This week, my friend Christian Bruce and I visited the home of Nashville-style hot chicken in Chattanooga, The Flaming Rooster.
Located at 3202 Brainerd Road, The Flaming Rooster was formerly a Chattanooga version of Bolton’s Spicy Chicken & Fish, which is among the famous Nashville-based chicken restaurants. The difference, so we’re told, is a few additional menu items — chicken and waffles — and variations in side dishes. Regardless, the chicken is either going to be something you crave from now on or the fuel for a hot chicken nightmare. The choice is yours: I love this stuff, but some people won’t.
Christian had never tried hot chicken before. He ended up a true convert by the time he finished his plate.
When you walk in the door, you’ll pass a cartoon rooster blowing fire out of his mouth. It was not too late to turn back, but the point of no return is when the door shuts behind you. You’ll see to the left a “Wall of Flame,” so to speak, featuring Poloraid photos of those who have completed the “Oh, Hale Naw!” challenge. This intimidating experience requires participants to become “Flamous” by eating a plate full of “extra hot” chicken in five minutes without the aid of any liquids. My buddy Brian Smith at NewsChannel9 successfully completed the challenge as you can see below:
Christian and I had no desire to put ourselves through such a conquest. A woman at a table near us had attempted the challenge before we walked in. She obviously failed and spent the rest of her time at the restaurant sweating and miserable. I think the staff gave her a shirt because they felt bad. I like hot chicken, but I don’t require it to be a trophy. Kudos those who are “Flamous” and on the wall. I hope it was worth it.
The menu at The Flaming Rooster is simple. You can get chicken in a variety of pieces, such as breasts, legs, wings, tenders, on a stick and with a waffle. They also serve a variety of fish, including catfish, tilapia and shrimp. The seasoning is a dry rub and goes from a “sprinkle” to the “extra hot/ Oh Hale Naw!” challenge. It’s important to not be a hero when choosing a spice. “Medium” is plenty spicy and is about the hottest chicken I can tolerate … and I’m a lover of heat. Old Caucasian Grandma (OCG) needs a “light” or “sprinkle” of spice. And if you’re going to order it “hot,” you might as well take the challenge. It was told to us that the chef can be “heavy-handed,” meaning, I think, that he just kind of does what he wants back there. There isn’t a measuring cup of spice per leg or anything. Proceed with caution.
Christian and I both ordered an unsweet tea. He got the Breast Quarter plate with green beans and macaroni n’ cheese. I got the whole wings plate (6 wings) with the same sides. I ordered a few cups of blue cheese dressing to dip the pain away. We both had our share of napkins ready for dabbing the spicy morsels from our burning faces. If we had to consume a napkin during the meal, so be it.
After about 10 or 15 minutes, the chicken plates arrived hot and intimidating. I made the mistake of eating a huge chunk of fried skin as my first bite and it was rough the rest of the way. Christian loved every bite, but he rubbed his eyes at some point and the meal turned into a sob fest. Conversing became impossible as the heat set in. I kept saying, “boy, this is good!” as tears ran down my face and my sinuses exploded. The employees kept coming by and asking if we needed “milk or something” because we were obviously in trouble. Even the macaroni ‘n’ cheese tasted spicy toward the end of the meal. The spicy flavor came in waves but much of the pain was mental. At some point, you became used to the level of heat and it’s almost a euphoric high that washes over your body. I get the same high immediately after a brain freeze — like a temporary lobotomy. Who doesn’t want one of those?
The cycle went from sharp pain to pleasure to euphoria and, ultimately, satisfaction. I noticed the same pangs of heat when I ate my leftovers the next day. The cold chicken delayed the delivery of spice for a few seconds, but it was still there. I’ve heard talk that the proprietary spice rub is almost 80 percent cayenne pepper. The chicken seems to have been brined (probably for 24 hours at least) in buttermilk. My chicken wings were juicier than Christian’s chicken breast. He commented that his chicken was a “little dry” by the last bite.
Regardless, Christian’s in-laws are visiting and he was already planning to bring them to The Flaming Rooster for their first taste of hot chicken. “They would absolutely love it,” he told the staff as he left. I can’t wait to hear what the Bolivians thought of The Flaming Rooster.
Would we go back?
Rarely do I write something that makes me salivate. I’m drooling all over the place today. That hot chicken hurt is addictive. It’s why hot fries and those Takis flaming tortillas have become so popular. We like the pain. It makes us feel alive. Plus, it’s cheap. Our meal was only $11 each before tip. The chicken is still good without the novelty heat and you could eat it without seasoning and it would still be a quality bird. We’ll definitely be back.
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