Nashville hot chicken shop Jay Bird’s is opening Friday at The Hangar

Long Beach will finally have a joint dedicated to Nashville hot chicken as Jay Bird’s opens this Friday at The Hangar inside East Long Beach’s LBX retail center.

Jay Bird’s—one of the final spaces to open inside LBX’s popular food hall following staples like Chef Thomas Ortega’s stellar taco shop Amorcito—has much to live up to in terms of defining itself as Nashville hot chicken.

The region’s most proper introduction to this fiery piece of fried chicken came by the way of Howlin’ Ray’s, a tiny-but-mighty bird shop tucked inside a mini-mall in Downtown Los Angeles’ Chinatown. With a line that rarely, if ever, dips under 45 minutes thanks to its cult-like following, Howlin’ is the closest thing you can score to the joint that invented Nashville hot chicken, the famed Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack.

What Prince’s created—and, by extension, what Howlin’ brought to a West Coast crowd—is an oddly addicting piece of incredibly spicy fried chicken that shouldn’t be addicting.

Prince’s and Howlin’ both offer six levels of heat, and if one ventures into anything beyond mild, let alone their most intense heat, you’ll find that it is a heat that doesn’t just make beads of sweat push themselves out onto your forehead. It’s not a heat that just make your lips intensely tingle. This is a heat that will linger with you, sometimes for days. (My Dude and I have made the mistake—twice, mind you—of mowing through an extra hot Howlin’ Ray’s sandwich, and it was with us for three days after. Three days, no joke, and many a bathroom trip.)

No one should ever want to experience this repeatedly but, make no question, people end up returning over and over. And that leaves Jay Bird’s Nashville Hot Chicken with a standard that no other place in the region has succeeded in meeting except Howlin’.

Long Beach Exchange is located at 3991 N. Lakewood Blvd.

Brian Addison is a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or on social media at FacebookTwitterInstagram, and LinkedIn.

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Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 16 nominations and two additional wins for Best Political Commentary for his work at KCET and Best Blog for Longbeachize, a section of the Long Beach Post. Brian currently serves as a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post.
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