Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Bolton’s Spicy Chicken and Fish

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Bolton’s Spicy Chicken and Fish
624 Main Street
East Nashville

Bolton’s is the definition of a chicken and fish shack and a Nashville institution that I always enjoy, no matter how weird it gets. It’s basically a takeout joint with a hastily added little dining room, which is really just four patio tables with mismatched plastic table cloths. It kinda smelled on my latest visit, but they made up for the odor with the down home spirit which always rises above whatever the current challenge. Someone sticks their head out into the dining room to ask me what I want to eat. I ask for a reminder of the menu again…really just trying to figure out how much chicken I want to order. He’s happy enough to discuss it all and finally we settle on my order.

Bolton’s is known for the hot fish and it is a truly great, spicy sandwich. I often find myself drawn, though, for the hot chicken. It’s fiery, flavorful and one of the best in town. Bolton Matthews got the recipe from his uncle who reportedly schooled him in exactly how it should be prepared. Along the way Bolton’s has been written up in everything from Gourmet to Southern Living.

The menu is simple enough to recite from memory. Hot chicken comes in a breast quarter, leg quarter, wings or on a stick. The fish is whiting, catfish and grouper. I haven’t had the chicken on a stick yet or the grouper, but everything in good time. The sides are surprisingly good for a place where chicken and fish are truly king and queen. The Mac and Cheese is quite peppery with what looks like a roux based sauce. Not your usual Mac and Cheese and one of the better versions in Nashville. Slaw and the potato salad have a vinegar tang. Bolton’s also serves up a number of bean varieties each day. I need to get back for the barbecue one of these days. They have ribs, pork chops and shoulder sandwiches. I have tried the barbecue spaghetti, which is good and rather spicy.

The fellow comes sticks his head out again with a somber look. They have just fired up the fryer and it’s acting up. He wants to make sure he gets it right for my chicken, so it will take a couple more minutes. It’s that kind of friendly atmosphere that makes Bolton’s fun. You feel like you are visiting family. I’ve been there when they are cracking up regular customers with jokes. I’ve also seen a pitch battle develop with a woman who just couldn’t figure out what she wanted to eat. I wouldn’t call the Bolton’s dining experience relaxing, just always interesting.

The chicken finally comes out, still bubbling from the fryer. They warn me about the physical heat and I also prepare for the Scoville heat. The Bolton’s medium is much more manageable than the Prince’s medium, but it is still hot. The chicken breast quarter is huge and perfectly fried. You can smell the spicy fry even before you taste it. The solid, hot kick of the skin is offset by the moist white meat. The white bread they serve alongside is essential for sopping up the juice and cutting the heat. The flavor is full and satisfying no matter what the heat level. I usually stick to medium to make sure I can still taste that wonderful flavor. It all makes for a fantastic lunch and a truly original Nashville feast in one of the funkiest little chicken shacks in the city.

My total with tax, tip and plenty of water was $9.
Bolton's Spicy Chicken & Fish on Urbanspoon


Lannae said...

What are the wings like at Bolton's? I love hot wings. I don't recall what the wings were like at the hot chicken festival (I was too busy finding water after tastings all the hot chicken :)).

Eric and Katie said...

The only time I've had the Bolton's wings was at the festival. I thought they were pretty good...lots of heat, but plenty of flavor. I think the overall style of Bolton's hot chicken reminds me of Prince's: complex spice and tons of flavor combined with a real punch if you want it. 400 degree is more tabasco based. Hey when are you going to start posting Beligium?

Natalie said...

I have not yet partaken in this "hot chicken" local cuisine. My husband will probably fall over from excitement if I suggest it as friend things aren't usually my thing, but add some hot sauce and I might be game. Put chicken on a stick to boot...I am so there!

Eric and Katie said...

Natalie: I was a hot chicken skeptic at first. I figured it was just hot sauce on chicken...but there is so much more flavor there, especially at Prince's and Bolton's. Let us know what you guys think if you go on a hot chicken run soon!

Steve said...

Several of my friends and myself found ourselves looking for a chicken place in downtown nashville before a titans game when we stumbled upon Boltons. Some where a little skeptical given the condition of the building, but something told me this is where it was at!! To make a long story short all 8 of us ended up agreeing that Boltons spicy chicken was one of the best if not THE best chicken we've ever had. EVER! And dont forget to get the turnip greens!