Apologies. I’ve been a bit neglectful of this blog recently but I think I have a pretty good excuse.
In the last month I’ve moved to New York, secured an apartment in Brooklyn, gone on a whirlwind tour to London and Paris, and failed outright to secure even part time employ. In that time I’ve eaten lots and lots of amazing meals in San Francisco (Swan’s Oyster Depot, and more than 200 burritos), New York (the #5 at Barney Greengrass—a triple decker sandwich of roast beef, chicken fat, chicken liver, turkey, cole slaw, and Russian dressing), Paris (SO MUCH WINE), and London (an incredible take on traditional English fare at The Marksman).
But for now all of that must wait. I still have the better part of my cross country road trip to blog.
So, let's get back into it. Harken back with me as I remember that cloudy afternoon nearly three months ago when I pulled into Nashville Tennessee.
I love to make definitive, often under-educated, declarations about food. For example the best mustard on earth comes from the Pickled Chef in Pittsburgh, and the best bar in existence for really bad behaviour is San Francisco’s the Geary Club.
For year’s I’ve said the world’s best chicken tenders—I love chicken tenders—were the buffalo chicken tenders served at Perry’s on Union Street in San Francisco. Well, now I’m afraid Perry’s has been bumped to number two. The best chicken tenders on earth can be found at Hattie B’s Hot Chicken in Nashville.
Before we get too far down the rabbit hole of Tennessee chicken I must confess to having never even set foot in Prince’s Hot Chicken, the internet’s unanimously favourite Nashville chicken spot, and darling of such food television shows as all of them. This doesn’t bother me at all. And I say again, without hesitation and having only tried one chicken restaurant in the whole city, Hattie B’s chicken is the best.
Now, I love spicy food and I can handle a lot of heat. But I don’t mix up my self-worth with how many chillies I can manage to get down before passing out like a lot of “food people” these days. Sometimes heat is good. Sometimes heat is dumb. At Hattie’s their hot chicken is good. It has a nice slow burn that doesn’t obscure the chicken’s rich smoky spice or the flavour of the bird itself. That said, I don’t think it throws my already tenuous manhood into question when I say I actually preferred the medium hot chicken tenders. The hot chicken is very good; the medium chicken is a chorus of angels.
First, the chicken itself. The chicken at B’s was the closest I’ve had in America to a proper third-world bird. The best chicken, in my opinion, comes from the developing world—yes I have had French chicken blah blah blah. South East Asia, the Caribbean, West Africa, these places do chicken right. We used to watch our chickens get macheted to death in front of us in Togo before being thrown over hot coals by a cook with blood on his hands and feathers sticking to his forehead. That chicken had flavour.
I like the old scraggily birds, the hot weather birds pecking around in the trash heap and the chicken at Hattie B’s was almost, sort of, kind of getting close to that. So. Good.
The tenders themselves come out bright red and like I said are imbued with a nice deep smokiness, and that kind of low down smack you can only get from thoroughly toasted spices. And they are served perfectly: piled on an absorbent bed of sliced white bread, and thick cut bread and butter pickles, served outdoors on the porch with the rain rolling in and Stevie Wonder turned up loud from the overhead speakers, all with a side of bright black eyed peas and greens slick with vinegar.
The best there is.