Nashville’s Hot Chicken Smackdown: Prince’s vs. Hattie B’s

••• Hattie B's

Nashville is the home of hot chicken — fried chicken that’s breaded with spices to give it a little extra kick. While KFC tried to bring it to the masses in recent years, the best version of hot chicken comes from the country music capital of the United States. There’s a debate as to who cooks up the best hot chicken in town between Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack and Hattie B’s Hot Chicken, but whose is really the best?

  • 01 of 06

    History

    Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack is a Nashville institution — there’s no argument that Prince’s was the originator of hot chicken. Thornton Prince, for whom the restaurant is named, was apparently tricked by an ex-girlfriend into eating a batch of spicier fried chicken when she thought he was cheating on her. Prince unexpectedly liked the spicier fried chicken and perfected it into the hot chicken recipe that the restaurant still serves today. Hattie B’s opened in 2012, so there’s not that much history there.

    Advantage: Prince's – Hattie B's short history can't compare to Prince's backstory.

  • 02 of 06

    Ambiance

    ••• Hattie B's

    The original location of Prince’s Hot Chicken has a retro look to it. The seating is mostly booths of four with white wooden backs and green and white checkered table cloths. It’s got an old school vibe, but not one that you reflect positively on when you leave.

    Prince's ordering process is also a bit strange — customers are expected to walk behind the counter to a window to place an order. After this slightly confusing experience, you wait for a table to open up. Eventually your number gets called out and you bring your food back to the table and eat.

    Hattie B’s has their operations process down pretty well. The restaurant's main location seems to have a perfect amount of seating with most of it being in a separate room. Hattie’s goes with red and white checkered paper on their serving trays and their tables are pretty bare bones. It is nice, however, that the plastic covering on the outside of the main seating room can be pulled up when the weather gets warm. There’s also a bar...MORE setting around the outside to allow patrons to people watch.

    Advantage: Hattie B’s – The setting at Prince’s is nothing special. You almost wish you could take your chicken somewhere else to eat it. Hattie B’s indoor/outdoor setting and plentiful seating real estate take the win. 

  • 03 of 06

    Wait Time

    Prince’s history definitely lures a long line of diners during busy lunch hours, but it’s not the trendy attraction that Hattie B’s has become. It’s also a drive from downtown Nashville, so you really have to put in the effort to get out to the North Nashville location.

    While the location of Hattie B’s is a lot more convenient, the attention it’s received has turned the wait into an hour-long affair. It doesn’t matter if it’s 4 p.m. on a Saturday afternoon, there will still be a line around the corner of the restaurant. (Pro tip: Order your meal in advance and take it to go — they'll tell you what time it will be ready for pickup.)

    Advantage: Prince’s – No one likes waiting an hour for anything.

  • 04 of 06

    Chicken

    ••• Hattie B's

    At the end of the day, the reason you’re going to either of these establishments is the hot chicken, so this category is the heaviest influencer in the final decision.

    Prince’s offers a pretty simple approach, allowing you to choose how much of a whole chicken you want to eat. You can get a quarter chicken with white or dark meat, a half chicken or a whole chicken. There’s also the option of three whole wings, but there’s not much meat to eat off those wings.

    Each order size comes with the choice of six stages of heat, going from plain all the way up to XXXHot. Only the bold try the hottest level, as the medium itself has plenty of kick. It’s a lingering heat that allows you to get a bite of chicken before it hits you with the burn ten seconds later. The chicken itself requires a lot of hands-on attention as you make your way through the dissection of the bird in an effort to maximize your meat intake. Tenders are only served on Thursday, which is rather disappointing.

    Hattie B’s offers a...MORE similar range of chicken choices, but this restaurant understands that people are more interested in eating breasts and thighs when it comes to hot chicken. This allows them to create a range of ordering options including a small (truly a half chicken) in white and dark, a large (the addition of an extra breast or thigh) in white and dark, a half chicken, tenders, and wings. They also allow you to augment your order with as many single tenders or wings as you want.

    Hattie B's heat level ranges through five categories from southern (regular fried chicken) to "shut the cluck up". Their heat is fairly rationed — a medium gives you the kick you need without lighting your mouth on fire. Even the weak can handle a mild order. The chicken is drizzled with a sauce of spices and chicken shortenings that gives it a little wetness while also keeping it crispy.

    Advantage: Both establishments deliver high-quality and juicy chicken, but the edge goes to Hattie B’s for four reasons.

    • The everyday option of chicken tenders is a real winner. Boneless tenders make the hot chicken eating process a lot easier. While thighs may have all the chicken flavor normally, the process of making hot chicken leaves that irrelevant.  
    • You have more flexibility to order different parts of the bird.
    • The grading of heat is fairer at Hattie B’s than it is at Prince’s. If you order a medium, you expect to feel heat, but not the need to get the burn off your face.
    • The chicken itself is slightly juicier.
    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Sides

    ••• Hattie B's

    Prince’s offers a traditional approach to sides with limited options. Bread comes with your chicken, so you’re only truly choosing between fries, baked beans, cole slaw, and potato salad. The fries are the best option, but none of them blow you away. This might be a calculated move by the restaurant to keep the focus on the main event: the chicken.

    Hattie B’s gets more diverse with its sides, which you would expect from a new age restaurant. You have seven options including baked beans, black eyed peas, cole slaw, fries, pimento mac & cheese, red skin potato salad, and southern greens.

    Advantage: Hattie B’s – The mac & cheese alone is good enough to eat by itself, and that makes it even more enjoyable to have alongside your hot chicken. The cole slaw and potato salad are better versions than what you get at Prince’s and even the fries can hold their own. Sides are meant to complement your meal, not to be left uneaten on the side of your chicken.

  • 06 of 06

    Final Verdict

    ••• Hattie B's

    Nashville has hosted a hot chicken festival each of the last ten years and debates continuously rage over which hot chicken location deserves the title of best. The traditionalists will debate how the chicken should be offered and served. Those less familiar with the tradition will just judge their favorite based on what actually tastes the best. And the winner is…

    Advantage: Hattie B’s – At the end of the day, it all comes down to the chicken itself and Hattie B’s has mastered the craft. There’s a reason there are hour-long lines and people have no problem waiting on them. The convenient location and the enjoyable sides are the icing on the cake.