The Hot Take
“Dallas BBQ knows what they’re doing. Unfortunately I think that part of what they’re doing is playing it safe.”
We did it! Double digits y’all! Only 90 short weeks until we hit the triples, so lets keep on munching. This week a handful of MaxFun NYC pals were headed out to see MaxFun’s own Stuart Wellington at the new Alamo Drafthouse in Brooklyn introducing the iconic 80’s horror(?) movie The Gate. “Excellent” I thought with my conniving brain, and roped a few attendees into eating some chicken wings with me beforehand. This neighborhood is a little scarce when it comes to wing joints, but we managed to find ourselves in another local chain which has foundations going back 80 years in NYC. Lets get to the wreview of…
180 Livingston St. (Downtown Brooklyn)
This week I was joined by spicily seasoned wreviewers Christianne Manzano and Benjamin Jones, as well as first-time and future wreviewer Meghan Griffin.
This was my first time actually going in to a Dallas BBQ location, having ordered delivery from a different location a few times before. What I found was… well, let’s just say that I spent the better part of ten years working for a few corporate national Casual Family Dining restaurants, and this looked a lot like that. If you’ve been to, say, an Applebee’s or a Ruby Tuesday you’ll know what I mean. The chain itself is part of a family run company that stretches back eight decades in NYC, so they don’t (as far as I know) have any real ties to Texas BBQ, it more just seems to be a means to take on the airs of a generic southern BBQ joint.
I say this with utter and complete sincerity: I’m always a little excited by restaurants that choose to not only use paper placemats, but also have them double as menus. It throws any pretext out of the window and lets you know that you’re about to be, whether you want it to happen or not, pretty darn sloppy. On order are all the staples of a BBQ joint: steaks, ribs, fried shrimp, chicken, and comically large drinks.
I mulled over the PPW here, because when you order wings here, they give you the FULL wing. By which I mean the flat, the drumette and the wing tip (which I like to gnaw on if it’s included.) For the purposes of consistency, I will consider each wing here two wings, putting them at a (sauceless) base PPW of $1.09 a wing for “5,” and a (sauced) maximum of 85 cents for an order of “10.”
What We Ordered
I couldn’t help myself. I ordered a comically large drink, complete with a split of moscato and a shooter of tequila buried inside. The tequila shooter is important later. For real.
BJ and CM joined me in the comically-oversized-frozen-drink club (to be fair, I probably wouldn’t have ordered one if CM hadn’t already declared she intended to. I didn’t want to be alone in my endeavor.) MG was being the responsible one, ordering a soda because she had an early flight.
For wings, well they had three sauces, so we ordered all of them. “Five” each of the Hot Wings with Cool Ranch, Honey-Basted Sticky Wings, and Henny Wings.
The wings came out haphazardly stacked, puddled on the plate in each of the sauces, despite most of the wings themselves clearly not being totally coated. There were no dipping sauces, even for the Hot Wings with Cool Ranch (we had to ask for the ranch after the fact,) and zero veggies either on the plate or on the side. I don’t ask for a whole lot of pomp and circumstance with my wings, but I feel like a lot of balls were dropped along the way here. They could do worse, but they could definitely do better. 2/5.
Hot Wings with Cool Ranch:
You can see what we’re dealing with here in this picture, which is some big honkin’ wings. BJ doesn’t mince words here, calling them “good, not great.” MG, a certified southern girl said that they were “more medium than mild” and that the ranch was “decent,” also going on to add that they were “definitely my favorite of the three.” CM was quite amused by the small and very formal looking dish the ranch was served in (with a spoon) and thought “the sauce here isn’t the hottest, but seems house-made, not just Franks and butter.” The sauce really had a nice flavor, with a slightly below medium heat that manages to build a few notches over time. It was while eating these that CM, BJ and I all took our shooters, and for some reason (I’m not normally a tequila drinker, so this could be a known thing for others) the shot I took seemed to blast the heat up a few notches to a nice burn. There’s not really much to say about this sauce, as it was a pretty standard non-Buffalo hot wing, playing it into a safe score of 3/5.
Honey-Basted Sticky Wings:
“Sticky isn’t just a clever name” chimed CM, as she was helping me pass plates around for photos and this one was sticking to our fingers, the placemats, the napkins, and everything else. “Reminds me of putting honey on chicken nuggets when I was a kid” she reminisced, but found they were “a little too sweet for me.” BJ said they were “basically just honey, which is great” while MG surmised they were “good, but a bit forgettable.” I had a hard time touching these at first, because they were not only sticky but really hot and fresh, which made me fight from getting scorched by molten honey (this is an exaggeration. I was in no real harm other than being uncomfortably hot and sticky.) Once I was able to get these into my maw, I was pretty pleased. They honey glazed them in such a way that turned the crunchy breading into an almost crispy chicken candy. Beyond that, they added little to the flavor beyond nostalgia (I also was a honey dipper for nuggets, being my father’s son. He puts honey on everything he can, and now is raising bees so he can get his own honey.) While it lives up to the stickiness of its title, it’s a bit of a one trick pony at a 3/5.
Rule of thumb, for those who haven’t been paying attention: If there’s only three or four sauces, and none of them doesn’t explicitly say BBQ, one of them is definitely BBQ. These are the ones, this time around with a bit of Hennessy mixed in for flavor. MG said you can “definitely taste the alcohol” and that they have an “interesting after kick.” “This is a fairly normal BBQ sauce,” says CM, “not too sweet, [and] a little more heat than regular.” For BJ’s part, the sauce was “thick, and spicier than most, enough to be noticed, but not enough to stand out.” While my companions may have been a bit middling on this sauce, I was actually really impressed. They toned the sweetness WAY down, letting the tanginess and heat take the stage. When our table was nothing but bones I was sliding my finger across the plate, lamenting the lack of celery, just to taste the sauce a little more. It’s really hard to make a BBQ sauce unique, but it’s a bar that the Henny Wing clears at a 4/5.
The sauces here are tasty, predictable, safe, and ultimately inoffensive. While that may not be something that wins awards or accolades, it is something that will satisfy almost everyone’s palette. It’s a warm but welcome overall 3/5.
They say chickens are flightless, but after visiting the “Dinosaurs Among Us” exhibit at the Museum of Natural History today, I have to wonder if these wings didn’t come from some slightly pre-chicken ancestor that is, like, 4% dino and can flap his way from tree to tree. I’m not just talking about the fact that they give you a whole wing, but also that each part of the wing is huge in its own right. Despite being breaded, they were still nice and crunchy and never got the sogginess of comparable breaded wings. Whatever they do with it, the blank slate they’re starting with is a delicious one. While the chain my not be Dallas oriented, they embrace the motto of everything is bigger in Texas. 4/5.
The Hot Take
The wings and the sauces here are tasty and filling. Nothing will take that away from them. Dallas BBQ knows what they’re doing. Unfortunately I think that part of what they’re doing is playing it safe. I don’t hold their lack of variety against them, but I think there’s so much more than they can do. But we at the Wreview are about fairness and clarity, so I will say that while the wings here are perfectly good and filling, that’s the best thing I can say about them. I would never go out of my way to avoid them, but I also wouldn’t really go out of my way to get my hands on them. The hot take here is a huge and crunchy but predictable 3/5.
I really hate to gripe, as someone who was in the service industry for over a decade, but the service was really off on this night. I only mention it because it made us a little late to our movie, and we were a group that showed up on time and were trying to get in and out as fast as possible. I don’t in any way think our server was at fault, instead I think it was really just one of those nights. That said, while I generally avoid peak hours if I can, that might be the best option at this place. (PS, the service will never impact the scores of the food. I’m not wreviewing the establishment itself, just how they do their wings.)
I’ll do my best, but at this point it’s looking like the Wreview might be taking a holiday week off. I’ll do whatever it takes to avoid it, but there may be a chance that either Christmas weekend or New Years weekend may be a bye week. But don’t you worry, I’ve got some fun things in the works for 2017.
As always, the Weekly Wing Wreview and MaxFun.nyc are not affiliated with Maximum Fun or its associated products or brands. But we’re pretty big fans.