T.G.I. Friday’s Ancho Chile Wings – Everywhere

I had high hopes for these wings.  Just read this description: "Our buffalo wings are tossed in Ancho honey-glaze.  Served with a side of green chile sour cream sauce."  Mmmm…. ancho and honey.

Unfortunately, they just didn’t live up to expectations.  They weren’t bad.  But they weren’t very good either.  The flavor was a bit strange – really couldn’t put my finger on it.  They weren’t that spicy and they weren’t sticky sweet.  They are very middle of the road and therefore kind of uninteresting.  Looking back, it may be the fault of the Ancho itself, which has more of paprika flavor and I shouldn’t have gotten so excited.  Chipotle honey glaze… now that would be interesting!

However, the wings are a virtual mouth party compared to the "green chile sour cream sauce" which tastes like leaky sour cream with flavorless little green bits in it.

Friday’s needs to take a clue from its own "Wicked Wings" that I reviewed just about a year ago.  I’ve also had their buffalo flavor and they are quite good.  This was a miss for Friday’s.

RATING: 2 out of 5 Stars

Mill Street Brewpub – Toronto, ON

On my second night in Toronto, I visited a well-liked brewpub located in the old "Distillery District" by the name of Mill Street Brew Pub.  I was pleased to find IPA on cask draught, and a ESB regular draft option available.  As a starter, I had to try the wings.  Mill Street offers 3 levels of hot wings, plus a "Honey Garlic" and a "Soya Ginger."  Speaking with the bartender, he told me the hot wings were your standard buffalo wings – a.k.a. Franks and margarine – so I had to choose between the Honey Garlic and Soya Ginger.  I really wanted to try both, but the minimum order for a flavor of wings is 10.  I was craving a soy based sauce after the previous night’s wings, so I went with the Soya Ginger.

The sauce didn’t disappoint at all, with plenty of flavor and a nice glaze-like sauce.  I think I detected some Chinese Five Spice in it.  They were particularly large wings, and were also breaded, which is perhaps "the thing to do" in Toronto?  However, like the other wings in Toronto, non-breaded wings with more sauce would have been better, but also like the previous night’s, these hardly disappointed.

RATING: 4 out 5 Stars.

Crown & Dragon Pub – Toronto, ON

The first international review on Hot n’ Saucy Wings!  While in Toronto on business, a friend took me to the Crown & Dragon Pub knowing that I enjoy wings.   The selection here is extensive – over 20 styles of wings, many with an Asian or Indian influence, reflecting the tastes of both Toronto and the pub’s owners.  I went with a fairly traditional type wing, their "Dragon Wings" which were listed as "Hottest." 

The wings were nice and meaty, and perfectly cooked.  They were of the breaded variety which I don’t usually like as much as the non-breaded versions, but they were smart enough to serve them quickly and not drown them sauce.  The sauce itself was very close to a traditional buffalo wing sauce.  Supposedly it is an original recipe that they "stumbled upon" and is very hot.  There was definitely heat – but moderately hot – and the sauce tasted fairly traditional to me.  The lose a few points for not living up to the billing, but overall, very satisfying wings. 

My dining companion went for their sesame-soy variety, called "Turning Japanese." A sucker for soy-based wing sauces, I had to try one, and they were very good, with a pronounced sesame flavor.  A bit more sauce might have made it better.

On a non-wing related note, try the hand-cut yam fries.  The fries themselves are really good, but the dipping sauce is fantastic.  I don’t know if they serve wings in the sauce, but if they don’t, they should!  Loaded with red chili flakes, soy, and what I think was fish sauce, not only did it compliment the fries, but the onion rings and both wings on on the table.  If the beer hadn’t been so good, it might have even made the beer taste better!

Dragon Wings RATING: 3 out of 5 stars

Turning Japanese RATING: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Dipping sauce served with yam fries RATING: 5 out of 5 stars!

John Harvard’s Brew Pub – Framingham, MA

I’m a long-time fan of the John Harvard Brewpub in Harvard Square, but until recently, hadn’t been to the one in Framingham.  Located in a strip-mall saturated area of Route 9, the interior is surprisingly warm and comforting, reminiscent of the original in Cambridge.  I walked in with my "Hophead" t-shirt on from BeerAdvocate.com, looking forward to a nice IPA.  I sat down to see that they had an extra hoppy version of their IPA available, but my hopes and dreams were dashed by the bartender who came over and said "Hi folks, just wanted to let you know that we’re out of both IPAs tonight."  He went on to explain why, but I didn’t hear anything as I found myself lost in a cloud of disappointment.

After that blow, I was determined to have buffalo wings, which I was looking forward to, as the last time I had them at the Harvard Square restaurant they were cooked to perfection and very hot and spicy – bordering on too hot.  I had them long before I started this blog, so I was looking forward to revisiting them.

Unfortunately, they turned out to be slightly disappointing.  Not that they were bad – they were just average.  The wings were cooked well, and the sauce had a kick – but wasn’t anything great and they certainly weren’t generous with it either.  The chicken was actually a little tough – possibly cooked before fully thawing – and I think the bartender may have let them sit for a bit on the service window, as you could tell they WERE crispy, but weren’t starting to get saturated in their own spicy sauce.   

They wouldn’t have been really disappointing if I had no expectations, but I did, so they were.

RATING: 2.0 out of 5 stars

PigTrip: A Fellow Food Obsessive

We foodie obsessives need to stick together, supporting each other in convincing ourselves and the rest of the world that it is OK to have a web site dedicated to things like hot wings, just for fun of it, not profit or any sort of professional gain.

This past weekend I cooked with the iQue barbecue team (speaking of foodie obsessives…) and during some downtime had the opportunity to meet Gary from PigTrip.net

There are some natural pairings in this world, for example: beer and barbecue.  Many barbecue competitions are either held on brewery grounds or sponsored by a beer company in some manner.  Also, most barbecue lovers are hot wing lovers.  I think it has to do with the need to eat a primal cut of meat that is spicy and flavorful and do it with your hands.  Wings and barbecue fulfill that need.  Just don’t ask me to choose!

Be sure to check out PigTrip.net

Archie Moore’s – Milford, CT

When you’re wing addict to the point of having a blog reviewing them, you do some silly things in pursuit of good wingage.  You do things like go out of your way to get to a recommended wing restaurant for lunch, even if you have to spend 15 minutes in the car and another 15 minutes walking around a rather small and nondescript downtown area, waiting for the place to open.  And once you get inside, you suffer through indignities like slow service since the staff is still getting ready for the main lunch crowd, and watching your dress shirt get ruined as you drop a wing down your front and watch it leave a huge orange-red greasy streak.

However, if the wings are good, its worth it.  And these wings were worth it.  Archie Moore’s has five locations throughout southern Connecticut and claims to have wings "Voted Best Wings in CT."  Now, there was no explanation of WHO did the voting, and I haven’t eaten wings in that many places in Connecticut, but Archie’s certainly sets the bar pretty high.

Like any good wing, these were perfectly cooked.  Crispy and cooked all the way through, while still being moist on the inside.  The sauce is pleasantly spicy – a good amount of heat but a lot of flavor, with a delicious glaze of orange spicy oil floating around.  They remind me of the wings at Quaker Steak & Lube or Wendell’s and I mean that as a compliment of the highest order. 

They aren’t anything unique or breakthrough, but they are perfectly executed and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. 

The blue cheese dressing that accompanies the wings is quite chunky, which I like, though it is less thick than you usually find with a creamy dressing.


Cheesecake Factory – Everywhere

Well, let me start off by saying that i’m not the biggest fan of the Cheesecake Factory.  I think that there are better places for the money, but I do love their cheesecakes.  However, on a recent trip I finally got a chance to try their "Buffalo Blasts."  Not a chicken wing, but it is a wonton wrapper filled with buffalo style chicken.

They are as good as you want them to do with a cooling herbal ranch dressing.  Pleasantly crunchy on the outside and spicy and juicy on the inside.   I won’t give them a review rating since they aren’t wings or "boneless wings" but did want to bring it to the attention of my fellow buffalo enthusiasts.

Kowloons – Saugus, MA

I am a sucker for sticky sweet, salty and spicy teriyaki wings (or ribs, or chicken, or even a burger), and on my first trip to Kowloon’s mega restaurant, I enjoyed some of the better versions of this style of wings that I’ve tried.  Called “Saugus Wings” named after the location of the restaurant just north of Boston, they are similar to a number of other wing sauces I’ve enjoyed, but this was heavier on ginger than the garlic.  Chan’s in Woonsocket does a very similar sauce, but much garlicy, and I make my own that are loaded with garlic and Chinese five spice, which adds a nice sweet and savory taste to them.

The wings were perfectly cooked and dripping with a sweet, gingery, soy-based sauce that coated the wings (and your fingers, and your napkin, and anything else it came into contact with) heavily.  They were excellent, but I felt like there was another layer of flavor that could have enriched them some.  As I said before, often these sauces tend towards the garlic side of things, and this sauce leaned more towards ginger.  Replacing the ginger with the garlic wouldn’t have been right, but a bit more garlic or five-spice would have made them perfect.


RATING: 3.5 out of 5 stars