The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Rating the spice levels at Nashville Coop

Rating the spice levels at Nashville Coop

 Macalester-Groveland restaurant and Macalester neighbor Nashville Coop originated as a food truck in 2020 with the goal of filling a market niche here in the Twin Cities. Founder Arif Mohamed and his father began their family-owned business after an offhand conversation while waiting for chicken in L.A.. Now with three locations, including the one on Snelling Avenue, the small chain continues to bring Southern- and Ethiopian-inspired spiced chicken to the land of casserole and tater-tot hotdish. 

With five different spice levels, Nashville Coop has something for everyone, but which spice level is right for you? If you’ve been dying to try it out but feel uncertain about what to order, keep on reading. 

As a frame of reference for your spice decision needs, here is a little bit about the authors and their respective spice tolerances: 

Audrey was raised in rural Pennsylvania, and her favorite meals are buttered noodles and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. She will intensely cry on the rare occasion that she attempts to eat Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and occasionally needs a glass of milk to counteract overly spiced Cafe Mac french fries.

Lucy was raised in New Jersey but was adopted from Southern China and raised on a mix of cuisines, including Indian, Korean and, in an extremely non-spice tolerance contributing way, German-French fusion. She can eat about one package of 2x Korean fire noodles with just water, but will cry profusely and does not reach for the milk mostly out of stubbornness, pride and lactose intolerance.

Justine is Ukrainian American but was raised all over the world and exposed to a range of palates, including foods from Ethiopia and southern India. For further reference, she can eat a spicy Buldak ramen with the full packet of spice, but does need a glass of milk with it or she will spontaneously combust.

Now, onto the chicken! Nashville Coop’s menu boasts 5 different spice levels: “Minnesota Nice,” “Mini-Coop,” “Coop,” “Growlin’” and “Cluckin’ Hot.” We’ll be going through the levels one by one, starting with their mild (“Minnesota Nice”), all the way up to the “Cluckin’ Hot.”

The chicken tenders are available in three forms: the strips ($13), which come with fries, Coop sauce and pickles; the sammich ($14), which adds on a butter bun and a side of coleslaw; and the Texas toast ($15), which replaces the bun of the sammich. The restaurant also has sides of mac & cheese, coleslaw and additional sauce and fries. If you’d like to do what we did and try out one chicken tender from every spice level, you can purchase a single tender for $3 as well. If you do decide to do this, we recommend getting a side of fries to use as a palate cleanser between spice levels.

The first spice level, the “Minnesota Nice,” carries no spice, making it a perfect choice for those who really can’t tolerate any spices. However, the authors agree that the lack of spice also comes with a lack of flavor, making the chicken tenders closer to a classic fried chicken than the flavorful punch that the restaurant promises. Adding the Coop sauce contributes a creamy, though not spicy, flavor that highlights the natural taste of the chicken. As Justine noted, “Minnesota nice? More like Minnesota no spice.”

The second spice level, “Mini Coop,” had a light but not overpowering level of spice, one that earned its spot as Audrey’s favorite. The shift from the previous spice level mostly added flavor rather than spice to the chicken, and complimented the heat of the freshly fried chicken.

The third spice level, “Coop,” is the most commonly requested spice level, and earned its spot as both Lucy and Justine’s favorite. All authors noted the rather drastic jump in spice level between mini-and regular “Coop,” and the chicken had a pleasant smoky heat that lingered on the palate. The sauce had a more subtle cooling effect, increasing the number of chicken tenders we speculated we could eat, with Justine and Lucy able to eat the full three with effort and Audrey settling at a reasonable one.

The fourth spice level, “Growlin,’” comes with a powder so intense we do NOT recommend accidentally inhaling it before consumption. The spice itself is a subtle heat that hits after you’ve eaten it and fades much more slowly than that of the “Coop.” At this point in the process, we expected tears, and yet none came as there wasn’t a massive jump from “Coop” to “Growlin,’” which eased the transition. We recommend adding sauce to this one; it enhances the flavor of the chicken and spice without overpowering the taste.

Finally, the “Cluckin’ Hot,” which promised 24-hour pain, did not bring the pain it promised, but likely would have had if we consumed a full serving. Equipped with around 8 ounces of milk that surprisingly didn’t aid much, Audrey bravely took a bite, which was soon followed by thoughts of “why did I do this to myself?” This sentiment was balanced out on the higher spice tolerance end by Justine’s thoughts of “this makes me happy” and Lucy’s “oh dear.”

Overall, we enjoyed a variety of flavors and spice combinations that were pleasing to eat, if a little painful. The Nashville Coop employees were supportive throughout the process, checking in on us and our “science experiment,” and even bringing over a bottle of water as we ramped up the spice levels. Despite the pain, it was a worthwhile experience to bring these reviews to you, and we recommend Nashville Coop for all of your crying needs.

 

[email protected]

[email protected]

[email protected] 

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributors
Lucy Diaz
Lucy Diaz, Managing Editor
Lucy Diaz '24 is a Managing Editor, from Montclair, NJ. She is a biology major with a horrifying combination of minors/concentrations that includes psychology, biochemistry and community & global health. She owns earrings that say "Be Gay do Crimes," a tiny chemistry beaker filled with d20 dice, and knows a lot about medieval european monarchy.
Justine Ballard
Justine Ballard, Features Editor
Justine Ballard '25 (she/they) is an international studies/media and cultural studies double major with and English minor (almost) from Washington DC-ish. In her free time, she plays with and Mac Pep Band and plays/watches a lot of DnD while working on her cross-stitch, their COVID hobby that she has stuck with to this day.
Audrey Milk
Audrey Milk, Opinion Editor
Audrey Milk ’26 (she/her) is the opinion editor from Mars, Pa. She is a history major with a minor in political science and a concentration in Human Rights and Humanitarianism. Audrey has been doing competitive color guard for five years and is attempting to learn how to juggle.

Comments (0)

All The Mac Weekly Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *