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Lincoln Square's LONG Wait For Budlong Hot Chicken Is Almost Over

By Patty Wetli | March 17, 2017 9:37am | Updated on March 20, 2017 10:42am
 Budlong Hot Chicken Lincoln Square
Budlong Hot Chicken Lincoln Square
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LINCOLN SQUARE — The quiet stealth restaurant opening is becoming a thing, as restaurateurs grow wary of over-hyping a date for their debut, only to frustrate prospective patrons when "coming soon" becomes "coming who knows when."

"I've toyed with that idea," said Jared Leonard, whose long-awaited Lincoln Square outpost of Budlong Hot Chicken is something of a poster child for the setbacks and delays restaurant owners can experience.

But nah, Leonard is really bad with surprises.

Budlong Lincoln Square, 4619 N. Western Ave., is licensed and will open by the end of the month, he guaranteed.

The wait will be worth it, Leonard promised, with Lincoln Square getting the best version yet of Budlong.

In the two years it's taken to build out the Western Avenue storefront — his initial location, which fell through, would've been a two-month flip, he said — the concept for Budlong shifted from a pickle shop and diner to Nashville hot chicken.

"It was really hard to sit on that [idea]," Leonard said, so instead of holding out for Western Avenue, he opened three (and closed one) Budlongs in other neighborhoods.

Here's what you've been waiting for, Lincoln Square. [Facebook/Budlong Hot Chicken]

"Idle hands are a tool of the devil — it's very true for me," he said. "I like projects. The idea of doing nothing would drive me insane."

In the process, Leonard and his team have honed their systems, become more efficient and nailed their recipe for hot chicken to the point that Leonard said it bests anything served in Nashville — a boast he doesn't make lightly.

Just last weekend, Leonard and Budlong's executive chef Dylan Lipe made a pilgrimage to hot chicken's mecca, hitting up five Nashville hot joints in 38 hours.

"For me, what those trips are about, anytime you have a restaurant open for more than a year, there's the chicken when you opened and then what it's morphed into," said Lipe, former pitmaster at Blackwood BBQ.

"It's a good idea to go back to the inspiration and make sure your adjustments haven't gone off course," he said. "We very boldly say 'Nashville hot chicken,' let's make sure it is."

There is spicier hot chicken to be found in Nashville — Lipe dubbed Bolton's "face melting hot" — but not better, he asserted.

"We did all that food in 38 hours and by the time I was hungry again, I was craving our chicken," Lipe said. "We took the best essences of Nashville and we added our food knowledge. We layer the flavor with the best of them."

Leonard credited Lipe with refining the way Budlong's chicken is prepared — from weighing the amount of water added to the breading slurry to sifting the flour used to dredge the chicken to the proprietary method for applying the "hot" that gives the chicken its kick.

All the research, testing and technique make a big difference in the final product, Leonard said.

On the duo's tasting tour, "You could tell some places didn't sift the flour and the breading was chunky," he said.

Lincoln Square residents will have the opportunity to judge for themselves in the coming weeks whether Budlong hits the spot.

The fast-casual restaurant, with seating for 36, will be open seven days a week, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. (All Budlongs will share those hours.) On weekends, Leonard said he'll likely close an hour later to accommodate bar patrons of Spyners Pub next door.

With Spyners as a neighbor, Budlong originally wasn't going to serve alcohol. But the pub's owner, who also happens to be Leonard's landlord, has given him the thumbs up to apply for a liquor license.

"We're never going to be a bar," he said, but similar to Budlong's Armitage location, will serve a handful of beers, cider and cocktails.

"It's not to get hammered but to have a nice craft beer with your meal," Leonard said, hinting that one of those craft beers could be Nashville's Yazoo.

Another teaser from Leonard: Breakfast will eventually be added to the menu on Western Avenue, including the long-awaited Spudnuts (potato-flour doughnuts).

"We just bought a new mixer" for Spudnuts, he said, as proof of his commitment.

When the doughnuts do make their debut, it's a safe bet Leonard won't sneak them onto the menu.

[DNAinfo/Patty Wetli]

Red vinyl counter stools give Budlong's Lincoln Square location a retro diner vibe. The color matches Nashville hot's signature spice rub. [DNAinfo/Patty Wetli]

Budlong will be spinning old school LPs at its Lincoln Square location. [DNAinfo/Patty Wetli]