Prince’s Hot Chicken

3 08 2010

Prince's Hot Chicken with Fries It finally happened. After announcing every day for about a week that I was dying to head out to Ewing Drive in Nashville to check out Prince’s Hot Chicken, we finally made it there on Saturday and it was very well worth the wait. I had been really craving something hot for a couple weeks now, to the point of pouring hot sauce (Texas Pete’s Hotter Sauce, if you have to know) on just about everything, something to prepare myself for how much heat Prince’s chicken is alleged to have. From one of the reviews I had read that their “mild” chicken was the equivalent of most places’ hot version and, well, I’m no wimp when it comes to hot foods. Pride sometimes trumps good sense for me on this issue and if there’s ever a day I order anything with the word “mild” in it, well let’s just say that that’s the day I give up eating altogether.

We got there about 1:45 thinking we’d beat the post lunch-time rush and that just goes to show how inexperienced we were. They have no lunch service, rather they open at 2:00 and close at 4:00 am, which is exactly what every drunk needing hot chicken is looking for. A styrofoam plate taped to the door made things even worse: “Today open at 2:30.” So we went for a drive, because Prince’s isn’t in the fanciest neighborhood in all of Nashville. The building itself is in a pretty run-down strip mall with a crowded and pothole-littered parking lot with poor drainage for rainwater. So, getting out of there was the best option.

We returned about an hour later at 2:45, thinking, mistakenly, that we’d still be there in time to miss most of the rush. When we got there, the place was packed and there was a huge line of people waiting on their orders. We got up to make our order fast enough and it was surprising how cheap it was. We had 5 leg quarters ($4 each) and 1 breast quarter ($5 each) and all of those with sides of fries and one extra side of crappy, horrible, bad baked beans for a total of $39. The chicken comes in 4 degrees of heat: mild, medium, hot and extra hot. I went for the hot and everyone else went the safe route with the mild. Then the wait began.

Service was slow. Abysmally slow. Like I can completely see why most people call ahead slow. It seemed a lot of people came in and put in their orders and then left. The sheer quantity of the orders seemed to not phase the kitchen staff who went through them one at a time, doing their thing and expecting those waiting for the chicken to do theirs and sit quietly and happy until it was done. This was a fact that seemed to be accepted by all save for one couple who didn’t seem to understand that prompt customer service isn’t what Prince’s is about. Prince’s is about chicken and damn it, you’re going to sit there and wait for it.

We came in about 20 orders behind judging by the numbers they were calling out and it took an hour and ten minutes for our order to be done and tucked haphazardly into more styrofoam containers and brown bags. Even though it was only 4:00 in the afternoon, the smell of the chicken on the car ride home convinced us that eating dinner early was an option and this chicken should be enjoyed while still hot, so we unpacked it all immediately. The chicken in the picture above is mild, so you can imagine mine looking about the same but a much deeper red from all of the spices (I would’ve photographed mine, but I was so hungry by the time we got home that I ate it before I remembered that I had wanted to take a picture of it.).

The taste was amazing. I tried the mild and it was pretty peppery but not nearly as hot as people let on. Neither did I find the hot chicken especially hot. I mean, it was definitely spicy and it had a slight burn to it, but I didn’t break a sweat biting into it. The flavor, though, of the whole thing was excellent. This was some damn good chicken, cooked by people who know how to fry chicken and there’s no question of that. As is common in a lot of BBQ and fried chicken joints, it’s served on a couple slices of white bread which soak up the juices (i.e., delicious grease) and spices from the chicken. Now that bread, on the other hand, was much hotter and also had tremendous flavor. As I mentioned before, the baked beans were really pretty bad, tasting mostly like lukewarm canned beans, but the fries were pretty decent and you get Hunt’s ketchup with it, which always strikes me as odd. I mean, does anyone like Hunt’s? Oh, and in the restaurant itself, where there’s very little seating and most that is there is taken up by people waiting on food rather than eating it, we did catch a family having some of the potato salad which didn’t look all that impressive to me. End of the day, it’s about the chicken and they do an amazing job of that.

Next time we go-and there will definitely be a next time-I’m going for the extra hot, no question. I’d love to really see the burn. And the experience of going out there was a lot of fun, especially for the people watching aspect of it where you can truly see every type of person in Nashville walk through those doors. It’s the type of place that people who visit Nashville really need to see and I’d almost say it’d be good for a visit from Guy Fieri, but the place might even be too much of a dive for him and he skipped it when he came through Nashville last April.

Oh, and to really prep you for the trip out there, there’s a nice video produced by the University of Mississippi on local eateries that featured Prince’s: