I love to eat. I love it so much that I do it every day.
When Nashville was announced as the location of this year’s Craft Brewers Conference, I knew I had to go. Sure, I’m continually trying to stuff my large head with more brewing knowledge, I wanted to see some old pals, and drink some amazing beer. But the part of the trip I planned out with the most detail was the food.
In particular, I had a fire burning in my belly that could only be extinguished by more heat. In particular, the spicy, juicy, deep-fried poultry from Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack. For those who aren’t up-to-date on your hot chicken history, Prince’s is the original hot chicken shack. The Big Bang of spicy battered bird. A piece of culinary history.
Before I got could handle the heat, I had to warm up with my taste-buds. My culinary vacation started before we left the midwest. We met my niece (and her handlers) at Nutmeg Brewhouse in Burnsville on the way to the airport. It was a very good meal, but I can’t even remember what I ate. My mind was on two things: 1) Prince’s and 2) getting my glasses and hat back from Jocelyn.
Once in Nashville, my tastebuds woke up. The coffee shop next to our loft, Frothy Monkey, made me one of the best Americanos that I can recall. The sandwich was also delicious, but man that coffee was good. My food frenzy was off to a good start.
The days and times blend together, but at one point I found myself at Martin’s BBQ. Of course I couldn’t choose just one thing to try, so I got the platter. This baking sheet full of food hit my tastebuds with the best brisket of my life. The pork was also unbeatable. They know how to work that smoker. I paired my mound-o-meat with a smoked porter from Yazoo Brewing, which was just a few blocks away. I understood why there was a line out the door.
My next memorable meal was devoured before I could snap a pic, but I paired the Indian food from the Chauhan Ale & Masala House with a Saffron IPA from Nashville’s Mantra Artisan Ales. Here’s a boring picture the beer, taken on a beautiful night with open windows in the background.
Of course, I had to eat a hearty breakfast to fuel my mind and body every day to make the most of the conference. My favorite breakfast happened at 417 Union, just a block away from our room. I kept up with the self-gorging by ordering the chicken friend steak. If you’re gonna be a bear, be a grizzly, right?
And then, the day came. It was our last full day in Nashville and I hadn’t cried from the heat of any meal yet. I skipped lunch, knowing that I had to get that burning bird! I hopped in an Uber immediately after our last class got done at 3:30, in hopes the never-ending line at Prince’s would be minimal between lunch and dinner. It wasn’t out the door yet, which I considered a win. After perusing the menu, I settled for a half-chicken. More food than a doctor would recommend, but I was HUNGRY. Then I had to decide the heat level. I like spicy food, but the heat here is legendary. Some say that even the mild can bring a bring a man to his knees. I got brave, and went with medium. What have I done?
Forty-five minutes later, my order was ready. I was prepared for the wait, and knew my patience would be rewarded. The tiny strip-mall hotspot didn’t have an open table, so I took it back to our loft. That’s probably for the best, since I don’t like crying in front of strangers. I took it up to our rooftop patio and unveiled this deep-fried Mona Lisa.
It was…in a word….beautiful.
Each piece of chicken rested on two slices of white bread, which served as a sponge to soak up the extra grease and seasoning. The bright red bird had pickle slices on top, which was presumably there to help cut the heat, and I had my tallboy of Yuengling to help put out the fire. I also had napkins. Lots of napkins.
I was ready.
The next 10 minutes were a blur. When I snapped back to reality, my plate was clean, my beer was empty, and my mouth was burning.
Medium turned out to be the perfect choice for my palate. Yes, it was spicy, but I could still taste the deep flavor that the cayenne and other spices brought to the culinary masterpiece. The breading was crisp, the meat was juicy, and my heart was full. I could understand why this was the recipe that so many chefs try to recreate. Well done, Prince’s.
After a short walk to help regain consciousness, I had a Maibock on our roof for dessert. Smooth, malty, full-flavored dessert.
The following morning, I had one last Americano from Frothy Monkey, along with a massive breakfast bagel. My last meal in Nashville.
Without thinking, I ordered a beer once we got through security at the airport. Shortly after my first sip, I caught a glimpse of my watch. To my surprise, it was 10 am, but the rules of space and time don’t apply at airports. So I had another one.
Our bellies were full, our feet were tired, and our brains were fried.
Thank you, Nashville.
PS. Here are a few pictures from the conference to prove that I did, ya know, learn things.