Sunday, July 28, 2013

Nashville Hot Chicken Day One: Hattie B's Hot Chicken — Mary's Notes

All photos: Mary Brace
     Although this restaurant is a relative newcomer to the Nashville Hot Chicken scene, Hattie B's Hot Chicken gets ranked among top contenders — and it's the closest to my location, so it was east to make it the first stop.
     My lunch companion was Rose Laycox, who runs the local Meetup group for ethnic food lovers, called "What the Pho." We tried to suss out what basic criteria for characteristics Nashville Hot Chicken is supposed to have. We agreed that it should be moist; tender; the heat shouldn't overwhelm the chicken flavor; it shouldn't be too greasy. Everything else is bonus.
Feelin' hot hot hot
       I got Hattie B's regular hot, hot. Rose got "Shut the Cluck Up," two steps up ("Damn Hot" is the level between).  Everything is made to order, and at 1pm on a Sunday afternoon, Hattie B's was packed to the gills with Vandy students, tourists, and African-American families, so we had a good 15-20 minutes to chat and take in our surroundings while we waited. As Nashville restaurants go, it was an interesting mix.
      Seating at Hattie B's is provided in the form of picnic tables, with smaller tables indoors and larger ones on the 19th Avenue South-facing porch. There's a little bit of a pub atmosphere in that, if you want to sit outside, and you don't have a party of 6 or more, you're going to sit with
strangers, if there's a line outside the door. It was full when we arrived, so we ended up sharing a table with two families; one that was already there when we arrived, and one that grabbed the empty seats when they left. Once you get your brave on and relax enough to talk to your unknown neighbors, this turns into a great casual experience. So let's get down to it and hope Hattie B's score doesn't suffer from having gone first. 

"Shut the Cluck Up" is the hottest you get

Moisture: 7 Neither of us had any complaints, but I wouldn't write home about it.

Tenderness: 7 Again, good and tender, but nothing to stop a truck.

Flavor: 8 Now we're talking. Plenty of chicken savoriness came through the heat (hot; I tried a bit of Rose's dish and couldn't taste anything but hot hot hot), and during our wait the smells on the porch were whine-inducing. Of the coating, obviously there was cayenne, but there was more to it. This wasn't like someone just shook a jar of Frank's Hot Sauce over regular fried chicken.

Grease: 8 There was very little remarkable separation.

Atmosphere: 9 I likes it. I like the communal seating, I like that there's a screened-in porch in Midtown Nashville, and I like that the clientele is anything but homogenous.

Cluck & Waffles (Sundays only)
Sides: 9 The Pimento Mac & Cheese was excellent. I'm not a grits lover and can't be a fair judge there, so I'm not taking any points off for those. I've had worse.

Overall: 8 Hattie B's makes a great yardstick for beginning our hot chicken journey. Definitely a place to return to.

Hattie B's Hot Chicken on Urbanspoon

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