Oct 5, 2016

Most like it hot at Bolton’s Spicy Chicken & Fish

If you’re a foodie who plans on spending any time visiting Nashville, Tenn., chances are strong that you’ll eventually have to make a choice for where to try hot chicken. I know I tried my share of hot chicken places while I was working there last winter, including the one where it all started.  But if you want my favorite, Bolton’s Spicy Chicken & Fish gets my vote.

The original Bolton’s location (and really, why would you want to go to any other?) is the type of place you might easily overlook if you’re not seeking it out.  Still, it’s getting more and more popular as a destination.  Case in point:  Bolton’s was the hot chicken of choice of Anthony Bourdain in a recent episode of “Parts Unknown.”  So, if you want to get on the bandwagon, head down Main Street toward the increasingly trendy Nashville East neighborhood.  In just a few blocks you’ll hopefully see this on the right …

That’s your cue to pull into the parking lot and go to the building in the back.

This one.

The menu is pretty simple … straight up soul food with a kick.  And ordering is easy.  Just step right up and be ready to tell whoever is behind the counter what you want.  Be sure to specify whether you want your chicken mild, medium or hot.  But be aware hot is probably hotter than most things you’ve ever eaten.  

Once you’ve made a decision on heat level that could potentially stay with you for some time (the look on the staff’s face will clue you in on if they think you can handle it), your ticket will go immediately in front of the cook … if you peek through you can see them working the fryers.  

Bolton’s has a steady carry-out business, but I’d just as soon eat in.  It’s interesting to see the odd blend of neighborhood locals and slightly confused tourists out of their element.  Just be prepared to give your order some time.  Chances are they are cooking it fresh with each order.  

The exception to this rule would be if you’ve reconsidered whether you can handle the spice level you’ve ordered.  Then I suggest you take your order to go, like I did with my first experience at Bolton’s (actually, they delivered it to go without me asking … I think they expected me to wilt under pressure).

This is just part of the chicken portion of the wing plate I ordered.  It came with six whole wings, sufficiently dusted with spicy magic at the “medium” level.  The chicken itself was certainly hot, but just as juicy and crispy.  The heat lingers, but at least at medium spice it doesn’t overpower.  And that’s a good thing, because on its own Bolton’s chicken is some of the better fried chicken I’ve ever had.  

Like all plates at Bolton’s, this one came with two “southern-style” sides.  When I saw spaghetti as an option, I couldn’t resist getting it.  And I was glad I did.  Nothing unusual about it, but a nice meat sauce with a slightly sweet taste -- a good complement to the heat of the meat.  

I also couldn’t resist the turnip greens as my second side.  Slowly simmered for who knows how long, these greens are dripping with vinegar and seasoned pot liquor.  You even get a packet of hot sauce if you still don’t have enough heat with your meal.  

The ranch dressing, of course, is for the wings.  The bread is for mopping up the spice and grease that you’ll find underneath all of the chicken.  Yes, you really should do this.

I have the feeling Bolton’s will be a regular stop on my trips to Nashville.  I took Punky there on our way through during our honeymoon roadtrip, and she was just as delighted.  My only dilemma will be whether I can skip the chicken next time, so I can try the fish instead.  

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