DESTINATIONS
EXPERIENCE
DESTINATIONS
EXPERIENCE
Nashville’s famous hot chicken is a must-try while in Music City.

5 ESSENTIAL SPOTS FOR THE BEST HOT CHICKEN IN NASHVILLE

BY LILY HANSEN
Crunchy, juicy, sticky, and — of course — spicy. Nashville's hot chicken scene is certainly delicious but can be intimidating if you don't know where to go.
From the pioneers who created the local specialty of crispy fried chicken heavily doused in hot sauce to those who commercialized it, here’s where we go for the best hot chicken in Nashville. These welcoming spots look after their customers, fry up some mean hot chicken, and will give you the ultimate experience. 
(Beginners: Just remember to not start too hot — you can always order the next spice level up if you’re ready for it — and drink milk instead of water when your mouth is on fire!)

1. PRINCE’S HOT CHICKEN SHACK

What should have been Thornton Prince's punishment for philandering (his scorned lover purposely over-seasoned his dinner one night) ended up becoming his favorite meal. The irony led to the launch of
Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack
, or simply Prince's for short, almost 100 years ago. With six levels of heat we suggest starting slowly otherwise you will walk funny for a week. Salty, relatively dry, and chock-full of flavor, the
hot chicken OG
is the favorite of purists.

2. HATTIE B’S HOT CHICKEN

Before
Hattie B's
launched in 2012, the owners (a father-son duo) had a meat 'n' three kind of place and were searching for a new protein for their menu. They started experimenting with a hot chicken recipe, and it immediately became the number one bestseller. After the successful launch of their first store in Midtown, a combination of foot traffic and tourists have since resulted in locations across the country. Hattie B's is known for its fun, inclusive, smile-inducing environment.

3. 400 DEGREES

One super fan of Prince’s became so enamored by their chicken that she created her own spin — deep fried, not skillet fried. Aqui Hines, a charismatic Nashville native affectionately known as the "Hometown Hottie," started
400 Degrees
in a food truck before moving into her popular Clarksville Pike brick-and-mortar spot. With options from mild (100 degrees) to blazing hot (400), this hot chicken is now some of the best in Nashville and has something for diners who get enough of the fiery pain as well as those who have more mild tastes. 

4. PARTY FOWL

This Nashville-based chain with locations all over middle Tennessee, as well as the airport and Nissan Stadium, is the place to go to eat hot chicken and watch sports. (We’re talking wall-to-wall televisions, 20 local brews on tap, and boozy slushies that bring Tennessee Titans fans out in droves.) Hand-breaded, fried, and then dipped into the customer's heat level of choice,
Party Fowl's
technique results in the perfect combo of heat and flavor. (Order “Poultrygeist” for a mouth-numbing concoction of cayenne, pure habanero, ghost, scorpion, and Carolina Reaper pepper.) Be prepared to wait on game day when every local comes out for brunch. The tasty menu showcases Party Fowl's creativity when it comes to hot chicken, going well beyond the traditional white bread for pairings like stuffed French toast and beignets.

5. BOLTON’S SPICY CHICKEN & FISH

Started by the late Bolton Polk, this grab 'n' go spot's grub is made from recipes that have been passed down for generations. With two Nashville locations and a pop-up in Los Angeles,
Bolton's Spicy Chicken & Fish
is the most experimental of the bunch but also one of the most beloved. (Unlike other hot chicken restaurants where you always know what you're going to get, Bolton's likes to slightly change up their heat factor daily, which makes eating there exciting.) Through a window in a wall, right in the heart of Five Points, you can order one of six heat levels and delicious sides. It is the hottest of the bunch so avoid touching your skin for at least a few hours afterwards. (Don't say we didn't warn you!)

BONUS: SLOW BURN

Naturally, there are must-try hot chicken spots right outside of Nashville as well. Owned by the sweetest lady of all time, Joyce Reed,
Slow Burn
(about a 30-minute drive from Sentral SoBro) is the most accessible and approachable of the pack. Usually standing at the counter and taking customers orders, Reed is happy to advise newbies and veterans on what dish will suit them best. This gem is where to go if you're feeling nervous about indulging in this daredevil food. Try "Singe," their medium flavor, which provides the heat factor without knocking you to the floor.

WANT TO BE IN THE HEART OF NASHVILLE’S FOOD SCENE?
Live in one of the city’s hottest neighborhoods at Sentral SoBro

ABOUT THE WRITER 
Lily Clayton Hansen is an author, TED-x speaker, and actor who has written two books about Nashville, including the best-selling Word of Mouth: Nashville Conversations. During her eight years as a SoBro resident, Lily lived at the Ryman Artist Lofts beside a dynamic mixture of artists, musicians, and performers.

MORE TO EXPLORE:
An Insider Guide to SoBro Nashville
What It’s Like Living in Nashville
4 Things To Look For When Renting With Pets