The Hot Take
“I wouldn’t go out of my way to get just the wings at Phebe’s, but if I’m there I’ll happily grab some.”
Holy heck has it been cold this week! But no amount of cold or weather will prevent our intrepid WingSquad from finding, eating, and judging wings. In this case, I was honestly researching venues for a future wreview when I stumbled upon “ten cent wing night” (Wednesdays) at this spot. I sent out an urgent missive to the crew a few hours ahead of time, as it was already Wednesday afternoon, and was able to get a decent showing for this week’s wreview at…
Phebe’s Tavern & Grill
369 Bowery, East Village
For this wreview I was joined by a plethora of new people, including Alicia Harder, Elizabeth Babish, and Michael David, as well as the stalwart wing veteran Benjamin Jones.
Phebe’s has been a neighborhood spot in the east village for decades. Part restaurant, part cafe, part bar, on this evening, in honor of ten cent wing night, the place seemed o get pretty crowded after hours, pulling in mostly crowds of mid-to-late 20 somethings. For its size, the table seating is a little sparse, but most people seem happy to crowd around the bar for after-work drinks. For its age, Phebe’s still maintains a classic look without being dated, and everything looked clean and up-to-date.
Sorry for the darkness of the photograph, but as winter comes it’s harder and harder to get good enough lighting for my phone to get great pictures. The food here is fairly standard fare for any tavern/grill, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
The PPW was pretty solid as they have exactly two order sizes, small and large (or 6 and 12 respectively,) putting it at $1.33 for a small order and 92 cents for a large, which is a pretty decent price break. As mentioned above, we were here on their ten cent wing night, which is maxed at 30 wings per pitcher of beer purchased.
What We Ordered
Between the five of us, we ordered two pitchers, one of Brooklyn Lager (of course) and one of Blue Moon, and for our pitchers we got 20 each of the hot, mild, and BBQ wings.
When they arrived at the table, everything looked fairly standard. Large shallow bowls wing wings piled high, two plastic ramekins of bleu cheese on each plate, and some carrots and celery tucked into the side. The plates were nice and clean, shaped to draw excess sauce down into the middle, but otherwise everything was exactly what one would expect. Like most wing joints, they have no fanfare over their plates. 3/5.
Looking over my notes, almost everyone used the same word for this sauce, which was “standard.” “Tastes almost exactly like the Kraft BBQ sauce my friend left behind in my apartment.” remarks EB. AH “liked the gloppiness” [I love this word so much -R] and MD liked that “skin stayed crisp” but also “wish[ed] the sauce had a little more depth.” I did find them to have a little kiss of spice to them, but other than that they were mostly just an average BBQ sauce, exactly as sweet and messy as you would expect. This is as close to baseline for a BBQ sauce as I’ve had yet. 3/5.
So there was a little confusion here as to which was the mild and which was the hot, but we were able to sort it out as we ate. MD said they “have solid heat for a mild,” EB adding that they have a “very tasty, decent slow building burn,” additionally cautioning they’re “probably too spicy for people who hate heat.” AH thought they were dry, BJ agreeing that they have “distinctly less sauce than the hot.” I would put the heat on the scale somewhere between the average mild and the average medium. The flavor is exactly what one might expect, with a tasty cayenne flavor, though I noticed they have a bit of upfront saltiness that made the vinegar more pronounced. They aren’t breaking the mold with the mild, but it’s a solid mold. 3/5.
BJ was fairly eloquent on these, “Hot would be far too generous a name for this mild, lackluster sauce. There’s no upfront heat at all, and only a slow burn on aftertaste.” MD echoes this, saying that “if you want to cry for mercy, move on, but [it’s] a solid traditional Buffalo.” AH called it an “A+ sauce” with a “great heat level” but admitted they “could be hotter.” EB says they were hotter than the mild, but there was “barely a difference.” I was inclined to disagree with my cohorts, but I honestly can’t. I feel like these definitely had more heat to them, but in retrospect I wonder if it’s because they had more sauce. I definitely did end up reaching for the bleu cheese after a couple of them, but only for the sake of speed. The hot also had that same distinct saltiness as the mild, which I believe added nicely to the flavor. While not as hot as we would have hoped, it’s still a perfectly acceptable representation of a ‘hot’ wing. 3/5.
The sauces here are perfectly passable, and while they don’t stand out, they also have nothing to them that would cause any offense to the eater. I bet you can’t guess the overall score! 3/5.
I hate to reuse a descriptor over and over, but for the fourth time the word “standard” applies pretty well here. There was a perfect mix of flats and drumettes, and everything was cooked correctly. The wings were normally sized, with most of them having the bits of crispiness to the skin without being overcooked inside. They’re the textbook image of ‘chicken wing,’ essentially. 3/5.
The Hot Take
“In the grand scheme of things…” writes EB “For ten cent wing night, I’ll take it. But I wouldn’t go out of the way for it.” Here’s where the sword has to cut for me as these wing adventures continue, as the Hot Take is really my way of telling people whether or not you should go there for the wings. In this case I would give a definite yes, with the caveat that it’s a Wednesday, after 8, and you are ordering a pitcher. Otherwise, the wings here are perfectly fine for the price. I wouldn’t go out of my way to get just the wings at Phebe’s, but if I’m there I’ll happily grab some. If you want a perfect example of what rates an across-the-board base for a 3/5 wing, here’s your spot.
If you’re doing the ten cent wing night, keep in mind that they won’t give you a box to take your excess home. Never one to be deterred, I had a suitable plastic bag and napkins to be able to abscond with what we had left without their help. I know it’s a fairly normal practice for these kinds of specials, but I’m never one to leave a wing behind.
Sorry the Wreview was so late this week, but don’t expect any more delays in the near future, as the delay was mostly caused by me tripling up this week to have enough to get through the holidays. I have a lot of plans for places to go in 2017, but if you have suggestions feel free to shoot me an email at the address below!
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.