Food Republic Where Food, Drink & Culture Unite Sat, 27 Aug 2016 14:00:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Braggot, Gruyère, Chocolate Hummus: 10 Hot Topics On Food Republic Fri, 26 Aug 2016 18:00:42 +0000 Gruyere_Dairy_Covington_10
Photo: Linnea Covington

It’s been another informative week here at Food Republic. We met up with some fascinating people: Nashville chef John Lasater, who transformed the local delicacy known as hot chicken into a national phenomenon; Portland chef Jenn Louis, who is branching out from her indie roots with a fancy new hotel project in Los Angeles; and Brooklyn oenophile Alexander LaPratt, the borough’s only certified Master Sommelier. We got up to speed on the newest hot spots in two of our favorite food cities: Montreal and San Francisco. We also learned some things, too, like the various types of shrimp in sushi, how Gruyère cheese gets made and also braggot — what the hell is that stuff, anyway? All this and more in this week’s top stories:

1. Nashville hot chicken was invented at Prince’s, but Hattie B’s made it a national obsession. Read our scintillating interview with chef John Lasater.
2. Your favorite PBS food series returns this fall with a new star: L.A. chef Ludo Lefebvre. Here’s the inside scoop on The Mind of a Chef season 5.
3. Alexander LaPratt is Brooklyn’s only certified Master Sommelier. We spent a whole day with the guy (and his wine).
4. Looking to try someplace new in San Francisco? We’ve got some great recommendations.
5. Que dire de Montréal? Oui! We’ve got that, too.
6. Legendary author Geoffrey Chaucer was into it. Do you know braggot?
7. Learning Japanese: Get to know the different types of shrimp at sushi restaurants.
8. Do you fondue? If so, then you probably know Gruyère, the classic Swiss cheese. Here’s how it’s made.
9. Indie chef Jen Louis is taking a corporate gig. She explains.
10. Chocolate hummus? We’re not really into the idea, to be honest.

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How To Utilize The Earthy Sweetness Of Beets In Cocktails Fri, 26 Aug 2016 17:00:59 +0000 RedRail2
A low-proof cocktail featuring fresh ingredients? We’ve found our new favorite late-summer tipple.

Back in the heyday of cocktails in the 19th century, a light tipple to lift up one’s morning was quite common, in addition to being a means of warding off illness. Today, it’s freshly juiced kale wheatgrass, young-coconut water, ginger and beets that come together for a different kind of alchemy in the morning. Increasingly, these flavors are finding their way into evening cocktails, often paired with the brightness of lemon or lime citrus that we still expect, resulting in a more healthful drink in the process.

At the newly opened vegetarian tapas bar Ladybird, in NYC’s West Village, cocktails are both lower-proof and have a focus on fresh ingredients not often found in the traditional cocktail lexicon. In creating a low-ABV shaken cocktail that resembles a margarita, bartender Ariel Arce landed on beet juice as the primary focus for her Red Rail cocktail. “I wanted to match the richness of the beets but still keep the drink light, so I used a tawny port and then for depth, a bitter digestif called Toccasana,” notes Arce. “The result ended up being simple, refreshing and session-able, like a margarita.”

Toccasana Amaro is similar to Fernet Branca and is a predominant flavor in the drink, with the beets retaining a subtle undertone in comparison and providing a deep red color. To retain the flavor of the beets, Ariel blends them in a Vitamix to emulsify both the juice and the pulp. She adds a small amount of coconut sugar before straining the beet juice from the pulp, which is then repurposed by the chef in their kitchen.

With no heavy base spirit, the combination of beet, amaro and port, brightened with lime, is surprisingly light and refreshing. Seeing beet on a cocktail menu might not be expected, but with drinks that are this well balanced and nuanced, it’s a welcome change of pace.

Red Rail

Servings: 1 cocktail

1½ ounces Niepoort Tawny Port NV
¼ ounce Toccasana Amaro di Piedmonte
1 ounce fresh beet juice
½ ounce fresh lime juice


  1. Combine ingredients into a shaker.
  2. Shake vigorously with ice and strain over a chilled rocks glass filled with ice.

Prep Time: 2 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

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Where Does Ranch Dressing Come From? Fri, 26 Aug 2016 15:30:58 +0000

It’s America’s favorite salad dressing. In fact, it’s so beloved that some Americans use it for things that aren’t even salads, like pizza.

Where did this creamy obsession come from? Heaven? Goodness, no! It comes from a ranch, obviously. One that’s hidden. In a valley. For more on the history of this very American creation, check out this video from the gang at Great Big Story:

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The FResh List: Carrot Crepes, Courtside Sushi And 20 Or So Other Obsessions Of The Week Fri, 26 Aug 2016 14:30:30 +0000 Welcome to the FResh List! Each week, the dedicated staffers in FR’s New York City office compile a list of all the random things on their minds about the world of food and drink and beyond. These are their latest obsessions, rounded up in a somewhat organized fashion:

1. Cheese. America has waaaaay too much. Is this why the FDA is denying us the French stuff?
2. Chocolate pudding (thanks to Netflix’s Stranger Things).
3. This Eggo-clenching baby (also thanks to Stranger Things):

Our friend has superpowers, and she squeezed your tiny bladder with her mind. #StrangerThings #eleven

A photo posted by Laura Izumikawa Choi (@lauraiz) on

4. Slaughterhouse transparency. It’s a thing now.
5. Prison ramen: Got any to trade?
6. Fish tacos: Did we mention our favorite endangered Korean-Mexican joint is still cranking ’em out?
7. Cabernet Franc: It’s like the sour beer of wine.
8. Duck schnitzel at NYC’s Narcissa: Get some.
9. The French dip at NYC’s Dirty French: so necessary.
9. Courtside sushi. Advantage: chef Morimoto.

🎾+🍣 All the tennis and sushi you want by Iron Chef @chef_morimoto at the US Open. #flavoroftheopen #Fravorites

A photo posted by Food Republic (@foodrepublic) on

11. Amatrice. Tragic. This is where amatriciana pasta comes from. You can help out the relief efforts here.
12. This New York Times story about how tech is killing the Bay Area’s restaurant scene.
13. The Jim Gaffigan Show, RIP: So much great food humor packed into half-hour episodes, sadly gone after two seasons. You were right, Jim, Gruyère is just another word for Swiss cheese.
14. Generation Chef, Risking It All for a New American Dream: New book follows Jonah Miller as he jumps ship from NYC’s Maialino to open his own restaurant, Huertas. Meet him here:

15. Bagel boomtimes.
16. The woman who unfollowed us on Instagram for posting a photo of David Chang’s stupid chicken sandwich.
17. This commenter on our story about D.C. chefs imagining life under Donald Trump: “I’d love to see Trump serve the Premier of China some NYC Cantonese take out or possibly even Panda Express.”
18. Please don’t co-opt the chopped cheese sandwich.
19. The carrot crepe at Olmsted in Brooklyn. Is it a carrot? A crepe? Who cares? It’s delicious.
20. Pokémon-themed hamburgers: Really?
21. Frank Ocean.

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Make Tender BBQ Ribs At Home (No Smoker Required) Fri, 26 Aug 2016 13:00:54 +0000

If you’re anything like the typical urbanite, your cooking capabilities are generally limited by the square footage of your home kitchen. For aficionados of true wood-smoked barbecue, this can be a problem. Hulking traditional smokers and big-city apartment dwellings simply don’t mix. Even the smallest-sized Weber Smoky Mountain is too big for the average New York City apartment. You could try to set it up  on your fire escape, but your super, condo association or coop board — not to mention the fire marshal — is bound to have an issue with that.

There is hope, however, for city folks who want to whip up some good-quality ’cue at home. All you need is some liquid smoke and one of these babies: the Food Republic-tested Joule, your at-home sous vide solution. Our friends at ChefSteps recently updated their long-standing recipe for “Apartment Ribs” to make good use of this impressive new device by slow-cooking pork ribs in a warm-water bath, a method no pesky neighbor could reasonably have a problem with. Check out the mouthwatering video and full recipe below.

Servings: 2 full racks of ribs
Timing: About 4 hours and 30 minutes

150 grams salt
5 grams pink salt
150 molasses
75 grams liquid smoke
2 baby back rib racks
100 grams paprika
50 grams yellow mustard seed
30 grams garlic flakes
25 grams black pepper
10 grams onion flakes
10 grams cumin
200 grams brown sugar

sous vide setup
ziplock bags
spice grinder

1. Preheat Joule to 162° F / 72° C
2. Prepare the salt mixture by combining salt and pink salt together in a bowl. Make sure they’re totally combined, or you might end up with spots that are more or less cured than others. Not the end of the world, you understand, but not entirely pleasant, either.
3. Prepare a smoky glaze by combining molasses and liquid smoke in a bowl.
4. Remove the thin, translucent membrane on the bottom (concave) side of the rib rack. Use a dry towel or paper towel to grip it at one end, and peel it back to remove.
Season each rack with 1 percent of its weight in the salt mixture from above. Be sure to apply it evenly so you get the curing salt over the entire surface. Let seasoned ribs rest for about 10 minutes to let the salt start doing its thing.
6. Brush the ribs all over with the liquid smoke and molasses. Reserve the remaining glaze—you’ll be using it again.
7.  Place the ribs in ziplock-style bags and cook for four hours at 162° F / 72° C. [Note: If you’re using gallon-sized ziplock-style bags, you’ll need to cut each rack in half and put both halves in one bag. Stick with one rack per bag so everything will cook evenly.]
8. Make the rub. Run each of the spices through a grinder set to a coarse grind. Combine ground spices with brown sugar and salt in a small bowl, and mix well.
9. Take the bags out of the water and set them on the counter. Allow to cool briefly so they’re easier to work with.
10.  Preheat your oven to 400° F / 204° C. You’re going to finish the ribs with a quick stint in the oven, where they’ll get all crusty and barky just before dinnertime.
11. Brush ribs again with glaze.
12. Sprinkle the ribs all over with the rub.
13. Place all the ribs on a sheet pan and let them crisp up in the oven until they’re bubbly and delicious, about 5-10 minutes.
14. Pull those ribs out of the oven, cut ’em up, and serve!

ChefSteps comprises a team of award-winning chefs, filmmakers, scientists, designers and engineers focused on revolutionizing the way people cook by inspiring creativity and encouraging expertise in the kitchen. You can also get access to all of ChefSteps’ Premium content — including paid classes and dozens of recipes available only to Premium members for a onetime fee — for the special price of $24 (regularly $39). Classes include Sous Vide: Beyond the BasicsFluid GelsFrench Macarons and more!

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Exclusive: Insider Intel On “The Mind Of A Chef” Season 5 And Its Star Ludo Lefebvre Thu, 25 Aug 2016 17:30:37 +0000

The first trailer for the new season of the award-winning PBS series The Mind of a Chef is out, and like previous incarnations, the show spotlights one of the brightest stars on the global food scene: Ludo Lefebvre, perhaps the most famous Frenchman in America right now.

In an exclusive interview with Food Republic, producer Gillian Brown and director Morgan Fallon gave us some insider scoop on the upcoming Season 5, which premieres this fall. (Full disclosure: The show is created by Food Republic parent company Zero Point Zero Production.)

Here’s what we can tell you about Lefebvre: The 45-year-old French-born Los Angeles-based chef is now in his 20th year cooking in the U.S. His restaurants, Trois Mec, Petit Trois, Trois Familia and Ludo Bird, are mandatory stops for local Angelenos and food-obsessed travelers alike. Previous TV appearances include The Taste and his own Sundance Channel show, Ludo Bites America.  His lamb recipes (see here and here) are drool-worthy. Also: the dude is really into French rap and American television. “He came here because he loved Baywatch, he was infatuated with Pamela Anderson,” says director Fallon. “He wanted to come here, buy a Jeep, go surfing.”

Here’s what we can tell you about the show: Season 5 was filmed in Los Angeles and France with some curious pitstops along the way, like KFC. Also: expect cameos from various food-world luminaries, like acclaimed Los Angeles Times restaurant critic Jonathan Gold and famed French chef Alain Passard.

Ludo Alain
Chef Ludo Lefebvre (right) with his mentor, Alain Passard (center), on the set of The Mind Of A Chef.

Here’s some bigger picture stuff: producer Brown and director Fallon describe Lefebvre as the preeminent hybrid of American-French culinary sensibilities, a guy equally in love with American cheese and foie gras, a guy who also represents the last vestige of classically trained French chefs in the U.S., a guy uniquely and perfectly suited to America’s final frontier: Los Angeles. Oh, and he probably deserves credit for pioneering the pop-up restaurant, too.

“Here’s a guy who spent 14 years in French kitchens working under guys like Alain Passard and Marc Meneau and Pierre Gagnaire — that’s a rarity now,” says director Fallon. “He really paid his dues. His technical ability and level of understanding of classic French cooking is really extraordinary. But instead of just staying with classic French food, he came to Los Angeles and was exposed to this vast culinary landscape and all the different cultures: Korean, Mexican, Japanese, Indonesian and everything else that we have. He really soaked that culture up and integrated into his food. So what you get is this amazing range that he’s capable of, from doing things like the best fried chicken to super old-school French dishes. What I like so much about him is, he’s gotten to a point in his cooking where he doesn’t give a shit anymore. He’s going to be who he wants to be. He’s going to cook the food he wants to cook, and do it to make people happy — not for the critics, not for the Michelin stars. And he really means that.”

Producer Brown adds that Lefebvre’s impact on the larger American food scene cannot be overstated. “He really did pioneer the pop-up concept, with LudoBites back in 2007,” says Brown. “Before he did his LudoBites pop-up, he was working at L’Orangerie and Bastide, these French powerhouse institutions here, and he totally threw that out the window….In a lot of ways, he was a rebel, a rule-breaker. A lot of the people we visit this season, in one way or another, are rebels, breaking away from traditions.”

Stay tuned for more sneak peeks of Season 5 in the coming weeks. For now, there’s this:

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What Is Braggot? Thu, 25 Aug 2016 17:00:20 +0000

In “The Miller’s Tale,” part of his late 15th-century Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer describes a “youthful wife” as having a mouth as “sweet as bragget or as mead.”

The latter drink is likely familiar to many imbibers today. Mead is fermented honey and is available through dozens of breweries and more than 150 meaderies nationwide. The former drink Chaucer references, bragget or braggot, is probably less familiar.

That’s a shame.

Braggots are meads made with a hefty proportion of beer, or beers made with a hefty proportion of mead. That is, the centuries-old drink (it was centuries old when Chaucer downed it) is part honey and part malted barley. Usually the shares are half and half, though each may vary.

Braggots are often the most lovingly made drinks that breweries and meaderies offer, the honey almost always locally sourced and the batches of even the same brand varying due to the vagaries of that honey and the shares of other ingredients: touches of fruits, hops, herbs and spices. Generally, though, a braggot is a simple marriage of honey and malt.

Yet within that simplicity — or because of it — is a complexity of flavor that few beery drinks can match. The taste of braggot can range from a lush sweetness not unlike a dessert wine to a drier tartness that would call to mind a well-made sour beer. In between, too, there’s bitterness, spiciness, tanginess, earthiness and fruitiness as well as inevitable hints of caramel, chocolate and (of course) honey.

If gose can have a moment, never mind hard root beer, then braggot deserves one, too.

It’s kind of getting it already: More breweries and meaderies have added a braggot to their lineups, usually as a special or a seasonal release. Still, they can be frustratingly difficult to find and a tad pricier than your average double IPA. If you do find one, pounce. And get two — braggots are perfecting for cellaring.

Here are a few to look for:

Photo: Rogue Ales & Spirits/Facebook

Marionberry Braggot
Rogue Ales & Spirits, Newport, Oregon
11.7 percent ABV

No, it’s got nothing to do with the late mayor of Washington, D.C., and everything to do with a type of blackberry that Rogue grew on its Oregon property. The brewery also harvested honey from — according to its precise calculations — 7,140,289 bees. What’s the end result? A rich, earthy braggot that almost defies exegesis. Dry and lush at the same time, with an almost Trappist-ale-like finish (think Rochefort or Westmalle).

Brother Adam’s Bragget Honey Ale
Atlantic Brewing Co., Bar Harbor, Maine
10.5 percent ABV

The super-strong, ultra-rich barleywine beer style is the base of this wonderfully dry braggot. The Maine-harvested honey comes dripping through, and there’s an earthy sweetness about the offering, too. Also, typical of braggot, there’s little carbonation.

Samuel Adams Honey Queen
Boston Beer Co., Boston
7.5 percent ABV

The prolific craft concern uses three types of honey, plus chamomile, for this annual special release. The honey dominates in this braggot, whether it’s via the aroma, which also carries hints of fresh fruit blossoms, or the taste, which has a hint of citrusy bitterness like the best IPAs. Though, a note now to hopheads: Braggots are not as a rule bitter. Some producers add barely any hops.

Tom Acitelli is the author of  The Audacity of Hops: The History of America’s Craft Beer Revolution. His latest, American Wine: A Coming-of-Age Story, was a finalist for the 2016 James Beard Award for best beverage book.

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Who Needs Fancy Neiman Marcus Tamales? Make Your Own At Home! Thu, 25 Aug 2016 14:00:31 +0000 Photo: Leo Gong
Photo: Leo Gong

America’s fancification of simple peasant food reached another milestone yesterday with the news that Dallas-based retailer Neiman Marcus is now selling gourmet tamales on its website at a pretty astounding price — six dozen for $92, plus $18 for shipping. That’s $110 for 72 tamales. (We’re talking about the same basic foodstuff that costs about $1 a piece at Trader Joe’s.)

This outlandish deal made headlines in outlets ranging from the Dallas Morning News to GQMy San Antonio called it “an outright food foul,” taking this “usually affordable, traditional dish” and tacking on “an outrageous price tag.”

The good news: You don’t have to rely on some highfalutin department store to provide you with delicious handmade tamales. You can hand-make them yourself.

Here are two easy recipes:

The Best Basic Tamales

With this great recipe from Mexican chef Roberto Santibañez of Fonda in Brooklyn, you can make a variety of tamales by filling them with the delicious leftovers from your adobo- and mole-making adventures and topping them with whatever salsa you’d like. Tamales also make a great stand-in for rice, potatoes, or other starchy sides when you’re serving a saucy dish. Be sure to get dried masa that’s specifically called tamal flour because it’s a bit coarser than the kind you’d use to make tortillas.

Dios Mio Tamales (Vegetarian)

Dios mio” means “my God” en español, as in “Oh, my God,” which you’ll undoubtedly be exclaiming when you taste these, partially because of the awesome flavor combo and partially because of the heat that sneaks up after a few bites. For a fantastic meal, serve the tamales with Spanish rice, black beans, guacamole and salsa — preferably pico de gallo or salsa verde. For extra zing, serve them with Sriracha-mango guacamole.
Reprinted with permission from The Veggie Lover’s Sriracha Cookbook by Randy Clemens.

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Meet The Man Who Launched The Nashville Hot-Chicken Craze Thu, 25 Aug 2016 13:00:06 +0000 IMG_3524
Hattie B’s hot chicken with homemade black-eyed peas salad. (Photo: Joseph Woodley.)

John Lasater never expected to be at the forefront of a national hot-chicken movement. Nashville hot chicken is a storied city tradition that stretches all the way back to the 1930s, after all, and the executive chef of Hattie B’s Hot Chicken — which opened in 2012 — recently turned 30. Sure, Lasater started cooking when he was just ten years old, designing three-course menus based on a strict budget laid out by his mother, but his graduation from culinary school led to stints in the kitchens of fine-dining establishments; frying up mass amounts of chicken was simply not on the horizon.

Let’s take a step back and discuss the beloved dish at hand. In case you haven’t had the pleasure, Nashville hot chicken consists of a chicken breast, thigh and/or wing marinated in buttermilk, breaded, deep-fried and sauced with a heavily spiced, cayenne pepper–based paste before being served with pickles over white bread. Biting in yields a burn quite unlike any you’ve ever experienced. Somehow, despite the full-body discomfort, you always crave more. More than two dozen places in Music City currently specialize in renditions of the dish, each serving it with a slightly different recipe (and always refusing to divulge exact specifications).

Chef John Lasater poses in front of the second Nashville location of Hattie B’s. (Photo: Joseph Woodley.)

Back to Lasater and the integral role he’s played in helping an original Nashville dish take off and become one of the nation’s “it” foods of the moment. (Just take a look at this map to see where hot chicken can be found across the U.S.) The story really begins on a kickball field (pitch?), where Lasater met his wife, Brittany Bishop. Her family — specifically her father Nick and brother Nick Jr. — owns and operates Bishop’s Meat and Three in nearby Franklin, Tennessee, and had, by 2012, experimented with serving hot chicken as a weekly special. Sales took off, and the family quickly signed a lease on a space for a hot-chicken restaurant in the heart of midtown Nashville, right at the same time the city was experiencing the first wave of its rapid food-destination ascension.

Long story short: Owners open hot-chicken restaurant, owners name daughter’s fiancé chef of restaurant, owners and chef create own hot-chicken recipe, chef marries owners’ daughter, restaurant is an instant hit, everyone lives happily after.

In 20 years, I think all 50 states will have hot chicken.

Today, Hattie B’s has two Nashville locations, in addition to one in Birmingham, Alabama, with plans to expand throughout the Southeast. Lengthy lines — packed with locals, tourists and celebrities alike — regularly stretch down the block during peak times. Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack may have created hot chicken in the 1930s, and institutions like Bolton’s Spicy Chicken & Fish may have helped preserve the tradition over the years, but Hattie B’s has made hot chicken cool.

Before Hattie B’s opened, there was plenty of hot chicken in Nashville, but the emphasis was always on the “hot” part. Lasater put more focus on the chicken, using high-quality birds. That, combined with a central location, an outdoor patio, pairing the chicken with sweet options like waffles and offering local beers on tap, changed the hot-chicken experience. All have proved vital to Hattie B’s sustained success, cementing its place among the city’s staples.

We caught up with chef Lasater during his recent “Hot Chicken in the City” dinner at New York City’s esteemed James Beard House to discuss the formula behind the restaurant’s — and dish’s — overwhelming popularity.

Would you say growing up in the Nashville area played a role in knowing about hot chicken?
Absolutely. I knew what it was, and it was right in our backyard. No one had really developed a concept in a good area.

You come from a fine-dining background, so what convinced you to do it?
I saw that our concept was really simple. Everything was made from scratch, but we still had an amazing price point. It could really reach every single demographic of person. I never knew that you could make a simplified menu with great prices and still have homemade sides and all that. And we proved that with Hattie B’s — it took off right in front of our eyes.

Hattie B’s second Nashville location opened on Charlotte Pike in 2014. (Photo: Justin Chesney.)

Why do you think it took off so quickly?
One of my biggest goals when I first came to Hattie B’s and I looked at everything was, like, “Everywhere you go for hot chicken, it’s just hot, hot, hot, hot.” I was like, “How can we make this more pronounced but also rounded in flavor and just have that umami bomb?” That’s what we were really gearing on, so I started playing with cayenne and my other components so they would balance out.

And of course, you’re not going to tell me the other components.
[laughs] Well, you know the basis of hot chicken is cayenne, paprika, garlic, salt and brown sugar — we’ve got to release some of that heat and round it with either vinegar or sugar. The higher heat levels get ghost pepper.

Do you think your being located in midtown makes a big difference?
We have a location on this side of the river, in the heart of Nashville, which serves local beers on tap and has great prices. Where else can you get a $10 meal in midtown?

The menu features six heat levels and seven homemade sides in addition to desserts and beers. (Photo: Joseph Woodley.)

Why hadn’t someone else done it?
It’s crazy! It really is. It’s just so simple. Our menu doesn’t have a lot of things — hot chicken and seven sides. We do a seasonal cobbler, and banana pudding is always our mainstay. It’s just been this thing where people come in and know their orders — it feels good. From the back to the ambience, it’s a fun energy at Hattie B’s.

How would you say this evolved from a Nashville dish to a dish that has national recognition?
I think it has a lot to do with [Hattie B’s]. On the front end, Nashville has grown at such a rapid pace. Then you have our location, the price, the right timing, the local beers, our amazing staff — it’s a hodgepodge of a perfect storm.

What are some of the reactions you’ve gotten from first-timers?
We’ll start a lot of our first-timers off at a medium heat level. A lot of those people who come from the hot-wing world and normally go “hot” aren’t going to be able to go with our “hot” right off the bat. Buffalo wings are hot sauce and butter, and that’s what America is generally used to. With Nashville hot chicken — I mean, most first-timers think that our medium is hot.

One time a lady came in and she was super-pregnant. She had our “damn hot” chicken at night and had her kid in the late hours of the night, into the early morning. She named her kid Hattie! She’s become a real big regular now.

And now a lot of chefs nationwide are doing their own spins on it.
Absolutely. Carla Hall [from Carla Hall’s Southern Kitchen in Brooklyn] flew in and talked to us. Johnny Ray [from Howlin’ Rays in Los Angeles] flew in and talked to us. I had some in Birmingham at Gordon’s. I’ve had hot chicken in Philly at Kevin Sbraga’s the Fat Ham. It wasn’t bad for Philadelphia. I was just like, “Wow.” I appreciate that he put his own touch on it.

Dare I ask your thoughts about KFC’s take on Nashville hot chicken?
Hot chicken has become so popular, and so many people are putting their own spin on it, that when KFC came around and did it, I kind of laughed at first. We all went over there and tried it the day it came out — I was like, “Oh, it’s going to taste like KFC chicken with a little bit of spice,” and that’s exactly what it was. It was still a KFC fast-food product. At the end of the day, people recognize that.

Hot chicken and waffles, served on Sundays. (Photo: Justin Chesney.)

What’s the future of hot chicken?
In 20 years, I think all 50 states will have hot chicken. We’re going to try to grow Hattie B’s in the Southeast — that’s really our target right now. In the future, you’re going to see us anywhere from Memphis to Knoxville, maybe Atlanta. Hattie B’s doesn’t belong on every corner. We’re not McDonald’s. Big cities and high volume is really our target.

Will we ever get you to open in New York?
I’m not going to say no! Not anytime soon, but I definitely have it on the bottom of my list.

Any funny stories from people trying it for the first time?
One time a lady came in and she was super-pregnant. She had our “damn hot” chicken at night and had her kid in the late hours of the night, into the early morning. She named her kid Hattie! She’s become a real big regular now.

How do you order your hot chicken?
I go with hot — Hattie B’s hot.

How would you compare Prince’s hot to Hattie B’s hot?
I’d give Prince’s the heat crown for sure. I ate an extra-hot half bird there in house, by myself. I’m sitting at the table, a skinny little white boy, and I’m just in tears. I made sure I finished that whole plate of chicken before I left.

So you still eat at other hot chicken restaurants in Nashville?
Oh, absolutely. We have a lot of community love here in Nashville. I love popping into Bolton’s. We have the Hot Chicken Festival every July 4, and on July 3, while we’re loading in, I’m eating a hot fish sandwich from Bolton’s. We’ll take trips to Bolton’s, Prince’s, Pepperfire and 400 Degrees. I love trying everybody’s chicken. We love supporting Nashville hot chicken in its entirety, and that’s how we originally started — Prince’s is the godfather of hot chicken, and we can only tip our cap to them and pay them a visit here and there.

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