Perched at what feels like the gateway to East Nashville, this diminutive house of pain provides hot chicken–seekers with a spice challenge they won’t soon forget. The interior is simple, with nostalgic flare and additional seating out back. The menu is equally spartan, sticking to a succinct list of bone-in poultry parts, along with both catfish and whiting filets, all flawlessly seasoned and fried to an audible crunch.
While Nashville has no shortage of restaurants serving excellent renditions of its famous chicken, Bolton’s has a particularly storied legacy. Bolton Matthews, who co-founded the restaurant with his wife Dolly in 1997, was the nephew of hot chicken legend Bolton Polk, who worked his way up through the kitchens at Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack. Before he passed away, Polk left his secret recipe to Matthews.
In an oral history interview with Southern Foodways Alliance, Dolly said of customers demanding their chicken, “They were banging on the door… Says it gives them a rush. They can breathe better. They can function better at work because they’re more alert.”
It’s easy to see how one bite will wake you up. A word to the wise: imagine spice levels here running large. As in, mild is really medium—so on and so forth. Don’t try to be a hero when you order or you’ll end up crying in front of every diner in the restaurant.
Know Before You Go
As the website advises diners: “Remember milk, not water.”