Nothing short of an overnight sensation, Vancouverites have probably hardly ever heard of Nashville-style hot chicken. Recently opened, Downlow Chicken Shack on Commerical Drive is Vancouver’s first ever Nashville-style hot chicken wing joint. The concept of Nashville-style hot chicken is simple, comprising of three components: bread, chicken, and pickle. The traditional rub of Nashville hot chicken is a blend of hot spices, doused in a cayenne-infused glaze with melted butter and lard served with a slice of white bread, topped with dill pickles. Given that their grand opening was June 13th, my inner foodie was mentally prepared for the long queue over the weekend.
Making the most of its modest space, the restaurant boasts a 24 seater with a summer patio that just recently opened for business. The ordering system here is fast-food style where you will be greeted by the cashier to place your order before grabbing a seat. Luckily, a server will bring your food to your table, just make sure you keep your receipt! Drinks are quite limited right now, but I believe they’ll be offering more than just pop and ginger beer once things get settled around here.
The menu selection hovers around the level of hotness with a select few of Southern-style sides like Corn Bread ($3), Sweet N Sour Slaw ($3), and Macaroni Salad ($3). If you like your food spicy, definitely go with Hot when you order up!
Ginger Beer ($3) Wasn’t my first choice of beverage as Petes and I had initially paid for Lemonade. It wasn’t until after paying we discovered that they had “no such thing” on the menu yet. A bit of transparency would have been appreciated from staff as I ended up ordering the ginger beer for the sake of it costing the same as the lemonade rather than a pop and losing out on the dollar. I wasn’t a fan of this drink – had a nice zing to it, but too shockingly spicy/fiery for my preference.
Chicken Sandwich ($12) Hot chicken sandwich with breast, potato bun, DL sauce, sweet n sour slaw, and house pickle. They get their bread sourced from a local baker (Livia Sweets). I’m indifferent about the potato bun as they were quite bland and stale tasting. I would have liked it to be toasted a bit – as I do believe the taste and texture of buns are best when lightly toasted. Flavour of the chicken breast was aggressive, yet flavourful. I was surprised to find the chicken breast juicy and tender! The house-made pickles were nice and sweet. Petes and I ended up ordering our own sandwiches (mild and medium). We definitely underestimated its size as it got quite filling towards the end leaving no room to finish everything else we ordered!. If you can handle the heat, definitely order up the ‘hot’ to keep it ‘Nashville-style”. The mild had a nice subtle kick, but I definitely preferred the ‘medium’ by far. It had enough spice to get my sinuses running, but not enough to create a serious after-burn effect as it was very tolerable. The creaminess of the coleslaw really helped cut out the heat. One thing to make note of is that the bottom of my bun was just soaked in oil. I used about 5 napkins to eat my sandwich alone. Patting the chicken dry before assembling the sandwich would have helped prevent such a huge mess.
Big Wing ($3) Drum, wingette, and tip. The wings had the exact same rub as the chicken sandwich and these were scrumptious! Petes and I both enjoyed the wings more than the sandwich. You can also customize your level of spice. We opted to have it medium. Keeping it Nashville style, it came with pickles and a slice of white bread at the bottom. Be prepared to use lots of napkins for this one as well! 🙂
Fries ($4) For four bucks, I aint complaining with the portion size here! Petes wanted something starchy to fill him up and these fries were also a winner in our books! The fries were served with a hint of paprika/cayenne pepper and I believe a bit of their signature DL sauce. We were stuffed to the brim!
If this restaurant is on your bucket list, do check it out. Once you survive the long queue, you can be the judge of whether it lives up to the hype!
905 Commercial Drive