In Nashville, hot chicken is a self-policing thing—places that fake the fire don't tend to stay in business very long. Locals can instantly tell when someone is chasing dollars over deliciousness, and word spreads fast (whether positive or negative), especially online—see Facebook groups like the Fraternal Order of Hot Chicken.
It's safe to say that Music City's Hattie B's has been thoroughly vetted by residents and visitors alike. One constant in reviews of the restaurant is, well, its consistency.
Part of that, says Nick Bishop Jr. (Hattie B's co-owner and operator, along with Nick Bishop Sr.) is a natural by-product of their dedication to ensuring the core menu items are well prepared and always available. Hattie B's doesn't traffic in hot-chicken egg rolls, hot cheeseburgers, or whatever concoction du jour that newer spots might offer in place of straightforward, perfectly fried chicken and a few sides with just the right seasonings.
"Something we do well as a company is tweaking around the edges while not tinkering too much with what has made us successful," Bishop Jr. says. "We've added only a few menu items since we opened [our first location] in Midtown Nashville in 2012. We're always looking to improve, whether in the food or the service we provide, but there are just some basics to both components we will never compromise on."
"We don't hire folks to tell a story or recite a script; we hire them because of who they are," Bishop Jr. continues. "This is at the heart of Hattie B's—understanding that every detail matters, having an awareness of the history of hot chicken, and respecting that tradition and those who came before you."
Almost a decade in, Hattie B's (which is itself now part of the history of hot chicken) still has folks trying to suss out its coveted seasoning recipe. Bishop Jr. notes that, if anything, the entreaties get more frequent by the year. All of the secrecy is part of the mystery that adds to the experience here, he says, explaining that the restaurant is happy to play along—up to a point.
"You'd be surprised by how many people reach out saying they want to open their own hot-chicken restaurant and would like to spend time behind the scenes to see how we operate," Bishop Jr. says. "You can come to eat the food, check the vibe in our restaurants, and do what you will with that, but we aren't gonna teach you how to do it!"
hattieb.com , First Location: 615-678-4794, 112 19th Avenue South, Nashville, TN 37203