If you follow my Instagram feed, you know how hard I’ve fallen for Nashville Hot Chicken, specifically Howlin’ Ray’s (review). As far as I knew, they were the only ones serving this regional dish in Los Angeles, but then I started hearing about Major Dave’s Chicken in Pasadena, and I decided a few months ago to give them a try with my family.
Major Dave’s menu is fairly standard for a fried chicken joint. Chicken can be ordered Original (mild) or Spicy (one level of heat), a la carte by the piece, or in combos or family meals. A fried chicken sandwich is available, as is salad topped with boneless fried chicken.
The side selections are varied, and we got to try a few of them, including the cole slaw, fruit salad, brussels sprouts, and macaroni and cheese. While the mac & cheese was a standout, and not just for the candied bacon garnish, generally we found the sides to be just okay.
The fried chicken, on the other hand, was superb. We got a mix of mild and spicy, and the mild had a light and crisp exterior and was well seasoned.
As for the heat on the spicy chicken, I’d say it’s in the medium range, definitely spicy enough for most folks, but probably too mild for heat fiends. The skin did retain a great, crispy texture even with the hot sauce applied.
We also got to try a new (at the time) item on their menu, the fried chicken sandwich, which was quite delicious. We decided to keep it mild.
So, is Major Dave’s Chicken serving Nashville-style hot chicken? I would say in my wholly unqualified opinion that it is not quite the same, and not just for the heat level, but also for the flavoring. Whatever the spice mixture was, it had more of a (for lack of a better descriptor) “Cajun” flavor profile to me, and a more golden hue, than the brick-red cayenne paste that I’ve seen applied (both descriptively and literally) to Nashville hot chicken. Fortunately, the spicy chicken was still mighty tasty!
With Howlin’ Ray’s on hiatus for a few weeks, this may be the closest option to scratch that hot chicken itch, but I prefer to judge Major Dave’s Chicken on its own merits. The fried chicken is excellent, the sides are decent, and the service is friendly. Can’t ask for much more!
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Major Dave’s Chicken
163 N Hill Avenue
Pasadena, CA 91106