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Hot chicken comes to Lebanon Square

Sinclaire Sparkman • Sep 5, 2017 at 10:18 PM

The long-awaited Dean’s Hot Chicken and Waffles opened Saturday on the Lebanon Square to serve a Nashville favorite and bring a chicken spot to Lebanon.

The menu consists of chicken in all forms with varying levels of spiciness from plain to a flavor called ‘too hot’ that uses hot pepper extract for the extra burn. There are bone-in wings, chicken tenders, breasts and thighs, waffles in more than five flavors, sandwiches and Southern side favorites like green beans, fried okra, fried green tomatoes and others.

Owner Jason Davis said the idea came from a void he noticed in local restaurant options. 

“We didn’t have a specific hot wing shop with all the flavors and options. Everybody else has a local chicken stop, and that’s what we want to be for Lebanon,” Davis said. 

Davis named the restaurant after his mother’s middle name. She died a couple of years ago, and his father followed soon after. 

“The journey was kind of rough. I doubted myself a lot, but it was just something I wanted to do, and I knew I couldn’t give up,” Davis said. 

Getting the building up to code was one of the biggest challenges for Davis. Codes for opening a restaurant forced updates to plumbing, electrical and kitchen safety features. Davis rented the building and worked on getting it up to code for about a year and a half before it passed inspections.

“Every day when I woke up, there was something new to do. You have to do your research before getting into something like this, because the codes had changed from the time I tried to do it before. You just can’t quit,” Davis said. 

Many times when inspectors would come, there would be more to do before the restaurant could open. He began to get discouraged, and some murmured about the fact that he would be the only person of color to own and operate a business on the square.

“That wasn’t what I was trying to do, go there and be the first black guy on the square, but I heard that every day,” Davis said. “Now I do feel accomplished.”

Davis even met with Mayor Bernie Ash and economic development director Sarah Haston to help push the restaurant forward. He said he was encouraged after the meetings, and he would actually see his dream of bringing a chicken restaurant to Lebanon come to pass.

“This was the grind. We grinded a long time to get this. It wasn’t just getting a bank loan and calling up the construction crew. This was hard work. It was just a vacant building when we started,” Davis said. 

Davis pursued his dream of opening a chicken spot back in the early 2000s with a restaurant called Wing City not far away from the center of town. That dream fell apart when he was sentenced to serve time and nearly lost everything. 

“I was doing really good, working with children in social services, I had the [Wing City] restaurant, but I just got greedy. It cost me way more than it ever gave me,” Davis said. 

After he served time, Davis had to start over. He struggled to find a job with a felony charge on his record and wanted to do more for himself. He started spending his paychecks on buying fryers, booths and other restaurant equipment. 

“I wasn’t going to buy new clothes or spending money on anything except stuff for the restaurant,” Davis said. “All the stuff I was going through, I thought I’d never get it, but then I sold my first plate, and I was like, I made it.”

Through it all, he kept hope to open Lebanon’s premier chicken spot, and now he’s making the dream a reality. 

“I was so scared someone was going to do it before me, because it took me so long,” Davis said. “I still can’t believe they didn’t.”

Saturday was the first time the doors opened at Dean’s Hot Chicken. Davis and his team are currently working on staffing the restaurant and getting ready for a true grand opening celebration. Operating hours for Dean’s aren’t set in stone yet, but Davis said he hopes to have Sunday specials and stay open later on Friday and Saturday nights. 

Stay up to date on Dean’s Hot Chicken by visiting the restaurant’s Facebook page or call the restaurant at 615-784-4201.

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