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Dave's Vs Hattie B's: Which Makes The Better Hot Chicken Sandwich?

Two hot chicken sandwiches
Two hot chicken sandwiches - Jennifer Richmond/Tasting Table

The hot chicken sandwich. Nowadays, it seems that every fast-food restaurant in the nation has created its own version. And it's no surprise. The moist chicken, the crispy exterior, and, of course, all those tongue-tickling spices make it the perfect sandwich for lunch or dinner. While all of these restaurants have a variety of chicken options to choose from, there are two restaurants that are known for and specialize in hot chicken sandwiches: Dave's Hot Chicken and Hattie B's.

Because I love a good spicy chicken sandwich, I wanted to taste both and see for myself if either of these sandwiches lived up to the hype. Sure, they're located in Las Vegas, where 5-star restaurants dot the strip and people will pay $1,000 for a steak. But does that mean a fried chicken sandwich will be just as good? More importantly, will it be spicy enough to get our tongues wagging and make us forget about the chicken shop that started it all?

While each shop has several options from absolutely no spice to burn-your-mouth-off hot, I went for the middle of the road and ordered the plain old "hot." Even though both sandwiches had me reaching for the iced water, only one kept me munching long enough to finish the whole sandwich and the iced water that came with it.

Read more: 26 Best Toppings To Add To Your Chicken Sandwich

Dave's Hot Chicken: From Parking Lot Pop-Up To National Franchise

Dave's Hot Chicken storefront
Dave's Hot Chicken storefront - Jennifer Richmond/Tasting Table

Dave's Hot Chicken may have several shops in the United States, Dubai, and Canada, but it wasn't always that way. Today's huge franchise had very humble beginnings, starting as a little popup in a Hollywood parking lot back in 2017. Created by Dave Kopushyan, Arman Oganesyan, Tommy Rubenyan, and Gary Rubenyan, the four scrounged together $900, set up a few folding tables and a portable fryer, and got to work.

Locals came out to taste their chicken and were so impressed, they took to Instagram. Soon, people were lining up around the block to taste Kopushyan's take on the unique Nashville hot chicken. But the company really took off when a reporter from Eater LA came out and gave the popup's chicken a rave review.

Since that fateful night, Dave's Hot Chicken has exploded both in size and menu. Not only can you find a Dave's in practically every major city across the nation from Los Angeles to New York City, but you can enjoy the sandwich in a variety of heat levels from no spice at all to "reaper." But be warned, the reaper doesn't just come with French fries or slaw, it also comes with a waiver that needs to be signed before ingested.

At Hattie B's, It's All About Family

Storefront of Hattie B's
Storefront of Hattie B's - Jennifer Richmond/Tasting Table

Unlike Dave's, Hattie B's actually started in Nashville, the city where Nashville hot chicken originated. Where Dave's was created by four friends, Hattie B's was started by Nick Bishop, Sr. and his son. Always a food family, Bishop, Sr. followed in his father's footsteps and worked in the restaurant industry his whole life. But when it was clear he wasn't ready to hang up his apron, in 2006, he opened up a cafeteria-style restaurant called Bishop's Meat & 3. While there were plenty of options on the menu, the hot chicken sandwich wasn't one of them.

A year later, Bishop's son joined him behind the counter, and a few months after that, the two decided to add hot chicken to the menu. Patrons liked it, but the father and son didn't think it was quite right. So, they continued to tinker with the spice blend until they had something they were proud of. As the popularity of their sandwich grew, so did the menu. Eventually, patrons could pick between seven different heat levels from "Southern," which doesn't have any heat, to "Shut the cluck up!!!" which is for heat "enthusiasts only."

The popularity of the hot chicken is what spurred the Bishops to switch gears and open up a restaurant where hot chicken was the sole focus.  Now, 12 years later, Hattie B's has several locations across America including its original spot in Franklin, Tennessee.

The Price Of The Sandwich Depends The City

Customer pays with credit card
Customer pays with credit card - Mediaphotos/Getty Images

When it comes to food, Las Vegas is known for all-you-can-eat buffets and pricey meals at top-notch restaurants. Well, you don't have to be a Michelin-starred eatery on the Vegas Strip to be expensive. Turns out Dave's and Hattie B's also pad their prices in Sin City. On the Strip, a Dave's #4 meal, which includes one slider with fries, is $11.97. Anywhere else in the country (except Manhattan) that meal will only cost you $9.99. Even if you choose to grab a slider at one of the other Vegas locations, the same meal is still $2 cheaper. If you want to add cheese, that's an extra dollar, as well.

I discovered Hattie B's does the same thing with its prices -- in Vegas, the hot chicken sandwich and a side come to a hefty $16.50. But at all its other locations, the same meal only costs $12. So, while Hattie B's is definitely the more expensive sandwich, you get to choose one of four different sides to go with it.

Dave's Chicken Has Good Flavor But Is Dry

Dave's Hot Chicken Sandwich
Dave's Hot Chicken Sandwich - Jennifer Richmond/Tasting Table

The Dave's meal comes in a cute little container that's big enough to hold the sandwich and a healthy side of fries. Made up of one deep-fried tender smothered in spices, the sandwich consists of said tender drizzled with Dave's subtly sweet and spicy sauce on top of a mound of delicious kale slaw. It's topped with a few dill pickle slices and sandwiched between a potato bun. While I couldn't get enough of Dave's sauce, which is really like a chipotle aioli that has a bit of sweetness on the finish, or that amazing kale slaw, the chicken itself left me wondering what all the fuss was about.

The spices are slow to hit the palate, but once they take root, they linger for quite some time. It's a smoky burn, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Unfortunately, underneath all that spice is the chicken, and that was less than stellar. Even though the chicken is a nice-sized tender, the meat was pretty dry. I wondered if the tender had been overcooked before it had been slathered in spices and deep-fried. While the pickles and Dave's sauce add great crunch and a delightful tang, they simply can't overcome the lack of tenderness in the meat.

Hattie B's Chicken Is Moist But Greasy

Hattie B's Hot Chicken Sandwich
Hattie B's Hot Chicken Sandwich - Jennifer Richmond/Tasting Table

The first thing I noticed about Hattie B's sandwich was the size. That boneless chicken breast housed inside a white bread bun is so big, the bun simply can't contain it. Unlike Dave's, where the sandwich is already put together once you order it, Hattie's needs a little bit of assembly.

While the chicken, pickles, and "comeback" sauce are already on the bun, the sweet and tangy coleslaw comes separately. I assume it comes this way for two reasons: First so that patrons can add as much or as little to their sandwiches as they like. Second, so the bun won't turn into a soggy mess. Unfortunately, it's not the coleslaw that will make the bun mushy. It's the grease.

I loved Hattie B's chicken because the meat is insanely moist and tender and so full of salty flavor that I couldn't stop munching. But the oil from the fryer tempers my elation because it saturates everything, making for one seriously greasy bite. Even the chicken's breading lacked the crunch we crave in a hot chicken sandwich. The dill pickles and coleslaw help though, by creating both a delightful sour crunch and adding a subtle sweetness that complements the spice.

Final Verdict

Dave's and Hattie B's chicken sandwiches
Dave's and Hattie B's chicken sandwiches - Jennifer Richmond/Tasting Table

In this race for the best hot chicken sandwich, I had two tasty competitors. But after munching my way through both sandwiches and their sides, one sandwich beat the other by a wing. Even though both sandwiches come with pickles, slaw, and their own special sauce, for me, it's all about the chicken. Yes, when it comes to hot chicken, spice is very important. The breading on both pieces of chicken was filled with plenty of cayenne, salt, and pepper providing a healthy kick that not only tingles the tongue and stings the lips, but its spice continues to linger long after the last bite has been swallowed. But once you get past that crisp covering, there's the meat hiding underneath.

Hattie B's giant breast may be bathed in grease and oil, but its chicken is so tender, it just melts in your mouth. I couldn't get enough. Dave's significantly smaller tender, on the other hand, is so dry when coupled with the spicy breading, that I was forced to sip on our lemonade after every bite just to slick the way for the next bite. So, even though Hattie B's sandwich is greasy and more expensive, it really is true that you get what you pay for. In this case, you're getting more flavor, more chicken, and just a better overall hot chicken experience.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.