Rathbones – Upper East Side, NYC


I got word recently that Rathbones, a bar/restaurant on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, had fantastic wings.  So last week I ventured out on a sunny Saturday afternoon and tried what the menu calls the 'Famous Rathbone Buffalo Wings.'

Although I couldn't find any evidence of the alleged fame of these wings online, they were outstanding.  If you've got friends visiting the city from Tai Pei, and you want them to truly understand what a buffalo wing is, bring them to Rathbones.  Their sauce is what I consider a classic buffalo sauce, and they're cooked just right.  On the other hand, if you're looking for something extra, fancy, or spicy, these might not be worth leaving your neighborhood.

The sauce seemed to be Frank's based, think, and very orange.  Bright orange.  You can see from the picture that they're practically neon.  It's got great flavor, and although it's thick enough for each wing to be liberally slathered with flavor, it's not too buttery.  So the sauce, in that regard, is a win.  Where the wing looses points is on spiciness.  It had no kick whatsoever.  I guess the recipe takes into account that a diner won't want to be distracted from the football game by some pesky spice.  With no other options for degrees of heat, it felt a little like eating a line of starter wings for children.


The wings were perfect, though, when it came to the cooking.  Each one had a defined crisp to the skin, thoroughly cooked and tasty.  They wings weren't small at all, and yet they weren't those jumbo-sized wings that are hard to cook right with any consistency…not to mention reduce the sauce-per-ounce-of-meat level.  And without even having to ask, the dish came with tons of bleu cheese.  More than I even needed, which almost never happens!

Rathbones definitely looks like a great place.  They've got daily happy hour specials, along with sports specials, each week.  If you live on the Upper East Side, I strongly recommend checking out the rest of the menu, as well as downing some 50 cent wings during games.  I would too…even with the lure of a Red Sox bar across the street.

The wings left me satisfied (even the 'small' portion, which is 8 wings for 7 bucks), but I was left with a question:  Once a non-spicy buffalo wing has been done so well, why not try for some other heat options?  And since the wings are 'famous,' and the first thing on the menu, why not try offering some other sauces?  I don't need innovation (although why leave it to chains like Atomic & BWW's?), but when something has been executed so well, I wonder why that has to be the end of a trail.  Why not have an entire wing section on that menu?  I suppose it's a good sign that I'm left wanting so much more…

RATING: 4.5 out of 5 stars

The Hog Pit – Midtown South, NYC

Hog Pit SignSomewhere where Chelsea meets Flatiron meets the Garment District (otherwise known as Midtown South), lies the BBQ district.  I'm not sure it's ever been called that before, but let's just take a moment to call it that now.  There are eight BBQ places in the immediate area, a piece of evidence that the New York Times was right when they wrote of the BBQ boom of 2007, which still continues today.

The Hot Pit purports itself to be a BBQ destination, but being across the street from popular Hill Country, it's hard to believe they get much of a serious foodie crowd.  The place looks more like a little bar with a pool table, Big Buck Hunter, and a kitchen.

It is also very close to my work, and the prices are right…which means I stop by regularly.  The staff never remembers (this is NYC, after all), but the wings are pretty darn good!

The sauce is the best feature of the wings, with what seems to be a Louisiana-based sauce (or some liquidy equivalent), and not too much butter.  It's got a decent amount of spice, but even the hot ones don't create a burn.

Hog Pit Wings The wings are large, plump, and well cooked.  But here is where we discover the main drawback of the wings: they're breaded.  As nice and as crisp as that first wing is when it arrives from the kitchen, the last 4 are always a total bummer.  Nothing's quite as bad as a heavy soggy wing.

The blue cheese dressing that comes is very good, however…and there's always plenty of it, a nice touch.  Plus the celery is reliably crunchy.  These are always sure signs of a wing place that has hopes of being more a restaurant than just a bar.

So, because of the sogginess, if you're sharing these wings with some friends, go for it…but it doesn't make too munch sense to order them as an entree.  The sauce is worth it, but nothing crazily special.  But as city dwellers know, even this quality, when this close to work, is worth the convenience.  Location, location, location! 

3.5 out of 5 stars