The Fish Tale of the Hot Fish Sandwich
The most famous sandwich in town is undoubtedly Nashville Hot Chicken, but there’s another spicy specialty with a long history: the Nashville Hot Fish Sandwich. Once a staple at North Nashville church picnics, the dish gained popularity when small cinderblock restaurants began offering the item as part of a plate lunch.
Nashville Hot Fish Sandwiches are traditionally made by frying whiting (or catfish at an upcharge) in a seasoned breading until it is golden brown and crispy. Calling it a sandwich is a bit of a misnomer since the dish is usually served as a double portion of huge fillets that dwarf the spongy white bread it comes on. Order one to go and behold the Styrofoam tray cleverly perforated with holes to allow steam to escape on the ride home, lest your fish arrive soggy instead of crispy. The fillets are spiced up even more with a generous helping of hot sauce, bright yellow mustard, pickles, and raw white onions to add acid and crunch.
Befitting its picnic-potluck past, the usual side dishes accompanying an authentic Nashville Hot Fish Sandwich are coleslaw and spaghetti, as if eating the colossal sandwich wasn’t messy enough. Not as infernally hot as its piquant poultry cousin, hot fish sandwiches exhibit a different sort of spice. The hot sauce is more like a Buffalo chicken wing dressing, but at Bolton’s Hot Chicken and Fish, they torque up the higher heat levels with a (un) healthy dusting of their dry hot chicken spice powder. Be warned!As proof that Nashville Hot Fish has begun to enter the national spotlight like Hot Chicken before it, Arby’s has offered a limited-time special of spicy fish on their menus across the country just in time for the Lenten season. While it may be a respectable example of a fast food fish sandwich, the sesame seed bun and Parmesan Peppercorn Ranch Sauce reveal the Arby’s Nashville Hot Fish Sandwich as an imposter. When you live this close to historic birthplace, there’s no reason to settle.
Try one of these local spots for the real deal.
Bolton's Spicy Chicken & Fish 624 Main St. | 615-254-8015 and 2309 Franklin Pike | 615-383-1421
Ed's Fish & Pizza House 1801 Dr. D.B. Todd Jr. Blvd. 615-255-4362
Ed's Fish House 2806 Smith Springs Road 615-977-2748
TJ's BarBQ And Fish 1104 Ed Temple Blvd. 615-329-1200