Saturday, July 5, 2008

Music City Hot Chicken Festival

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Music City Hot Chicken Festival
East Park
Nashville

The crispy skin, the tang of the first spice on your tongue, the heat building with the next bite, the moist white meat and a bit of juice dribbling down your chin, your fingers start to burn a little and then the lips tingle and start to go numb. It’s Hot Chicken, the pride of Nashville, and it’s nice to see the festival that celebrates the Music City specialty is growing.

East Park in East Nashville made a fine location once again for this July 4th fun. We arrived right at noon to find the free sample line already stretching for a couple of blocks. Luckily the expansion has brought new options. Prince's, Bolton’s and 400 Degrees Hot Chicken joints all had tents and trailers set up to sell their creations this year. While the free samples are a great idea, it’s obvious that this fest needs to grow to accommodate the crowd, which was several hundred even at Noon, the very minute the fest was supposed to be starting.

The amateur cooking contest looked fun. From what I could tell the contestants were laying on the heat, big time. I offer myself to organizers as a judge next year. Just part of my civic duty. Actually they used the experts: the chef's who make Hot Chicken a reality.






Beer! Beer! And even better: Yazoo Beer! Kudos to the organizers for adding the Yazoo beer tent this year. Beer and Hot Chicken go well together, even if beer isn’t the best beverage for drenching the heat. I think beer really sends a festival to a whole new level. Between beer and the ability to buy chicken, the Hot Chicken Fest has become a real destination where you can stay awhile and enjoy the music. We hope they continue to expand next year, perhaps giving Yazoo more space for the crowd. Also considering the Prince’s line to buy Hot Chicken was probably a hundred people or so, perhaps it’s time for these restaurants to assemble a small army to meet the demand? I foresee Hot Chicken-Roo in the near future, hopefully without the bad dancing. One final idea. I know it's a Hot Chicken festival, but perhaps something more for the vegetarians and non-meat eaters who happen to accompany Hot Chicken eaters? I don't know how this would work into the theme but it would be nice. I bet someone could whip up a really good Hot Quorn sandwich or blow your mouth up Boca fake chicken wrap.


The Chicken Shack
225 N. Rutherford Blvd.
Murfreesboro
615-890-0494

The Chicken Shack is a Murfreesboro restaurant that set up shop for this year’s fest. They served up hot chicken wings in a couple of different flavors. I don’t make it down to Murfreesboro as much as I’d like to, so this was a good chance to sample. There was a bit of chaos as they tried to get revved up for the line that was already developing. I asked what medium would work out to be and they suggested the Smack Ya Mama Cajun. The wings are traditional Hot Chicken style: fried, with spice built into the batter and then added again when coming out of the fryer. The chicken was well cooked to a medium fry. The spice blend jumped right out, but with more of a salty, peppery flavor than true heat. Tasty, but not really what I’d call Hot Chicken. I kicked myself for not going with the hot wings. It’s always hard to tell, because everyone has their own heat scale. Hot at Prince’s will blow your mouth off and medium is a nice tasty burn. The same is basically true at Bolton’s.
The Chicken Shack serves up plain chicken wings, lemon, hot and what they call Iron Mike. The restaurant menu features good old fashion fried chicken, catfish, whitefish, shrimp and a few sandwiches and salads.
I spent $5 for 6 reasonably large and meaty wings.

7 comments:

S for Kitchen Confit said...

I couldn't make it to the Hot Chicken festival this year as I had people over for the 4th at the same time. But it looks like the festival is getting bigger, which is good.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your opinion of The Chicken Shack. That was me 'the bouncer' at the Beer tent and by the time I got through with my stint as bouncer, I was starving but not wanting to stand in the line for Prince's or Bolton's. So I thought I would give it a try and hoped that there was some tie to the original Chicken Shack that Prince's was sprung from. Plus I can always go see Miss Dolly at Bolton's and Andre at Prince's and not wait in those lines.

Smack Your Momma was nice but they were tossing them all in the same container so my batch had quite a bit of the lemon pepper with just a little heat. Nice but nothing to write home about.

I agree with you that they are going to have to figure out the production end of things to make this work long term because people will only wait in those lines so long before they stop coming back. Thought it's not the optimum, I think some hot boxes would help them get ahead of the crowd.

Other food options would be a big plus - some sides, roasted corn, Tommy Boy Sausages, etc. would be very nice.

People were happy to see the beer tent but unhappy they couldn't leave it with their beers. We can thank beer laws for that. A beer tent twice that size next year would be a plus and they need good signage before you get in the beer line with the rules - 21 and older only - must get armband prior to entry, no kids, must stay within the tent to consume your beer. Moving the armbanding out a little and moving the beer ticket sales outside the tent would help and give a little more crowd control and space for drinking. The other thing folks were used to was the beer not being ice cold. I wasn't a beer drinker until I discovered Yazoo and drank it at the right temp, not too cold. I didn't have any at the festival so I don't know if it was at the right temp or had gotten a little warm but I did hear quite a few complaints about that part.

Overall, it's a great festival and I want to see it get bigger and better.

Eric and Katie said...

yes, confit, bigger and better to be sure, but as anon points out something must be done about the lines. Hot Chicken places do seem dead set against letting that chicken sit, which is great for us and well worth the wait at the Prince's restaurant location. There must be some way though to speed up the process at the festival though...probably with a bunch more fryers and more folks doing the work. I can understand there will always be the mass quantity versus quality problem with a fest like this. How did the folks who had Prince's and Bolton's at the Fest feel about the quality this year?

logan said...

I tried Bolton's chicken and downed both of my skewers rather quickly. The chicken itself was cooked well and certainly fresh, but to me lacked a bit in flavor. I asked for spicy and as far as I could tell got a simple dry seasoning after the fact that had little punch. I've never had Bolton's before so I don't know how similar this was to what you get on a normal visit, but I was hoping for something with more bite. The wait was getting a bit out of hand as I didn't move an inch for a good fifteen minutes, but overall I didn't mind too much. I skipped on Prince's since I've experienced it before and the line was...long. But my tastings at 400 degrees were worthwile. My girlfriend got the buffalo tenders from Otter's, which I thought were pretty poor quality. Soggy, less than warm, and typical buffalo style. The beer was a welcome addition, but I was less than pleased to be corralled in after greasily demolishing my short supply of napkins. Free water and watermelon...very nice. Karl Dean in shorts...hotter than Prince's and 400 degrees combined.

Eric and Katie said...

logan...That doesn't sound like the usual Bolton's. When I get medium it has a nice burn and a ton of flavor. I kinda worried that the huge crowds would hurt the quality some...I hope this isn't the case. Nice to hear that the new Mayor supports hot chicken...Purcell can consider the torch passed and happily move on to Harvard. How long before he convinces someone in Cambridge to do the hot chicken thing?

Linus said...

Thanks for the feedback on the beer tent. It was the first year for beer, and we had to work around metro beer laws. I hope we can have a much bigger tent next year! We were proud and happy to be a part of what should turn into a Nashville tradition.

Eric and Katie said...

Good news...thanks Linus. And hey, keep us in touch with any upcoming Yazoo events. We'll pass them along to our readers. We enjoy supporting the hometown brew.