Spicy Chicken

Spicy chicken is not as directly peppery as Nashville hot chicken, but it packs its own roundhouse punch. Unique to Henderson, Kentucky, it is infused with a marinade of cayenne and garlic that penetrates to the bone. It fries up to have a crust that is nearly as brittle and as salty as a potato chip. Like aged country ham, a first bite can be downright shocking, almost too intense: wildly spicy, salty, and crunchy all at once. But as tongue-shock settles, taste buds crave more; and after a few bites, one’s whole world very quickly shrinks to nothing other than this amazing fried chicken and the need to devour every edible morsel of it. The idea for it dates back to the 1950s and a restaurant in Henderson called The Colonel’s Lair, where proprietor Bill Koch became known for making the best fried chicken for miles around. In a state where Harland Sanders began a fried-chicken empire based on the secret recipe he used in the kitchen of his service station/café, such fame does not come lightly. The 70-year history of Bill Koch’s unique spicy chicken recipe has more twists and turns than a daytime soap opera. In the early years of the 21st century, its banner continued to fly at George Markham’s Bon Ton Mini Mart at the southern edge of town. Ultimately, the Bon Ton closed and the recipe went to a local diner for a short while; then when the diner closed, the original recipe finally was mothballed. Mr. D’s, a Henderson drive-in, continues to serve spicy chicken that old-timers say is very much like the original.

Restaurants With This Dish

OB Bear

LOS ANGELES, CA

House of Nanking

SAN FRANCISCO, CA

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