Nashville Restaurants and Food
Bolton’s Spicy Chicken and Fish
624 Main Street
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.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Nashville Restaurants and Food