Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Nashville Hot Chicken Day 5: Pepperfire

All photos ©Mary Brace 2013. All rights reserved.
For this one, it's back to East Nashville, the acknowledged home of Nashville Hot Chicken. Pepperfire restaurant, on Gallatin Road, opened in 2010 as a walk-up, cinder-block joint with a barred window. The barred window is still there, as a reminder that hey! you're on Gallatin Road! In East Nashville! and you just have to deal with it.  Improvements have come in the form of a covered shelter and picnic tables so that, if the barred window doesn't put you off, you can eat in.

       Pepperfire has two things on its Nashville restaurant menu that you do have to try at least once in your life: Tenders Royale, which consists of chicken tenders served over a deep-fried, grilled cheese sandwich (it's hard to wrap your brain around it without actually seeing it) and Applefire, which I had on the day of this visit. Applefire is a take on chicken & waffles, but with apple pie filling as the sweetener instead of syrup. Of the two, it's probably the one you're more likely to ever order a second time, if you're not a frat member.

     Pepperfire serves its heat 5 ways: mild, medium, hot, extra hot, and extra, extra hot. I've always ordered hot, and had a bite of a friend's extra hot and wondered if they had the orders mixed up. Pepperfire's hot is DAMN hot. And they don't have a soda fountain, so you don't get free refills. Just warning. They'll tell you at the window that their heat level will be equal to two steps up from the average Hot Wings order. As finding genuinely good, hot, Buffalo style wings is a quest of its own, in Nashville, I'd say they are perhaps one degree above.

Tenderness: 6. Decent, but not exceptional.

Moisture: 6. Again, not remarkable. Definitely not dry, though.

Grease: 10. This is one area where Pepperfire excels. They don't use breading to coat, and what goes on the chicken after its fried is a pretty dry rub. There's very little coating, beyond the rub itself, to hold grease.

Flavor: 7. You will notice the actual chicken flavor for up to 5 seconds before the heat kicks in.

Atmosphere: 5. In spite of the barred windows, it's not a bad space. It's just pretty obvious that it's not a space where the owners want anyone hanging out for long periods.

Sides: 8. I've never actually had any of their sides, but am giving Pepperfire's Nashville Hot Chicken  bonus points for creativity with Applefire and — yes — the Tenders Royale.

Overall: 7  I don't think Pepperfire's chicken is the best in town, but the overall vibe, originality and affordability make it worthy a return trip, anytime.

Pepperfire Hot Chicken on Urbanspoon