I was in search of a flicker of heat, but most restaurants that boast of their spice levels dumb the chiles down for customers whose capacity isn’t quite what they think it is. A level three out of four, then? The counter server immediately let me know that at Hot Chikn Kitchn in Woodbridge, they pull no punches. “It will burn all day,” she warned me. I changed my order from Angry Hot to After Burner, just one level above the bottom Base sauce.
My favorite Nashville-style hot chicken sandwiches provide just a playful smack of heat. I’m not in it to win any fraternity bets. But at Hot Chikn Kitchn, even the second-tier spice is serious. My lips burned. My throat burned. And I wanted more. I was planning to only eat half of my sandwich, but in short order, it was gone.
The After Burner sauce, with its touch of sticky sweetness, reminded me of a fiery version of General Tso’s chicken. But the secret to the Nashville-Style Chikn Sandwich isn’t the sauce. It’s the fact that it’s an eminently well-crafted sandwich in its own right. The focal point is a slab of chicken in a fine armor of crunch. In places, the meat is thick and juicy; in others, it’s just a svelte base for batter. And each bite is endearing in its own way. On a plush potato bun, homemade slaw and crinkle-cut pickles add another layer of crispness and a touch of relief from the scorching sauce. So do the similarly crinkly fries, paired with a cup of mayo-based Good Sauce.
I got the burn I was hoping for, even if my plans for restraint lay in embers. // 14313 Potomac Mills Rd., Woodbridge
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