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Two Hot Chickens and a Hot Curry

New York Hot Chicken

At the end of May, we took a trip to New York. A few months before, a friend sent me this recipe for the hot chicken at Peaches Hothouse, a place in Brooklyn. We added the restaurant to our New York To Do list and headed there on a Friday night. 

We ordered the hottest level of chicken. It looked more like regular fried chicken than the usual hot-chicken shade of dark red. I judge hot food by the number of beers I drink during the meal. Hattie B’s painfully hot chicken usually requires two beers. By the end of our meal at Peaches, I was still drinking the same beer. The chicken was tasty, and there was a heat that built up gradually. But instead of a table-banging, nose-sweat-inducing heat, this heat was manageable. I wouldn’t call it Nashville-style, though. Maybe spicy chicken. I would eat it again. 

New York Hot Curry 

The next day, another friend mentioned an Indian place that offers a hot curry challenge and a certificate if you finish your food. She really likes certificates, and I really like challenging myself with hot food, so we decided we should eat hot curry for dinner. 

Four people from our five-person party took on the "Phaal Challenge" at Brick Lane Curry House. We had to sign waivers saying we realized we were silly and would not hold the establishment responsible for any physical or psychological pain (I’m paraphrasing). When the food arrived, our waiter let us know we had 30 minutes to finish. 

Photo by Lauren Reid

Photo by Lauren Reid

I do not recommend trying this hot curry at all. Not only is it painfully hot, it’s bad. Curry is typically delicious. This “curry” can only be called that because it seems to be a blend of every hot pepper around. It was hot peppers and nothing else. I finished it with the help of two big beers. I got the certificate, but that was a wildly unpleasant experience. 

(If this was a piece for Upworthy, the headline would be: I completed the Phaal Challenge. You’ll never guess what happened next). 

If you decide to destroy your innards with this curry, my hot tip (pun intended) is to eat as little rice as possible. It only takes up stomach realty needed for more bad curry. 

Boston Hot Chicken

One of the 31 things I said I would miss about Louisville was its proximity to Nashville and hot chicken. While writing that post, I found a place that does hot chicken near MIT. Last night, we decided to see if their “Nashville-style” hot chicken was really Nashville, or New York.

Two things: 

1. We visited State Park’s sister restaurant, Hungry Mother, this weekend to pick up some pimento cheese for an event. We told the gentleman who assisted us that we wanted to try State Park’s hot chicken.

“I will never eat that chicken,” he said. 

2. When we ordered, our waiter asked me, “Have you ever had the chicken prepared that way?” 

“Yes, in Nashville.” 

“Great. That’s the best answer I’ve ever had to that question.” (I didn’t ask him how long he’d worked there). 

The chicken came on a slice of white bread with a few pickles on the side. It was dark red. It was hot — but not esophagus-burning, ear-popping hot. Hotter than Peaches, not as hot as Hattie B’s. It reminded me of the first hot chicken we ever had, from Bolton’s. I only needed one beer, but I think the one-beer level is the level for me. State Park, your hot chicken is perfect. We will be back.  

31 Days of Louisville Love: Proximity to Hot Chicken

This is another post that's kind of a cheat. Loving a city for its proximity to another city? Yeah, I know. Then again, one of the things I loved about living in Houston was its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico. So perhaps it's not so ridiculous that one of the reasons I love Louisville is that I can get to Nashville, eat some hot chicken, and get back home in a day. 


We've actually only done this once, and the purpose of the trip was not hot chicken. In fact, no visit to Nashville has been solely hot chicken-driven. It's always an added bonus (or, in the case of our last trip, in which I stayed inside our rental and worked and Gabe went to a meeting, the best part). But if we wanted to drive down for the Hot Chicken Festival, we could be there in two and a half hours. 

I'll look for hot chicken in Boston (it looks like there's some close to us in Cambridge). I tried some in New York, and it was good, but it wasn't hot. Nashville-style hot chicken seems to be best in Nashville, and I will miss having an easy drive there.  

Hot Chicken, Round 3

"An immediate onset of hiccups.

Throat coated, feels like it might close? 

Stomach feels like it’s going to be punched through (from the inside).

Nose sweating.

Eardrums feel like popping." 

These are notes from our most recent hot chicken foray in Nashville, again at Hattie B’s. After last summer's tango with the restaurant’s "Damn Hot" heat level left me feeling as though I’d burned off a layer of my esophagus, I thought it wise to back down. Unfortunately, I got confused and now realize that I thought we got the highest heat level ("Shut the Cluck Up") last time. So our attempts to scale back failed, and we actually just ordered the "Damn Hot" again. While I'm heartened by the realization that all those feelings weren't caused by the mere "Hot!" chicken, I’m also doubting the possibility (or just my ability) to “eat through” the heat. 

The first time we had hot chicken, it hurt. Then the burn subsided, and in my memory, my taste buds and other senses opened. Everything was clearer. After two times of only painful heat at Hattie B’s, I’m starting to think the first time, I just ate all the spicy skin and the rest of the food was less hot. My husband swears "eating through” is a real thing and has experienced it with spicy duck in Las Vegas.  

I like feeling like my food is going to punch through my stomach. When I ask for extra-spicy, most restaurants disappoint. Hot chicken never does. Still, when that food keeps burning a hole in my stomach four hours later, it’s too much. So next time, Hattie B’s, I’ll take it “Hot!” (really, this time). Or maybe I’ll revisit Bolton’s. 

Are you a hot chicken fan? What’s your favorite hot chicken place in Nashville?  

#FriFotos - Road Trip (and Hot Chicken, Round 2)

I'm rarely enthusiastic about the from-the-car photos I take on road trips. This one from last weekend's jaunt down to Nashville is no different. I want to share it because in the first seconds I saw this truck, I thought (hoped) it was actually a truck full of coffee. 

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Now that we've discovered hot chicken, no trip to Nashville will be complete without it. This time, we visited Hattie B's, near Vanderbilt. Hattie B's is a little fancier than Bolton's, but you still order at a counter and sit at picnic tables. They also have beer.  

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Since I survived the "hot" at Bolton's on our last visit, I thought I should see how I would handle the hottest chicken, the Damn Hot. I was nervous, and rightly so. That first bite was deceptive. I even thought Hattie B's might be faking it. When the server came around with a second dish of potato salad, her warning of, "It's a slow build," was too late. I was already there. And I never really crossed over to a place where I wasn't looking for something to eat that would ease the burn. I ate most of our four sides (pimento mac 'n' cheese!) and drank two beers in about 15 minutes. The chicken was delicious, and I ate half of Gabe's even though I said I was done before mine was gone. But when you feel like you've removed a layer of esophageal tissue, it's too hot. No more Damn Hot chicken for me. 

The Other Side of Spicy

"…hot chicken is a unique brand of fried chicken that's highly seasoned, some would say to incendiary proportions."

I was intrigued by the special "Hot Chicken" section in our Nashville guide book. When our friend saw it and also expressed interest, we had our dinner plans. 

The guide book recommended a hot chicken place near us, Bolton's (the only spot that also does hot fish, according to the fifth edition of Insiders' Guide Nashville). We ordered through the window -- medium spicy wings to share, and various levels of spice from medium to "as hot as you can make it" on our individual orders of quarters and legs. The guy in line behind us overheard our friend order his chicken "hot" and said, "Oh… you don't want hot." 


Now. I love spicy food. I grew up in Texas, and Picante commercials taught me that my home state knew salsa (and to me, salsa means heat, or don't bother). My dad ate Tabasco on everything, and my mom made him (and later me) homegrown Scotch Bonnet-Habañero relish. I like it hot and am stupid about it. So yes, I do want it hot. 

I volunteered my Texan origins to this wise gentleman, which convinced him that I'd be "good." I'm glad others will so easily join in my delusion. 

Bolton's waiting-and-dining area has four tables and hardly enough room for the crowd that gathered, so everyone overheard our order. They were eager to witness our first hot chicken experience (I think they just wanted to see if we'd cry), but we got our chicken to go. On the patio of our weekend home, we spread out our boxes, napkins and beers. The chicken comes with slices of white bread and two sides. These, I suppose, are to ease the burn. 


I started with the medium-hot wings and knew I was in trouble, Texas roots and all. Next to me, our friend drank his beer and announced he was burning. I was officially concerned about my hot chicken leg and knew I would not try my husband's "hot as you can make it" chicken. We soldiered on, tongues and stomachs burning, gulping beer and sides -- mac and cheese, greens, baked beans, slaw -- fists clenched, "experiencing THINGS."

And then it happened. My husband knows this feeling, and though I believed him, I had a hard time imagining it. But it happened. We passed to the other side of spicy. I could still feel the heat in my stomach, but slowly, the pain was gone. And I felt… good? I really did experience things and was able to eat the rest of my meal without feeling like a cartoon of a guy eating a hot pepper. 

If you're headed to Nashville and want to experience your own spicy feelings, in addition to Bolton's, 400 Degrees, Prince's (here's a great video about them), and Hattie B's were recommended to us. There's also a Hot Chicken Festival in July. I will be looking for something comparable in Louisville, and I welcome tips -- not just for chicken, but any really spicy food. Have you ever traveled to the other side of hot?