Nashville hot chicken: 5 places to get the spicy bird in Connecticut

Photo of Leeanne Griffin
Nashville hot chicken comes in six spice levels at Bridgeport's new Howling Hot Chicken, ranging from no heat to

Nashville hot chicken comes in six spice levels at Bridgeport’s new Howling Hot Chicken, ranging from no heat to “Reaper,” which requires a signed waiver.

Courtesy of Howling Hot Chicken

Nashville hot chicken is heating up in Connecticut, as diners get a taste of its fiery, peppery profile. Restaurants dedicated to the spicy Tennessee specialty have popped up around the state in the past six months, capitalizing on its growing popularity.

The blazing dish originated at Prince’s Hot Chicken in the Music City, and as a payback for infidelity, according to the restaurant’s website. Restaurant founder Thorton Prince “had a well-earned reputation as being quite the ladies’ man,” and his scorned lover wanted revenge, so she cooked him his favorite fried chicken with a “devilish amount of peppers and spices.” Instead of crying in pain, according to legend, he ate it all, and asked for seconds.

Connecticut’s hot chicken spots offer spice levels from mild to red-hot, with something for everyone. We’ve lined up five places in the Nutmeg State dedicated to the hot bird, and good news — more are on the way.

Howling Hot Chicken
Bridgeport

Howling Hot Chicken, by the owners of Milkcraft, opened in Bridgeport in mid-February.

Howling Hot Chicken, by the owners of Milkcraft, opened in Bridgeport in mid-February.

Howling Hot Chicken

The restaurateurs behind the popular Milkcraft ice cream brand opened Howling Hot Chicken in February, with chicken tenders and sliders. A range of heat levels starts with a no-spice version and progressing through “lite mild,” medium, hot, very hot and “reaper” — which requires diners to sign a waiver. Sides include kale slaw, mac and cheese, cheese fries, and mayo-based comeback sauce.

4615 Main Street, Bridgeport

203-540-5507, howlinghotchicken.com

Haven Hot Chicken
New Haven

Haven Hot Chicken, New Haven's first restaurant dedicated to the specialty, opened in October.

Haven Hot Chicken, New Haven’s first restaurant dedicated to the specialty, opened in October.

Courtesy of Haven Hot Chicken

The first restaurant in New Haven dedicated to Nashville hot chicken opened in October, with chicken and “not-chicken” (fried cauliflower) in five different spice levels. Menu items include combo meals with tenders and sandwiches, and sides like fries, creamy vinegar slaw, garlic-dill pickles, collard greens, and banana pudding. A snack list features sliders and fried cauliflower nuggets.

Feeling adventurous? A “tendie roulette” gets you five tenders, one of each spice level, served on white bread with pickles and choice of sauce.

21 Whitney Ave., New Haven

203-691-7617, havenhotchicken.com

Birdcode Hot Chicken
West Hartford, Darien (coming soon)

Birdcode Hot Chicken's

Birdcode Hot Chicken’s “naughty neighbor” fries with tenders, pickles and comeback sauce.

Courtesy of Birdcode

After a successful November opening in West Hartford, Birdcode owners Brandi and Phil Killoran are expanding their hot chicken brand to Darien in fall 2021.

Birdcode’s spice levels start at the no-heat “country” level, and increase incrementally: mild with a “touch of heat,” medium “proceed with caution”; hot “burn baby burn” and the top-level Code Breaker, with a warning: “Do you really want to do this? Eat at your own risk.”

Chicken tenders are served with bread and pickles, and sandwiches are built on brioche buns topped with vinegar slaw, pickles and mayonnaise-based “comeback sauce.” There’s also a kale salad option with tenders, and a “Naughty Neighbor,” featuring tenders on a bed of fries with vinegar slaw, pickles and sauce. Sides include fries, mac and cheese and slaw, and desserts, all made in-house include banana pudding and chocolate chip cookies.

120 Park Road, West Hartford (and coming soon: 151 Post Road in Darien)

860-206-1971, eatbirdcode.com

The Essex Public Market & Food Hall
Centerbrook

Nashville hot chicken by the bucket at The Essex Public Market & Food Hall in Centerbrook

Nashville hot chicken by the bucket at The Essex Public Market & Food Hall in Centerbrook

The Essex / Monique Sourinho

In December, Colt Taylor created a quick-service food hall at his restaurant, with several concepts under one roof: a pizza and meatball shop, noodle bar, Mexican taqueria and ice cream shop with gelato, milkshakes and baked goods. The Joint, with a burger and fried chicken menu, offers Nashville hot-style chicken in portions of three, six and nine pieces, and a spicy sandwich with fried chicken breast.

The chicken gets a cayenne pepper oil dip, Taylor said, and it’s finished with a powdered mix of dehydrated vinegar, dehydrated honey, and cayenne habanero.

30 Main St., Centerbrook

860-237-4266, theessexpublicmarket.com/our-restaurants/thejoint

Fowl Play at Parkville Market
Hartford

Fowl Play in Hartford's Parkville Market serves Nashville hot tenders, sandwiches, sliders, wings and chicken and waffles.

Fowl Play in Hartford’s Parkville Market serves Nashville hot tenders, sandwiches, sliders, wings and chicken and waffles.

Courtesy of Fowl Play

Fowl Play opened in September at Parkville Market, Hartford’s food hall, which now boasts more than 20 vendors. Heat levels start at “country” and progress to “What the Cluck,” with sandwiches, tenders, sliders, wings, and chicken and waffles. Sides and extras include pimento mac and cheese, fries, southern greens, cole slaw and fried pickles.

1400 Park St., Hartford

860-470-4463, fowlplayct.com