Tag Archives: hot chicken

Queuing for Regional Specialities

Queuing for Regional Specialties

Just a quick thought about queuing. Though we think of it as a particularly British thing I think we’ve done far more of it over here in the US. (Although we call it the ‘line’ over here rather than the ‘queue’.) It became a fashion not to take reservations at some particularly popular restaurants in DC – Rose’s Luxury is a major example of this with the line stretching down the street at pretty much any time of day. I am reliably told that this is worth it. Georgetown cupcakes also always have a line out the door, though I suspect you can probably get cupcakes pretty much as good at Baked and Wired (plus I like the name) or Hello Cupcake – if you like that kind of thing.

When travelling though, I’ve learnt that if we ever see a long line at a place that we’ve heard might be a good example of a regional cuisine, we should join it and wait – however long it takes. It’s always been absolutely worth our while. In Maine we queued for 45-55 minutes two nights in a row at a local lobster shack and it was incredibly good, as well as good value. We also arrived before Red’s Eats lobster roll place in Wiscasset opened and joined the already forming line despite not being hungry yet – and we were so glad we did. In Nashville we queued at least 45 minutes for Hattie B’s hot chicken, and in Texas we probably queued an hour at La Barbecue, alternately tense at the fact that certain things were selling out and chilled out by the live music and outdoor atmosphere.

So I thought I’d ask – where have you lined up and waited for amazing food? And are there regional specialties I haven’t found yet that I should get in line for?

Fried Chicken in the South

On our Southern Road Trip we had fried chicken for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

And before you exclaim – ‘for breakfast?!’ – I have to ask, why are we in the UK fine with fried bacon and sausage for breakfast, but not chicken? I’m not sure I see a difference.

Unlike in London I haven’t seen that many fried chicken shops in DC – but maybe that’s because I’ve been in the wrong areas (ie – gentrified). But there’s always been plenty of opportunity to get fried chicken in diners, restaurants, and one place I really want to try that specializes in only chicken and donuts (not together, but maybe they fry them in the same oil?). One place that R had been for a fried chicken breakfast is actually not available in DC, and that’s Chick fil A (yes, that’s really how they spell it). This small chain can be found all over Virginia but for political reasons (so I’m told) can only be sourced in the DC metro area from a food truck at lunchtime.

We were now in the South though – where Chick fil A started out (Georgia) – and the chicken options were plentiful. So this is a run down of our chicken experiences on our road trip through Tennessee and Georgia. (South Carolina was a whole different culinary experience – more about this another time.)

For breakfast/brunch/lunch

  • Chicken and gravy on biscuits

Biscuits are like fluffy, soft scones, which makes a nice contrast to the crunchy fried chicken. Gravy is also not what you think, but more a savory (maybe onion flavored?) white sauce – really good. Here’s a recipe for it that I’m thinking of trying: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/homemade-gravy-recipe.html

  • Chick fil A breakfast sandwich

I finally experienced it! I know this chain has some pretty right-wing religious views, but I can’t help liking the food and the advertising concept.

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Chick fil A’s chicken is always juicy and high quality. And their biscuits were beautiful: warm, buttery, light and crumbly. I added barbecue sauce, but really needn’t have.

For Dinner

  • Nashville Hot Chicken

We had heard about this Nashville dish from a friend who was born in the South. I think they marinade the chicken in spices, add a hot paste (made mainly of cayenne pepper) either before or after frying it, and then serve it on white bread. (Here’s one recipe, but I imagine there are many versions.) We went to Hattie B’s hot chicken in midtown and while we had to queue for about 45 minutes it was absolutely worth it. Used to Americans being a bit soft when it comes to spice level, I went for the hot option, and R went for ‘damn hot’. They certainly lived up to their names, and we were glad we’d avoided the even hotter option (‘Shut the cluck up!!!’) which I imagine really does require its ‘burn notice’ warning. We were really glad of the refreshing and creamy sides of vinegar coleslaw and pimento mac and cheese. We also got a pitcher of beer, which helped. Overall we really enjoyed our meal, especially as we got to eat outside on a deck, which weirdly reminded me of the lobster shack we’d eaten in in Maine. I guess there was a similar rough and ready, casual vibe about them both, which I love.

  • Southern picnic

My Atlanta friend thoughtfully put this together for us. She served fried chicken alongside pimento cheese, potato salad, deviled eggs and watermelon – perfect. She also introduced us to the concepts of putting salt on watermelon (not sure I saw a difference) and peanuts in coca-cola (you really have to try it – add about 4 in a small cup).

I should really have taken a picture before we devoured it...
I should really have taken a picture before we devoured it…

To try at home:

For those looking to create some of these dishes at home, you could probably also make a few of them with the healthier baked ‘fried’ chicken: this one looks good to me.

One thing we still haven’t tried is that wonderfully American dish of chicken fried steak. They obviously thought, well, fried chicken is so well-loved that they thought why not treat steak that way too? If, like me, you’re curious, here’s the recipe I’m going to try to make if ever I get off my post road trip diet!

Southern Roadtrip – Nashville

When we first arrived in the States and people asked me which American cities I wanted to visit, Nashville was always in my top three. I love live music, I’d got quite into the ABC show ‘Nashville’ which had encouraged me to explore country music, and it just seemed like Nashville would be a cool place to visit.

I chose Midtown as our base for the two nights we would be there. Nashville’s official tourist website advertised the area as full of bars and places to catch live music, as well as being the home of the famous music row, where the recording studios can be found.

Because R had to work we were flying in from different places and meeting at the hotel. I arrived first and so had some time to wander around and check out some bars/restaurants for later. As I walked around Midtown in the afternoon sunshine I was thoroughly glad we’d chosen to stay there. Midtown’s bars and restaurants are clustered around a square of about three or four blocks, so it’s a pretty compact area. Most of the restaurants had outside space, or open frontage, and people were hanging out and generally enjoying themselves. At the end of these streets is Vanderbilt University, which is a beautiful, very green campus. And then there was music row. Not really a row at all, but a few blocks of cute, suburban-looking houses that you wouldn’t know were recording studios except for the signs. It’s a lovely, and peaceful part of Midtown.

Of course, when evening falls, it’s a different story. Nashville is a party-town, and Midtown, with its compact area of bars, restaurants, and reasonably priced chain hotels is a hot spot for bachelor and bachelorette parties – especially, we discovered, on Memorial Day weekend. From very early in the evening there were groups of young people on the streets, looking for a good time. I found a space at the bar of a place called the Corner Pub, which it turned out was usually a college bar, but was quieter that night because school was out. Immediately a couple of things struck me. First, people here were out to get very drunk, and second, you can smoke in bars in Nashville. I’d forgotten how cigarette smoke just completely puts you off eating anything – even though I knew the wings and pickle chips would taste amazing with my laguintas and bourbon, I just couldn’t get over the smell of the cigarette smoke.

But it was a fun bar. For the first time in my life a waitress came over with a shot and told me it was from ‘that guy over there’. I had no idea what to do! As I sat, trying to work it out, I observed as they embarked on a mission to get drunk – they and the rest of the bar. The bar staff decided that every time they rang a bell, certain shots would be on offer, and that’s how I ended up with an untasted jaegermeister sitting in front of me for the rest of the evening. Eventually the guy who’d sent it to me came over and made conversation, so I was able to thank him and explain that I was waiting for my husband. But I think he was probably too drunk to really understand. It was in this bar that I learnt the American rhyme for drinking order: ‘Liquor before beer, in the clear; beer before liquor never sicker.’ Which seemed to me to be the opposite of the English version I was brought up with: ‘Beer before wine, you’ll feel fine; wine before beer, you’ll feel queer’? But that’s all by the by.

When R arrived the evening started properly – we found food and then live music at a great place called The Row, which we discovered the next day also did really great brunch. That evening it was really good, old-fashioned country – the singer, Heidi Jean sang her own songs but also things like the Dixie Chicks to a very appreciative audience.

The next day we set out to see the rest of Nashville. Although it was certainly an experience, we weren’t that struck by Honky Tonk Alley in downtown. Very touristy, it’s just a street of bars with bands and shops selling boots and hats. It didn’t feel at all authentic, and in fact reminded us of Blackpool. We did enjoy the Johnny Cash museum though. It’s a really amazing collection of items owned by Cash, and especially tells the story of his fan club. It also showcases Cash’s art work, and has a video recording of Cash reciting Ragged Old Flag, which was cool. One thing I was slightly disappointed by was that the museum didn’t really explain what place Nashville had in Cash’s story – whereas an article in the hotel’s guide book had done an excellent job of this. But a good alternative context was provided by an exhibition on Cash’s contemporaries like Elvis Presley and Carl Perkins. Most excitingly we saw Perkins’s actual blue suede shoes!

Later in the afternoon we caught a bit of Nashville’s live music festival at Centennial Park.

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This was just perfect. Music, beer and ice cream in the sunshine. Getting the beer was a bit of a performance – we had to queue for the police to see our IDs, then we had to queue to buy tickets, and then we could queue to exchange these for actual beer. But I think this all added to the experience.

We had time between the festival and dinner, so we stopped into a bar for sliders and beer – and got free Koozies!

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Koozies – keeps your beer cool and your hand cozy. These are from Slider House in Nashville.

While at first we found this bar unusually quiet, a guy with a guitar soon arrived on stage and started singing some Johnny Cash.

Then it was time to try Nashville’s speciality of Hot Chicken (more on this another time!) and hit the hay. We had a long day’s drive ahead of us!

Read on: Southern Road Trip – Atlan’a

Read about the rest of our Southern Road Trip and our adventures with Southern food: