Hotties Nashville Hot Chicken, 13865 City Center Drive (The Shoppes), Chino Hills; open noon to 8 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, noon to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, noon to 8 p.m. Sunday, closed Mondays
I learned about Hotties from The New Diner blog; he doesn’t eat chicken, but he liked the mac and cheese. Me, I’ll eat almost anything, even in far-away Chino Hills. My interest was further stirred when the LA Times Food section had a mention of the shop, owned by Michael Pham and John Park, and alleged lines out the door in a piece about the Nashville hot chicken craze.
In Chino Hills for a recent assignment, I decided to eat lunch before heading to the office and remembered I wanted to visit Hotties. It’s in the Shoppes at Chino Hills outdoor mall, near Pinkberry (there are still Pinkberry shops, evidently) and a chicken wing’s throw from Barnes & Noble.
There was no line on a Wednesday right after opening, but the restaurant is small enough that if there were four people in line, it would reach the door. You order at the counter and there is limited seating, a couple of high top tables and a few window seats at a counter. The menu is short: combos with two or three pieces of chicken, two sliders or two tenders, all with fries, plus sides of truffle mac and cheese, fries and slaw.
I went with the two tender combo ($8.50) with hot shake fries, ordering the chicken with mild spice, as opposed to no spice, medium, spicy or fire (the latter has ghost pepper). My meal arrived a few minutes later in a white box with a checkerboard liner.
Inside were two tenders atop a fat slice of white bread, two pickles on top, with crinkle-cut fries seasoned with “Cajun spices,” very good. I alternated between picking up the tenders and cutting them with a knife and fork to eat them along with the bread. They were seasoned just right for my mild tastes with a dusting of cayenne pepper and paprika. The lightly fried skin tended to come off, but it fell into the box, so no harm done.
Having waited in line 2 1/2 hours at Chinatown’s famous Howlin’ Ray’s, the place that started the hot chicken trend in L.A., I can state that the style and presentation closely follow Howlin’ Ray’s, that the food is very good but not up to that level, and that waiting in no line close to home is far superior. There’s a chart at the counter, by the way, that marks the wait time after ordering: 10 minutes, 15, 20, 25 or 30-plus.
If you ordered your food too spicy, Hotties has no desserts, but Afters Ice Cream is across the way. Or there’s Pinkberry almost next door.