Chile Chicken Nashville Hot Chicken – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Chile Chicken Nashville Hot Chicken (Formerly Firebird Nashville Hot Chicken)

My brother Mario–seven years younger, much better looking and quite a bit smarter–and I have shared many memorable firsts. There was the time I taught him how to drive on our dad’s 1965 standard transmission Chevrolet pickup truck.  He was a quick study, soon terrifying our grandmother with drifting skills Formula D drivers would envy.  I took him to his first championship wrestling match at Albuquerque’s Civic Auditorium where we watched “Rapid” Ricky Romero dispatch “Yellow Belly” Robley.  Mario would go on to similarly dominate high school wrestling opponents.  Already in our grizzled 30s, we once beat two much younger (and ostensibly more fit) starters on Peñasco’s state championship basketball team.  That may not have been a first, but like the four touchdowns scored by Al Bundy, it was one of those youth-reclaiming victories we’ll boast of well into our 80s.  Fittingly, I was with Mario when he experienced Nashville hot chicken for the first time.

There are some things brothers will confide only in one another.  One of us told the other the Nashville hot chicken too hot to handle, but the name of the brother to make that startling and cowardly admission is not something that will be divulged here.  Nor will there be any jokes about taking away his (or my) man card.  Nor will we disclose which of us in a teary-eyed coughing and sputtering fit uttered “no mas” after finishing but half of the hot chicken sandwich we shared.  Not even Rudy Vigil, who recommended FireBird Nashville Hot Chicken to us, will pry that blackmail-worthy nugget from us.  Besides, Rudy as I’m led to understand, ordered his Nashville hot chicken at the wimpy “mild” degree of heat so he’s not likely to cast aspersions.

Chicken Breast

Before you cast the first chicken bone and brag about the time you ate two cinnamon red hots without drinking water…or about the time you ate half a bag of Lay’s Sriracha flavored potato chips…or how on a dare you once ate a tube of Ultra Brite toothpaste–try walking a mile in our shoes and eating Nashville hot chicken at the “really clucking hot” degree of piquancy.  Conquering Nashville hot chicken at the level at which we ordered it puts us (or at least one of us) at the same pain threshold level as the circus fire-eater.  Had we consumed the entirety of the hot chicken sandwich sans bun, we’d be on that pantheon of manliness alongside Chuck Norris and Roger Staubach.

Nashville hot chicken packs a punch!  As Mario put it, “it’s much hotter than Sadie’s chile.”  It’s so hot, it would make a Carolina Reaper sweat.  Okay, maybe it really doesn’t pack 1.6 million Scoville units of heat as the Carolina Reaper does, but it sure feels that way.  Unlike the type of heat that sneaks up on you and doesn’t burn until after you’ve declared it “not very hot,” Nashville hot chicken attacks you from the start.  It’s got the aggressiveness of the Tasmanian Devil and the ferocity of The Dude, our debonair dachshund, as he threatens the interloping mailman.

Chicken Sandwich

Nashville hot chicken, as its name indicates, has its genesis in Music City U.S.A.  It all started in the 1930s when a charming philanderer named Thornton Prince cheated on one woman too many.  Instead of walking out, his most recent conquest conceived a different way to get even.  Knowing that after staying out all night Thornton would come home expecting breakfast, she didn’t prepare a typical bland, hangover-assuaging meal.  She made him fried chicken with all the spiciest items available in the kitchen.  Alas, the best-laid plans of scorned girlfriends often go awry.  Not only did Thornton love the hot chicken, so did his brothers.  They turned her idea into Prince’s Hot Chicken.  The rest, as the proverbial “they” is history.

The Nashville Hot Chicken Coalition whose motto is “to protect and to burn” tells us “While each Nashville Hot Chicken restaurant may have their own secret blend of spices, many note that it’s not just an intense amount of heat that makes it authentic, it’s that heat and flavor. The chicken is fried and coated in these seasonings, most typically in a “dry” sauce – often made with a base of lard or oil. The use of a “wet” sauce (such as Buffalo-style chicken) is NOT Nashville Hot Chicken.”  The site adds: “What really makes it authentic is…the finished flavor of the chicken itself. It’s overwhelmingly spicy, yet abundantly flavorful.”

Leg and Thigh

The finished flavor of the hot chicken at Chile Chicken Nashville Hot Chicken (formerly Firebird Nashville Hot Chicken) is both overwhelmingly spicy and abundantly flavorful.  That’s probably why every seat was occupied with a line twenty deep waiting to place their orders when Mario and I arrived.  Several hirsute male masochists (including a couple of knuckle-draggers sporting New York Giants caps) came to test their mettle against the potent poultry.  Some of the women we observed also ordered their chicken at the “really cluckin hot” level just as we did for the chicken sandwich we split.  Piquancy levels are mild, medium, hot, cluckin hot and really cluckin hot.

Chile Chicken’s torrid temptations aren’t limited to hot fried chicken though that’s understandably the big draw.  The menu also boasts of barbecue pulled pork and chopped brisket sandwiches as well as catfish.  Okay, enough about them.  Nashville hot chicken comes in many forms such as  “Hot Cluck” meals, served with white bread, pickles and a beverage.  Meals include legs and thighs, breasts and wings, tenders and half birds. You can also order hot chicken with waffles.  Sides aren’t quite as fiery.  They include crispy fries, onion rings, cornbread, fried okra, mashed potatoes and gravy and several other Southern staples.  For dessert, there’s banana pudding and pecan pie.

Chicken Wing and Breast

15 March 2019: Chile Chicken’s hot chicken sandwich is constructed from a hot chicken boneless breast so large you might wonder if it came from an ostrich or maybe a pterodactyl.  It extends far beyond its sizeable buns (insert your own Kim Kardashian joke here).  The chicken breast is generously topped with a sweet coleslaw that does little to obfuscate the hot chicken’s heat.  This sandwich is a rarity in that not only does the chicken burn, burn, burn like a certain Johnny Cash song, it tastes really good.  Yes, despite its piquancy, you’ll be able to taste and appreciate the deliciousness of fried hot chicken.  The sandwich comes with one side.  Make it the very good Southern cornbread in a cupcake baking cup which does a good job taking away some of the hot chicken’s bite.

15 March 2019: If you do order one item of hot chicken at the really cluckin’ hot level and another item at a lesser degree of piquancy, make sure you eat the meeker hot chicken first.  If you don’t, you risk not being able to fully appreciate the less potent poultry until the burn from the volcano-level hot chicken has been extinguished.  That was the case in our experience.  We should have consumed the leg and thigh which we ordered at the “medium” level first.  Despite scalded taste buds and charred tongues from the really cluckin hot chicken sandwich, it was obvious the leg and thigh were superb.  As in, nearly as good as my mom’s fried chicken good.

Chicken and Waffle

06 April 2019: Homer Simpson’s bucket list actually includes a bucket.  A bucket of fried chicken, that is.  Of course, his bucket would also include shrimp, tartar sauce, chili, popcorn and cholesterol medicine.  Maybe it doesn’t rise to the level of bucket list wish, but one of my Kim’s fondest wishes is for the Duke City to enjoy fried chicken as transformative as we discovered during our November, 2018 visit to Gus’s World-Famous Fried Chicken in Austin. After her inaugural visit to Chile Chicken, she used such terms as “the next best thing to Gus’s” and “the best fried chicken in Albuquerque.”  As someone who’s been preparing my mom’s fried chicken recipe for more than three decades, she should know.

Of course, being of the smarter gender, she saw no need to prove how much pain she can endure so she ordered her hot chicken at the Rudy Vigil (mild) level.  Just in case mild was a misnomer, she ordered her chicken (leg and thigh) with a waffle.  Indeed, at the mild level, the focus is exclusively on the peerless flavor of the poultry.  She even ate the  crispy, golden skin, something she almost never does.  The single golden waffle doused in sweet syrup is a perfect foil for the salty, savory chicken.  These are among the very best Chicken and waffles in the metropolitan area.

Banana Pudding

15 March 2019: Another lesson learned for next time we decide we want the “pain is a flavor” level is to use the banana pudding as a palate cleanser…or more appropriately, a coolant in between bites.  Not only is this banana pudding among the very best in the city (along with the banana pudding at Vick’s Vittles), it’s served cold and really tames the heat of the chicken.  There’s a bounty of bananas in each cup and the vanilla wafers are fresh and crisp, not soft and mushy.

Chile Chicken Nashville Hot Chicken is the sister restaurant of Down N’ Dirty Seafood Boil, the great folks who introduced Albuquerque to the seafood boil.  Trust them to begin another food trend that has captured the imagination and taste buds of Duke City diners, including those of two brothers who won’t betray which one is wimpier than the other.

Chile Chicken Nashville Hot Chicken
3005 Eubank, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 293-1700
Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 25 April 2020
1st VISIT: 15 March 2019
COST: $$
BEST BET:  Hot Chicken Sandwich, Thigh and Leg, Wing and Breast Cornbread, Banana Pudding, Chicken & Waffle
REVIEW #1101

21 thoughts on “Chile Chicken Nashville Hot Chicken – Albuquerque, New Mexico

  1. Either they’ve changed the sauce, or they messed up my order. I got tenders and a chicken sandwich in hot, and the sauce had just the slightest hint of heat, like what I would expect from a medium.
    I’m hoping they just put the wrong sauce, but maybe next time I’ll get one or two of the tenders in cluckin’ hot. To be clear the chicken is still pretty good, was just hoping for some heat!

    Their sweet potato fries were pretty good!

    1. Fear not, good Captain. Only the name has changed. You’ll still find the addictive Nashville hot chicken in all its incendiary instantiations. Apparently the name Firebird Nashville Hot Chicken had already been trademarked–by a California joint of all things.

      I hope all is going well for you during your quarantine.

      1. Yes, all is going well. Cooking a lot more these days, but trying to support mom & pop joints. I’ve not done a good job of picking which one to support, unfortunately…

        I don’t know how many times I’ve opened up my bag at home to find missing items…such as sopapillas! Maybe they’ve all gotten better, and I should start to frequent them some more.

        Hope you and Kim are staying safe and sane!

  2. I hate to be the guy that throws a wet towel on an enthusiastic string of positive comments but…. I just tried firebird and I wasn’t impressed. I ordered the three whole wing plate (hot) with mashed potatoes and gravy as my side. “I’m sorry sir we ran out of mashed potatoes and gravy.” Strike one. Settling on onion rings I took my number, poured my iced tea and headed to my table. It was busy so I figured I’d have to wait for a while. To my surprise my order arrived in about 10 minutes. I eat wings a lot. I’ve even perfected several recipes and grilling techniques for my backyard grill. First off a well cooked wing will separate at the joint easily. Pulling the wingtip off first and separating the drum from the flat took a fair amount of work. Once I got them pulled apart and got to the meat of the matter I quickly knew why. Signs of pink undercooked meat. Strike two. I really like crispy skin on my chicken. When I bit into the wing the skin was rubbery and very chewy. Strike three. I’m out a here. One other quick comment. I liked the flavor of the sauce. But my chicken was swimming in the stuff and the bread under the chicken was saturated. After a short while the sauce was running down my forearms.

    I will try it again. Maybe they were just having a bad day. It happens. And I’ll be sure to ask for easy sauce or get it on the side. I might try the catfish or chicken and waffles next time.

    1. It sounds like they were in a hurry their grease was too hot and didn’t leave it in the grease very long. This yields Burnt outside and raw inside. I hope they were just having a bad day.

  3. This is a great chicken place! This was a great recommendation by Gil and Sr. Plata. I’ve been about 7 or 8 times by now. I’ve tried the Hot, Cluckin’ Hot, and Really Cluckin’ Hot. As for the fire-on-the-tongue experience here’s mine:
    Hot: This turned out to be my go-to heat level after I tried the two hotter heat levels. I would call it nicely hot or comfortably hot if you like things hot. Very good chicken, though I’ve found their tenders to be a little overcooked and dry at times. Better pick is the chicken sandwich that includes the biggest fried chicken breast I’ve ever seen on a bun with slaw, pickles, and a side. This one is juicy.
    Cluckin’ Hot: This one was about one tick hotter than the hot. It was hot, very hot, but I didn’t even break a sweat. I would call this slightly uncomfortably hot.
    Really Cluckin’ Hot: This level burned me good! I had to take a little break halfway through to let the heat drop down. The break: I pulled all of the coating and skin off the chicken and focused on eating the meat. The meat (chicken breast) didn’t have too much heat and that gave my mouth a chance to recover. The cooling cole slaw was a huge help. Then, knowing I was going to hate myself, I ate all of the skin and coating in about 3 bites and the heat level rose precipitously. The insides of my ears were even burning a little! The heat level went beyond uncomfortable to agonizing for about 3 minutes, then started to taper down. The burn was completely gone in about 20-30 minutes. I’ve had hotter, and this could have been hotter, but for what reason?! It was already at a high (but tolerable) pain level that degraded my enjoyment of the meal. That’s why I usually order the Hot level since then. Hot is a pleasurable pain level that contributes to the enjoyment of the bird.
    Well, that’s my synopsis. I’ll spare you the details of the minor flashbacks the next day. If you like it hot, you will find a heat level at FireBird will meet your needs. If you don’t like it hot, they make some pretty fine danged chicken!

      1. Agreed, the mild is extremely mild, but they do offer a No Sauce option, and I’m guessing it would still be pretty good fried chicken.

        But don’t deny yourself the opportunity to try the mild, then the medium, then the hot, etc., until you find your level of tolerance/enjoyment…

  4. Sensei took me to one Awesome chicken place. Thought U would change up the chicken fried chicken for fried chicken.This place is good! I had the ‘medium’ hot level and it had a good bite for me. What I liked the best was the very light battering! Most places I know have too thick of batter or crust that can place one gluten -free into a coma. 2 Suggestions: 1) Add Chicken Fried Chicken with a white gravy that has chicken added and 2) Offer a 12 Wing only Special. let me know I will be back! Thanks, Sr Plata

  5. Just to keep you in the loop about The ABQ Scene as I’ve read you don’t visit this place that I’ve seen, but have not tasted, has had Nashville Hot Chicken for several months now!!!! I.e. it may have been first on the scene, i.e. ya missed it!
    Speaking of that and while somewhat off track, IMHO, Y’all gotta see Eh, it won an Oscar for best pic! IMHO, and with all due respect to those who promulgate being PC, I suggest ya enjoy watching not only as a docu-drama, but with many moments of comedic relief! Shirley has been my bestest of Jazz Pianists/Composers since the early ’70s when discovered serendipitously, e.g. etc.
    Food for the ears as well as the soul!

  6. I would pay good money to see Ryan take a crack at this chicken! 🙂

    I’d like to try the really cluckin’ hot, but just as a curiousity. I think I’d enjoy the hot. Definitely gonna have to try this sometime…though I rarely find myself in that particular neighborhood of Eubank.

    1. And so glad I did!!! I loved it. Had the leg and thigh (because duh!) in hot (again, because duh!). Forget the spices, etc., it is just a nicely fried piece of chicken. Add the sauce to it, and BOOM!

      Also tried the sandwich (two big thumbs up!) and had leftovers for today.

      All in all, great place to go! Will definitely be back, and soon!

      1. I really enjoyed this place too, but I won’t be back as soon as I would like, as it’s a ways out of the way for me. So here’s hoping they do so well that they open another location further west. Doesn’t have to be in Rio Rancho or by Cottonwood Mall (though that would be awesome!), but no further east than say, San Mateo.

  7. I have never met Napoleon. But I plan to find the time.

    I have never been to Firebird. But I plan to find the time.

  8. I lived in Nashville from 2001-2003, before Hot Chicken was a well known national “thing”. In fact, the only restaurant that served hot chicken (that I was aware of) was a place called Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack. At the time, there was no indoor seating (just concrete picnic tables outside), and it was open late at night. As Gil and the good Captain Tuttle know, I’m not crazy about super spicy food. I ordered the “mild” 3 piece and it was burn your mouth off hot. I couldn’t finish even one piece. After my mouth cooled off nearly 30 minutes later, I ordered the “plain” which was unseasoned but cooked in the same cast iron skillet as the seasoned. Even the “plain” was uncomfortably hot.
    This leads me to my point. In my 43 years on earth, I only have two pieces of wisdom to impart: If a Black person or an Asian person tells you that something is spicy, BELIEVE THEM. The other is something that I can’t share on a G rated family blog such as this one.

    1. Thank you, Dixie, for alerting me to my next dessert at Sixty Six Acres. The Banana Pudding Crunch
      (layers of housemade pudding + fresh bananas + shortbread) sounds fabulous.

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