Nashville Hot Chicken in new, creative ways

Whether you’re researching your first trip to Nashville or you’ve visited a thousand times, chances are you’ve heard about Nashville Hot Chicken. A local favorite-turned-national obsession, Nashville Hot Chicken — if done correctly — will scorch and satiate your taste buds with a bold and balanced mix of heat and flavor.

Most locals will happily indulge you in a debate over their favorite spot in town, and whose cayenne kick is the spiciest. For those not yet baptized by fire: Proper conversational etiquette regarding Nashville Hot Chicken typically follows a formula. First, you’ll mention your preferred local institution, followed by the heat level you order. This allows you to size up your comrades instantly, both in their selection and tolerance.

While opinions on whose bird is best will differ, one thing is consistent: You’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone that orders the hottest chicken at Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack, a beloved local institution and the pioneer of Nashville Hot Chicken almost a century ago. The same tends to go for the peak-hot “Shut the Cluck Up” at Hattie B’s, a comparative newcomer and a favorite amongst tourists and locals alike.

If you’ve been to Nashville before and have already hit up the regular spots, or if a full meal’s worth of Hot Chicken feels like biting off a bit more than you can chew at the moment, you can still find ways to get surprised and satisfied by Nashville’s trademark dish. Here are six of our favorite innovative, inspired Nashville Hot Chicken dishes, from restaurants all across the city:


Creative and craveable Nashville Hot Chicken dishes


Hot Chicken Mac N Cheese at The Stillery

113 2nd Ave. N., Downtown Nashville, and 1921 Broadway, Midtown Nashville

If you’re craving a particularly Nashville spin on a Southern staple, venture just north of Broadway onto Second Avenue, and you’ll find The Stillery serving up cast-iron skillet mac ’n’ cheese, topped with Nashville Hot Chicken tenders. This dish is definitely more of a cheat meal than a casual side dish, but it’s worth every calorie-laden bite. For those in more of a sharing mood — you won’t want to give away any of the Hot Chicken Mac — there’s The Stillery’s version of a Hot Chicken Pizza: bacon, ranch, cheddar, mozzarella and hot chicken baked to perfection in a 700-degree brick oven.




Hot Chicken Bao Buns at Otaku Ramen

1104 Division St., The Gulch

Delightfully hot and beautifully soft, the Hot Chicken Bao Buns at Otaku Ramen are everything you’d want in a dim sum offering. Owner Sarah Gavigan has been serving up authentic ramen here in Nashville since 2015, and has made it especially approachable by featuring familiar local ingredients and farms — and even naming the No. 1-selling bowl “Tennessee Tonkotsu.” Another perfect marriage of Southern and Japanese cuisine: Otaku’s Hot Chicken Bao Buns, with spicy fried chicken on a pillowy, steamed bao bun, topped with kewpie mayo slaw and dill pickles. For those afraid of the Hot Chicken commitment, mild heat is also available.



Hot Chicken and Waffles at Big Al’s Deli

1828 4th Ave. N., Salemtown/Germantown

Big Al’s Deli is a neighborhood joint tucked away in Salemtown that’s been serving up Southern fare since 2013, but proprietor Big Al Anderson has been cooking his whole life (Mojo Grill and Sweet 16th Bakery are among the Nashville spots on his resume). If you’re lucky, snag one of the seats at the “breakfast bar” for a chance to chat with Big Al while he’s cooking up everyone’s food. The tables and chairs are mismatched and the coffee is self-serve — all part of the eclectic charm of this place. The weekday rotating lunch specials have been a closely guarded locals’ secret, but the real showstopper is the Hot Chicken and Waffles Big Al cooks up at breakfast. Be sure to get there early if you plan to order it — the Hot Chicken and Waffles fly out of the kitchen on Saturday mornings, so if you sleep in, there’s a good chance you’ll miss out.




Hot Chicken Pakoras at Chauhan Ale & Masala House

123 12th Ave. N., The Gulch

Celeb chef/Chopped judge Maneet Chauhan’s first Nashville restaurant pays beautiful homage to the flavors of her adopted hometown in her Indian cuisine, resulting in one of the city’s best fusion menus. The restaurant’s Hot Chicken Pakoras are a perfect example — but since they’re served with Ghost Pepper Sauce, not for the faint of heart. The chicken is marinated overnight in a bath of buttermilk and spices like garam masala, incorporating the best of both Southern and Indian flavors, then fried to perfection and served with the scorching sauce. Be sure to have a beverage standing by (maybe Chauhan’s fruity, creamy Mango Lassi) to help drown the heat.



Hot Chicken and Stuffed French Toast at Party Fowl

719 8th Ave. S., Downtown Nashville, and 2620 Lebanon Pike, Donelson

Party Fowl is known for offering a variety of hot chicken dishes and a plethora of boozy slushies, but the locally bred mini-chain’s real must-have: the Hot Chicken Stuffed French Toast, available on the weekend brunch menu (and pictured up at the very top, photo via Party Fowl Nashville on Facebook). Featuring house-made cinnamon brioche bread, the French toast is generously stuffed with apples and bourbon cream cheese, then dipped in orange custard, skillet fried and topped off with hot chicken. You can choose the spice level on the hot chicken, which begins at a friendly Southern Fried and maxes out at the formidable Poultrygeist. This is another dish best paired with something cool — we love Party Fowl’s Bushwacker, a grown-up version of the chocolate milkshake, spiked with bourbon.




Hot Chicken Taco at Pancho & Lefty’s Cantina

104 5th Ave. S., Downtown Nashville

Before heading into the Bridgestone Arena for an evening of entertainment, be sure to check out Pancho and Lefty’s Cantina, right across the street on Fifth Avenue. It’s got a great rooftop patio, Southern hospitality to spare and a Hot Chicken Taco that balances heat and relief thanks to the cooling additions of queso and jalapeno ranch. With special extended hours on event evenings at the Bridgestone, it’s a perfect place to stop in for a bite while you wait for the Lyft surge to die down. Added plus: top-notch Margaritas.

If you’ve eaten your way across Music City and still haven’t had enough Nashville Hot Chicken, be sure to make a quick pit stop downtown before your flight home — Acme Feed & Seed and the Southernaire Market both have signature Hot Chicken spice that you can bring home to your own kitchen.


Looking for a way to explore the best food in Nashville? Walk Eat Nashville walking food tours make it easy — covering East Nashville, Midtown and SoBro/Downtown, each tour includes tastings at multiple restaurants/shops and behind-the-scenes interactions with chefs and owners. Learn more about Walk Eat Nashville food tours.

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