Fire in the Hole! Pepperfire Spiced Chicken Opens on Gallatin Pike

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Prince's Hot Chicken Shack has a new contender/pretender to its crown, with yesterday's opening of Pepperfire Spiced Chicken on Gallatin Pike near Trinity Lane. Pepperfire is located in a small cinder-block building that was previously Beefy's and then Phil's BBQ. Still can't picture the location? It's caddy-corner from the "Yes We Can" Discount Tobacco and Beer Store. You have to know where that is. No? OK, it's at 2821 Gallatin Pike ... just Google Map it.

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The two-person operation currently functions as a walk-up carry-out store only, though they have put a lot of hard work into constructing a dining pergola in front of the restaurant with some picnic tables and chairs if you would like to enjoy your fiery fowl al fresco. Don't be frightened by the utter lack of parking spots; they also own the gravel lot behind the building on Dozier Place. Hopefully, they will soon open the drive-through window at the back of the building for call-ahead orders.

Click to view full menu
  • Click to view full menu
But enough about the logistics. How's the food?

It's probably unfair to talk too much about the food on their first day, but in fact it was pretty darned respectable. The menu has the expected offerings of breast quarter and leg quarter sandwiches served on two slices of Colonial white bread and some pickles. You can also get jumbo wings or chicken tenders with the same hot chicken preparation, with prices ranging between $4 to $7.50 per plate. The side dishes didn't look like they were made in-house in the tiny kitchen, but the creamy slaw did help take the edge off the heat. Baked beans, fries and potato salad are also available for $2 each.

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A novel menu item was their Fried Peppercheese, which is basically a deep-fried grilled cheese sandwich that looks like something straight from the Texas State Fair. Perfectly golden and crispy on the outside and velvety and melted on the inside, the execution was spot-on. Unfortunately, the sliced cheese just didn't have a lot of flavor to compete with the mouth feel. Maybe they can switch to pepperjack cheese so the sandwich can live up to its name.

The hot chicken dishes are available in five heat levels, Mild, Medium, Hot, Extra Hot and the redundantly hyperbolic Extra Extra Hot. All items are made to order in a deep fryer, so expect 7 to 10 minutes from order to the window. The breading for each heat level is identical, with the spice coming from a proprietary sauce and seasoning added by tossing the pieces in a bowl after cooking.

I asked owner Isaac Beard to compare his 1-5 heat scale with other hot chickens in town and he said that 400 Degrees' hottest level was probably the best match to his Extra Hot. The competitor's 100° version equated to Pepperfire's Medium and their 200° would be Isaac's Hot. Level 5 is supposed to be over-the-top spicy.

In the interest of science, I ordered a half-dozen wings split between levels 2,3 and 4. The breading was quite good and the fry job was perfect. Cooked all the way to the middle without a hint of purple at the bone, the wings maintained a moistness inside their spicy crust. Maybe it was the fact that I ordered wings instead of a breast quarter, but I would say that Isaac overestimated his spice level on each step of the scale. Perhaps the lack of extra surface area prevented me from experiencing the additive effect of a large sandwich. I'd put his Extra Hot at somewhere between Prince's Medium and Hot. Next time I may make the jump to Extra Extra, providing I don't have any plane travel scheduled for the next 24 hours.

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To Pepperfire's credit, the flavors of the chicken and the sauce were not completely buried under the heat of the peppers, but I still got a little taste of that delightful face-numbing capsaicin buzz. Hot chicken aficionados know that personal preference is everything when comparing your volcanic poultry options around town. I'm glad that there is yet another choice, and will definitely be back soon for another visit to Pepperfire.


Pepperfire Spiced Chicken
Open 11 .am. to 7 p.m. every day except Wednesdays
2821 Gallatin Pike

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