The Hot Take
“…though not inedible or generally non-appetizing, WingBar’s wings were boring.”
Hello and welcome to MaxFun NYC’s brand new baby, the Weekly Wing Wreview! In this column, your humble author and whatever misfit vagabonds he can drag up wander New York City in search of tasty chicken wings, and we share our thoughts and opinions with you, the beautiful reader (and have I mentioned you look rather fetching today?)
This being the first in the series, I want to take a moment for introductions (if you want to skip to the review portion, feel free, I won’t be upset.) Like so many of the greatest ideas, this column was born out of a joke. In a comment thread on a Facebook post, someone requested a person to go around and eat wings and tell them which ones were good. I ‘liked,’ I laughed, and then I thought about it. ‘Well, you do love chicken wings,’ my brain reminded me, ‘and this would be a great excuse to explore the city some more.’ Say no more brain. ‘Also when you moved here last year, wasn’t part of your reasoning to start writing more?’ I said say no more brain! I was born in upstate New York, but lived for most of my life in North Carolina, a land where chicken wings are as much of a staple as college basketball, tobacco crops, and the word “y’all.” After moving to NYC in May of 2015 I’ve been on the constant lookout for good wings, and found it strange at first that in the greatest city in the world it was actually a little more difficult than I thought. Never mind that at the time I was living in a predominantly Dominican neighborhood and wings aren’t really a thing they do. It’s a learning experience that I presume most transplants have here, that if you want to find a thing you need to go out and actually find it, it won’t just land in your lap. But enough about me.
A quick word about my review style before we hit the ground running. I’m going to rate everything on an HONEST system of 1 to 5, which entails a couple of things: Firstly, it means that a rating of 3 is perfectly average. I expect a great many places will hover in the 2-4 range, and all reviews will provide context for the number. Secondly, NO HALF POINTS. If you’re going to score with half points, just use a 10 point system. As for the wings, I will always try and review at least three different sauces: the medium, the hot(test), and a flavor sauce if available (this will generally give preference to specific specialty or house flavors.) Unless extenuating circumstances arise, mild is not an option. Finally, in the interest of integrity, I will not allow for any establishment to comp any food for any reason other than quality or food safety issues, and will always disclose any case in which this happens. I will also insist on my party tipping 20% on any and all checks regardless of service problems or excellence while we are conducting a review.
Lastly, because this is supposed to be as much fun as it is work, you’ll notice that I’m posting some links throughout. This is for levity, except for when my co-reviewers ask me to link to their work or projects, which should be clear when applicable. Laugh a little, we’re just talking about chicken wings, it’s not that serious.
Without further ado, this week we wreview…
275 Smith St, Brooklyn (Boerum Hill/Cobble Hill)
For the kickoff I was joined by a bevy of phonetic variations of ‘Chris,’ including Chris Gambino, Kristen Watson, and Christianne Manzano. I remarked that their first names followed a perfect path of Pokémon evolutions.
The WingBar is a good combination of sports and dive bar. The interior is made up of a handful of six-top tables, a couple smaller rounds at the front, and a roughly ten seat bar situated next to an open kitchen. It also features a rather large ‘beer garden’ (their name) out back that is smoker friendly and is larger than the interior. We sat inside on this visit, mainly because it was a bit chilly on this October night and also I forgot the patio was there until we were paying our bill. Throughout the majority of our stay we had to contend with the volume of the Mets game on TV, which made conversation a little difficult at times. I would recommend this place if you want to watch some sports with friends or if you wanted to have some quieter drinks on the patio in nice warm or cool weather.
The menu here is pretty standard bar fare: burgers, sandwiches, fried foods and the like. As for drinks, they have a decent bottle/can selection, a full liquor bar, and a pretty limited draft selection with only 3 taps.
The PPW (Price Per Wing) here is a little steep, starting at $1.05 a piece for 10, and $0.95 for 100. CG echoed my thoughts, saying that “the price break is not cost effective. 10 wings for $10.50 and 20 for $20.”
Wings do include veggies and dip, but extra veggies and/or dip accrue an extra charge. It is worth noting here that though we asked for both blue cheese and ranch, we were delivered only blue cheese (to the dismay of CM and I both, as ranch fans.)
What We Ordered
As for drinks, I had a couple of beers, starting with a Captain Lawrence Pale Ale (which I was not charged for, I attribute this to a change in shift) and moving on to a Shiner Bock. CG, not a beer fan, chose Coors Light, the cheapest draft. CM drank some Shiner Bock Ruby Redbird (of which I was very jealous, and had intended my Shiner Bock order to be, but it was my fault for ordering poorly and not the bartender’s) and KW enjoyed some Angry Orchard cider.
For wings, we ordered 40, split thusly: 20 hot, as CG and CM intimated their love for HOT wings, 10 medium, and 10 BBQ wings. Another note here that we were told we could order in bulk, and that their menu did include bulk orders by magnitude of tens and split sauces by tens, yet we were charged for two individual orders of 10 and an order of 20.
As evident from the laminated menu, the generic red plastic water cups, and the chairs that have that perpetual bit of wobble, the WingBar is not a place for frills or finery. Our wings were brought in 3 slightly chipped wooden bowls, with a fourth for bones. The carrots and celery came in one of those ubiquitous plastic baskets with wax paper, and were topped with four plastic ramekins of blue cheese. I don’t ask for a lot when it comes to what my wings look like when they hit the table, though I felt like there’s a little room for improvement here. The broken bowls tip the scale to a 2/5.
At first bite, I found the medium sauce pretty lackluster. The sauce was pretty thin, and coated every wing, but it seemed to be lacking in both flavor and heat. The only flavor I could reconcile was that of generic mild hot sauce. While not at all unpleasant, it left a lot to be desired. My cohorts seemed to agree, KW weighing in that it seemed “spare on the sauce, very mild [and] dry,” CM not holding back with “[the] medium is mild” and CG confirming that the medium “tastes mild.” For me, the Medium sauce gets a 2/5.
Again, I found the coating of the sauce here to leave a little wanting. Sure, it covered the wing entirely, but only just. Call me what you want, I like my wings slathered. I found the heat and flavor to be pretty satisfying overall, but still not really hot. As someone who generally sweats their way through hot wings and applies a liberal amount of dip as a cooling mechanism, I found myself reaching for the blue cheese only as a method of adding flavor. The heat was decent, and did seem to build the more you ate, but never reached more than a medium plus for me. CM, one of our heat fans, simply called it “medium,” and CG thought it was “OK,” elaborating that he “wish[ed] it was hotter, but the spice does linger.” KW, who at first seemed a little hesitant to order 20 hot wings since this was her dinner of the evening, found that the hot was “only a few notes up from medium” and that there was basically “no burn.” Again, for me the hot scrapes by with 2/5.
Finally, a wing that is straight up MESSY. Of the napkin stack we were provided on our individual plates, half of mine went to the BBQ wings. These bad boys were coated, nice and viscously sticky. There was no heat to this sauce, but I found it to be a decent balance of sweet and tangy. It was on these that our opinions splintered a bit with KW (a native of Missouri, and previous resident of both Kansas and Rochester, all 3 being good wing spots) deeming them as “sweet, not especially flavorful,” CG (a Long Island native) calling them “…good. I liked the sauce,” and CM (a born Massachusite) found them to be “tangy” and “more astringent than sweet.” For my 2 cents, I found this to be no more or less than you could ask from a BBQ sauce, which is why I say this is a nice average 3/5.
Despite the decent BBQ, the lack of heat, flavor, and variety lands the sauces at an overall 2/5.
The original review format I slated has separate scoring for the outside and inside of the wing, and while that may be a the case in future reviews, these wings were not really big enough to truly distinguish one from the other. I wouldn’t exactly call them small, but I will say they are hardly large enough to justify their price tag. That said, for a majority of my meal I found them to have a nice outer crunchiness without being overcooked on the inside. Some of the drumettes seemed to be lacking in meat, but the flats were decent. CM and KW seemed to agree that they were a little “overdone,” KW saying that “some verged on carbon” and CM elaborating that they were “stringier than I’m used to, not as moist as I’d like.” For my taste, I thought the wings were just OK. I give the wing itself a 3/5
The Hot Take
The wings at The WingBar are tip to toe the definition of ‘bar food.’ KW summed it up pretty succinctly, telling me afterwords that “though not inedible or generally non-appetizing, WingBar’s wings were boring. They work if you’re at the bar and just happen to be hungry.” The flavors and variety leave something to be desired, but if you are a local there to watch the [sports game] you could do worse. The PPW is a bit steep compared to the quality if you plan on it as a meal, but if you grab some wings with some buddies over beers the cost kind of evens out. If you plan on a night of ordering in, I would not recommend this place. However, if you want to go to the bar and watch a game or sit in the beer garden with a couple of pals, I would recommend this as a decent spot to do so, if you’re in the neighborhood. As an overall score from me, the WingBar gets a 2/5.
Though not specifically listed on the menu, KW has told me that the sauces here are gluten free. The wings themselves aren’t breaded, so if that’s a concern, be relieved. The WingBar is CASH ONLY, but does have an ATM onsite (with a 2.50 service fee.) The bathroom sink gets crazy hot, as in actual steam hot, so the sanitation is presumably good. Among many other topics, our conversations tonight included hometowns, witches, niche dating sites, Cookie Monster’s bad drug habits, and Birthday songs ft. Bill Cosby.
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