Coronavirus

The Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich Steals the Spotlight at Red Claws Crab Shack

Red Claws' Nashville hot chicken sandwich: It's a bit hard to handle, we but promise you'll figure it out.
Red Claws' Nashville hot chicken sandwich: It's a bit hard to handle, we but promise you'll figure it out. Lauren Drewes Daniels
The Nashville hot chicken sandwich party has officially started in North Texas, and Red Claws Crab Shack is front and center in the mosh pit keeping things stirred up. (Does that concert reference hurt a little bit? It does for us, too.)

Red Claws didn’t initially set out to crush the chicken sandwich game. As their name implies, the focus was elsewhere. 

“Last year, we visited Nashville and happened to try some of their local fried chicken, and they have a very unique way of making chicken wings and sandwiches,” owner Lanny Mai said. “We just loved the flavor and decided to bring this distinct flavor back to DFW.”

There’s been a spate of these bright red orbs on menus lately. Chef Tiffany Derry’s new restaurant, Roots Chicken Shak, has a “spicy bird” sandwich fried in duck fat that looks nothing short of mesmerizing. The recently opened Yardbird Southern Kitchen has a $15 Nashville hot chicken sandwich on its menu.

Recently, Alex Gonzalez interviewed Palmer Fortune, a Dallas native who lived in Nashville for 30 years, about his soon-to-open Palmer’s Hot Chicken. Gonzalez also tried a monster chicken sandwich at Chirps on Lower Greenville, which recently opened.

Red Claws’ Nashville hot chicken sandwich has a thick and crispy dark red crust that encases a juicy chicken breast. A tangy slaw tops the sandwich, adding more crunch. The bun seems hardly to stand a chance but hangs in there somehow. Sweet, bitter, sour and salty all thrive in each bite. 

The heat level options at Red Claws are mild, medium, hot and X hot. I asked for the medium, and the cashier nicely, but matter-of-factly, warned me that their food is hot. I reluctantly dialed it back to mild, thinking I didn’t want to lose flavor to heat; I did this for y’all actually. Next time I’ll get the medium, for sure. 

A whole sandwich is a pretty good-sized meal. Some might cut it in half and muster strength to save the other half for later, but odds are “later” will be four minutes later, tops.

We also tried the fried catfish basket, which is made with a light cornmeal crust. The fish was flaky and spent not a second too long in the fryer. 

click to enlarge
Fried catfish basket from Red Claws
Lauren Drewes Daniels
If you order fries, ask for the Cajun style, which definitely isn't too hot and involves normal fries that use Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning in excess.

Here's the thing: The hot chicken sandwich is always on the menu at Red Claws' Dallas location, but the Arlington spot lacks kitchen space to keep it on the menu all the time. It’s only because their dining room is closed right now that they have space.

So, they’ll have it in Arlington while they’re doing takeout only. As of now, that’s through Monday, but with cases of COVID-19 continuing to spike, Mai said that date might be extended.

Long story short, check Red Claws' Facebook pages (there's one each for Dallas and Arlington) for updates before heading over to the Arlington location for the chicken sandwich.

The Nashville wings pictured below are on the same rotation as the sandwiches, always available in Dallas, limited time in Arlington.

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Nashville crispy wings
courtesy of Red Claws
Mai also said he's opening a Red Claws Hot Chicken in Fort Worth in a few months. 

In terms of health precautions due to the pandemic, Red Claws is taking measured steps. Customers are asked to wait outside and are allowed inside one at a time to order. Face masks, obviously, must be worn. After they place their orders, customers receive a text when their food is ready. For our chicken sandwich and catfish basket, the wait was about 15 minutes. 

Red Claws Crab Shack, 4727 Frankford Road Suite 349 (Far North Dallas) and 4629 S. Cooper St., Suite 111, Arlington.
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Lauren Drewes Daniels is the Dallas Observer's food editor. She started writing about local restaurants, chefs, beer and kouign-amanns in 2011. She's driven through two dirt devils and is certain they were both some type of cosmic force.