Around this time of year, massive groups of grackles flock into Dallas. This year, a new type of migratory bird has joined them in increasing numbers. That bird? Nashville hot chicken.
Seemingly in the blink of an eye, Nashville-style fried chicken has grown from a pop-up trend into a Dallas staple. There are now approaching a dozen locations serving a variety of spicy birds across Dallas-Fort Worth.
Right in season with the arrival of the infamous grackle, yet another hot chicken joint landed in the East Dallas: Palmer’s Hot Chicken. But that’s where the associations with the controversial blackbirds come to an end.
A large group of grackles is called a plague. Perhaps then a large group of Nashville hot chicken restaurants could be called a blessing, particularly if it includes a place such as Palmer’s.
Palmer’s Hot Chicken migrated to Dallas by way of St. Simons Island, Georgia. It gets its name from its owner Palmer Fortune, who got his start slinging hot chicken at his St. Simons restaurant, Porch.
Born in Dallas, Fortune moved to Nashville with his family when he was young, where he lived for nearly 20 years. There, he got into hot chicken, but also booze, and eventually found his way into a recovery program for alcoholism.
As the Observer wrote about over the summer, Fortune is many years sober and an active member of the recovery community. He runs a number of restaurants as well as a residential long-term recovery program for alcoholic men called Doc’s Place.
Fortune’s passions intermingle; he makes a point of working with and hiring individuals who are in recovery at his restaurants.
After honing his approach to hot chicken in St. Simons, he dreamt one night about bussing tables in Dallas. His wife encouraged him to follow the dream and take a trip to Dallas on the back end of a speaking engagement at a recovery clinic in Nashville.
Many months later, though dogged by delays caused by the coronavirus, Palmer’s Hot Chicken is now open for business.
Though it's Georgia-bred, Palmer’s Hot Chicken offers a classic take on the Nashville style. Whether bone-in, tenders or on a sandwich, the chicken is available in a range of heat levels — Naked, Novice, Nashville and Napalm.
Mirroring their seaside menu in St. Simon, Palmer's also offers shrimp and catfish in addition to tacos and a variety of sides.
To get a sense of how Palmer’s stacks up to the competition, we tried the three-tender meal ($10) at the “Nashville” heat level, with french fries and coleslaw. Nashville heat provided a perfectly palatable, front-end kick with a nice lingering burn — neither too mild nor sweat-inducingly hot. A hotter level, Napalm, is also available for spice junkies. (Insider tip: Bone-in chicken will retain even more of the heat if you want to kick it up a notch.)
For those with a more sensitive palate, the not-too-sweet coleslaw is the perfect side to cut through the heat when the going gets hot. (Alternatively, opt for the novice or naked heat levels.) The fries were fresh, crunchy and simple — no fussy seasoning necessary. And it all paired well with a Deep Ellum Dallas Blonde ($5) served on tap in a mason jar.
In almost every way — except for the name — Palmer’s calls back to Fortune’s first hot chicken spot, Porch. Effectively, Palmer’s is an import of the St. Simons restaurant, but with a new name to avoid confusion with the similarly named Dallas restaurant on Henderson Avenue.
The layout is split into an indoor dining area with a bar and an indoor-outdoor dining space with picnic tables spread out on faux grass. This ideal indoor-outdoor setup, housed between sliding garage doors and a secondary glass storefront, creates an ambiance reminiscent of the front lawn dining area at Porch, despite its radically different environments; Porch is run out of a converted seaside house, while Palmer’s sits in a relatively traditional shopping center in the Hillside neighborhood of East Dallas.
The garage doors allow for maximum ventilation of the space while keeping patrons out of the windchill for the coming winter months. This makes Palmer’s stand out in terms of pandemic-friendly dining spaces.
“We had already planned for the restaurant to be like this before the pandemic,” Fortune told the Observer.
Nevertheless, he embraces the advantage and plans to install gas heaters so the doors can be kept open as much as possible to minimize the risk to customers and employees.
But if you are in the crowd that would like to avoid dining in, you can still order for pickup online.
Palmer’s Hot Chicken, 6465 E. Mockingbird Lane, No. 316 (Hillside). 972-863-9366. Open for dine-in and takeout 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
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