About a month later it is finally time for the second part of our three (maybe 4??) part series where I take you through my favorite food in the Pasadena area. Today’s episode, Nashville hot chicken.
But first, what is hot chicken? And why am I, a Denver native Asian boy completely obsessed with it?
Hot chicken is a preparation of fried chicken with smoked paprika, sugar, hot sauce, and more. The end product is a delicious spicy crust coating remarkably tender chicken insides. It’s typically found in a sandwich with coleslaw and pickles; however, I’ve had hot chicken over macaroni and cheese, in a breakfast burrito, and on a funnel cake. It’s a truly versatile food group.
So, without further ado, here are my picks for the best hot chicken (and, for reference, I’ve been to 15 places in LA now)
Obviously, no hot chicken list in LA would be complete without mentioning Howlin’ Rays. However, their Chinatown location is closed indefinitely(?) and the Pasadena location is only open for delivery. Their delivery chicken is markedly worse than getting it fresh, but it’s still a great option that you don’t have to leave your house for.
Best Near Campus
The only (and best) hot chicken within proper walking distance of Caltech is Main Chick in old town Pasadena. Main Chick boasts a nice sandwich with tender meat and good spice. Spice mix is a bit heavy on salt, but nothing you can’t overcome. Pricing is reasonable, good and close by.
I need to give two honorable mentions here, first to Cluck & Blaze for their hot chicken breakfast burrito, absolutely amazing. Second, Daddy’s Fried Chicken serves “Nashville hot chicken” which isn’t actually that good. However, their fried chicken sandwich un-spiced is probably a better item than on any hot chicken menu. The bread at Daddy’s is made in house, everything else is from scratch farm to table, and it truly can’t be beat.
This is a “hot” take, but my best overall is going to go to Funnel Birds. This is technically “near campus” (it’s about 3 miles north) but is amazing. Their cilantro-lime slaw balances perfectly against the blazing but not overwhelming heat of the chicken. Even their mild spice level still has good flavor (at least, that’s what my roommate says). Plus, who doesn’t love a good funnel cake.
That’s all for today, happy hunting!
(Photos from LA Time/Yelp)