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
One thought on “Rathbones – Upper East Side, NYC”
Rathbone’s is good, but do yourself a favor and check out Bar Coastal (atomic wings) – down the street on 78th and 1st. Best wings I’ve had in the city. Highly recommend “Kerry’s Way”. I recently moved from the UES to Boston, and those wings may be what I miss the most. Next time DA visits from VT you should take him here (we used to work together).
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