The student news site of Hamline University.

The Oracle

The student news site of Hamline University.

The Oracle

The student news site of Hamline University.

The Oracle

Nashville Coop: cluckin’ good!

Read an Oracle reporter’s hot review of a hot nearby hot chicken hot spot, Nashville Coop.
Max Ridenour

In St. Paul, MN, we are certainly a long way from Nashville. A state like Minnesota, known for serving up lutefisk and tater tot hotdish, may not exactly be renowned for the spice tolerance of its denizens. For capsaicin fiends like myself, Nashville Coop is an oasis. Just a short drive or bus ride away from the Hamline campus, the restaurant is located on Snelling Ave slightly past Macalester. Experiencing it for the first time was something like an awakening of the senses. Though this is far from my first time experiencing the Coop, I revisited it alongside friends Graham Findell and Kara Hageman to provide a more comprehensive review.

Nashville Coop began as a food truck during the summer of 2020, which can still be spotted in the parking lot behind the restaurant. Founder Arif Mohamed spawned the idea while waiting in line for Nashville-style hot chicken in Los Angeles and talking with his father about opening something similar in Minnesota. 

As the Nashville Coop website describes, “It started as a casual conversation. Two weeks later, Arif went back for more and hatched a serious plan to do hot chicken back home, with a twist, using his mother’s homemade blend of Ethiopian spices.” The idea has since expanded into a small franchise, sporting three brick-and-mortar locations including another spot proximal to the University of Minnesota campus in Stadium Village. The establishment is also a proudly Black-owned business. 

A wall decal at the Nashville Coop reads “You are the bag secure yourself.” (Max Ridenour)

The results are both innovative and exquisite. After meeting with my friends and grabbing our seats, I placed my usual order of chicken strips at the front counter. The menu is extremely limited, offering chicken strips, a chicken “sammich” consisting of strips between a toasted bun, and a Texas Toast meal with strips and toast. All meals come with a side of fries; Mac & cheese, coleslaw and extra sauce can also be ordered on the side along with fountain sodas and Jarritos products. 

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Though each meal option costs between $13 to $15, the portion sizes and quality of the food are well worth the price. I received a basket overflowing with giant tenders, two cups of dipping sauce, a cup of pickles and a whole heap of fries. Customers can choose their own spice level, ranging from the appropriately tame “MN Nice” to the ferocious “Cluckin’ Hot” that I have only been foolhardy enough to try once. I had recently subjected my stomach to a barrage of spicy food so I took it easy this time and chose “Coop,” the medium spice option. 

The tenders always come crispy, juicy and piping hot, with a delectable blend of spices that still had a nice kick even though I opted for a less spicy option, but for me, the eternal highlight is the sauce. Nashville Coop is in possession of some secret formula that allows them to concoct a wickedly tangy and mouthwatering dipping sauce that has never disappointed. It is somewhat comparable to a Cajun mayo and complements the chicken and fries perfectly. The fries themselves are an underrated part of the culinary experience– some combination of the batter and the way they are cooked results in the perfect consistency.

After we finished devouring our food, I asked my friends for their thoughts. Neither Findell nor Hageman were first-timers at the Coop, and both had been coming since 2022. While Findell visits more often at around a once-a-month basis, Hageman saves it for special occasions. 

“I go maybe once or twice a year. My stomach is sensitive, I gotta watch it. It’s a special treat,” she said. The food offered by Nashville Coop can certainly prove to be intense for those who have a more delicate digestive system like myself, meaning I also visit on a more limited basis. When asked about the quality of the food itself, both sang the praises of Nashville Coop’s flavor variety in comparison to other local options. 

“The quality of the tender itself is better than a traditional chain,” Findell said.

“I think that their sauce is better than [Raising] Cane’s, and they actually give us more sauce,” Hageman said. Raising Cane’s, another fried chicken chain in the area, follows a similar model as Nashville Coop, offering a limited menu with a few staples. Other chicken restaurants such as Dave’s Hot Chicken, which is opening a new establishment along Ford Parkway, have also attempted to emulate the formula. However, for Findell and Hageman, Nashville Coop stands out amongst the crowd. 

“This is the only good hot chicken tender place here,” Findell said.  “The major chains that do it aren’t good. SmashBurger has hot chicken. It’s not great. And then Dave’s [Hot Chicken]: there was one that opened in Plymouth or Minnetonka, I think, and it’s not good.”

While there may not be a wealth of other exceptional options for chicken lovers in the city, Hageman recommended Bebe Zito, a spot in Uptown that serves ice cream alongside a limited food menu that prominently features fried chicken. 

“Their chicken’s good. It’s not dry; it’s dripping in sauce. The sauces they do put on it: it’s a honey butter. It’s really good,” Hageman said. 

If you have been looking to grub out while also supporting Black-owned businesses in the neighborhood, Nashville Coop is the place to go. Everyone that I have brought has invariably become a loyal convert and repeat customer, and Findell and Hageman are no exceptions. 

“At Nashville Coop, I am part of the clean plate club,” Hageman said.

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