My Year of Living Totally Nashville, Part Two: Prince's Hot Chicken

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As I explained earlier this month, I'm on a quest to do all things totally Nashville that I have never done before. Last month, I bought my first pair of Imogene + Willie jeans. After a month of wearing them nearly every day, I can report that they have broken in nicely and that my laundry load has been substantially reduced. I'd say you'll have to pry these babies off my cold, dead body, but I already bought two more pairs that I need to break in. Yes, I have issues.

In fact, I'm wearing my I+W jeans for today's quest to the hallowed grounds of hot chicken: Prince's.

No, I've never been there, because I like to eat food that does not fight back. I went to the Hot Chicken Festival one year, but it was the hottest day ever outside, and I was grumpy because the dude I was with splattered bright orange hot chicken sauce on my awesome dress, so I spent the entire time rehydrating in the beer tent.

I also have noticed this weird phenomenon about hot chicken in Nashville: Approximately 99% of the people I've asked about it say that the "extra hot" option at Prince's is totally scary and crazy. But of this 99%, about 95% haven't even tried it. What's up with that? How do they know it's totally scary and crazy if they haven't even tried it?

While I'm sure Prince's extra hot chicken totally scary and crazy, I'm not going to say it is until I eat it myself.

So, today I grabbed Sinclair and Nancy from Nfocus and resident hot chicken aficionado Eric England and headed over to Prince's. When we walk in, we are pleasantly surprised by a rather short line.

While I've been saying all along that I'm going extra hot, I start to waver after a long car ride of hearing Eric talk about the time he shoved his fork in his hot chicken and squirted himself in the eye. Near the counter, I glance at the menu on the wall and note that my options are mild, medium, hot and extra hot. I could order mild — maybe even medium — and have a nice lunch. But that wouldn't be very interesting, would it?

It's my turn at the counter. "I'll have one breast quarter of extra hot and some cole slaw," I squeak out. My lunch dates look horrified. (I'd like to point out that Eric is the only one who has tried extra hot. Nancy and Sinclair are wusses.)

This might be a good place to point out that a short line does not translate into fast service. Everything is cooked to order, and people can call ahead, so account for that if you are impatient or have ADHD.

Thirty minutes later, our numbers are finally up. FINALLY. This has also given me way too much time to ponder the fact that I am about to consume a food that falls on the pain spectrum somewhere in between swallowing swords and gargling with lava.

Eric's medium breast arrives, and as he tears the bag open, I decide it looks pretty innocuous. It smells heavenly. Maybe this won't be so bad.

Sinclair sees my smug expression.

"That's just medium," she reminds me. "You ordered extra hot."

Eric is also drinking water out of a cup he found in his car. This cup used to have coffee in it, so the water is a lovely shade of beige. I consider the fact that he is willing to drink water-coffee to quell the flames of medium chicken, and I'm about to eat extra hot. WTF. I nervously sip my Diet Pepsi and fidget as I wait for my number to be called.

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They call my number. I trudge towards the counter, feeling like the kid who got called up to do an impossible math problem on the chalkboard in front of the whole class. I feel like everyone is looking at me as I walk back to the table. Am I being paranoid?

No, everyone in the room is staring at the idiot girl holding the plate of fire. (The extra hot chicken is several shades darker in every sense of the word than the milder options.) They've likely seen many Prince's virgins make the same mistake that I'm about to make. And I'm about to lose my virginity in front of this entire room.

"I feel bad for you," a young woman says from the booth next to me, eying my plate. I look down at the enemy. Again, it looks delicious, a blackened breast dressed with pickles atop two pieces of white bread. (White bread! How good is white bread?)

"Why, have you had it before?" I ask her.

She shakes her head emphatically. Feeling generous, I offer her a bite, scheming that I might be able to get out of this by claiming fear of germs during cold and flu season if a stranger eats off my plate. She makes what I can only assume is the international symbol for NO FUCKING WAY. I'm on my own.

Now I really feel like everyone is staring at me. No, really. They are. Time to stop stalling. There's actually a video of this, but I stalled so long that I will not bore you by posting it here.

I try to cut the chicken, which is charred with the spices of death. The plastic fork barely cracks the hardened exterior. I hold the bird steady with my left hand.

"DON'T TOUCH THE CHICKEN!" Sinclair shrieks. Eric then tells everyone else the story about the time he thrust his fork in his hot chicken and squirted himself in the eye and then had to stick his face under a faucet. Since I don't want to have to rinse my eye out in the sink, I immediately withdraw my hand and make a mental note not to touch my eye for the rest of the day. Man, think of what a bad idea it would be to eat some hot chicken and then mess around with someone. Burning loins indeed.

Anyway, enough stalling. I dig past the dark, terrifying crust and excavate a piece of innocent-looking white meat.

I chewed the bite slowly, thinking it might go down easier that way. Nope. What can I say? It's really hot. Prince's extra hot feels like drinking a gulp of the hottest coffee on earth in solid form. As you inhale and exhale, it gets hotter and hotter. You may think you can ease the pain by eating some bread, but that is soaked in the mean sauce, too. So are the pickles. Nothing is safe. Even your plastic fork could kill you at this point.

After my one bite — hey, I never said I was eating the whole damn thing — I shoveled my cole slaw in my mouth, hoping it would cool things down a bit. Nope. I even tried eating a piece of cake from the nice lady selling treats near the counter. That tasted like fire, too.

However, Prince's extra hot is not the hottest thing I've ever put in my mouth (insert hot guy joke here). That honor goes to a pepper of unknown origin that I ate on a dare at my friend Hunter's house in high school. My mouth burned for hours, so naturally I drank a ton of Zima (remember that, kids?) and ended up throwing up everywhere. Good memory.

So, back to Prince's. I will say that it's not as hot as I expected, but I am in no way interested in eating any more of it. That's it. I ate Prince's extra hot chicken. I did what I came to do, and I'm done. I gave the rest of the chicken to Eric, and I'm sure he will eat it all and get hiccups again like he did at lunch today (and that was just from the medium, folks).

Here's another interesting tidbit: Immediately after eating the one bite of chicken, I realized I wasn't hungry anymore. Maybe this is a really great diet plan! Douse everything in so much heat that you can't eat it and you'll totally lose your appetite! I've got it all figured out, ladies.

Five minutes later, my heartburn — yes, from one bite of chicken — tells me that this is a horrible diet idea. Like, even worse than swallowing a tapeworm. (Which I would totally try, if anyone knows where I can find one.)

So. As you've probably heard, Prince's extra hot is totally scary and crazy. But you should try it anyway. Grow some, people.

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