Canz – Astoria, NYC

Having moved into a new apartment in the restaurant and bar friendly Astoria, Queens, I thought I’d check out the wings at a neighborhood joint.  That’s the true test of a new neighborhood in NYC.

The closest place, discovered by an internet search, was Canz.  Before we get to the wings, let’s discuss the venue.  According to the Canz website, this Long Island born, two-location, national chain hopeful was founded on the concept that beer drinkers love drinking from cans.  Like, canned beer.  As I do enjoy a canned beer, I love the concept.

That being said, it’s hard to deny the comparisons to Hooters.  The custom tank tops on each one of the independently busty servers and bartenders read, ‘Do You Have A Crush On Our Canz?’  With a bombshell-only selection of staff and the letter ‘z’ replacing every ‘s’ on menu and signage pluralizationz, well…you’ll reach your own conclusions on that one.  If you love that sort of thing, this is it.  If you hate it, you may still want to stop in for a mid-day meal & drink.

And drinks they have.  Canz has hundreds of beers, most of which are canned.  And the draught selection isn’t puny, either.  I enjoyed a can of Pork Slap, a Stone IPA draught, and a Labatt Blue can (on special).  If you live in the area and are on a budget, the weekly booze specials are definitely worth looking into.  And what are those fishbowls behind the bar for?

And, as any beer-centric restaurant should, they serve wings.  The smallest order is 12 wings, but they’re happy to split them up between different sauces (a huge plus).  The offer plain, mild, medium, hot, BBQ, honey BBQ, asian, teriyaki, or their super-spicy, no-refund-allowed, ‘dirty canz.’

I ordered 12 wings, half hot, half asian.  The bartender was really terrific on this slow Saturday afternoon, offering me tastes of beers I had questions about.  After she brought me my wings, she also brought me a side of the dirty canz super spicy sauce for no extra charge.  She was good!

The hot sauce was less red than a traditional buffalo…more of a yellowish, with apparent dark seasoning.  It was smooth, feeling buttery, but without a buttery flavor.  And the pepper base was unlike any I’ve had before in a buffalo wing.  It was very good, and very different.  The closest comparison I can come up with is the wings at Gritty McDuff’s in Portland, Maine.  Could there be cumin in there?  Some other deep and exotic spice?  I’d love some backup on this one!

The hot wings were not really ‘hot’ at all.  The super-hot ‘dirty canz’ sauce had a kick, but would never bring a tear to the eye of a real spice-lover.  The menu really oversold how spicy it was.  The dirty canz flavor, however, was really nice.  The heat is slow, but never overpowers.  It’s thick, smooth, with a full-bodied flavor.

The wings themselves were cooked exceedingly well.  On the larger side, they took a while (always a good sign) and were very crispy.  The thick dirty canz sauce diluted the crispiness on the last wings, but the asian sauce was just what they wanted.

The asian sauce is a simple but well-balanced sweet soy/garlic sauce.  Very thin, the cooks put a lot of sauce on the plate, allowing me to get plenty of flavor on each wing.  I might reconsider splitting a plate between this sauce and others in the future for this reason…asian sauce kept infiltrating my hot wings.

I’m not here to review the asian wings, per se, but they were delicious.  The crisp of the wings held through to the last bite, making them a very attractive option when not in the mood for buffalo.

Is the 'Canz' namesake really derived from their extensive canned beer selection...
...or from somewhere else?

The serving plates are large and long, making the amount of food look more daunting than it really is.  One of the benefits of this is more room for bleu cheese dressing.  Forget the embarrassment of asking an attractive female bartender for a second order of bleu cheese right as the wings are served.  Canz understandz wingz.  The ramekins are huge…rarely do I leave so much dressing behind!  Canz notably also forgoes the carrots in it’s wing crudité.  SO many NYC establishments include carrots on the plate, but really, it’s the cool crunch of celery that’s needed in between and after buffalo wings.  Am I right?

After my meal, my bartender (who was totally cool and smart) showed me the girls of Canz calander for 2011.  She, along with many other servers, are featured.  The average 30-something, art-minded, hip-but-not-hipster Astorian may not go for the atmosphere Canz is successfully pulling off, but the wings will bring me back, even if I have to meet friends elsewhere later.

RATING: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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