Taste: Hen House
Hattie B’s Hot Chicken flew their coup, landing in Lakeview.
By Jan Walsh // Photography by Beau Gustafson
Hattie B’s Hot Chicken restaurants first hatched in Nashville in two locations. All locations offer their chickens in varying heat levels from Southern, mild, and medium to hot, “damn hot,” and “shut the cluck up.” And the birds are paired with sides and desserts made from scratch.
The Birmingham incarnation of Hattie B’s Hot Chicken is located at 2808 7th Avenue South in Lakeview. It is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday, late night on Friday and Saturdaynights and on Sundays for lunch into late afternoon. Attesting to its popularity, we arrive shortly before 11 a.m. on a recent Saturday and find a line of people outside the door waiting for it to open. Yet seating is plentiful, so there is room for everyone, from two to 92 in this line.
Outside there is also an L-shaped, covered patio that wraps around one corner of the restaurant. Inside this high-ceiling space, we are greeted with a friendly hens mural that leads us to the counter where we place our orders. Tones of red, silver, and black brand the eatery with Hattie B’s colors. Rough-hewn wood and stainless steel line walls and tabletops. Adding to the down hominess, each table has a roll of paper towels, hinting that things are going to get messy when orders arrive.
The hot chicken itself started at Bishop’s Meat and Three in Franklin, Tennessee in 2010 when Nick Bishop, Sr. and Nick Bishop, Jr. joined the restaurant team and added the hot chicken to its menu. By 2011 the hot chicken accounted for 20 percent of all its orders. Today Hattie B’s Hot Chicken is not only a dish but a family owned restaurant business, owned and operated by the Bishop father and son team. “Hattie B’s” is a Bishop family namesake. Nick Sr.’s great-grandmother was named Hattie. His mother and granddaughter (Nick Jr.’s daughter) are also named Hattie.
I decide to try some of Hattie B’s gluten-free offerings and order the grilled chicken tenders (hot) with black-eyed pea salad, Southern greens, and coleslaw. We also order the large white meat plate (mild), with baked beans and pimento mac and cheese. The fried chicken can also be ordered with a gluten-free breading. We paired lunch with an assortment of beers. And for dessert we ordered peach cobbler and banana pudding. My three thick and large tenders arrive in Hattie’s signature red and white checkered lined basket with two delicious bread-and-butter pickles on top. The tenders are red hot on the outside with thick grill marks and white and juicy on the inside. The heat level is just as expected—hot. But not too hot for me, so next time I might have to turn up the heat, just for fun. The black-eyed pea salad is a tasty, colorful, and acidic mix of peas and peppers—highly recommended. And the slaw rounds out this meal with its creamy goodness. The crispy, golden, white plate is served in two scrumptious large pieces atop two slices of bread and topped with pickles. The heat level suits my husband’s mild palate, and the size fits his appetite. The baked beans are flavorful and the pimento mac and cheese has a splendid, sharp bite. The mellow banana pudding boasts plenty of thick slices of fresh bananas with wafers on top. And to the hot peach cobbler we added ice cream that melts down into the crust layered with golden peaches. Both desserts cut the heat and leave us with a cool, sweet taste of Hattie B’s.