Burns so good
Nash & Proper
Sacramento, CA 95817
I have an affinity for spicy food, though it wasn’t always that way. When I was in kindergarten, my dad shouted from the kitchen, “Mija! Do you want a pickle?” I loved pickles. He knew this. And although this particular pickle looked strange, I bit into it—only to suffer through heat waves and watery eyes that comes standard with deep-green jalapeños. Oh the joys of growing up in a Mexican household.
Now when I see spicy food trending, I seek it out. I enjoy testing my spice-boundaries and swimming in the euphoric feeling triggered by capsaicin (the compound that makes hot peppers hot). Enter Nash & Proper, a Nashville-inspired hot chicken food truck that serves a straightforward menu of crispy-fried chicken thighs, wings and tenders dunked in varying levels of liquid fire.
My first visit was at its location in Oak Park, where N&P parks in front of T&R Taste of Texas BBQ on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons. The spice levels: Mild “a bit of heat,” Medium “now you feel it,” Hot “it’s burning” and Cluckin’ Hot “get the cluck outta here.”
I ordered The Sammich ($12, Medium), a generously layered beast that requires two hands to manage. A soft, buttery bun is grilled until lightly charred before two crunchy boneless thighs are dipped in hot sauce and stacked with a vinegary, green cabbage slaw, a few dill pickles and crowned with a top bun accompanied by Fuego Sauce, a mildly spicy aioli. I ensured my first, large bite included a bit of everything.
The textures alone were deliciously satisfying. The pillowy, toasted buns and the crisp cracklings from the chicken’s batter echoed with crunch inside my head, while the thigh meat was both tender and juicy. This tantalizing mouthful was followed by toothsome moments of fresh cabbage slaw and the occasional dill pickle punch. I dove back in for another gargantuan bite.
Luckily, I was dining solo on the trunk of my car, so I had no shame. Between bites, I enjoyed creamy potato salad ($3), cubes of cold potatoes in a dill-forward dressing acted as an excellent cooling method. Still, Medium didn’t quite scratch the surface of spiciness that I craved.
I continued to chase the capsaicin dragon on a follow-up visit, when the truck was at SacYard Community Tap House, with a basket of Cluckin’ Hot wings (three for $10) served on slices of white bread with pickle slices. The wings and drumettes were such a deep red it appeared an ominous warning. Once I popped the drumette from its wing, I took a conservative bite and waited.
Cluckin’ Hot is deceptive. I stopped myself from taking a second bite as the heat began to billow on my palate like a desert storm cloud taking over the entirety of my mouth. The heat builds slowly and digs in to stay awhile. As time passed, I craved more as it burned so good. A deep inhale seemed to make things worse so I tore off a piece of white bread and chewed until the heat slowly cooled.
With beads of sweat beneath my glasses, Cluckin’ Hot took me there. A very hot, but pleasantly slow burn. Would I order The Sammich Cluckin’ Hot? No. That ’wich is meant to be savored. But would I order a basket of wings that hot again? Most definitely. Would you?