leave your inhibitions at the door
When did Nashville Chicken become a thing?
OK, let’s back up. Nashville Chicken or “hot chicken” is fried chicken topped with a spicy Cayenne-based sauce on top of it. The sauce is a little thicker than Buffalo wing sauce, more like a paste. It’s then served on a slice of white bread with a couple pickle chips on top. So let’s see – fried chicken, hot sauce… I’m in.
I’ve never actually been to Nashville, but would like to check it out, mainly for the chicken. Sure it’s the music capital of the country and that really should be up my alley, right? Wrong. I’m thinking that 95% of that music is either Country or Western, which would only appeal to me if I could see the first Hank Williams in concert. Unfortunately, he’s fairly dead right now. But please let me know if I’m wrong – about the music scene, not Hank Williams being gone.
A couple weeks ago, I was with a couple buddies on a golf trip. On the way home we were starving and the only thing available to us along the highway was a combination Taco Bell and KFC. After much deliberation, we decided that it’s better than no food at all. (OK, I lied – KFC and Taco Bell? Hell yeah!!)
I noticed that KFC was now selling Nashville Chicken and I was faced with a dilemma – do I try the Nashville Chicken or go with my trusty standby of a delectable Burrito Supreme and a couple tacos? (OK, I lied again – it wasn’t a dilemma. I ordered all of it.)
I’ve had reasonable facsimiles to Nashville Chicken before. In Chicago, there are dozens of Harold’s Chicken Shacks, mostly on the South Side. The ones I’ve been to were in the worst possible neighborhoods and the employees were behind bulletproof glass. Their chicken is fantastic, but the sauce is just regular hot sauce. Here in Ann Arbor, I’m in love with Seoul Street’s Korean-style chicken –
But that’s a little different.
A few months ago, I saw that Frank Fejeran was starting up Dirty Bird Fried Chicken, a pop-up every Sunday night at The Bar at 327 Braun Court. Frank is easily one of the best chefs in town, having had experience at two of the country’s great fine dining restaurants – Alinea (Chicago) and Tribute (Detroit). He started ricewood last year, a food truck serving Guam-style barbecue rice bowls. It’s still some of the best barbecue I’ve ever had – anywhere.
So it was a no-brainer that I would have to try Dirty Bird.
Me being the wishy-washy, indecisive glutton that I am – see Taco Bell/KFC experience above – I couldn’t decide what to have as a side dish. The biscuit donut sounded too good to pass up, but I knew I should probably order the chickpea salad in order to have some kind of vegetable and fiber. Just like that other meal, it really wasn’t much of a decision. I ordered both.
The chicken itself was pretty damn good. The skin was super crispy and the meat itself was very juicy. One of my biggest pet peeves is ordering something hot and it comes with the spice level of prunes. The sauce here was hot. Really hot. While I loved the spiciness, it was a little too much for a couple of my dining companions.. The only other option was to have no sauce at all, but then that’s not really Nashville Chicken. Maybe it’d be best if they added a milder version of the sauce
for the weaklings as an option.
But as good as the chicken was, that biscuit donut was a damn miracle.
It’s exactly what it sounds like – a fluffy, buttery, buttermilk biscuit shaped like a donut. AND GLAZED. That’s combining one of the best side dishes ever (buttermilk biscuits) with one of the best sweet treats ever (donuts). I could seriously murder a dozen of those in one sitting.
Word is that they’re looking to graduate from a pop-up to an actual brick and mortar restaurant. When that happens, you can count on me being there. What you can’t count on is my saving you any biscuit donuts.
Have you ever been to Nashville? Is Hot Chicken a thing where you are?