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Sweet meets heat at Fluster Cluck Hot Chicken

A revamped Nashville chicken stall dishes crispy and spicy enough tenders

Nashville hot chicken and waffles
Nashville hot chicken and waffles

I should be tired of writing about Nashville hot chicken by now, considering some gazillion new hot chicken joints have opened in the past year. So many, the San Diego Chicken guy might want to consider a brand refresh: the San Diego Hot Chicken sounds more in line with the times.

This time, I found myself wandering into the Liberty Public Market in search of Fluster Cluck Hot Chicken. Only a few months back, I had planned to come here looking for the Liberty Chik hot chicken booth. But times being what they are, that brand was short-lived. So the guys behind Mastiff Sausage Company apparently took it over, getting into the hot chicken game with a spoonerism worthy of 2020.

Fluster Cluck replaces Liberty Chik at the Liberty Public Market.

I’ve had a few chances to visit the public market during the pandemic, and the changeover isn’t too surprising. With social distancing in effect, the once crowded market has thinned out a bit, and the whole vibe seems a little darker than it once did. Several of the small businesses lining the stalls have closed or are not yet opened. Others serve in limited capacity, such as Chris Ono Grinds. The North Park-based Hawaiian food brand serves its popular musubi and kalua pork, but doesn’t see enough foot traffic to justify keeping its raw tuna poke salad on the menu; a shame because it’s among the best in the city.

A "cluckin hot" Carolina reaper-spiced chicken

I have watched a steady flow of customers turn up at Fluster Cluck lately, choosing from an all chicken tender menu. Options include chicken sliders, chicken tenders, fried chicken salad, chicken fries, and chicken & waffles.

As is the hot chicken standard, these tenders range from no spice to extra spicy. Like Dave’s Hot Chicken, the Los Angeles brand that opened this spring in Pacific Beach, Fluster Cluck’s hottest iteration builds its heat off the notorious Carolina Reaper, purported to be the world’s hottest chili pepper. Also like Dave’s, the menu suggests customers must sign a liability waiver in order to eat it.

Sweetness dampens the spice of Fluster Cluck's hot chicken sliders.

My “cluckin hot” tender, sprinkled with hot chili powder, had enough heat to give me hiccups — a sure sign it was spicy enough. But the kind souls working the booth this day must have been going easy on me. First, they didn’t make me sign a waiver, and then the spice level actually fell far short of the Dave’s reaper seasoning, which brought (manly) tears to my eyes.

While anyone seeking extreme spice will want to stick to the hotter end of the menu, those looking to subdue their heat should aim for a slider, which combines coleslaw, sweet pickles, and a cooling, mayo based “comeback sauce” to dampen the heat. My medium sliders verged on too sweet for my plate.

Without syrup, even the waffles proved less sweet than the sliders. Which I consider a plus, as far as waffles go. What I consider a minus is the Fluster Cluck menu stating its chicken and waffles are served with maple syrup, when really what they serve is a Smuckers corn syrup bomb, no maple included.

Ultimately, though, these are some of the crispiest hot chicken tenders I’ve eaten. When the spice is right, Fluster Cluck is a stop within a Liberty Public Market that is worth a revisit, for those hungry in and around Liberty Station.

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Nashville hot chicken and waffles
Nashville hot chicken and waffles

I should be tired of writing about Nashville hot chicken by now, considering some gazillion new hot chicken joints have opened in the past year. So many, the San Diego Chicken guy might want to consider a brand refresh: the San Diego Hot Chicken sounds more in line with the times.

This time, I found myself wandering into the Liberty Public Market in search of Fluster Cluck Hot Chicken. Only a few months back, I had planned to come here looking for the Liberty Chik hot chicken booth. But times being what they are, that brand was short-lived. So the guys behind Mastiff Sausage Company apparently took it over, getting into the hot chicken game with a spoonerism worthy of 2020.

Fluster Cluck replaces Liberty Chik at the Liberty Public Market.

I’ve had a few chances to visit the public market during the pandemic, and the changeover isn’t too surprising. With social distancing in effect, the once crowded market has thinned out a bit, and the whole vibe seems a little darker than it once did. Several of the small businesses lining the stalls have closed or are not yet opened. Others serve in limited capacity, such as Chris Ono Grinds. The North Park-based Hawaiian food brand serves its popular musubi and kalua pork, but doesn’t see enough foot traffic to justify keeping its raw tuna poke salad on the menu; a shame because it’s among the best in the city.

A "cluckin hot" Carolina reaper-spiced chicken

I have watched a steady flow of customers turn up at Fluster Cluck lately, choosing from an all chicken tender menu. Options include chicken sliders, chicken tenders, fried chicken salad, chicken fries, and chicken & waffles.

As is the hot chicken standard, these tenders range from no spice to extra spicy. Like Dave’s Hot Chicken, the Los Angeles brand that opened this spring in Pacific Beach, Fluster Cluck’s hottest iteration builds its heat off the notorious Carolina Reaper, purported to be the world’s hottest chili pepper. Also like Dave’s, the menu suggests customers must sign a liability waiver in order to eat it.

Sweetness dampens the spice of Fluster Cluck's hot chicken sliders.

My “cluckin hot” tender, sprinkled with hot chili powder, had enough heat to give me hiccups — a sure sign it was spicy enough. But the kind souls working the booth this day must have been going easy on me. First, they didn’t make me sign a waiver, and then the spice level actually fell far short of the Dave’s reaper seasoning, which brought (manly) tears to my eyes.

While anyone seeking extreme spice will want to stick to the hotter end of the menu, those looking to subdue their heat should aim for a slider, which combines coleslaw, sweet pickles, and a cooling, mayo based “comeback sauce” to dampen the heat. My medium sliders verged on too sweet for my plate.

Without syrup, even the waffles proved less sweet than the sliders. Which I consider a plus, as far as waffles go. What I consider a minus is the Fluster Cluck menu stating its chicken and waffles are served with maple syrup, when really what they serve is a Smuckers corn syrup bomb, no maple included.

Ultimately, though, these are some of the crispiest hot chicken tenders I’ve eaten. When the spice is right, Fluster Cluck is a stop within a Liberty Public Market that is worth a revisit, for those hungry in and around Liberty Station.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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