al Mohler and Johnny Hunt works up an appetite and I had already sampled Hattie B’s Hot Chicken the previous evening.  Before I left town, I determined to try Nashville’s standard for firey fowl–Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack.

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.

Handle with care.

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. 
Much like the Sun, if you look directly at this fire, it will burn your retinas.
 
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.

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Hattie B’s Hot Chicken–Nashville, TN

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 says it’s hot.
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. 
As you eat, the chicken paints your fingers red with the seasoning.
 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.

Babe’s Chicken Dinner House–Garland, TX

It has been too long since I’ve eaten at Babe’s. I was in town serving with Mercy Chefs and I wanted to treat my family to something that was truly memorable.

Naturally, I went for the fried chicken. It wasn’t heavily seasoned which made my children happy, but what it lacked in spice, it made up for it in chicken fried perfection. The skin has a delicious crunch and the meat is unbelievably juicy. I rarely fry chicken for a number of reasons, but one of them is that it is an art to have chicken fried this perfectly.

As I was able to sample the abundance of sides from the lazy Susan, I was reminded of simpler days when my mom filled the house with the aroma of fried chicken after church. The mashed potatoes with the cream gravy was my favorite. To be honest, my favorite food is pretty much anything with gravy. The corn, somewhere between whole kernel and creamed corn was another nice addition. I enjoy corn so much that I used to eat it straight off the stalk on my grandparents’ farm. I feel they tried too hard in seasoning the green beans, though. The flavor wasn’t bad, but not really good either. No worries. It made more room for gravy.

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This gravy is outta control.

I almost forgot about the banana pudding. Normally, meringue makes me sad, but it works with their pudding. The banana flavor was intense. I’m assuming that they are fortifying it with banana extract or maybe liqueur. The presence of the banana flavor was intense and delightful.

I rarely give out a five star review, but the food coupled with the atmosphere brings back some really nice memories. I don’t remember my grandma frying chicken, but I fondly remember her rooster stroganoff. You made sure to get your fill on your first plate because there was no chance for seconds as everyone greedily snatched it up by the ladleful. We will return to Babe’s so we can begin to form a new generation of memories.

BBQ Chronicles: Smithfield’s Chicken ‘N Bar-B-Q–Fayetteville, NC

Last week I endured a marathon road trip to Portsmouth, VA and back to Shreveport in four days. It was somewhere on the order of 2500 miles. I went to assist a friend transport a mobile kitchen for Mercy Chefs. We only slept 3-4 hours a day so that we could cover these miles. As a result, we had our share of truck stop food.

On December 4, we decided that we needed to enjoy some fine BBQ, not once, but twice. Our first stop was at Smithfield’s Chicken ‘N Bar-B-Q in Fayetteville, NC. That evening we were passing through Birmingham, AL and had to make a stop at Dreamland BBQ.

Simple presentation.  Big flavor.
Simple presentation. Big flavor.

Everyone knows that I’m a BBQ junkie. I take my fifteen year old daughter on Texas road trips to seek out and savor the best BBQ. I was pleased to sample some Carolina BBQ. I’ve heard about it and my chef buddy I was accompanying actually made Carolina BBQ on a deployment in Chambrun, Haiti. It was delicious then and I expected nothing short of perfection in North Carolina.

You may think a pulled pork sandwich is just a pulled pork sandwich. If you blindly accept that error as truth, then you live an empty life. I don’t want to sound mean, but the sweet pork tangified with the right amount of vinegar elevates this humble sandwich to something epic.

I was skeptical of the slaw on the sandwich as I really don’t like slaw. There is something unappetizing about shredded cabbage coated with a runny mayo. This slaw wasn’t runny and I had to try the sandwich as it was intended.

I’m not going to say that I became an overnight fan of slaw, but the crunch paired with the soft pork works. The fries were frozen, but were mightily fried and I hungrily scarfed them down.

Extreme closeups make me hungry.
Extreme closeups make me hungry.

My only regret is that I was too full to sample the fried chicken. The week prior, I enjoyed Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken in Little Rock, AR. I suspect that Smithfield’s chicken was insanely good. I’ve never been to a restaurant that sells sacks of fried chicken skin. If they sell chicken cracklings, the chicken itself must be unmatched. Maybe I’ll have the opportunity to pit Gus’s and Smithfield’s against each other one day, but in the meantime, I’d like to see a restaurant at home sell fried chicken skin.

Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken–Little Rock, AR

Let’s face it. I love fried chicken. I’ll throw back a box of Popeye’s any day. Another local favorite (I’m from Louisiana) is Southern Classic. Apparently they are so ghetto, they don’t even have a web presence. I won’t even turn my nose up at KFC or chicken from the grocery store. Fried chicken is a southern institution and I’m doing my part by enjoying it.

It’s not difficult to fry chicken, but there is an art to it. Personally, I don’t care to fry because the splattering grease and clouds of flour turn my kitchen into a disaster area. I love cooking, but I’d rather get prison shanked than scour a greasy kitchen.

About a year ago I encountered the fried chicken that puts all others to shame. I was at the original Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken in Memphis on my first encounter. (Actually I think the original original is at a house in the sticks, but this was the original restaurant if my memory doesn’t deceive me).

The beans are punched up pork 'n beans, but the tang complements the spicy chicken.
The beans are punched up pork ‘n beans, but the tang complements the spicy chicken.

Today as we were passing through Little Rock, AR, I was compelled to try one of Gus’s latest satellites. It has the homey appeal of the Memphis location, but is punched up some as if a hipster was trying for the old authenticity, but you could feel the slick veneer. It’s all marketing, anyway. I really don’t care what a place looks like. In this case, the proof is in the chicken.

The crunch of the crispy skin is incredible. If you pay attention, you can tell that the skin tastes a bit like cracklings, or as we call them, cracklins. The juicy chicken contrasted by the über crispy, pork-esque skin is what makes Gus’s stand apart from the others. That, and they season the meat with a firey blend that adds yet another dimension.

This location isn’t quite as good as the Memphis restaurant, but don’t let that stop you from a day trip in search of culinary delights. I’d easily drive three hours (one way) for their chicken.

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