‘Good vibes, good food and legendary sauces’: Students saddened by fire at McDougal’s restaurant

The Sept. 26 fire caused no injuries but McDougals’ management reports the restaurant is a ‘total loss’ after severe damage.


Miguel Beristain

The front entrance of McDougal’s after the fire, as photographed on Sept.27. (Hustler Multimedia/Miguel Beristain)

Charlotte Mauger, Magazine Editor

McDougal’s Chicken Fingers & Wings (McDougal’s) restaurant in Hillsboro Village, a spot frequented by Vanderbilt students, suffered a fire Monday, Sept. 26. No injuries were reported, but restaurant management believes the restaurant to be a “total loss,” per WSMV 4

Restaurant owner Tommy McDougal said a gas line that controls one of their fryers burst when a maintenance company was working on it. Metro Nashville Fire Department arrived at the scene around 12:15 p.m. and the fire was fully extinguished by 1:15 p.m, per The Tennessean. The exact extent of the damage is still unknown. 

Junior Gabriela Conde was a regular McDougal’s customer and said she is deeply saddened by the news of the fire. 

“I’m devastated by this news. My friends and I used to go there to hang out for the good vibes, good food and legendary sauces and it’s so sad to see that go,” Conde said in a message to The Hustler. “It really was an integral part of my time here on campus.”

Junior Luke Gries echoed a similar sentiment. 

“McDougal’s was always a place for my friends and I to go to whenever we wanted to eat—specifically chicken. I heard it burnt down today, but honestly I’m glad they went out like champions. The food was just as fire as the actual fire that burnt it down,” Gries said in a message to The Hustler. “I don’t know where I’ll go next time I want chicken, but I know I’ll be sad. Because McDougal’s burnt down.”

Senior Alyssa Burkhalter was walking from the Village at Vanderbilt Townhouses to the Vanderbilt Recreation and Wellness Center on Sept. 26 around the time of the fire when she saw a fire truck come down 21st Ave S towards Hillsboro. 

“I heard a couple of sirens and saw a big cloud of smoke in the distance above the buildings by Hillsboro,” she said. 

Sophomore Chris Kelly did not immediately hear of the fire and was planning on eating at McDougal’s on the day of the fire when he arrived and saw the damage. He reports speaking to McDougal and his family outside, who encouraged people to help out the restaurant chain by visiting its location on 12th Avenue South. 

McDougals’ Hillsboro location opened its doors in 2004 and has been a neighborhood favorite ever since. The restaurant occupied a 1,000 sq. ft house that McDougal and his brothers reconstructed into a “funky chicken eatery with wall-to-wall personality,” with their mother as the primary investor, per their website

“We’ve had a lot [of] memories here, it still hasn’t hit me,” McDougal told The Tennessean. “I’m trying to just make [sure] all my employees are safe.” 

McDougal told the Tennessean their staff will either be moved to the restaurant’s 12 Avenue South location or to a new location opening in Brentwood in six weeks. 

The restaurant is located alongside other Vanderbilt student spots on Belcourt Avenue, such as Meet Noodles, Nicolettos Italian Kitchen and Anzie Blue as well as across from the Belcourt Theatre. McDougal’s has not immediately responded to a request for comment.