November's Can't-Miss Dish

Nashville Hot Fried Chicken Sandwich by Hot Chix Boston
Credit: Chris McIntosh
By Ellen Bhang · 11/01/2022

Looking for a no-fail, mouthwatering, gonna-tell-your-friends-about-it plate? Each month, Boston Globe columnist Ellen Bhang highlights the dish you need to try right now—and something to sip alongside it. 


Nashville Hot Fried Chicken Sandwich


On the plate: Nashville Hot Fried Chicken Sandwich  

Where to find it: Fried chicken lovers know that Nashville is more than just a music destination. They’ll tell you that Tennessee’s capital city is equally famous for hot chicken, its fiery style of crunchy battered bird. An outstanding version of the dish is now available at Hot Chix Boston, a new restaurant in Cambridge. Prior to opening the Inman Square brick-and-mortar, co-founders Alex Nystedt, Alex Kim, and William Yoo operated Hot Chix as a pop-up, serving Southern-inspired fare at venues all over town. (One of their earliest gigs—a sneaker release party at a streetwear boutique—explains the pair of Reeboks hanging from the ceiling near the ordering counter.)

Nystedt, former general manager of Barbara Lynch’s restaurant Sportello, explains that Yoo—who had tried and loved hot chicken on a visit to Nashville years ago—is the “mastermind” behind Hot Chix Boston. All three business partners have mad respect for the family that originated the dish. Early on, they made a pilgrimage to Prince’s Hot Chicken, the birthplace of the style and a cornerstone restaurant of Nashville’s Black community. They even got to meet André Prince Jeffries, the great-niece of the founder, who’s now known as the “queen mother” of the famous fried chicken. Prince’s matriarch was delighted—if a little bit surprised—that these entrepreneurs were building a business in Boston around her region’s spicy fried chicken. But she was all for it: “She was like, ‘Do your thing!’” Nystedt recalls.

Notes on the nosh: For Nystedt, that visit to Prince’s—as well as to several other hot chicken eateries—solidified what distinguishes the Nashville style: “It has to be crispy and juicy, but above all you need to really feel the spice,” he says. “The magical thing about Nashville Hot Fried Chicken is even though you’re hurting and you’re physically starting to sweat, it should be delicious enough so you can’t stop.”

We can attest that Hot Chix’s “Hot” and “Extra” versions—dipped in chili oil as well as shaken with proprietary spice blends—produce that intended effect. But you can also opt for “Not” (the level offering zero chili heat) or “Mild” (just a hint of spiciness).

The Nashville Hot Fried Chicken Sandwich showcases breast meat that is first brined in buttermilk then dredged in seasoned flour. Each piece benefits from a good, hard massage with that dredging, a technique that results in a craggy crust once the poultry hits hot oil. To assemble the sandwich, the fried cutlet (seasoned to order with the appropriate heat level) is placed with sweet, creamy coleslaw and half-sour pickle chips on a pillowy brioche bun slathered with house-made remoulade.

This crew loves working with local purveyors. Cambridge companies supply the brioche (Iggy’s Bread), cayenne and scorpion peppers (Christina’s Spice & Specialty Foods), and the star ingredient itself (Mayflower Poultry Co., established in 1932). A prominent local chef also figures into their story: Tracy Chang of Pagu let the Hot Chix crew prep out of her Cambridge restaurant’s kitchen in the midst of the pandemic. “She had a huge part in keeping the business alive,” Nystedt says.

Sip alongside: The beers here are local, too. Most offerings are from a brewery where Hot Chix popped up. We’re smitten with an easy-drinking Extra Naked Table Beer from Bone Up Brewing Co. in Everett. This saison-like brew, akin to a Belgian farmhouse ale, is lightly yeasty, a little citrusy, and terrifically refreshing. It’s absolutely what you want with the spiciest of all chicken sandwiches.

Subscribe to our newsletter!

Sign up for our weekly newsletters for curated guides, can't-miss dishes, restaurant recommendations, and more.

Enter Email