The Hot Take
“I can’t call these wings perfect, but I also can’t for the life of me find any real flaw with them.”
I was on the hunt for the best place to get wings for the first Hallowing Spooktacular Wing Wreview, and a Elizabeth Gough-Gordon, a member of our very own WingSquad, gave a great suggestion: Ghost Pepper. Granted it’s a spice and not a venue, but it was a great place to start. I did my research, found a few places that served ghost pepper wings, made a choice, set a time and date and alerted the troops. Wreview day came, and I woke up late and hungover, scrambled towards the train, jogged my way to the venue and… it was closed forever. That specific location of it anyways, as it appears they have others functioning, and they may be a future review spot so I won’t mention the name. That said, I was able to circle the wagons and find another wing joint nearby, and it couldn’t have been anything but the hand of providence itself that led us to a place who, upon questioning, also seemed to have ghost pepper wings. But a dash of luck and a sprinkle of fate led us to this weeks wreview of…
Dan & John’s WINGS
135 1st Ave (East Village)
I finally arrived, sweaty, unsteady and entirely under-prepared, and met up with a first (but assuredly not last) time wreviewer: the busy but eager Joel Robert Johnson, who had been champing at the bit to try out some wings for the website.
Dan & John’s is a hole in the wall. I mean this in the way that New Yorkers use so affectionately, always saying “Oh, this place is the BEST, it’s just a little hole in the wall and” etcetera. Everyone has a favorite place that’s a hole in the wall. It’s not really set up for people to sit inside, I think there were a total of four stools and one of those foot-wide “counters” running along the wall. The rest was kitchen. JRJ and I, both being fairly large guys (him in stature and me in both stature and a mild bit of girth) basically took up most of what seating they had during our stay. The sparing decor inside definitely underlined the fact that it was a Buffalo joint. A few Bills logos and outlines of buffaloes were scattered around, as well as a signed photo from an actual Buffalo Bills player. Handily, above the counter there were hung two paper towel rolls should you choose to indulge your wings on-site.
Wings. Seriously. The only things that aren’t wings here are fries, tater tots, and onion rings. It can be pretty gutsy move in a city where you can get anything anywhere to only do one thing, but that’s what they do. They also sell a few beers, and it seems they have a rotating selection. Given my current state and the knowledge that I had a pretty full day ahead of me, I didn’t even glance at the beer options, but I believe they have a few different cans and a couple of drafts if you’re sitting in to eat.
The PPW here is a little high at its baseline, at $1.47 for 5, and drops down to $1.10 for 100. They aren’t the cheapest wing in town, but you could do a lot worse.
What We Ordered
It was early in the afternoon, and to part the kimono a little bit, this was the first review of the day (last weeks was the second) so JRJ and I both opted to go for soda over beer to drink.
We ordered three orders of five wings each, picking the BBQ (sweet), the Medium, and the Insane! sauce. Of course the usual carrots and celery are included, along with blue cheese by default, ranch is also available. Additional cost for more dips as usual, and not to spoil too much, but for the first time in WWW history, I went back to the counter to get some.
There was no pretense here. Wings were served in foil lined cardboard baskets, stacked nicely together with minimal mess. Plastic ramekins blue cheese with lids, and a few wetnaps included. I’ll take the time to point out that after we were served, and I swear they didn’t know that we were there to review them, nor did they know that this would be the Hallowing Spooktacular Special, and also (most astoundingly) in all my years of eating wings I have literally never heard this before, we were handed an extra basket, the girl telling us that it was our, and I quote, “Boneyard.” Even with the simple presentation, there was still that touch that lets you know that they care about their presentation, so it’s no shock this is an easy 3/5.
I won’t even edit JRJ’s quotes throughout most of this review, given his propensity for being both descriptive and succinct. Of the BBQ, “A little sweet for my personal liking, but dang, the crispiness was unreal.” I also really enjoyed the flavor here, but it was lacking the little bit of tang that you expect from BBQ. Granted they do call it sweet. The sugar did add a really delicious non-carbony crunch factor, which I always enjoy. The BBQ (sweet) is exactly what it advertises, and for that it gets a comfy 3/5.
(Medium is in the foreground.) For the second week in a row, we’re at a joint that aims to emulate the original buffalo wing. If you read last week, you’ll recognize the first three words JRJ used in his description. “Frank’s and butter. Absolutely classic, though they weren’t trying anything unusual. Fortunately, the quality of the wings means that it’s a hell of a good medium.” On the flavor I agree wholeheartedly. Dan and John are Buffalo natives, and their dedication to reproducing the classic wing here in the city really shines here. The heat is perfect and pleasant and builds over time, the flavor is incredibly authentic if not surprising. While perfect for what it is, it’s a tough call to score because though it nails the form, it doesn’t reach beyond. It’s with a bit of a conflicted heart that the medium earns a powerfully strong 4/5.
(Insane! in the foreground.) Heat check time! I’ve made my heat opinions known, and I always ask my wreviewers what their thoughts are. In this case, JRJ acknowledged he’s a heat lover with a high tolerance. Again, his full quote here: “Though not technically the hottest wing I’ve ever eaten, definitely the hottest one that I’ve eaten all of the ones I got. Really nice lingering heat that hid in my beard for a a while. (We did hang out for much of the afternoon, and can confirm he kept getting residual beard sauce heat throughout the day. -R) Honestly, from the warnings, I thought it was going to be a little hotter, but I’m not going to complain about a lack of heat. I’d totally get these again when I’m in a spicy boy mood. (Which is frequently.)” That said, yes, this ghost pepper sauce is effing HOT. As your wing wreviewer, I commit myself to trying one bite without any aid, by which I mean no dip, no milk or any other drink, and endure it until the heat subsides. While not present this week, in the future I will be setting a timer alongside my tasting, so I can not only measure heat but how long you have to suffer. Also, no matter how hot the wing, after the first bite I will finish at least one whole wing (with whatever aid I can muster) in the interest of journalistic integrity.
If you want the heat level from my perspective in one anecdote it is this: while JRJ was mulling the spice, he said something along the lines of “It’s hot, I like it but I wish it was a little hotter.” Cut to me, crying and sniffling, “you really need to stop talking to me.” By the time the heat subsided I had gone back to the counter to get some more blue cheese. I finished it off by slathering the whole wing in a ton of blue cheese.
The heat is incredible, and while painful, the flavor behind it is great. While it didn’t exactly drive me to madness, this is one of the hottest wings I’ve ever eaten, and even after the heat subsided it tasted great. After covering the rest of the wing in blue cheese, it still tasted amazing and held a lot of wonderfully painful heat. The fulfilled promise of Insane!ly hot wings that didn’t sacrifice flavor shines on this sauce our first ever 5/5.
Overall the sauces here were great. No matter what you order, you’re going to get something delicious. The final score on the sauces is a well deserved 4/5.
Criminy this wing. As I said last week, my personal favorite way to do a wing is fry, sauce, grill. When you order here you can see the huge grill press they use for this. The wings here are AMAZING, and I am not exaggerating. They were huge and meaty, a great mix of drumettes and flats, and between the two large gentlemen present we couldn’t finish 15 wings because we were stuffed. As much as I hate to be hyperbolic, I don’t know that I’ve had a better wing before. Being crunchy where it needs to be, and moist and filling all over, these wings leap over the bar at a 5/5.
The Hot Take
Dan and John had a vision in NYC, they couldn’t find a great wing, so they decided to make their own. I went a different route. I couldn’t find a great wing, so I decided to try them all. I’ve had a really hard time figuring out what the final review score would be, but since we ate them, JRJ and I have gone back and forth more than a few times about how truly amazing these wings are. I can’t call these wings perfect, but I also can’t for the life of me find any real flaw with them. This, combined with the number of times I’ve thought of or talked about Dan & John’s WINGS since eating there makes it almost inevitable that they earned the first 5/5.
What we didn’t try: Mild, Hot, Inferno, BBQ (spicy), and the flavor of the month, which in this case was Garlic Parmesan.
It was really great to get to finally meet Joel, a big reason for me being that I don’t think I’ve ever met another human besides myself who has the same love and history with old-school RPGs. It got real nerdy. Look for him this Halloween weekend as a tall and dashing Tormund Giantsbane.
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.