Wingstop – Astoria, NYC

Last week marked the grand opening of Astoria’s first restaurant dedicated to chicken wings.  In it’s first week, I’ve been to Wing Stop three times…it’s located dangerously close to my apartment.

Wingstop is a franchise that started about 15 years ago near Dallas, Texas, and claims its decor is an homage to olde time aviation.  Outside the logo & hilarious goose wearing an aviation helmet on the counter, I didn’t get that too much.  But the new place looks good, and the menu looks even better.

Wingstop’s got a lot of things going for it.  First, there’s no sandwiches.  That might seem strange to note positively, but to a wing aficionado, I’m wary of a chicken wing restaurant that serves a million other things.  Focus on what’s important, I say.  Besides wings, they offer only a small selection of sides (the fries are delicious) and a good selection of beer, both bottle and on tap.  And if you’re looking for a place to pre-game before a late bar night, sit down for $10 pitchers, regular price!

Wings come in increments of 8,wisely avoiding resentment of customers forced to order more than they may want (how can some places justify a minimum buy of 12??).  You can order regular or boneless wings, or even do a mix & match between the two.  And every order may be split into two different sauces.  A nice touch.

They make a big fuss over cooking all the wings to order, ‘Never Pre-Cooked!’  I’m not sure how many places are pre-cooking their wings in New York, but I was impressed when the freshly trained and spritely staff told me that my order would be 14 minutes.  That’s when I knew I was going to have a perfetly cooked, crispy wing.

And they were cooked perfectly.  The crispness is outstanding.  The wings aren’t huge, but I’ll take well-cooked wings over undercooked giants any day of the week.

Because I’ve been a couple times, with a few different people, I’ve tried a few of the sauces…and I was surprised by what I liked best.  There are 9 sauces offered on the wings.  I’m surprised there aren’t more, actually…all they do is wings!

At the top of the list above the counter is the Atomic, which is really hot. I was told I should taste the sauce first, but I insisted I’d like it.  And I did, but it really did take me by surprise.  The Atomic sauce is a deep, dark, thick red sauce, dashed with pepper flakes.  It’s got an initial kick, and a creeping heat that doesn’t give up easily.  I love spicy, but the four Atomic wings I ordered were enough.  I’m impressed that the hottest wing is so hot, though.  Too often establishments will shy away from a truly super-spicy sauce in attempt to appeal to milder American taste buds.  Screw that.

The Teriyaki and Hickory Smoked BBQ are very simple sauces.  They’re thick, they’re plain, and they taste like something I could buy at Associated around the corner.  They’re passable, by any means, but nothing much to take note of.

But perhaps they only tasted so plebeian when contrasted with two truly remarkable wings: Lemon Pepper & Garlic Parmesan.  Each of these wing sauces are oil-based, with a light dusting on top.  These wings are killer. They’re so good, I haven’t bothered exploring the rest of the menu yet.  They’ll keep me coming back, for sure.  The Lemon Pepper are wings coated in a lemon oil, then sprinkled with salt and pepper.  Because the oil is so thin (in comparison to a regular wing sauce), the wings remain crispy to the last bite.  The lemon is zesty and tart, and the salt & pepper provide a full, if simple, rounding out to the flavor.  The Garlic Parmesan are coated in garlic oil, then dusted liberally with parmesan cheese.  Again, they’re crispy to the last, and the flavor combination are pure wing art.  Try these two wings on your first visit for sure!

Then we move on to the Original Hot wings.  Wingstop claims it made them famous, but they wouldn’t have lasted on this recipe alone up here in the northeast.  They’re really vinegary, and totally lack the butter necessary to give the sauce any body whatsoever.  I appreciated a decent heat, but the flavor was a little flat.  I won’t be coming here specifically
for regular, good ol’ fashioned classic buffalo wings.

And ultimately, that’s what I’m here to review: the buffalo wings.  So my rating is going to be a little low.  But please keep in mind that the two oil-based wings are enough to make this an unmissable wing destination in NYC.  I hope to see more franchises pop up around Astoria and the rest of the city.  Good luck to the new managers…the neighborhood welcomes you!

RATING: 2 out of 5

Eamonn’s Bar & Grill – Midtown, NYC

I had the distinct pleasure to sit down with Hot N’ Saucy Wings Editor N’ Chief DJ on his recent visit to New York City. Our visit was short, but we had just enough time to catch up over a drink on a late Monday night…and of course sample some wings.

Eamonn’s is a standard Midtown Pub. Thin and deep, with a simple bar running along the left wall, backed by a curt but courteous male bartender. There was a decent crowd for the time, and I wondered how many were out-of-towners staying in nearby hotels, like my companion.

We ordered buffalo wings, hot. They came out surprisingly quickly…though I probably need to chalk that up to time flying amidst good company. As you can see in the picture, the wings were a deep, rich burnt umber. I thought, ‘uh-oh, these aren’t going to be a traditional buffalo wing at all.’ We both took our first bite at the same time, me expecting a sweet, molasses flavor.

And sweet they were…at first bite. But very quickly came a swooshing burst of hot sauce heat. We both froze at the same moment, trying to make sense of the peculiar shift in flavor.

The wings had two distinct personalities, a sweet, thick BBQ flavor and an oil-thin & flavorless heat. Unfortunately, these two flavors never merged in my mouth. Or even on the plate, for that matter; we could see the sauce separating into the two parts I described before our very eyes!

I want to be clear that the wings weren’t all bad. Spicy BBQ, hard to go too wrong. The thickness of the sauce was enjoyable, and the wings, though devoid of any crisp due to the sauce, were cooked to perfection. DJ noted that there were no fatty areas under the skin, which is half the battle of a good wing.

I also enjoyed the small serving. In a city where I’ve grown accustomed to paying $8-10 for 12 wings, minimum, and order of 6 wings is a perfect snack. NYC establishments take note, even this wing nut will refrain from an order when only peckish and faced with a dozen wings.

The bleu cheese dressing was probably right out of a tub, but had the appropriate levels of flavor, chuncks, cooling, etc. Though I could have used much more heat from these ‘hot’ wings…they hardly needed any cooling at all!

So the wings were passable. I’d get them again if I frequented this bar for some reason. But a wing destination, Eamonn’s is not. But it was a pleasure to share them with DJ!

RATING: 2.5 out of 5