DC Locals Say This Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich Is Better Than Popeyes | Fam To Table

Lisa Paradise: Maybe it's
the free-range chicken breast dredged through creamy buttermilk, or that it's deep-fried
until golden brown. Or maybe it's the final touch: smothering the whole
thing in a secret blend of herbs and Ethiopian imported spices that's got Washingtonians talking about the family behind this
fried-chicken sandwich. Customer: Ooh, this thing pretty! It's crispy. It's juicy. Oh, hell, yeah.

This damn sandwich good. Lisa: Perfectly crisp, hot,
fried-chicken sandwiches is what Roaming Rooster is known for. And the family that owns it have taken the flavors of their upbringing to transform the traditional
Southern comfort dish into something that's
quickly becoming a staple, not in Nashville, but right
here in Washington, DC. So this is your third
time in, like, a week? Customer: Yes.
Lisa: OK. Customer: A week, the third time. Lisa: OK. Customer: That's crazy. Lisa: Your cardiologist's
gonna have something to say about this. A bit off the beaten
path in Washington, DC, amongst warehouses and
a shipping facility, sits a small but busy restaurant known for a chicken sandwich
that's better than, well…

Customer: Popeye ain't
got nothing on this. Customer: I've eaten Popeyes, I've eaten chicken from different places, but something about this. Lisa: And comparisons
to the chicken behemoth aren't new for the family
that runs Roaming Rooster. When the chicken-sandwich
wars broke out in 2019, with Popeyes and Chick-fil-A
in a battle for the best, a single tweet landed
owners Connie and Bini in the middle of the clash in DC. The night the tweet went
live was supposed to be one of their first family
vacations in years. Bini Habtemariam: It
was just nonstop busy. We had a lineup after
lineup and after lineup. And I said, you know, "We're
not gonna leave tomorrow." Lisa: The line was for this, the hot fried-chicken sandwich. The Nashville hot starts with a blend of spices and aromatics: smoked paprika, cayenne, brown sugar, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder. And, since no newsworthy dish is complete without at least one secret ingredient, then comes the family spice mix, made and shipped by
Connie's family in Ethiopia.

The couple wouldn't say
what's in the blend, but made it clear this
is what gives the chicken that unique spicy kick. Roaming Rooster only
uses free-range chicken, which, when sold on a food
truck, explains the name. The chicken is dredged, breaded, and fried until perfectly crispy and browned before it's dipped into hot, spicy oil to lock in flavor and give the chicken
its first level of heat. If you're a mild person,
the chicken stops there, but if you're into medium, hot, or the off-the-menu extra hot, more secret spice blend is piled on for the desired kick. The finished chicken is placed on a bed of homemade vinaigrette slaw, a mix of crisp, freshly shredded cabbage, crunchy red onion, spicy jalapeño, and fresh parsley and cilantro for a cool, refreshing bite.

Then the whole thing is
topped with a plush bun. Customer: I like how you
taste the vinaigrette and the hot sauce at the same time, soon as you bite it. It doesn't kick in later, or… as soon as you bite it,
you taste everything. I think it's perfect. Lisa: Bini, the brains behind the recipe, didn't start out wanting
to make fried chicken. Growing up in Ethiopia as
the oldest of five children, Bini became the designated family cook and developed a penchant
for cooking young.

His family moved to
Ottawa when he was a teen, and at some point Bini
began traveling to DC to hang out with friends,
which is where he met Connie. The two married and shortly after decided to pour the remainder of their savings into starting their own business. Bini: We just got married, and we didn't have that much money. Connie Habtemariam: Yeah,
we spent all the money on the wedding, so. Bini: Whatever money we had left, we invested on a food truck. We built one truck, and that's how everything started.

Lisa: The couple tried their hand at more than one food-truck idea, from shawarma and falafel in honor of Bini's Ottawa roots to made-to-order pizza, never really hitting it
big, until one day… Bini: We were just
sitting home watching TV, Food Network, I think, and they were showing a
fried-chicken sandwich, and I was like, "Man, that looks good." And we said, you know, "Why don't we make it?" We had the truck, we had the fryer and everything, so then we made a sandwich. It was OK.

Lisa: Ever the perfectionist, OK just didn't cut it, so Bini, Connie, and Bini's brother Mike packed the kids in the car to take a drive to a city known for hot fried chicken, Nashville. Bini: That weekend, we ate breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Connie: Oh, my gosh. I said, "I don't want to see chicken." Lisa: Spicy fried chicken in hand, they threw a couple fryers in
the back of their box truck and hit the road. Bini: We went out the first day, and then we got sold
out, less than an hour. Second day, same thing. Sold out. Didn't even take us an hour. Connie: And the customer get mad, right? Bini: Yeah, third day, customers got mad. Connie: I remember, when we start, it was really hard. It was only me and him, and we start with one food truck, so we got to get up early morning, got to prep everything, load it, and then we go downtown to sell. When we're finished, we have to come, we have to unload it, all this stuff, we have to wash the truck.

Bini: Food truck is not easy. Connie: Oh, my gosh. Lisa: A true family operation, Bini brought Mike on board
to help as, one by one, their other food trucks
were slowly converted into Roaming Roosters. Bini: He actually helped us,
the build-out of the truck. He had I think about two employees, and then they start running that truck, we start running the first truck. Lisa: With more success,
the couple decided to try their hand at counter service, converting the
off-the-beaten-path commissary into a restaurant to make demand a bit more manageable. For a short time, it was. So manageable, in fact, they decided to take their
first family vacation in over five years. But then, of course, there was the tweet, and they haven't taken a day off since.

Even their two kids are
in on the operation now, spending time in the kitchen watching and helping their parents cook. Connie: We've been working so hard for almost 10 years, yeah. Hopefully, when they're grown up, they would want to take over, so they will be proud of us. "Yo, that's my mom, my dad." You know. "They built it." So, that's my dream. Lisa: I definitely should
have brought napkins. It's just so f—ing good. Producer: It is f—ing good, dude. Lisa: It really is so f—ing good. So, they take the
chicken out of the fryer, and then they dip it right
into that flavored oil, but it's still not greasy. The hot is hot, but it's not one of those hots that, like, burns your whole palate. I feel like my mouth will
be a little bit on fire, but in, like, a fun way. You can taste the smoked paprika.

You can taste the cayenne. The secret spice mix that's in there, it has this really unique flavor. It's spicy, but it's flavorful, and it's not in any way overwhelming. When you start to eat it and you start to feel the spice, then comes in the coleslaw,
which is vinegary, you can taste the cilantro, you can taste the parsley, and the coleslaw comes in and it just cuts the spice perfectly. It's so well balanced. I'm not lying when I say
that this is probably the best fried-chicken
sandwich I've ever had. The amount of flavor that
they were able to pack into one bite is… like, honestly, kind of astounding. If I had one of these near my apartment, I'd be here all the time. Like, this isn't even hype, it's just delicious. Customer: The batter's good. The whole damn sandwich is good. Come on down, get the sandwich. I'm telling you, it's worth it..

As found on YouTube

DC Locals Say This Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich Is Better Than Popeyes | Fam To Table

According to Washington, DC, this fried-chicken sandwich is better than Popeyes. The sandwiches come in plain, Buffalo, honey butter, and a bacon ranch club, but the standout is the Nashville hot. Insider’s Lisa Paradise traveled to Roaming Rooster to try the Nashville hot chicken, which uses traditional American preparation with Ethiopian spice to create a mouthwateringly hot sandwich. Family-owned and operated by immigrants from Ethiopia by way of Canada, Roaming Rooster built its empire from a single food truck.

For more, visit:
https://www.instagram.com/roamingrooster1

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DC Locals Say This Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich Is Better Than Popeyes | Fam To Table