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Hot chicken is hot with opening of Slappy's
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Hot chicken is hot with opening of Slappy's

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If you follow Winston-Salem restaurants on social media, you’ve probably heard about Slappy’s Chicken.

The small restaurant at 200 W. Acadia Ave. has been open only three weeks, but people are raving about the hot chicken, which is fried and then coated in a homemade hot sauce.

It’s the kind of meal that will leave your lips tingling, and it will have you licking your fingers and gnawing the bones.

Some people have gone so far as to call it the best fried chicken in town.

“I’m really grateful for all the support,” said owner Scott Brandenburg. “It’s been pretty awesome.”

The early rush of customers has also been a little crazy for his small staff, he said. “But now I think we’re getting into a little bit of a rhythm.”

Slappy’s Chicken is in the old Acadia Grill spot at the intersection of Acadia Avenue and Broad Street in the Washington Park neighborhood. The space is small and the menu smaller.

If you don’t like spicy chicken, there’s not much point in going. The entrees at Slappy’s are a quarter dark, quarter white and a half chicken. The first two run $8.95, including two sides and a roll or bread. The half goes for $13.95.

The sides lend some strong support. The coleslaw is cool and balanced. The potato salad includes bits of bacon. So do the silky collard greens, which are also slightly tangy and sweet. The creamy mac ‘n’ cheese features bits of crunchy, cheesy crust. And the baked beans are boldly flavored — including generous amounts of bacon.

“There’s the chicken, and then pretty much everything else has bacon in it,” Brandenburg said with a laugh. “I’m probably a cardiologist’s nightmare.”

People also can get soda or tea, and if they come at the right time, a slice of pineapple refrigerator pie.

“I like to have some kind of pie like that,” Brandenburg said. “And people keep asking about the pineapple.”

But the star of the show is the chicken.

This is not the same as the Nashville hot chicken that is trending nationally. Brandenburg grew up in Statesville, eating chicken that was breaded, fried and then coated in hot sauce. “I grew up with Keaton’s (in Cleveland, N.C.) and other places around Statesville doing hot chicken,” Brandenburg said. “Everybody has their own way of doing it. This is my recipe.”

The sauce does not contain ketchup or other tomato products. It’s a little bit salty, a little bit sweet and a good bit hot.

“Children or people who are sensitive may find it too spicy,” Brandenburg said. “But it’s not going to be the hottest thing you’ve ever eaten. I’ve had people ask if there’s a hotter version.”

Slappy is a nickname that was given to Brandenburg by an old friend. “When I was younger and used to go places, people always seemed to have trouble remembering my name. This friend of mine started inventing all kinds of crazy names for me. This one stuck.”

Slappy’s doesn’t have a sign up yet. “Acadia Grill” is still painted on the side of the building, and “At Acadia Grill” appears on the menu under the name.

But Slappy’s does have a distinctive logo. Designed by Shawn Peters, the logo depicts a skeletal chicken on a skateboard. “We were kind of going for an ‘80s skater logo,” Brandenburg said.

Brandenburg, 41, is a veteran of the restaurant business, but he’s also a musician who plays bass and drums. He was one of the folks behind the recently closed Reanimator Records, a shop on Patterson Avenue near Krankies Coffee that specialized in vinyl records.

Local music fans may notice other musicians at Slappy’s, including drummer Jay King in the kitchen and singer Alexis Siebert at the counter.

Brandenburg lived in Winston-Salem from 1998 to 2006. Then he and his wife, Jennifer, ran a bistro called The Square Root in Brevard from 2006 to 2010. Since then, he has been back in Winston-Salem, working at such restaurants as Mary’s Gourmet Diner and Meridian.

“Back of the house, front of the house — I’ve been doing this my whole adult life,” he said.

“I told myself if I did another restaurant, I wanted something simple. This is almost like a food stand or a food truck, except we have some chairs so you can sit down and eat.

“We have a lot of people who live in the neighborhood or are just stopping by on their way home from work. And that was kind of the idea.”

Brandenburg is excited to share his love for the special kind of chicken that he enjoyed throughout his childhood.

And if hot-chicken fans keep spreading the word, Slappy’s is going to be around for a while. “I’m just really thankful that people have embraced the idea,” Brandenburg said, “because this is something dear to me.”

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