Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Big problem, though: No car. I had a shuttle from the airport to downtown, but no way to get from downtown to the one restaurant in Music City that I really wanted to visit.
That, of course, would be Prince's Hot Chicken. In the South, there are two poles in the fried chicken world. One would be Price's Chicken Coop, right here in Charlotte. The other would be Prince's Hot Chicken, in Nashville.
As an aficionado of Price's, I felt I owed it to myself to try Prince's. When it comes to fried chicken, Prince's is a bird of a different feather. It's chicken that's dipped in a hot sauce, rolled in spicy flour, deep-fried, then coated with more hot spice and sprinkled with more red pepper. It's served on a slice of white bread that soaks up the spices -- wouldn't want to miss any -- and topped with pickles.
There's more to the legend, of course. Supposedly, the endorphin rush causes addiction. And, um, there are claims of hotter reactions, including to the libido. Never heard that about Price's.
So I skipped all other arrangements for my trip to Nashville to focus on trying to get a ride to Prince's, in a neighborhood too far from downtown to take a cab. I begged and sent around inquiries, and I thought I had a ride secured. All day Saturday, from book talk to book signing to book-tent duty, I kept trying to hook up. Didn't work. They were tied up, or their schedule never meshed with mine.
I expected to walk away from Nashville, denied glory. But then I looked at the line of food trucks stationed outside the Southern Festival of Books, on War Memorial Plaza. At the end of the row, there was an unassuming white bus: Bolton's Hot Chicken.
Part of the Prince's story is that hot chicken is so addictive, versions of it have spread all over Nashville. Since this was the closest I would get, I decided to at least start my hot-chicken education. I got an order of chicken on a stick, "medium hot," (which earned me an "allllll right!" from the guy inside the bus. Medium is a long way past mild, apparently.)
I sat down with Angela and Paul Knipple, authors of "The World in a Skillet: A Food Lover's Tour of the New American South" and old Tennessee hands. The chicken was on the required slice of white bread.
"It's to soak up the spices," Paul explained. "Otherwise, you end up in serious pain." As he said this, he was weeping - he had foolishly put a finger near one eye. Meanwhile, his wife Angela didn't show concern for him or slow down in attacking her chicken.
"This is ice cream for Angela," he said. "It's Parris Island for me."
Bolton's version of spicy chicken was chunks of white meat, threaded on a stick, battered and fried, and covered with a bright red coating of what tasted like a mixture of cayenne and seasoned salt. Good? Very. It wasn't Prince's (or Price's, for that matter). But it was seriously hot, with a lot of flavor. I might have been able to tackle extra-spicy.
As for that addiction thing, I haven't stopped thinking about it and plotting ways to return to Nashville, this time with my own car keys.
Have you been to both Prince's and Price's? Let me know how they compare.
Posted by Kathleen Purvis at 11:12 AM