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Hurts so good: D.C.'s hot chicken craze

Crisp Kitchen + Bar's chicken is served the traditional way atop Pullman loaf with pickles, onions and ranch, in spicy, extra spicy or even spicier upon request. (Image: Courtesy Crisp Kitchen + Bar)

If you like your dishes spicy, run don't walk to one of these spots around town serving piquant poultry. Nashville's most iconic dish, hot chicken, is made by marinating the meat in buttermilk before it's breaded, fried and dunked in a paste made of lard, cayenne pepper and other spices. Beyond lip-tingling, it's not for the faint of heart, but it is undeniably addictive.

Trummer's on Main

After some R&D in Nashville, owners Stefan and Victoria Trummer and executive chef Austin Fausett returned to the Clifton restaurant to launch a collaborative pop-up. Continuing until May 26, Jailbird offers hot chicken ($11-$34) in four spice levels washed down with Stefan's mouth-cooling cocktails. Come for the chicken, stay for the brussels sprouts salad, squab sliders and fried biscuit doughnut holes. "I couldn't be more thrilled to have a chance to collaborate with Daniel Gorman, a talented Tennessee chef," says Fausett. "It is an awesome opportunity to have a real Nashville chef so we can give D.C. a true taste of some authentic hot chicken."

Crisp Kitchen + Bar

Get your hot chicken fix in Bloomingdale, where it's served the traditional way atop Pullman loaf with pickles, onions and ranch, in spicy, extra spicy or even spicier upon request ($13). Poutine with duck gravy and avocado toast with egg help put out the fire, and owner Jamie Hess likes to sip Shiner Bock Beer or local DC Brau Pilsner alongside. "Fried chicken is a classic American staple and spicy is always appealing to many," he says. "I don't think it's a trend, but more of an awakening -- it's here to stay."

Maison Dixon

Until its owners open a permanent location, Maison Dixon is hosting hot chicken pop-ups at bocce bar and tavern Vendetta on H Street. Choose one of three levels of spice (medium, hot and Nashville hot), either as a sandwich ($7) or platter ($13) served with two traditional Southern sides including jalapeno cheese grits, cole slaw or greens; cut through the heat with sweet tea or a malty beer. "Hot chicken is not a mass-produced, fast food, spicy chicken sandwich aimed at the Middle American taste bud," warns co-owner Adam Cox. "When done right, it should be a physical and emotional experience!"

America Eats Tavern

José Andrés pays tribute to the United States' rich culinary history at his Tysons Corner outpost, and hot chicken ($23) lists its origin as dating back to the 1930s and invented by Thornton Prince (whose family still runs the legendary Prince's in Nashville.) It comes with dill pickles and Parker House rolls; try it with the refreshing ginger kick of a Moscow Mule, or a glass of Gruet Blanc de Noirs from New Mexico.


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