Fried chicken is more available in any UK food bar than perhaps the humble kebab. We seem to love it more than any other fat-congested snack that you can find. Despite this, I haven’t eaten fried chicken since I was 11 years old. I hate the greasy-boxed chicken carcasses that collect at my feet on the No. 8 bus, back home. I have been known to curse those who eat it.
When we arrived in Nashville, we heard about a place called ‘Prince’s Hot Chicken’ in a part of town off the normal tourist trail. Our experience of hot spicy food here has been disappointing, most places even with the option of 4 chilli hotness in the King & I in Milwaukee (subnoted saying ‘for Thai’s only)’ was not to the heat we were accustom to.. But arriving at Prince’s chicken shop, in a collection of ugly shop fronts in north suburban street, we were about to be surprised.
We ordered the ‘HOT’ half a bird, and the small lady behind the counter gave us her best eyebrow lift and grin. ‘you sure?’. We remained firm. She smirked. ‘y’all been ‘ere before?’ No, we hadn’t but we stuck by our guns – we wanted it hot. She disappeared from view and arrived back with a slice of white bread with a dark slick of sauce on the corner. Having a nibble, S remained convinced that this was the level of kick he wanted, and I after tasting this heated oily richness dropped down a level to Medium and she seemed satisfied. Moments later our pieces of chicken arrived, covered in a brown dark crust, with two pieces of sandwich white bread, and two slices of fat pickle.
Now, something happens when you eat really spicy food – A coma inducing high creeps through your lips, and to the back of your throat and down into the base of the tummy. As you eat your eyes glaze over while you munch. If you need a breather, you take it quickly, wanting to return to the spice before losing your brevado. When you finish, there is a sense of satisfaction from making it through, and a slight sadness that you have come to the end.
We didn’t talk for a while. We saw people come and go, collecting their own highs in a bag to take home. We had heard that some people come 5 days a week (Princes is closed Sunday & Monday) and we could understand why. In my mind I planned to return the following day, before we left Nashville altogether and missed the opportunity to experience the Prince Chick one last time.. An addict in the first mouthful. Now this was powerful stuff.
We didn’t make it back to Princes again, for many reasons, but mainly because we had to give the other chickens in town a chance. Our exit meal from Nashville was a quick diversion to The Loveless Cafe, which once sat in the county outside the metropolis, but now sits in the suburbs, right next to a Shell service station and a subdivision.
The Loveless Motel, is no longer a place to stay, and had been turned into a greater commercial enterprise than it first began as. Changing hands since the first Loveless owners, it still prides itself on its favoured Biscuits, and Fried Chicken. I had read about the Loveless Cafe for sometime, and after my chicken the day before, it seemed only right to get what they are famous for.
The Biscuits arrived as bread would normally, except this is served with 4 homemade jams and butter. The biscuits were AMAZING. Salty, light buttery and straight from the oven. I have called them scones before, and that had seemed fitting comparison, but these Biscuits are different. They are not as dense, and have more richness and are moist not crumbly.
The Chicken was very good, but lacked that kick of the spice that we had had at Princes the day before. Although they hadn’t promised us that spice, we had been hopeful that this would be made of the same magical stuff. But it wasn’t, and therefore, we found it good, but not amazing, or life changing. And because Princes Hot Chicken is now far away from where I sit writing this, it has found a place in my memory that sits the food of legends.. Most probably a little hyped but never to be tasted or topped again.