The fried chicken renaissance continues - and right next-door to the grandaddy of them all, KFC, on Ponsonby Road is Hot Lips (brought to you by the people behind Mexicali Fresh and Burger Wisconsin). This new spot is not the first Auckland takeaway to jump on the Nashville hot chicken bandwagon but, by the looks of the Uber Eats bags on the counter on a Friday lunchtime, it's a strategy that's paying off.
A little history; this sort of spicy fried chicken was conceived in the 1930s in Nashville - apparently served to a cheating husband by his wife. The snag was the cheater loved its cayenne fueled mix of pain and pleasure - and the dish is now replicated worldwide - many inspired by Nashville's longstanding Prince's (yes, even KFC now has a Nashville option).
Hot Lips differentiate themselves by making all their batter from gluten free flour and coconut milk, while all their sauces are handmade and egg and dairy free - although I'm not sure fried chicken is ever going to get much of a health tick.
Somewhat confusingly the spot also serves as a poke bar (Ha! Poke), while the signage is all about the Nashville hot chicken.
You choose a style and heat level - Naked - no sauce, Little Lips - gentle, Hot Lips - standard heat and Flaming Lips - super hot.
Vegetarians can switch out the chicken for fried cauliflower with the same spice choices.
You can choose from crinkle cut fries, dill pickles and hand made slaw as sides.
There are salads, tenders, sandwiches and burgers available.
I ordered the burger ($12.00) - asked for Hot Lips and a side of cauliflower ($3.00) both to takeaway - you can also order online or use Uber Eats.
Service was quick and the chicken comes cased in a brioche bun, pickles, ranch slaw and a house sauce.
While the chicken (free range of course) was not as hot spice-wise as some I've had the chicken was tender and surrounded by a moreish, crisp batter.
Food arrives ready for the road in a sturdy cardboard carton.
There's a lot of good Nashville chicken out there - the food-truck Peach's Hot Chicken (soon to open a store in East Auckland) and Low Brow's own Nashville inspired sandwich spring to mind; Hot Lips adds a health conscious alternative, although it can afford to dial up the heat.
Nashville hot chicken and cauli
234A Ponsonby Road
online - hotlips.love