The Hot Take
“tasty sauces on a decent wing at a great price”
I’m going to be honest with you, this one almost didn’t happen. Between a rental car that cost me twice as much as I expected and a shattered phone that needed replacing, let’s not forget the regular expenses of traveling, my bank account was pretty drained. On top of that, I returned to the city feeling downright nasty sick. On Tuesday my throat was so sore I couldn’t even speak. But I got better, I pulled myself together, I checked my budget and my finances, and figured I’d work it out somehow. I’ve honestly been holding off on wreviewing this particular place for a while, but last minute timing calls for last minute measures, which is why this week we’re wreviewing…
2090 Frederick Douglass Blvd, Harlem
(I know that the above picture is not the same location, but there was a bunch of scaffolding up at this one and I couldn’t get a decent picture of the front. I stole this one off of Google image search. Sorry folks! -R)
This week I was joined by a person who has chosen to remain anonymous, and has given me the pseudonym of Bob Jilly. This is their first wreview with me.
Atomic Wings is a straight up wing joint. While it is considered a chain that spreads across NYC and the greater metro area, the reality is that it (at least this location) is a franchise that apparently has some independent choice in how they operate, including setting menu, pricing, sauces, etc. The inside is clean and has several tables, resembling what you might think of as a nice short-order counter service restaurant.
In the interest of full disclosure, I order from this place at least twice a month. They’re reasonably priced, super quick to deliver, and was one of the first places I found in NYC that I actually really dug the wings. This was literally my first time going there and dining in, and my wreview will be 100% based on the quality and experience I had on this particular visit, and the literal hundreds of wings I’ve had from here before will not factor in.
The picture above is the actual menu at the counter, despite the fact that there are several sauces listed here that they don’t serve. There is another menu behind the counter that displays what they have, and from what I’ve seen it seems that instead of keeping all these sauces on hand, they rotate some of them in and out. Other than wings, they have some sliders, fried shrimp, and a few different salads, and a few other fried things. While they make decent additions, the wings here are clearly the main show.
PPW here is right where I like it, starting at around 99 cents for an order of 10, and dropping down to just a touch under 87 cents per 100.
What We Ordered
BJ, having braces, stuck to the boneless wings (The Weekly Wing Wreview stands firmly on the fact that a boneless wing is a nugget, and therefore not a wing, but didn’t feel like this precluded them from wreviewing the sauces and made an exception in this case.) Thankfully, you can actually split all your orders here half and half between traditional and boneless, so it was nice and easy. We ordered ten each of the Medium, Garlic Parmesan, and Suicidal sauces, the latter being entirely traditional because BJ has a low tolerance for heat, and I’ve had them before and knew I could eat all of them, if not in one sitting.
Though I’ve heard that over the past few years this location has been trying to procure a license to serve beer and wine on site, I didn’t see any, so we had a couple of Mountain Dews to slake our thirst.
For the price, this is the kind of place I would expect to serve things in the little cardboard or plastic baskets, but the wings came out on clean round white plates, stacked neatly with carrots and celery next to plastic ramekins of blue cheese. Sauce was puddled on the plate but only in such a way that goes to show they coat them quite nicely, and when plating them they don’t get the sauce all over everything else. Everything looked great, and if for nothing else than the stacking skills on display, they get a steady presentation of 4/5.
Did I mention BJ doesn’t have a great heat tolerance? Had they their druthers, we would have gotten mild, but I believe I’ve made it clear that unless there’s no other choice we don’t do mild. But I’ll let their words on the matter cover it: “The Medium sauce has a heat that makes me start to tear up, and you can taste the pepper really well.” I agreed with them on the pepper part, but they elaborated that they didn’t mean heat, but the actual flavor of pepper. My own notes agreed with this, as I found them to have a really pleasant vinegar and pepper flavor with a slow and biting burn that flirts with scorching but never quite crosses the line. This is a great medium, and while it doesn’t exactly stand out, it still manages to be spicy and really tasty, jumping the tough hurdle of getting a default sauce to a 4/5.
I’ll let BJ have their say before I have mine. “The Garlic Parmesan tastes like Italian dressing that had extra garlic added, as well as being sweetened slightly.” Did I mention before I love when my fellow wreviewers write in full sentences? It makes my job so much easier. But I digress. OK. A lot of places offer Garlic Parmesan, and I know a lot of people enjoy it, but I’ve had it many times and I generally don’t love it. It’s OK, but in my experience the parmesan tends to be super dry and the sauce is basically Italian dressing and tastes more like basil than garlic. While these didn’t rock my world at first, the cheese was really fresh and melty, and actually added the bit of saltiness that brought out the garlic flavor a bit more from the sauce I can only assume is made from an italian dressing base. At first my judgment was that they were “fine.” I try to avoid such simplistic descriptions but it was the best I could do at the time. But as we were packing up our leftovers to leave, I tasted them again and legitimately found myself really enjoying the flavor. Within an hour of getting home I’d gone back and finished the rest of them. While I still won’t go out of my way to get Garlic Parmesan in the future anywhere, I can’t help but admit they won me over with this one, and however begrudgingly I do it, for winning me over these have to get a 4/5.
BJ, of course, didn’t try these, and I knew they wouldn’t, so no quotes from them. While I find the name of this sauce to be a little problematic, the sauce itself is another matter. I got out my stopwatch, and chomped a whole wing down. The thing is, the flavor of this sauce is super good, which made me devour the whole wing straight away instead of just taking my normal singular bite. The pepper flavor shines through, with a wonderful spice of its own. It’s a slow build on these. It took a full 30 seconds before it really registers that there is some real heat coming, but it keeps building and building for another 2 minutes. Around the 2-and-a-half minute mark the heat evens out, and it’s HOT. My tongue and my lips were burning, but it was ultimately pretty bearable and never quite pushed me over the edge that most super duper hot sauces do. It lingered for a little longer, and finally around 5 minutes finally started cooling down. While I feel like most of my spicy boys and girls would want these to have a few more notches of scoville in this sauce, I can honestly say that the little bit it lacks in the heat is made up for with a scrumptious peppery flavor. 4/5.
Do I really need to give an overall here? I’ll leave it a mystery for those who weren’t paying attention.
The wings here were a bit of a mixed bag. They were all decently sized, and some of them were even actually pretty large by normal standards. They were, however, a little overcooked, which led to some of the meat inside being crunchy, something I don’t love. I believe that crunch should stop at the skin. Outside of these few bits, though, was a proper wing. Great split of drums and flats, no broken bones, and no little shriveled mini guys that can show up and ruin the wing party. While not exceptional in any way, I’d say that the wings themselves are a steady 3/5.
The Hot Take
I’ve been ordering from this joint for a year, and I don’t see that changing. I wasn’t expecting much of a difference between the delivery and the dine-in, but getting them fresh here makes a lot of difference. While not the best wing in town, you can’t argue with the value here, especially in a city that seems to have a hard time with keeping its PPW down. For having tasty sauces on a decent wing at a great price, the hot take on Atomic Wings in Harlem is a spicy and agreeable 4/5.
I’m not sure when the funny links will return, but they will, I promise. Even though at this point I’m convinced I’m the only one who finds them funny.
On an entirely unrelated note, in my convalescent period this week I’ve been playing a lot of the new Final Fantasy game, and I gotta say, It’s the most fun I’ve had with one since 7. But this isn’t the Weekly Wgame Wreview, so I’ll end that subject.
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.