A Brief History of Hot Chicken, Nashville's Spicy Specialty

Princes Hot Chicken
Prince's Hot Chicken | © Sean Russell / Flickr
Leena Kollar

If you’re looking for spicy chicken, you’ll definitely find it in Nashville. But the history of how it came to be a Nashville food staple might surprise you. Read on to learn how hot chicken made its way into the city’s food community.

Back in the 1930s, a womanizer named Thornton Prince was served a heaping dose of fried chicken loaded with hot pepper by his lady as punishment. Supposedly, he went out on a Saturday night, leaving hints of his wandering eye for his woman to find, and on Sunday, she made the spicy chicken dish hoping he would react in pain. Instead, her plan backfired. Mr. Prince actually liked the chicken so much that he requested more and decided to open a chicken shack, which is known today as Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack.

http://instagram.com/p/BHLSADuhlaW/?taken-by=princeshotchicken

After nearly 100 years since Prince’s vengeful lover tried to punish him, his great-niece, André Prince Jeffries, is still making and serving his hot chicken. The recipe that Prince’s uses for its signature chicken is one that Prince himself took some time to get just right, after trying to replicate what his lady friend served him back on that fateful day. It’s basically Southern fried chicken lacquered with a spice paste, often made with cayenne pepper, garlic powder, or paprika. People flock to Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack so much that it stays open until 4 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Prince’s Hot Chicken

Since Prince’s Hot Chicken made its way into Nashville, many other restaurants have followed in its spicy chicken ways. The food is now a popular menu item at places across the city. Hattie B’s Hot Chicken serves chicken with different heat levels (Southern, mild, hot, or damn hot) and offers a variety of classic Southern side dishes. There’s also Bolton’s Spicy Chicken & Fish, which has a restaurant location and a mobile food truck.

Noting the way that Nashvillians had taken to the spicy chicken offerings, former Nashville mayor Bill Purcell started the Music City Hot Chicken Festival in 2007. Now in its 10th year, the free event is open to the public, held on July 4th every year. There’s an amateur cooking competition, as well as a fire truck parade, where the first 500 people in line get free hot chicken samples. Local hot chicken restaurants and food vendors also participate in the annual event.

Culture Trips launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes places and communities so special.

Our immersive trips, led by Local Insiders, are once-in-a-lifetime experiences and an invitation to travel the world with like-minded explorers. Our Travel Experts are on hand to help you make perfect memories. All our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

All our travel guides are curated by the Culture Trip team working in tandem with local experts. From unique experiences to essential tips on how to make the most of your future travels, we’ve got you covered.

close-ad
Edit article