Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack, Nashville, Tenn.

Whoever said revenge is a dish best served cold has clearly never been to Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack in Nashville, where revenge is anything but cold. Here, revenge is served hot, hotter and hottest, because one woman’s desire for revenge started a Nashville tradition that continues to this day.

Prince’s story is the story of a man named Thornton Prince, who was a proud womanizer. Affairs were simply a way of life or him, and one day, the woman he was dating while having those affairs on the side decided that she was sick of him cheating on her. So one day after Prince had come home late from seeing one of his mistresses, his girlfriend decided to get revenge on him by putting way too much heat on his chicken, using extra peppers and spices (not sauce) to light his mouth on fire.

However, her plan backfired because Prince apparently had a taste for heat and loved the chicken so much he started serving it in his restaurant, which became Prince’s Hot Chicken and spawned several imitators throughout Music City. Hot chicken became Nashville’s way of eating the bird.

Going to the original takes a bit of bravery nowadays, because its location in north Nashville is notorious as one of the seediest sections of the city. Prince’s is in a badly run-down strip mall and has the reputation of not being a place you want to be at night. The restaurant itself is not exactly good at decorating, and its off-white walls and tables give it the look of a place that was built two weeks ago, not decades ago. Plus, leave your plastic at home. Prince’s only takes dead presidents (cash).

Doesn’t matter, because the chicken is worth it. Prince’s offers quarters, half (2 pieces) and whole (4 pieces) chickens, all served on white bread with pickles. Where the order differences is the level of spice you want. Prince’s packs the heat in four varieties: mild, medium, hot and extra hot.

A word of caution here: If you have low tolerance for heat, as I admittedly do, do not even think of ordering anything but mild. First, there’s nothing mild about this chicken. Prince’s mild is roughly what a normal restaurant would label hot. After two bites of chicken, it honestly felt like I had licked a sparkplug. My lips were on fire, I was thankful I had purchased a soda and any sinuses I might have had were a thing of the past.

So why did I keep eating? Because this chicken is that good. Once you get inside the ridiculous spice, you discover a juicy, meaty bird that is cooked to absolute perfection. The spice does not actually touch the meat, so what you taste instead of heat there is chicken bliss. Even when you have the heat involved, the chicken still tastes wonderful. The flavors work so well that you don’t even mind that your mouth is literally going through the torture chamber.

And that’s just mild. I have no idea what medium, hot or extra-hot taste like, and I don’t particularly wish to find out. I can only imagine that extra hot uses ghost chilis or something insane like that after my brush with the mild. One word about the bread they give you: do not think it is relief from the heat. They lay the chicken on top of the bread, which means the bread soaks up all that spice from the chicken. That means, you guessed it, the bread is just as spicy as the bird. It might be wise to invest in two sodas.

Prince’s might be in one of the worst neighborhoods in Nashville. It might have nothing in the way of ambience and it certainly makes your mouth wonder what the hell you are doing to it with the intense heat of the chicken. But it’s absolutely worth making another visit, and I’m going to have to if I’m ever in Nashville again.

The thing about Prince’s is, it hurts so good.

Recap

Time to go: Lunch. I would not go too late, because of its location. Prince’s has been known to be a site where panhandlers and drug dealers are not uncommon. If you’re willing to risk it, it’s open until 4 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Prince’s is not open on Sunday or Monday.

Wait during my visit: Minimal, but I called ahead. It can take about 30 minutes to prepare your order, and you’re not in a good part of town anyway, so I recommend calling ahead, getting what you need and getting out.

Location: Prince’s can be found at 123 Ewing Drive in north Nashville.

Cost: You can easily get out for under $10 a person.

Parking: They’ve got some here.

Website: None.

Specialty items: Hot chicken

Prince's Hot Chicken Shack on Urbanspoon

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About nighthawk2005

A hungry guy in the land of the Hawkeye discovers America's best restaurants for himself.

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