Can you take the heat? Hat­tie B's is com­ing

The Commercial Appeal - - Mlife - Jen­nifer Biggs Mem­phis Com­mer­cial Ap­peal USA TO­DAY NET­WORK - TEN­NESSEE

In ex­actly one week, Hat­tie B's Hot Chicken will open in the for­mer Easy Way store on Cooper, bring­ing the food as wed to Nashville as Johnny was to June to an Elvis-and-Priscilla city.

But don't worry, says owner Nick Bishop Sr. You're go­ing to like it, and you don't have to hurt your­self. Food doesn't have to be painful.

"We all have choices," he said. "You can get plain old fried chicken like your grand­mother used to make. If you want to step things up a lit­tle, we have mild, just a slight touch of heat. Medium is very tol­er­a­ble, an en­joy­able ex­pe­ri­ence. My per­sonal fa­vorite is hot. We call it hot chicken for a rea­son. That to me has the best fla­vor pro­file with a level of heat that to me is tol­er­a­ble.

"For those peo­ple who want to risk their af­ter­noon and maybe the next day, well, we have 'damn hot' and then 'shut the cluck up,'" Bishop said.

Like Mem­phis chicken joints Jack Pir­tle's and Un­cle Lou's, Hat­tie B's is a fam­ily busi­ness — and a fam­ily name as Hat­tie is the name of Bishop's grand­mother, mother and his grand­daugh­ter.

It all goes back a gen­er­a­tion, when Gene Bishop took a job serv­ing on the line at Mor­ri­son's Cafe­te­ria. He spent his en­tire ca­reer there, work­ing his way up to pres­i­dent and CEO. While he en­cour­aged his son to stay out of the restau­rant busi­ness, he didn't stand in his way when Nick Bishop ap­plied at Mor­ri­son's.

He spent most of his ca­reer there and just two months af­ter re­tire­ment, felt the urge to get back in the busi­ness (and is now joined by his son, Nick Bishop Jr.)

"I found a place in Cool Springs (out­side Nashville) and I took about half the money my wife and I saved for re­tire­ment and opened Bishop's Meat and Three," he said.

That was in 2007 and around 2010 he saw how on fire Nashville hot chicken was, so he and his crew started play­ing around with recipes.

"It took us about a year to get it right," Bishop said. "A lot of ev­ery­day cus­tomers would come in and we'd say, 'Joe, I want you to try our Nashville hot chicken and tell me what you think.' Well, peo­ple can be bru­tally hon­est."

But soon they got it right and put it on the cafe­te­ria line. In two months, it ac­counted for 30 per­cent of the restau­rant's sales. When they found a build­ing in Mid­town Nashville in 2012, the first Hat­tie B's opened.

Now there are three in Nashville, one in Birm­ing­ham and next week the fifth opens in Mem­phis, fol­lowed soon by a sixth in At­lanta.

The Mem­phis store was sched­uled to open in 2017, but things take time. The space has been ren­o­vated to seat 63 peo­ple in­side and 60 on the pa­tio, which will be win­ter­ized for year-round use and also has an area for games or for kids to run around. It's fast ca­sual style, so you'll or­der from a counter, take a num­ber and your food will come to you.

Lo­cal beer will be avail­able on tap and all sides ex­cept the crin­kle fries are made from scratch.

"Mem­phis is a great food city," Bishop said. "It could eas­ily have been our first restau­rant out­side of Nashville be­cause we've been look­ing for a place for years. We like find­ing old places and re­pur­pos­ing them, and we're par­tic­u­lar about site se­lec­tion. We like where we are."

Hat­tie B's will open at 11 a.m. April 18 at 596 S. Cooper and will be open daily for lunch and ev­ery night for din­ner ex­cept Sun­day.

Three gen­er­a­tions of restau­ra­teurs, Gene Bishop Sr., cen­ter, with his son Nick Bishop, left, and grand­son, Nick Bishop Jr., at Hat­tie B's Chicken on Mon­day, June 15, 2015, in Nashville Tenn. Nick Bishop and his son Nick Jr. opened their sec­ond Hat­tie B's to­gether and Gene Bishop Sr. was CEO of Mor­ri­son Cafe­te­ria and Rudy Tues­day's. MARK ZALESKI/FOR THE TEN­NESSEAN

Con­struc­tion crews work on landscaping and some of the fin­ish­ing touches at the new Hat­tie B’s hot chicken restau­rant in the Cooper Young area, which is slated to open on April 18. JIM WE­BER / THE COM­MER­CIAL AP­PEAL

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