How hot is hot chicken right now?

An in-depth story on Prince's in Nashville—considered the birthplace of hot chicken— appeared in the New Yorker earlier this month, and one of the most popular shows on YouTube is Hot Ones, where celebrity guests are made to consume progressively hotter wings while answering a series of questions.

It seems America has reached the apex of love for Nashville-style chicken, the hotter the better.

Local lovers of the spicy bird generally make the pilgrimage to Howlin Rays or Dave's in downtown LA, waiting in long lines to feel the heat.

But now Redondo Beach has its own hot chicken.

Blazin Hens shares a storefront with the popular Slider Stop in a strip mall on Artesia Boulevard. The owner, Gene C. (he prefers to use just the initial) took over Slider about a year ago thinking he would turn it into a chicken shop, but the little burgers had a dedicated following.

So, he's doing both—a sort of fast casual bird and burger fusion.

Gene is a foodie and a spice lover who developed his own chicken recipe over eight months of trial and error. He traveled to Nashville to research the infamous Prince's, and Hattie B's along with LA chicken hotspots, and "tried to put my own twist on it, while remaining true to what it is."

Blazin Hens starts with quality Jidori style chicken, brines it for 24 hours, dips it in buttermilk or whole milk, depending on the cut, and breads it to order.

This ensures chicken that's hot and fresh, but also requires twenty minutes for combos. To cut the wait, they recommend ordering online before traveling to the store, and are running a promotion on online orders through February to encourage the practice.

On a recent visit, I tried the 3-wing combo, with each of the wings prepared at a different heat level, to compare. The wings are enormous, the size of woman's fist, but when eating wings you're going to get a higher breading to meat ratio and so it's all about the spice.

The chicken is very crispy, the breading has an almost a cracker-like texture. The medium is heated with cayenne, and if you're a newbie to this sort of chicken, you will find it plenty hot, and the chicken itself was quite juicy.

The hot, made with habaneros, gave me the sniffles, and a little numbing of the lips, but the flavor of the chicken still came though, and the numbness was not unpleasant. The wings came on top of a slice of soft sweet Hawaiian bread that helped muffle the heat.

When it came to the extra hot, made with ghost peppers, I was careful to use a knife and fork, as I've seen folks get that chili on their fingers and touch their face and it can sting.

In the eating, I did not find the extra hot that much hotter than the hot, but subsequently my tongue felt as though it was vibrating and my forehead was sweating.

The sides I tried were good, and also useful in cooling the heat of the chicken.

The coleslaw has finely shredded cabbage, red onion, and slivers of jalapeno, tossed in a light vinegary dressing—it provides a fresh, acidic bite. The loaded tater tots are sinfully delish, topped with bacon, ranch and avocado, the latter two helping soothe a blown palate.

I also tried a couple hot chicken sliders. The chicken waffles slider comes with a ramekin of maple syrup for dipping; the waffle a bit steamy-soft as opposed to crispy. The hot natural chicken slider might have been the best bite of the day. The bun tempers the heat along with a cooling crunch of slaw on top and a dollop of sweet red pepper coulis.

I did not attempt the hottest level, "blazin" made with Carolina reapers. The Beach Reporter does not provide hazard pay, and there is only so far I'm willing to go for a story. But maybe I'll return in March ... that's when their milkshake machine will be up and running.

Blazin Hens is located at Slider Stop 2315 Artesia Blvd, Redondo Beach and is open daily from 11:30 a.m.

Eileen Shields is a South Bay food writer: contact at eileeneatsatthebeach@gmail.com

Contact Lisa Jacobs lisa.jacobs@TBRnews.com or follow her on Twitter @lisaannjacobs.

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