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Fiery Nashville Hot Chicken Will Rain Down on Uptown Oakland This Fall

World Famous HotBoys is opening on San Pablo Avenue with spicy chicken sandwiches and crinkle fries

Nashville hot chicken sandwich at World Famous Hotboys
A sandwich from HotBoys
Dudewheresmytacos/Instagram

Oakland’s hot chicken game is about to get a boost from a new, peppery poultry purveyor preparing to open in Uptown. World Famous HotBoys is taking over 1601 San Pablo Ave, the quirky 900-square-foot building that was once an IB’s Hoagies & Cheesesteaks.

The aforementioned HotBoys are friends and co-creators Berk Gibbs and Victor Ghaben. The duo has been perfecting their hot chicken recipe for years, but popping up regularly at Oakland’s food incubator, Forage Kitchen, for just a couple months. Fate led them to sign a lease at the IB’s location after the landlord’s plans to transform it into a larger development fell through; they jumped on it the day the “for lease” sign went up.

The HotBoys logo in neon
Ellen Fort
HotBoys merch is for sale on their website
HotBoys
1601 San Pablo Ave

Gibbs, an artist known as Berk Visual, designed the look and feel of the brand’s website and merchandise, though he and Ghaben created the vibe together. Friends for years, the two first officially worked together during the opening of Batch & Brine in Lafayette, which is owned by Ghaben’s family. Gibbs designed the merchandise and created several large murals within; Ghaben helped develop the menu with chef David Suarez. Now the partners are focusing on hot chicken, and hot chicken only, with HotBoys.

After a brief and colorful remodel — the exterior will feature a large mural from Gibbs — HotBoys will open with a purposefully short menu. The star is the fried chicken sandwich, available in five levels of hotness: mild, medium, hot, hot hot and hella hot. According to Ghaben, the hella hot spice level is more for a lark than for comfortable dining; those who’ve dared to eat a hot hot version of the HotBoys sandwich are few and far between. Ghaben’s fowl of choice is pasture-raised from Pasturbird in Southern California, which he says results in a more flavorful bird that requires less brining and seasoning.

“We’re trying to build a space that has a good sense of community to it that offers good food,” says Ghaben. “A lot of what we’re trying to do is getting a sustainably sourced product.”

To perfect the recipe, Gibbs and Ghaben tried every hot chicken Nashville had to offer on a recent research trip. Gibbs lived in the Nashville area for several years before heading West, splitting his time in the Bay Area and Los Angeles, the latter of which led him to discover Howlin’ Ray’s West coast version of the spicy Nashville delicacy. Now they’re bringing it to Oakland.

“We wanted it to be something super personal and also have that Southern hospitality so we looked at things we were into like skateboarding and hip hop and punk music,” says Gibbs. “That’s where the postinternet vibe of the website and merchandise came from.” Street art, video installations, neon, and retro video games are all on display at HotBoys’ Forage Kitchen pop-up.

Chicken is available as tenders, bone-in fried chicken quarters, or as a sandwich. Sides are Southern, with pimento mac n cheese, baked beans, greens, coleslaw, and French fries to help quench the fiery chicken. There’ll also be “bonuts,” the Southern phenomenon of biscuit dough that’s fried and dusted with cinnamon and sugar. There’ll be cheap beers (PBR and the like), local beers, and wine, too.

Stop by Forage Kitchen (478 25th St.) to try HotBoys’ chicken from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday-Friday through the end of August, then stay tuned for pop-ups and events leading up to its official opening at 1601 San Pablo Ave. in late September/early October.

forage kitchen

478 25th St, Oakland, CA 94612

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