clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The Most Famous Hot Chicken in the World Just Came to Los Angeles

New, 10 comments

The Prince family from Nashville is here to make a name for themselves

Chicken from the new Hotville Chicken in Chinatown
Hotville Chicken

If you had predicted a year ago that LA’s Chinatown neighborhood would serve as home to not one, but two, pedigreed hot chicken spots, you might have been accused of inhaling too much cayenne pepper. But that seems to be exactly the case with Hotville Chicken, a spicy new contender to Howlin’ Ray’s down the street.

The arrival of Howlin’ Ray’s — chef Johnny Ray Zone’s Nashville-style hot chicken restaurant located on the first floor of Far East Plaza — was one of 2016’s greatest culinary success stories, an accomplishment obvious from the hour-long lines that regularly greet customers queuing up for a taste of Zone’s sweat-inducing fried chicken.

But now there’s Hotville Chicken, a Saturday-only pop-up with a few weekends under its belt. The upstart option has taken up residence inside the shuttered 643 North in Chinatown, located just two blocks south of Howlin’ Ray’s.

Before you write off Hotville as a trend-chasing alternative for those without the patience to endure Howlin’ Ray’s brutal lines, consider this: Hotville is run by Kim Prince, niece of André Prince Jeffries, the matriarch behind Nashville’s iconic, James Beard Award-winning Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack. Yes, Prince’s is indeed the restaurant where hot chicken is believed to have originated — and the perennial gold standard against which all imitators are judged. Although the two restaurant businesses are not affiliated, Prince has family ties to hot chicken history.

That’s right, nearly four years after Eater hinted at the possibility, someone with roots in Prince’s Hot Chicken history has arrived in Los Angeles, arguably in the most unlikely of places. According to the younger Prince, who left Nashville nearly a decade ago to work in the television industry, a West Coast location has long been in discussion among fourth-generation members of Prince family, many of whom already live here or have to plans to relocate in the near future. “We decided to call it Hotville because people in LA don’t know the Prince name,” she says, “but the chicken is exactly the same” as her great-great uncle Thornton’s original recipe. He’s the one who first opened Nashville’s The BBQ Hot Chicken Shack (later renamed Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack) in 1936.

On Saturdays, Hotville Chicken hides here

At the Chinatown pop-up, an order of hot chicken (breast, leg quarter, wings, or tenders) will cost you $7, served with two slices of white bread and dill pickle chips. Heat levels range from “Cali Mild” to “Music City Medium” to “Nashville Hot.” Sides include a tremendously gooey jalapeño mac ’n’ cheese, crunchy kale slaw, creamy potato salad and BBQ baked beans, but as with the original Nashville restaurant, the emphasis is undoubtedly on the juicy, crisp-skinned chicken, saturated with a deep red spice blend that is as addictive as it is pain-inducing.

For now, Hotville is only open Saturdays from noon until 8 p.m., though Kim Prince hopes to expand service in the very near future to include Fridays and Sundays (and eventually the rest of the week) as she bulks up on staff. The space where Hotville is currently located serves as a catering kitchen for an Italian restaurant, which meant that the dining room and bar sat unused, an arrangement which seemed ideal for Prince. “This was one of the few places we found where a shared lease was available, which has allowed us to settle in before expanding,” she says.

As for being situated a short stroll away from LA’s current hot chicken heavyweight? That part doesn’t bother Prince one bit. “Whoever made up the whole competition aspect of hot chicken, I don’t buy into that,” she says. “It’s a community, and we’re all in it to support each other.” In fact, Prince admits she visits Howlin’ Ray’s often, and is good friends with Johnny Ray Zone, who in turn ate at Hotville during its inaugural weekend. No doubt the question of whose devilish speciality reigns supreme will soon be debated across food blogs and social media, but for now it seems safe to say that there’s no such thing as too much hot chicken in Chinatown.

Hotville Chicken
643 N. Spring St.
Los Angeles, CA
(323) 335-0373

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Eater Los Angeles newsletter

The freshest news from the local food world