Nashville-based Hattie B's Hot Chicken
will open a location in Midtown Memphis late summer or early fall, according to Nick Bishop Jr., who co-owns the restaurant with his father Nick Sr.
In fact, says Bishop, Memphis was the first city considered when they began talking of expansion. Hattie B's has two locations in Nashville and one in Birmingham, Alabama. Another location will open in Atlanta.
Originally, they looked at Overton Square, but then were told that the Curb Market location on Cooper might be available, so they jumped.
Bishop estimates that the new restaurant will seat 120. He envisions outdoor seating as well and doing something cool with the large sign on the building. He's thinking about cornhole.
The point, he says, is "to make it fun, make it an experience you don't forget."
Hattie B's in Nashville is, indeed, an experience. Folks line up for the chicken and sides like black-eyed pea salad, collard greens, and pimento mac and cheese.
Hattie B's is considered a newcomer, alongside such stalwarts as Prince's, having opened in 2012. It all began at Nick Sr.'s Bishop's Meat & Three restaurant. Hot chicken was added to the menu in 2010 and did so well as to prompt its own spinoff.
Like Memphis has barbecue, Bishop says Nashville lays claim to hot chicken with each place having its own spin to the dish, so that you might go to Prince's for this, or Bolton's for that. Hattie B's chicken, says Bishop, is designed so "the youngest, oldest, and bravest can try." They have undoctored fried chicken for folks that like things on the mild side. Then the dish is ramped up bit by bit, with options being from "hot" to "damn hot" to "shut the cluck up." (The latter, says Bishop, is for "thrill seekers and bet losers.")
Bishop says that, via chicken, he sees himself as sorta an ambassador of the city, which is not a bad gig at all. He notes, "Gus's is different, but in a great way. We complement each other." Ultimately, Bishop says, "Fried chicken — it's the universal food."
Bishop also says he's quite aware of the Memphis vs. Nashville thing, and he's ready. "We're very pro-Memphis on the Hattie B's team," he says. "We're looking forward to meeting our neighbors."
Images: Joseph Woodley