On The Road With RL Reeves Jr: Rocky’s Hot Chicken Shack in Asheville North Carolina

The Appalachian Mountains Near North Carolina

In a shack.

Down by the river.

With a group of long-haired rock and rollers from Kentucky.

That’s my earliest memory of eating Nashville’s most famous culinary export: hot chicken.

I was in school in Birmingham, and routinely driving to Nashville to watch rock and roll bands at Elliston Square and Exit/In. I soon fell in with a pack of greasy heshers who were eager to show me a rundown, old fried chicken joint perched near the Cumberland River.

Rocky’s Hot Chicken Shack in Asheville North Carolina

I have no idea what the name of the place was but the minute I bit into a hard-fried, Satan-hot chicken wing I knew there was no turning back. That’s when I became a hot chicken junkie.

Since then I’ve ranged across Nashville dozens of times eating fried chicken; some hot, some nothing more than plain old country-style. Middle Tennessee has chicken that give Kentucky’s best a solid run for their money.

On a recent trip to Asheville, North Carolina I was startled to hear that the “New Freak Capital” has its own hot chicken joint: Rocky’s Hot Chicken Shack.

Founder Rocky Lindsley is gone. The old drummer took a payout from a pair of x-Whole Foods employees and retired. Hopefully he’s laid back in the mountains, counting stacks of cash and pounding on a kit of vintage Ludwig drums.

Rocky’s Hot Chicken Shack’s Hot Wings

Rocky’s Hot Chicken Shack is a sort of Bohemian version of Cracker Barrel what with all the vintage signs for old dairy farms and fast food restaurants lining the walls. It feels slightly calculated but I’m only in it for the food so I join the queue and stamp about for a bit whilst waiting my turn.

Rocky’s offers eight levels of heat ranging from Plain (scared) to XX-Hot (Mt. St. Hell-No). When I’m offered a heat index on any food in any restaurant I always ask after merely “Hot” and Rocky’s delivers a fair blast of heat at this measure.

How does the heat compare to Prince’s Hot Chicken in Nashville. They are the ultimate standard bearers of hot chicken in USA. Rocky’s is not in the same league. Prince’s “Hot” is cauterizing. When I fed a piece to my mom she reflected later that “that chicken hurt me” She said it with a laugh but then she chastened me to “never bring that stuff around here”

I’ve got a lot of eating to do in Asheville so I limit myself to three whole wings ($6).

That kind of pricing would have police searching for your body in the Industrial Canal here in New Orleans but the mountain folks of North Carolina don’t even blanch.

A few extra dollars will get you a pint of cold, local draft beer. Asheville’s been voted “Beer City USA” so many times they may as well retire the title.

1455 Patton Ave, Asheville, NC 28806

Navigating noon-time traffic on the drive back across town reminds me of why I decamped from Austin to New Orleans. Asheville is beginning to burst at the seams. In the last eight years the town has gained nearly 10,000 new residents.

Census folks reckon Asheville has around 90,000 people slumbering in their beds at night. When I was a kid tubing in the mountains nearby I used to love to come to the downtown in the evening. Back then Asheville reminded me of Mayberry. It was dusty, sleepy, and there wasn’t a damn thing going on.

Rocky’s has come a long way since it was just a little hole in the wall on Hendersonville Road where Rocky “kicked my own ass in my own kitchen”.

When Lindsley sold out to the Whole Foods people you knew changes were afoot. Nowadays there are two Rocky’s Hot Chicken locations, and I’d be surprised if more didn’t open over the next few years.

Everything in Asheville’s growing. How long before the “New Freak Capital” is just another version of Charlotte?

I watched Austin slowly transform itself into Dallas Jr and it was heartbreaking. Let’s hope the hippies, outsiders, mountain men, trainhoppers, writers and anarchists can save the soul of the city.

(828) 575-2260

About RL Reeves Jr

I'm a writer living and working in New Orleans, Louisiana.
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One Response to On The Road With RL Reeves Jr: Rocky’s Hot Chicken Shack in Asheville North Carolina

  1. Pingback: Field Report: Rocky’s Hot Chicken Shack In Asheville North Carolina | Scrumptious Chef

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