Mention Huey’s, the new Nashville Hot Chicken spot in Murray Hill, at any bar on Edgewood Ave. and prepare for the question: “What spice level did you get?” Then expect the stories to flow. Perfect strangers will relate to you their experiences, ranging from the timid who err on the mild to medium sides (“it wasn’t as hot as I expected”) to hyperbolic survival stories from those brave souls who just can’t turn down a challenge involving tears and snot profusely pouring uncontrollably from their face.

huey's nashville hot chicken

Nashville Hot Chicken is a fairly well-established phenomenon in Northeast Florida, at least so far in that every restaurant with a contemporary southern twist has featured it in sandwich form on their specials menu at some point over the past few years. For a brief moment there was even a Kenny Gilbert-helmed concept at the Beaches specializing in hot chicken and fish. Hell, even KFC has a passable version that isn’t actually that terrible. But not until now has the First Coast had a restaurant dedicated solely to authentic Nashville-style hot chicken with an actual Nashvillian behind the wheel.

The origins of Nashville Hot Chicken is the stuff of legend. Its invention is credited to the Prince family who have been serving it up in Music City for going on 100 years. As the story goes, Mr. Prince came home late one night, perhaps smelling of booze or perfume. Mrs. Prince, having made a batch of fried chicken earlier that day, decided it was for the last time, so she served her revenge extra hot rather than cold. Unfortunately (or not!) for her, he loved it, and a culinary icon was born.

Hughes Brown spent his entire life as a Nashville resident and has been a fan of the city’s signature style of ridiculously spicy fried chicken for just about as long. After nearly two decades in the restaurant business, he and his wife Molly, a Jacksonville native herself, made the move east, bringing with them a desire to bring a real deal hot chicken concept to Duval County. They came upon the former Taco Bodega storefront and decided it was the perfect location for Huey’s. They signed the lease in January but their plans were derailed when COVID-19 restrictions were put in place. 

Such a shakeup would force most people to reconsider their prospects but for the Brown’s, throwing in the towel wasn’t an option. “There was never any discussion about scrapping it,” Hughes recalls. Instead, they decided to focus heavily on takeout and delivery, something they already knew would be a big part of their business and pushed forward. Thankfully, they’ve had no trouble enticing people through the doors and the only complications thus far have been ensuring enough inventory to satisfy demand thanks to unpredictable-at-best supply chain issues.

huey's nashville hot chicken quarter white

Huey’s offerings do not stray far from their flagship hot fried chicken but they also feature a sandwich and several salads available with or without chicken. True to its Nashville roots, fried quarters are available in light or dark meat over a slice of white bread, topped with pickles and served with a signature side. The chicken is first fried to perfection because no amount of sauce, no matter how flavorful, can compensate for a lackluster bird. You can get it plain or in varying degrees of heat ranging from Mild to Hot, Mother Clucker (extra hot) and Hotter Than a Mother Clucker (stupid hot). Hughes recommends starting at the bottom end if you’ve never had the Real McCoy before. “Even the mild has some decent heat to it,” he admits. “I wouldn’t advise anyone who’s never had it to start at even just the hot level.”

huey's nashville hot chicken sandwich

Not one to pussyfoot around when it comes to these kinds of challenges–but also conscious of the inevitable price one is apt to pay the following day in such cases–I opted for Hot. It was most certainly hot, though not without some honey-like sweetness, but I can proudly declare that I did not lose control of any bodily fluids. I felt the burn mostly in my lips and for some reason where my glasses rest on my nose. I likely won’t be attempting to test my mettle against anything hotter but I am interested in how the chicken sandwich stacks up as something I can put down on a regular basis. Either way, Huey’s is a welcome addition to Main Street Murray Hill.

Bold Bites is Void Magazine’s Void Column. If it’s Bold and deliciousness in Northeast Florida, we’re for it.