Political and musical luminaries weigh in on hot chicken 

Gut Reactions

Gut Reactions

Nashville Mayor Karl Dean:

My predecessor Mayor Purcell played a big role in elevating the stature of hot chicken as a uniquely Nashville food. The Hot Chicken Festival, which I've attended the last several years, is a great event that I'm sure will continue to grow.

Bill introduced me to hot chicken and took me to Prince's. I do not have his iron constitution when it comes to spicy food, but I think if you're going to eat it, you have to go for the full experience.

Yo La Tengo guitarist/vocalist Ira Kaplan:

Generally, I order hot, although I've downgraded to medium when I'm feeling squeamish. Have never eaten at any other hot chicken purveyor other than Prince's — why would I? The first time we went there, James [McNew, YLT bassist] and I drove out. Not yet understanding what we were getting into, our inquiries resulted in being informed that the chicken came in mild, medium, hot and extra-hot, but that we could not have extra-hot. Could we at least try the sauce, to see what it's like, we asked. No sauce. We went with hot, and it took me four excruciatingly delicious, psychedelic days to eat my half chicken. Have occasionally wondered what extra-hot tastes like, much as I've mused on what it would be like to walk on the moon.

Country singer Lorrie Morgan, who owned Whites Creek restaurant Hotchickens.com for several years:

I first had hot chicken when I was about 5 years old and my dad brought it home from the Grand Ole Opry one night, back when the Opry was at the Ryman. My dad literally followed his nose one night to Bolton Polk's Chicken Shack down on Charlotte. It was just a little Breeko Block building. My dad walked inside, and back then the white people had to eat in back in a little room. We didn't care — we loved it. And Bolton Polk became a really good friend of my dad's. Dad just kind of started experimenting with the taste and the spices and the chicken and we all grew up loving it. It's been a family staple of ours for years.

I do love Prince's chicken, but my favorite is 400 Degrees. I've never had a bad piece, I've never had a dry piece, it's made to order right when you call, and Aqui [Simpson] really cares about the quality of her food.

I'm definitely opening up again. I've been looking for a restaurant location here in Nashville. I'm looking for the place as we speak. I'm hoping it's going to be right downtown.

Former Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell:

Glad to know the Scene have taken on this most important project. Hot chicken is, of course, Nashville's own — our indigenous food. It began here, and there is no place else that has anything as good. One of my final acts as majority leader in the Tennessee House in 1996 was to proclaim Prince's as the Best Restaurant in Tennessee. As Mayor I began the Hot Chicken Festival, which has drawn hundreds of hot chicken lovers to East Park on the Fourth of July the last four years.

At Prince's, I order the hot chicken and recommend that to others. I do not recommend extra hot. (See Tom Parker Bowles' The Year of Eating Dangerously.) If you want mild I would look for a mild chicken shack, though I have never run across one. At a hot chicken shack you should have hot chicken. John Bridges may have written on this more recently. If he has not I expect that he will get to it one of these days.

It is really not possible to describe or explain Prince's. It is sui generis. The best you can hope to do is show people the way, explain it will change their lives for the better, and do your best to get there before your story runs. In the interest of health you should eat there once a week.

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