The team from Merchant's Workshop is set to open the Downlow Chicken Shack next Wednesday—and for chicken lovers, nothing will ever be the same.

June 7, 2018

By Neal McLennan / Photo: Sophia Chen

Nashville. Hot. Fried. Chicken.

Last night, I popped by for a pre-preview of Ron Livingston doppelgänger Doug Stephen’s new fried chicken spot, Downlow Chicken Shack, which is on Commercial and Venables—just down the Drive from Doug’s beloved Merchant’s Workshop (named Best Eastside in our 2018 Restaurant Awards).

The new spot is…focused. It’s all chicken, all the time. And not just any chicken, but fried chicken. And not just any fried chicken, but Nashville hot fried chicken—the spicy variant that’s the Hansel of casual food these days.

The chicken is from our good friends at Two Rivers (evidently a first for them to be supplying poultry on such a scale), and when fired it will be served on a sliding scale of masochism: from mild, medium, hot or extra hot to “A Side of Milk,” the latter employing the feared Carolina Reaper pepper to amp up the Scoville scale to 11.

The menu is an exercise in simplicity: ¼-chicken, dark ($9); ¼-chicken, white ($10); ½-chicken ($17); full chicken ($32) and a fried chicken sandwich ($12). I sampled both the chicken and the sandwich and was more than happy. The chicken thigh is boneless and, while some purist might disapprove, I love the the convenience of digging right in guns-a-blazing. And the sandwich is sublime—the soft brioche and house-made bread-and-butter pickles do an excellent job of taming the heat.

The official opening day is Wednesday, but if you’re on the Drive for Italian Days this weekend, stick your head in as Doug might just be serving up some fare.

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