It's impossible to talk about Buffalo Wings in New York without mentioning Atomic Wings. Atomic is the only restaurant franchise in the city devoted to chicken wings. They do a hell of a job…although I disagree strongly with some sentiments expressed on their website:
This may be true if we only consider a true 'Buffalo Chicken Wing' to be made with chickens raised in Buffalo, NY. The chain boasts using fresh chickens from upstate. But does the origin of the chicken really make the wing? And is Buffalo really the home of the finest chickens?
An interesting thing about Atomic is that they're a franchise that has two types of locations. One type is a restaurant with a fast food atmosphere (small, orange walls, no alcohol), but some locations are situated in the kitchen of an independent bar. So my visit to Atomic Wings this week brought me to a bar called The Blue Room. The kitchen is a separate enterprise; I was billed separately for my beer and wings. Good thing Atomic Wings can boast a surprising level of consistency between all of its 8 Manhattan locations!
The Blue Room is located right at the Manhattan entrance to the 59th St. Bridge to Queens (also right next to the massive ski-lift that brings folks to Roosevelt Island). The bar is small, a pool table takes up a lot of the standing room, and the place smells like hot wings…mmmmm.
Atomic offers several sauces. The 'Sane' can enjoy Mild, Medium, Hot, Honey Mustard, BBQ, Jerk BBQ, or Teriyaki. The 'Insane' (like myself) can try Abusive, Nuclear, or Suicidal. I've eaten at Atomic many times, and for this review I chose Nuclear, their second-hottest offering.
The wings were all choice, with a lot of meat on each one. And they were cooked very well, quite crispy…at first. I was a little disappointed when I saw the amount of sauce the day cooks had put on them. I knew that pleasant crisp wouldn't last too long; and despite efforts to put a few wings in quarantine on the side of my plate, my last few wings were on the soggy side.
The sauce, however, is very good. It's an absolute standard Buffalo sauce, without any frills. The sauce is smooth, light, and perfectly piquant. It really is a nice blend, even if it lacks any particular personality of it's own. If the goal is textbook Buffalo (and it is), then the sauce is a major win.
As for heat, it's probably time for me to move up to the Suicidal wing, as the Nuclear just isn't spicy enough anymore. I hate it when the spiciest offerings still aren't enough…it makes me feel like some sort of spicy-food-mutant, which is a terribly lame superpower. For those of you who enjoy milder sauces, I'd take this with a grain of salt – I'm sure the lower indexes are fine for you
Coupled with draught Sierra Nevadas at the bar, friendly staff, and a pre-season Red Sox/Mets game on the tube (the good guys won), it was a great low-key meal. For a wing tour of NYC, I strongly recommend checking out one of the standard-setting Atomic Wings locations.
RATING: 4 out of 5 stars