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Takeout Tuesday: Nashville hot chicken has arrived in Reno at Crazy D's

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Combo #3 from Crazy D's Hot Chicken. 1 "tender" and 1 "slider". Huge pieces of delicious fried Nashville hot chicken

While there are many daily difficult aspects of this pandemic, satisfying my taste buds hasn’t been one of them. So far in this series, I’ve enjoyed incredible artisan pizza and the now-legal cucumber margarita from Midtown Reno’s “food + drink," as well as the fresh and inventive taco kits from Estella in downtown.

Pizza and tacos are comfort foods most everyone enjoys. Another item on that list is fried chicken. Nothing brings together the camaraderie quite like some delicious, crispy, greasy chicken. Pretty much every culture has a variation of it. There is something about fried chicken in any form that's hard to resist. I swear I actually eat a lot of healthy things, too.

I had no plans to review fried chicken this week, but sometimes you have to let the world come to you. And in this case, the chicken came to me.

I was mindlessly scrolling through social media the other day and something astonishing popped into my feed: Nashville hot chicken. In Reno? It must be a mistake. How could I have not heard about this? Lo and behold, the southland delicacy has made its way to the Biggest Little City at Crazy D’s Hot Chicken.

I first tried this version of fried poultry in 2018 during one of the best week’s of my professional life, covering Nevada basketball's Sweet 16 run. In addition to watching the Wolf Pack pull off incredible wins over Texas and Cincinnati, I got to dip my toes into the Nashville hot chicken water at Hattie B’s, which is an institutional chain there.

Six months later, I was back in Nashville for Nevada football's game at Vanderbilt and got to try Prince’s, which still remains the best fried chicken I’ve ever had. I’m still sweating from the cayenne pepper thinking about it.

And there was no better time for Crazy D’s to appear on my radar. My best friend from college and his wife moved across the country (Florida to Sacramento) last weekend. Due to their moving truck not arriving, they needed a place to stay. For my buddy, Terry, fried chicken is at the top of the food pyramid. In college, he had his own deep fryer and would make wings at the house (Frank's Hot Sauce and butter is the way to go). It was a perfect time to include a chicken aficionado in this review.

Crazy D's Hot Chicken

The restaurant is located in a shopping center on the corner of South Virginia and Moana. As we drove in, there was a huge line of cars waiting in the drive-thru at Popeye’s, whose fried chicken sandwich is legit and worthy as the best fried chicken sandwich in the fast food game. But we didn’t come all this way for fast food. We came for real deal Nashville Hot Chicken.

After spending the afternoon hanging out at the Truckee River, we called in our to-go order and made our way to Crazy D’s. When we opened the doors, we were a little caught off guard to walk into a small market. Turns out Crazy D’s has set up shop inside of the Bazaar European Deli & Cafe. Owner Daniil Fedunov has been working for more than a year tinkering with recipes to perfect Nashville hot chicken, and when the coronavirus pandemic slowed down things inside of the kitchen, it was the perfect time to try something new. So with the help of his parents, who own the market, and his girlfriend, it was time to switch things up.

“I fell in love with hot chicken last year when I went to visit some buddies in Los Angeles,” Fedunov said. “That inspired us to bring that to Reno, and for the past year we’ve actually been working on the recipe. Perfecting it.”

The result? About the closest thing I’ve had to authentic Nashville hot chicken since the last time I was in Tennessee. And that’s saying something. The term “Nashville hot chicken” is tossed around as a buzz word in the food industry. Restaurants will throw a hot sauce on a piece of fried check and call it good. That’s not how it’s done.

“The reason Nashville-style hot chicken is so tasty is more of the process that goes on behind the scenes,” he said. “Our chicken takes 24 to 48 hours to make and prepare. There’s two different processes of marinating, flouring, oiling and seasoning. The process itself makes the chicken so juicy and moist inside, and crispy on the outside. It takes a long time to perfect.”

Aside from saying they soak the chicken in buttermilk for several hours, Fedunov was hesitant to divulge any other tips.

“There’s a few other techniques we use, but it’s all secretive," he said.

I know from trying real Nashville hot chicken what makes it different as a category. Part of the battering process includes adding a lot of spices to the mix, including cayenne. Once the chicken is fried it is dipped in an oil that contains more of that same spice. And then it’s dusted again with more seasoning. The result is a chicken that give you a lot of heat to the back of the throat (from the cayenne) and a deep almost blood red color to it.

I can say without a doubt they aren’t cutting any corners at Crazy D’s. This is real deal Nashville hot chicken.

And for Fedunov, he’s been overwhelmed by the reaction in such a short period of time.

“We’ve gotten a lot of support from the community, a lot of people come in and tell us it’s the best chicken sandwich they’ve ever had in their life,” he said. “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 10 people start saying that it starts to become a reality. It’s kind of amazing.”

Assessing the bird

When ordering, you choose between a combination of breast “tenders” and “sliders” and a choice of side. I put those in quotes because those insinuate a smaller thing than what you are actually getting. I ordered the “Combo No. 3,” which is “1 giant tender and 1 giant slider." The two strips of chicken are all from breast meat, and they are massive. My two pieces combined to equal about a pound.

And it was incredible. I ordered medium for heat level, and it was perfect for me. It was honestly kinder than the Nashville hot chicken I had in Nashville where a medium was super hot. This was ideal. Terry’s wife, Christina, had the hot and wasn’t bothered by it. But for you heat freaks out there, there is a “crazy” option, which features Carolina reaper peppers.

“It’s going to burn the heck out of you,” Fedunov said with a laugh as he recalled his experience trying it. “I had the first few bites and I thought ‘this isn’t too bad,’ and then a minute later I was chugging beer after beer after beer.”

I loved the chicken tender on its own, but the slider took things to another level. The combination of a buttered bun, pickles, some slaw and the hot chicken formed a party in my mouth. I was more than satisfied. I went with a Greek salad as my side, and it was perfect, with fresh chunks of cucumber, tomato, pepper, onion, olives and feta cheese in a light dressing.

Christina, who also fancies herself as a big fried chicken fan, said it was one of the best she’s ever had. Add another one to the list for Fedunov. Terry really enjoyed the chicken but decided that Nashville style wasn’t really his favorite.

Next time we will have to try their “country style," which comes without sauce. I have a feeling the dry chicken paired with the sauce that came with the order (very similar to the sauce at Raising Cane’s) would be delicious. I know I’ll be back to find out. This is one to turn the bat signal on for. Reno finally has legit Nashville hot chicken.

Bazaar market

One of the cool things about checking out Crazy D’s was walking around the European Market. Fedunov, whose family is from Russia, has the market stocked full of delicious products from all over Eastern Europe.

“We have a lot of really good sweets and desserts we make in house,” Fedunov said. “All the flavors are something most people in Reno haven’t tasted or tried before. Everything is unique and special just like the chicken.”

On the way out, I grabbed some pierogis and other treats I had never heard of before. I'm excited to give them a try.

OK, now back to my diet of kale and smoothies until next week. Until then, stay hungry my friends.

Nevada Sports Net's executive producer Alex Margulies will feature a local restaurant once a week in his "Takeout Tuesday" feature. You can contact him at amargulies@sbgtv.com or follow him on Twitter at @marguliespxp.

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