The Junkie: KFC’s “Nashville Hot Chicken” vs. Actual Nashville Hot Chicken

Last spring, I took to the road with a group of fellow food explorers to partake in the bounty of the Nashville food scene. It was a glorious weekend filled with wonderful eats and good laughs. Prior to our journey, in planning our dining destinations, the recommendation for “hot chicken” seemed to be popping up all over the place. A number of Nashville joints serve this mythical chicken concoction…Prince’s and Hattie B’s being two of the most notable. The wait in line for Prince’s chicken is downright astonishing and the loyalty and dedication to the place is so impressive, for a food lover addicted to creating memorable food experiences, this place had to be on our agenda.

Recently, the folks over at Kentucky Fried Chicken decided to cross the border into Tennessee and produce a version of their own hot chicken, dedicating it to the city that spawned this beloved creation. I soon decided I would need to gain some firsthand experience with what the Colonel has up his sleeves this time around.

So here’s my head-to-head comparison of my two “Nashville Hot Chicken” experiences…the results may surprise you.

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Actual “Nashville Hot Chicken”: We waited at Prince’s ramshackle chicken joint for over an hour before we were presented with our food. The entire restaurant was literally packed with customers…every seat was taken during our time there. If someone got up to leave, the seat was immediately snatched up waiting customers looking to sit and dine. The walls are decorated with dozens of newspaper and magazine clippings, several of them naming Prince’s some of the best fried chicken in the country. Even the silhouette of our old pal Guy Fieri was spray-painted across one wall after he featured the restaurant on his Food Network program. Needless to say…anticipation ran high.

But here’s the thing…every one of us were disappointed in our food. Was it bad? No. But it certainly wasn’t spectacular, and definitely not something I’d seek out on a return visit to Nashville. It wasn’t particularly crispy, the meat wasn’t particularly moist or flavorful. What it didn’t lack was spice. Prince’s, like most Nashville chicken joints, offers their chicken at various levels of spice. Having heard horror stories about the scorching infernos created by the upper levels of chicken spice, I decided to play it safe and go “mild” …which was still fairly spice. Another companion felt the need to go “medium”. Not only did he regret that decision during the painfully disturbing consumption of said chicken, but the meal definitely came back to “bite” him later that evening in the bathroom. I can’t image what kind of sadistic lunatic would ever order “hot” …or heaven forbid, “extra hot.”

Kentucky Fried Chicken’s “Nashville Hot Chicken”: I rarely partake in the Colonel’s offerings, and seems like every time I do, I’m generally disappointed with the results. So imagine my surprise when I found myself seriously enjoying this hot chicken. I mean, this stuff was legitimately pretty good. The skin was nicely crisp, with a wonderful crunch in each bite. The hot seasoning was at a perfect level…just enough bite to excite the taste buds but not so much that you feel you’ve just licked the surface of the sun. The meat was actually juicy and flavorful. I can still hardly believe how successfully KFC pulled this stuff off. Now don’t get me wrong…it’s not the greatest chicken in the world. And there’s bound to be some variable results based on location and time of dining. But for the price and with such convenience…it’s definitely worth eating. Kudos, Colonel Sanders. Nashville salutes you.

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The Junkie: KFC’s “Nashville Hot Chicken” vs. Actual Nashville Hot Chicken