Food for Thought: Some (All of Nashville) Like it Hot

Nashville, Tennessee

by Samantha Adler

Recently Colonel Sanders has been taking over American Television with his announcement of the new KFC recipe: Nashville Hot Chicken. Now I love fast food to an unhealthy degree. Love it. So it breaks my heart to say: sorry KFC, I’ve had the real thing and you don’t stand a chance.

Hot chicken is a Nashville food staple, and Prince’s Hot Chicken is where it all began.

Story has it that one night over 70 years ago, playboy Thornton Prince stayed out a little too late. His woman, having none of it, decided to play a trick on Thorton and his friends. She sneakily added a hefty helping of spice to their late night fried chicken, thinking it would burn a lesson into her man’s tongue. However, Thornton loved it and opened a restaurant with this hot, new recipe. His great-granddaughter, Andres Prince Jeffries, now runs the restaurant and is the keeper of Prince’s secret family recipe.

I stopped over at Prince’s my second day in Nashville. This famous foodie pitstop is tucked away in the corner of a strip mall. The restaurant’s name spelled out in fiery crimson and orange window paint is the only indicator that you’re in the right place. I stepped inside to a line that stretched to the door, originating from a small window connecting the dining room to the kitchen. A woman leaned over with a notepad scribbling orders down and handing them behind her.  The interior was a bare bones white, with one aqua-blue painted wall and several picnic tables against the left hand side. I tried to read the faces of the munching patrons at the tables as I shuffled in line: wince in scalding pain, euphoric satisfaction, wince in scalding pain.

Hot chicken came in three levels of spice, ranging from mild to extremely hot. The crisp, juicy chicken is served with pickles atop a slice of white bread to soak up extra hot juices and provide a small relief to the tasty fire poultry.

It was finally my turn to approach the window.

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“What will you have?”

My buddy went with a milder, but hot chicken. I, a notorious spice wimp, ordered plain.

“Ohhhh come on,” The woman exclaimed.

“I’m a baby! I know.”

*turns to my buddy*

“You have to toughen her up. Plain...”

*laughter echoes through the kitchen as my order is passed around.*

After snagging a coveted table, we waited for our number. The dining room was packed; people slumped against the walls holding their order tickets, eyes darting up when there was any movement around the seating area. The white walls were spotted with a few framed mentions in magazines and newspapers (one with Guy Fieri's grinning face and spiky, frosted tips). We ended up sharing our seats with a pair of locals, who were also here for their first taste. Sitting shoulder to shoulder, our new friends informed us they had moved from Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, finally landing in Nashville. And they were no stranger to hot food. They were two engineers who chased the flame. It came as no surprise that they ordered extremely hot.

Our number was called and I returned with a tray of steaming fried chicken, laid out like a casual picnic spread...a picnic that would kick you in the ass with heat. My plain jane fried chicken was amazing, crispy and flavorful. I snagged a bite of my buddy’s low-level hot. It was delicious with a hard kick. The chicken is super crispy, with the spice laid into its fried exterior. We sat back satisfied with our new friends, as they wiped away pepper-filled tears.

So try KFC’s new hot chicken. But I guarantee Andres didn’t share any secrets.