In Nashville, it’s not just the music that’s hot: There’s also the sinus-searing, tongue-obliterating fried chicken that can only be cured with a quart of milk and a prayer. The local diet staple arrives on white bread with pickles, but you’d do well to order a side of coleslaw, potato salad—or a fire hose.
BURNING: Bolton’s Spicy Chicken and Fish
Though the tiny pink room seems to say otherwise, one does indeed need to man up to order the skillet-fried mild, spicy or extra spicy chicken (the place also makes a mean hot fish). The spicy version has a dusting of peppery heat; co-owner Dolly Ingram says, “It has a nice kick to it, but it doesn’t make you lose your composure.” 624 Main St., 615.254.8015
SCORCHING: Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack
The chicken that started it all four generations ago is still available at this cash-only Nashville institution with a surly staff. Choose from mild, medium, hot and extra-hot; the hot style is seriously tongue-stinging, though the crispy crust gives the heat something to cling to. 123 Ewing Dr., 615.226.9442
TEAR-INDUCING: 400 Degrees Hot Chicken
Most patrons are sane enough to order this dive’s 100° or 200° crusty, skillet-fried chicken, spiced up with paprika and cayenne; only the truly brave should attempt the deep-fried 400°, an almost inhumane batch set ablaze with habanero. The burn hurts less if you get a smile and a bowl of sweet baked beans from gracious owner Aqui Simpson. 319 Peabody St., 400degreeshotchicken.com