The Budlong brings 'Nashville hot' chicken to Chicago

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While a wave of fried chicken joints have washed over Chicago in the past year or so, only a handful specialize in "Nashville hot." (WLS)

While a wave of fried chicken joints have washed over Chicago in the past year or so, only a handful specialize in "Nashville hot."

Our Hungry Hound says one of them - a tiny operation in Lakeview - has big expansion plans already, thanks to the overwhelming success after just a month or two in business.

If you like spicy, then Nashville hot is for you. Based on recipes from places like "Prince's Hot Chicken" and "Hattie B's" in Nashville, the Budlong has taken some of those ideas, made them their own, and have, in the process, created a wonderful little fried chicken joint.

Named for an old farm that used to exist in Lincoln Square, The Budlong is attempting to introduce Chicago to "Nashville Hot."

"Nashville hot chicken is a fried chicken that has a cayenne pepper paste applied to it after it comes out of the fryer," said owner Jared Leonard.

But before the fryer, the chicken is dry-brined in salt and pepper, then dragged through a wet slurry, and finally, dredged in seasoned flour. It sits for up to a day, then gets fried in peanut oil, which has a high smoking point. The chicken has a beautiful, crisp outer shell, and maintains quite a bit of juiciness.

Mild is just fried chicken, nothing added to it. Classic is the entry level spice, a good intro to the Nashville style, then Hot, which is quite a bit spicier.

"It's spicy, its got a well-rounded flavor. It's not ever meant to burn your tongue it's just meant to make you sweat, your nose will run a little bit," Leonard said.

Extra Hot is borderline inedible, unless your tongue, esophagus and stomach are lined with steel.

"On the extra hot, we add some habanero powder, just to really get the heat, the Scoville rating up there," he said.

Leonard is very particular about how the chicken is served.

"Traditional Nashville hot is leg and thigh quarter or breast and wing quarter, served on white bread or Texas toast with a cayenne pepper paste on top and always with pickles," he said.

Leonard takes every component seriously; his biscuits are a thing of beauty, especially since they're kissed with brown sugar and black pepper butter on the inside. But of course, it's all about the chicken, and he wants to be known for more than just a spice level.

"It's not just the Nashville hot that separates us but our technique of the slurry and the dredge that makes the skin really tasty," he said.

Extra Course: All of the delicious sides on the menu at The Budlong.
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All of the delicious sides on the menu, that we didn't have time to get to in the story.

The Budlong
2928 N Broadway
(773) 270-9005

Also now in the Revival Food Hall, 125 S. Clark St.

Related Topics:
foodhungry houndchickenChicago - Lakeview
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