In search of the perfect hot wing

Okay, before I start this article I have to rant about something.

I was sitting in the Flying Saucer, doing research for this journal entry, sitting in one of the window seats. A car drove by. It had one of those high-dollar spinner rims, and one regular rim on the passenger side. Couldn’t see the other side of the car so I don’t know what the other tires looked like, but still… just when I thought this town couldn’t get ANY more ghetto, it does! What was this guy thinking? “Well, I can’t afford a whole set of spinners, so I’ll just get one.” And why anyone would put any spinners at all on the piece of shit he was driving is beyond me anyway – the car had a dented fender, and one of the bumpers had been replaced and was gray while the rest of the car was white.

Anyway, on to the topic at hand. I love hot wings. I could eat them all day long. In a typical place that has five varieties (mild, medium, hot, extra hot, and suicide), I usually get extra hot, with extra blue cheese dip. Carrots and celery are absolutely necessary.

So recently I went on a search for the perfect hot wing in my downtown neighborhood. I’m going to list restaurants that sell wings and rate their wings on a scale of 1 to 10. The gold standard to which I’ll be comparing them is a place I went to all the time in the mid-’90s – a place on Winchester called Buffalo’s. (NOT Buffalo Wild Wings, different chain.) They had Bash Night every Monday – all the wings you could eat for about 10 bucks. My friends and I would go every week and put away some wings. Eventually the restaurant left the chain and re-named itself Maverick’s, then closed sometime around 2000 when the neighborhood started to go downhill. I miss those wings. There are still some Buffalo’s locations in Alabama, and I’ve seriously considered road tripping over there.

But, in the meantime, let’s take a look at restaurants downtown and how close they come to the gold standard. I have a feeling I’ll ramble a bit in this journal entry, but what else is new?

1) The Flying Saucer. I’m as surprised as anyone that this place came out of top, because I’ve never considered the Saucer a dining destination. But I was up there last week with my neighbor Paul Two, and he ordered the wings and I tried one. They were so good that I went back today for an order of my own. The wings are delicious – naked (not breaded) and slathered in spicy sauce. They come with a generous amount of celery and carrots, and a good-sized container of blue cheese dip. The fact that the wings are served by waitresses in miniskirts doesn’t hurt either. Rating: 9.5 out of 10

2) Jillian’s. I have to make a disclaimer here: I’ve never ordered the wings off Jillian’s menu. But I have eaten them numerous times, thanks to bowling events sponsored by Mpact or by my apartment building. Like the Saucer’s wings, Jillian’s are spicy and good. Rating: 9 out of 10

3) King of Wings. This is a little take-out place on Madison between Second and Third. Sauce is probably the best of any of the places listed here: the extra-hot wings bring tears to my eyes, which is what should happen. They have whole wings rather than wing sections. Pulling the wings apart can get messy. They need bigger containers for their blue cheese dip: three dips and it’s gone. Still, some damn fine wings. Rating: 9 out of 10

4) Huey’s. These are my drunk wings, meaning when I’m stumbling home from other bars downtown I often stop and pick up a batch. Like King of Wings, they give you whole wings, an order of 6 I believe. Huey’s wings are lightly battered and only available in one grade of spiciness, which is about comparable to King of Wings’ hot. Good-sized containers of blue cheese. Huey’s also gets points for being open late, so I can get wings as late as 3 AM. Rating: 7.5 out of 10

5) Hooters. I had the “3 Mile Island” variety, which is the equivalent of extra-hot. I was a little disappointed; they didn’t set my mouth on fire. Next time I’ll try the 911 wings, which are the hottest. Wings are breaded and slathered in a thick sauce. The thing I hate about this place is that everything is extra. Want celery? It’ll cost you. An extra blue cheese dip? 55 cents, please. And they try to sell you fries to go with it, and then cheese sauce to dip the fries in. The Hooters Girls aren’t nearly as pretty as the waitresses at the Saucer, or as intelligent. Rating: 6.5 out of 10

That’s my top five. There are probably some places I missed that serve hot wings, some of the bars on Beale or in the Pinch. Then there’s Denny’s, whose wings were actually not bad but the 50-minute wait to get them to the table was unacceptable. And, of course, the excellent Hot Wing Rolls at the Blue Monkey (both locations, but only the one on Front Street is in a neighborhood that matters).

That’s all for now. I still have a couple of Life Lessons posts in the works, and a rant about my new pet peeve.