Small Bites

Rocky’s Hot Chicken Shack: The secret to surviving the recession isn’t selling something people want: It’s peddling what they need. Think sex, drugs and blazing-hot chicken.

Photo by Jonathan Welch

“It’s literally one of those addictive things,” Rocky Lindsley, owner of the brand new Rocky’s Hot Chicken Shack in Arden, says of his signature dish. “I had this couple come in here three times yesterday, which freaked me out. They said, ‘What are you putting in this?’”

Lindsley could relate. He got hooked on hot chicken at Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack, the vaunted Nashville institution that Gourmet named one of the nation’s top restaurants—and made Roadfood author Jane Stern yearn for a hot-chicken 12-step program.

“(Country star) Lorrie Morgan turned me onto it,” says Lindsley, a drummer who makes his living as a member of the local band Social Function. The band’s guitarist, Johnny Jump, was equally smitten with the stuff: “Me and him toured with Rhett Atkins, and we lived on Prince’s. Probably wasn’t the best thing for us,” Lindsley muses.

Intent on finding a way to replicate Prince’s chicken’s distinctive “apocalyptic burn” (in the words of Southern food scribe and Prince’s acolyte John T. Edge), Lindsley started fooling around with spices and selling the results at his shows.

“I had an amazing response,” says Lindsley. “Pretty soon I was making as much money selling my chicken as I was playing.”

Fried chicken is just about the only thing on Lindsley’s menu: Customers have the choice of one breast, two legs or six wings. Potato salad, cole slaw and bottled drinks are available, although Lindsley’s heart is clearly in the chicken: Asked to describe the potato salad, he says it’s the very best that Sam’s Club offers.

But Lindsley doesn’t take any chicken shortcuts: Just like at Prince’s, every order takes 25 minutes to prepare and comes served atop two spongy slices of white bread that slowly absorb the cayenne-spiked rub. While Lindsley reports most customers gravitate toward medium heat, the menu’s mercury stretches to extra hot, the level which has reportedly made Prince’s customers dissolve into tears and run screaming from the restaurant.

“I think I know now what Prince’s is doing,” Lindsley says. “I had some friends from Nashville come down and say this is as good or better than Prince’s.”

Rocky’s Hot Chicken Shack, 2603 Hendersonville Road, is open Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. “As soon as I leave here, I go home, wash the chicken off me and play a show,” Lindsley explains. While there are a few tables in the restaurant, most of Lindsley’s business is carryout. To place an order, call 242-3390.

Blackwater Grill: Hendersonville’s Blackwater Grille, the only restaurant statewide to win Best Dish honors from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture in back-to-back years, closed last month. Owner Scott Adams told the Hendersonville Times-News that the current recession forced him out of business. “We’re running about 35 percent less walk-in value,” he told the paper. “Instead of coming in every two weeks, people started only coming in once a month and we understand that, we really do; it’s just an economic reality right now. But you can’t be a special occasion restaurant in a town the size of Hendersonville.” The Blackwater Grille opened in 2004, serving gourmet riffs on traditional Appalachian dishes.

Little Bee Thai: The Sweeten Creek Exxon’s status as a revolving global kitchen was sealed last month with the opening of Little Bee Thai, a no-nonsense pad-thai and curry spot. The counter was previously occupied by a branch of One Love and, before that, an Indian restaurant. Little Bee Thai, 3101 Sweeten Creek Road, is open Monday through Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Call 681-0710 for more.

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