Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Bolton's Spicy Chicken & Fish - Nashville

Before I left Nashville, I had a few things planned. First was to eat breakfast at the Pancake Pantry. Second was to make a stop at the local Whole Foods. The third and final stop was at Bolton’s Spicy Chicken and Fish. As far as I can tell, there are two main hot chicken places in Nashville, the towering behemoth that is Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack and the lesser known Bolton’s Spicy Chicken and Fish. Since I had thoroughly sampled the offerings at Prince’s on my first pass through Nashville, I decided I should give Bolton’s a try and see how the two compare.

People have complained about the lack of parking at Bolton’s.
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I’ll admit there wasn’t a lot of parking available, but there was enough for me to choose from at 11 in the morning. Walking inside, it really does feel like the dining room was an afterthought addition to the kitchen, but there was an open table and that was good enough for me.

Having made the mistake of not ordering dark meat for both the medium and hot at Prince’s, I was bound and determined not to repeat that mistake. As a result, I once again went overboard with my ordering. After ordering a leg quarter mild, a leg quarter hot, a hot whiting sandwich, and a hot chicken on a stick, I felt like I was going to try the bulk of Bolton’s menu.

First up was the fish sandwich, and this was the one that John T. Edge wrote about in both “Southern Belly” and his 100 Must Try Southern Foods list for Garden & Gun magazine.
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My first thought was that calling this a sandwich is an ambitious term. I actually tried to pick it up and eat it like a proper sandwich but it was simply too big to handle.
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With two huge whiting filets that were fried perfectly, I could really focus on the big vinegar front and the hot trailing cayenne heat.
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You can see just how much spice mixture was on that fish along with mustard, pickles, and onions. This was a monster sandwich with a lot of heat and it was delicious.

Moving on to the chicken, I started with the mild leg quarter.
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I love the use of white bread, but I’m not really sure why it was served like a sandwich.
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With pickles under the top slice of bread, it only reinforced the sandwich idea.
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Presentation aside, this was an excellent piece of chicken. The skin was perfectly crisp and very well seasoned. Fortunately with each bite, the flavor of the chicken came first but it was quickly followed by a wave of vinegar and heat. This wasn’t an unbearably hot piece of chicken; it was just a little pungent and pleasantly tasty.

Things began to change with the hot leg quarter.
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The meat was still juicy, the skin still crisp, but the heat was surprising.
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At Bolton’s the hot is very similar to the medium at Prince’s. More like a step between mild and medium, this piece of hot chicken wasn’t overpowering but it had a real presence.
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Of course the bread was another story. This piece wasn’t inundated with chicken juices like at Prince's, but this slice of white bread was still full of distilled spice that rears up and gives you a cheap shot to the jaw.

Just because I can’t resist fried food that is served on a stick, I also tried the chicken on a stick.
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This may look like a mild mannered stick of fried chicken but I soon discovered that it was liable to burst into flames at a moment’s notice.
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That deep red color, like the side of ranch dressing, was actually a warning, a warning I ignored. With each bite the heat began to build. I dismissed it as a pleasant heat at first but like the hot at Prince’s, this heat just kept building.
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Thankfully each piece of this solid stick of chicken was juicy and 10 minutes later still steaming.
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Yes, the skin was a little on the gummy side, but for sheer quantity of boneless meat and searing heat, this chicken on a stick stands alone.

One thing that truly set Bolton’s apart from Prince’s was just how pleasant the owners/operators were. The lady behind the counter was constantly doting on me and the other customers, ensuring that her product was up to standards. Before I left, I asked her why the hot chicken on a stick was so much hotter than the hot leg quarter and she had no idea. Her only explanation was that the leg was pan fried and the stick was deep fried. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of that information. I can’t imagine the two frying techniques having such markedly different results when it comes to spiciness.

All culinary confusion aside, I’m going to have to side with Prince’s when it comes to hot chicken, but only the dark meat. At Bolton’s the hot chicken has a much more prominent vinegar flavor, it’s still a fine choice for hot chicken but Prince’s chicken is hotter and with the medium a combination of chicken flavor and heat. That being said, both the chicken on a stick and the hot fish sandwich make Bolton’s a must stop. It’s not often that I’d go out of my way for fish, but I’ll be hard pressed to drive through Nashville and not stop for that gargantuan hot fish sandwich.

Bolton's Spicy Chicken & Fish on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

Joel said...

Excellent review! I live in Nashville and a new Boltons just down the street on 8th ave. I'm definitely trying the hot fish sandwich and chicken on a stick!