"This is awesome!" a young woman with bi-colored hair said. "It really heats you up" chimed in a tie-clad, silver-haired gentleman. "I'm surprised how crispy it is," mumbled a mom as her little daughter chewed on in smiling silence. They were all strangers sharing a table at Hot Chicken Takeover's new North Market digs. And they all spoke the truth.

"This is awesome!" a young woman with bi-colored hair said. "It really heats you up" chimed in a tie-clad, silver-haired gentleman. "I'm surprised how crispy it is," mumbled a mom as her little daughter chewed on in smiling silence. They were all strangers sharing a table at Hot Chicken Takeover's new North Market digs. And they all spoke the truth.

It was 11:30 a.m., and the three huge communal tables at HCT - which opened at 11 - were nearly filled. But there was no line, and I received my food in six minutes (a facilitator yelled out my name). By 11:45, a line would stretch from one end of the long upstairs space to the other. But the new set-up was working great, and food kept shooting out rapidly.

And holy smokes, that food. Actually, make that "hot" smokes. See, HCT offers four degrees of chili heat - "cold" (seasoned, not spicy); "warm" (definitely spicy, but quickly dissipating); "hot" (crazy-spicy); as well as "holy" (I can't even … ). Frankly, I would recommend "holy" only if you enjoy a peyote-esque lunch experience.

Otherwise, try the excellent warm or, my favorite, the hot. Here's the difference: Hot is more intense and its sting is lingering.

All flavors sport an enticingly salty, flavorful and triumphantly crackly crust above impressively juicy meat. Though I'm usually a dark-meat eater, I always go with HCT's enormous and delicious bone-in breast.

I also go with the whole meal-deal ($12). Along with all the free and pleasantly concentrated sweet tea you can drink, it comes with mac-n-cheese (comfortingly cheesy, but not saucy) plus a fresh, cooling-off sweet and vinegary slaw (no mayo). There's also a flavor-absorbing piece of white bread, but for $2 more, you can upgrade that into a brunch-appropriate waffle (I was glad mine was crispy, but disappointed it was burnt in spots).

Want more? Then tack on HCT's good homemade banana pudding ($2.50). Beneath its crunchy, salted, vanilla-wafer-crumb topping and whipped cream is an old-timey treat that coincidentally provides sweet relief from the hot chicken's addictive singe.