Chicken A La Prince

by James Boo on November 23, 2010 · 18 comments

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“You eat with your eyes first.” Fair enough.

Here’s another one: “What game was the ref watching?”

I’ll accept pride in plating, but when I order a tray of carne asada fries, a fistful of fried dumplings, or a Jack-in-the-Box taco, I calibrate my visual appetite accordingly. The same rule applies when I’m in line at the local chain cafe, wondering whether or not that beautiful croissant is going to go down like greasy flabs of rubbery bread crust. When appearances can be as deceiving as they are deserving, it’s important to assess aesthetic before devouring it.

Half Chicken Medium - Prince's Hot Chicken Shack - 123 Ewing Dr. - Nashville, TN
Fried chicken can be especially hard to read. Some of the best I’ve ever had was self-served from a buffet tray or handed over in a corporate takeout box. I’ve learned to reserve judgment until first bite, but at the moment I got my hands on this order of half a bird at Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack, my eyes burst, and my stomach emptied.

Prince's Hot Chicken Shack - 123 Ewing Dr. - Nashville, TN
A legendary local favorite in Nashville, Prince’s Hot Chicken demonstrates the conventional flipside of optical hunger. It sits in a tiny strip mall about five miles north of Downtown, furnished in the style of a garage sale with a Coke machine. Chicken dinners here are painted on a canvas of cardboard. Requests for water are answered with a styrofoam coffee cup and directions to the fountain. Dinner is served in a paper bag through a takeout window, and diners taking those bags to the car can requisition napkins and plastic bags in the drawers just opposite the register.

Half Chicken Medium - Prince's Hot Chicken Shack - 123 Ewing Dr. - Nashville, TN
Prince’s chicken, flag bearer of what could be one of few distinct regional styles of the food, is offered in degrees of mild, medium and hot. The birds are blasted with an unholy amount of seasoning, fried in large cast-iron skillets and served searingly hot. Their presentation is a challenge: Tear through enough of this tear-inducing flesh quickly enough, and your reward will be a shot at the few square inches of white bread not completely soaked by the fiery pool of grease dripping from above. Manage to salvage those slices from beneath the orange sea immediately, and your reward is the gift of hot chicken sandwiches. Prince’s use of pickle slices as savory sprinkles makes for a nice exclamation point.

Medium Fried Chicken Breast - Prince's Hot Chicken Shack - 123 Ewing Dr. - Nashville, TN
The chicken itself is a feat on all fronts. The heavy dredging of its skin creates a dense, crunchy armor, aimed at stoking spice addiction just as much as it’s aimed at warning against the foolishness of eating over a pound of anything that comes with a warning against rubbing one’s eyes.

Breaking through this cayenne-caked crust uncovers meat that is moist to the bone. Each bite also unleashes a steady stream of red hot grease, laying to waste any satisfaction I’ve ever felt in eating fried chicken that feels airy and clean. Prince’s medium setting is powerful enough to induce a fevered sweat, making a meal here possibly the most intense fried-chicken experience in the country.

Greasy Ass White Bread - Prince's Hot Chicken - 123 Ewing Dr. - Nashville, TN
To some eaters, half an hour at Prince’s table would constitute a dance with the devil. To those who have learned to love vinyl tablecloths, this chicken dive is a holy vision. Great meals don’t always exercise the option of great style, but when you know what you’re looking for, eating with your eyes is hardly necessary.

Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack
123 Ewing Dr
Nashville, TN 37207
615.226.9442

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Comments

veronica November 23, 2010 at 11:59 pm

your recap of this fried chicken experience was so real, i have heartburn just reading about it. i have yet to experience the combination of fried chicken and pickles, I would have never thought to put the two together, but it makes complete sense.

James Boo November 24, 2010 at 1:48 am

Prince’s is not something I could eat more than once a month, but it definitely gave me one of my top three fried chicken experiences of all time. If you’re ever near Nashville, it’s a must-try! And double up on the Tums :P

Nicholas November 24, 2010 at 10:09 pm

Pickles… and juices… contaminating delicious looking fried chicken! I like the two separate, but imagining that briny flavor tainting the crisp crust of golden chicken should be outlawed.

James Boo November 24, 2010 at 11:25 pm

They’re actually canned pickles, so the taste is a lot less briny than it is sweet-and-sour. It was fucking great, dude.

JO November 27, 2010 at 1:45 am

damnit i want this in nyc. when am i gonna get to nashville? thats some rich fry

The Chief November 28, 2010 at 1:49 am

Dammit, I’m salivating over this post.

If you’re craving this in NYC, check out Peaches in Bed Stuy. They have hot chicken served the same way as Prince’s, but it looks much less greasy (not a good thing depending on who you are). I ordered it extra hot (telling the waitress I’d rather it be too hot than not hot enough seemed to do the trick) and it bordered on inedibly spicy. Awesome.

I’ve been wanting to try the OG hot chicken joints in Nashville for awhile, but Peaches is as close as you’re going to get out here unless you make it yourself.

James Boo November 28, 2010 at 9:15 pm

That’s a great tip, Chief. I’ve had Peaches on my list for quite a while, but I never realized that they serve hot chicken! It’s definitely getting bumped up to a priority channel.

Orlick, you been to Peaches? If not, we’re making a round.

Danny November 29, 2010 at 3:14 pm

oh man, one of these days i will revisit the land of my youth and try this out.

James Boo November 29, 2010 at 7:20 pm

Danny, want to join the weekend brigade to Peaches? Last I checked, hot chicken wasn’t available in Midtown…

The Chief December 1, 2010 at 12:11 am

James: if you’re going out this weekend, definitely let me know. I’m already planning on trying a bunch of jerk chicken joints in the area too on Saturday.

The Chief December 1, 2010 at 12:11 am

Out to Peaches, that is.

James Boo December 1, 2010 at 2:00 am

Chief, I probably will not make it out this weekend, but I can’t wait to hear bout your jerk chicken adventure! We should try to set up a lunch meet sometime.

The Chief December 1, 2010 at 8:57 am

James, I’m always down for lunch. We should definitely make it happen.

Shit, now you’ve got me craving hot chicken.

The Chief December 8, 2010 at 8:56 am

Hey James, I linked this post in my write-up of Peaches Hothouse: http://lawandfood.blogspot.com/2010/12/peaches-hothouse-raising-heat-in-bed.html#more

James Boo December 8, 2010 at 5:58 pm

Thanks, Chief! Your writeup has me psyched. I can’t wait to give that place a shot. And once my trip to Shopsin’s wears off, I’ll actually be able to devote mental space to the prospect without wanting to roll over and die :P

The Chief December 8, 2010 at 7:46 pm

Not to throw the thread too far off track, but what’d you get a Shopsin’s?

Now that I think about it, if we showed hot chicken to Kenny and Zach, they’d probably put it on the menu.

James Boo December 8, 2010 at 10:03 pm

I ordered Moe I, but realized halfway through that I was actually in the mood for Blisters. Followed up with cinnamon breakfast doughnuts! And, I’m nowhere near speaking terms with the Shopsins, but your idea does sound plausible…

Kim Prince July 20, 2011 at 8:09 pm

On behalf of the Prince’s Hot Chicken, we enjoyed with great amusement, reading about your experience. We hope you’ll come again.

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