Sunday, January 9, 2011
2821 Gallatin Pike
Jumping into the Nashville hot chicken business takes some guts. Prince’s continues to dominate the hot chicken scene, which forces the newcomers to put a different spin on the Nashville favorite. For those not familiar, hot chicken is spicy fried chicken. The key to Nashville hot chicken is the way you put that spice on the bird. It is often breaded, pan or deep fried, and then covered in a spicy lard sauce. But it can be breaded and covered in the hot sauce paste first and then fried. While cayenne and other peppers dominate, additional spices can be important for a depth of flavor. This is where Pepperfire stands out- they have a unique blend of spices that is well worth tasting at any heat level.
Let’s talk about that heat level first. With hot chicken, depending on your preference and heat tolerance, the level of heat can be the difference between an enjoyable meal and an eye watering trip to heartburn hell. Pepperfire comes in on the milder side of the scale. It has been said before, and I would agree, that Pepperfire hot is a Prince’s medium. That given, the levels at Pepperfire run mild, medium, hot, x hot and xx hot. So, if you want to give your taste buds a flaming workout xx hot would probably do some damage. The hot offers a pleasant and manageable burn and is a fine place to start. Now, I also suggest sampling the mild at Pepperfire at some point, because it is at this level that you can truly appreciate those interesting spices. The complex combination is almost Hungarian in style. The mild level jumbo hot wings have a great depth of flavor. You really don’t need the ranch dressing on the side. The wings themselves are meaty, juicy and a good way to get your hot chicken fix on the go. The more traditional breast quarter at hot is sweat inducing enjoyment combined with expertly cooked juicy chicken. In traditional form, it’s served on top of white bread, which is always interesting because you can see the depth of color in that sauce as it seeps into the bread. It’s a quality piece of hot chicken. There is no doubt that Pepperfire is here to compete.
The menu is blissfully simple: quarter, leg, wings or tenders for the chicken. The usual sides round out the orders. The Fried Peppercheese is the only other main menu item and it is a must-do. The Pepperfire take on grilled cheese sports cake-like bread, stuffed with cheese and then battered. A drop in the fryer produces a sinful combination of sweet decadence. It’s gooey, crisp, just a little spicy and very much like fair food. And at just $3 a shot the Fried Peppercheese may be one of the better, cheap sandwiches in town.
Owner Isaac Beard and his staff clearly like what they are doing. You’ll get a smile and plenty of heat advice if you need it. They’ve added a covered patio to the take-out stand, with a couple of plastic tables and a picnic bench. It’s pretty noisy on Gallatin Pike, but in nice weather it’s not a bad place to hang out and eat your chicken. In the winter be prepared to get things to go. There will be a short wait for your bird to be prepared, usually about 10-15 minutes, as everything is cooked to order.
A focused attention to the main product seems to be the key to Pepperfire’s success. They’re not trying to cover the entire gamut of Southern cuisine. They do one thing and they do it right. I’ll be back.
I paid $5.50 with tax for a breast quarter on one visit and $12 in total for the order of jumbo hot wings and the Fried Peppercheese on another visit.