Friday, August 23, 2013

Take Me on Your Mighty Wings

Chicken wings are a culinary enigma: Either you love em or hate em. Most places manage to muck them up, especially by under or overcooking them (bloody or dry... pick your poison.) Still, they're a blast to eat; and when you find a good one... Oh boy! DC Outlook went in search of great ones, bad ones and those in between. Read on, to find out what we came up with...

7-Eleven: Have you heard the expression, "a fork in the road?" Pay close attention at 7-11 when purchasing Wing Zings. Go for Spicy, which come packed with punch (5 for $3.29, 10 for $5.99 and 20 for $9.99.) The friendly clerk told me he only had three Spicy left, so he filled out my order of five with three Traditionals (one for free.) The Spicy wings were surprisingly hot and tasty (one was even boneless) but the regular flavored were tiny and awful (with almost no meat.) I'd actually buy the Spicy again!

Grade: B- for Spicy, F for Traditional

A tale of two wings at 7-Eleven

Fresh Med: Perhaps it's time to label Fresh Med, the Swiss Army knife of Cleveland Park cuisine? Already home to one of the best gyros in DC, and a darn good pizza; it's no surprise that Fresh Med offers top notch chicken wings too. A half-dozen sets you back only $4.95; and have no fear... They stay nice and hot, thanks to double wrapping (foil and styrofoam.) Cooked perfectly, each wing had a glossy, zesty coating of sauce that proved delectable. They even looked nice.

Grade: B

Fresh Med - Buffalo Wings

Fuel Pizza: I feel guilty ordering boneless wings; but you have to admit, they make a lot of sense. Especially when you have less than 15 minutes before curtain call at Sidney Harman Hall, and no time to wash your hands after a quick (and usually messy) dinner. Regularly $8.99 for 9 pieces, I opted for a #4 special (5 wings, a slice of pizza and a soda) for the same price (although I was charged $9.49 + tax at the register... go figure.) The pizza was utterly forgettable; but the wings (Old Bay!) were a double surprise. First, they came more than advertised (5 wings + 3 smaller, bonus ones) and they tasted really good to boot. Boneless = tons of flaky meat, albeit on the dry side. The Old Bay seasoning came on like gangbusters, providing the perfect compliment to a wonderful batter-fried exterior. At a dollar per wing, they're not a good value... but for a change of pace, fast food option, they get the job done.

Grade: B-

Tender Boneless Wings at Fuel Pizza

The Green Turtle Sports Bar and Grille: It's hard to find a bargain at a live sporting event (especially Verizon Center) but an order of Boneless Wings and Fries from The Green Turtle sets you back just $9. Taste is on par with what you'd expect to find from a "temporary space"... In other words, not so great. I chose the milder of two flavors (Buffalo over Barbecue... funny, I thought it would be the other way around) and came away impressed with the wings' crispy exterior. That perfect crunch almost offsets the wings' lack of flavor (more sauce! more zest!) Fries are lousy (almost cold) but the pair is worth a try, given their low price.

Grade: C+

Boneless Wings and Fries at The Green Turtle

Hard Times Cafe: As good a deal as The Green Turtle offers ($9 for boneless wings and fries) Hard Times Cafe does little more than "rip-off" those unfortunate few, who wander over to its lower level stand at Verizon Center. $8 for a soda is one thing, $6.50 for tater tots is another; but $11 for nine bone-in wings, at least two of which had little to no meat? Thanks, but no thanks. Taste was pedestrian, and no wet-nap for good bad measure. This is one rabbit that doesn't come close to beating the tortoise.

Grade: D

Hard Times Cafe

McDonald's: It's no coincidence that McD's is the #1 fast food chain in the world: They have an uncanny ability to stay ahead of the curve. Case in point... their limited-edition Mighty Wings, available in three, five and 10-piece sizes now through November. Bursting with heat, there's no need to add one of seven available sauces: They're great as is. Nice and big, it's still a bit surprising that they cost more than a dollar per ($3.19 for three.) Outside of that, quite possibly the best value wings we've tried. Way to go Mickey D!

Grade: B

McDonald's Mighty Wings

Meat in a Box: Can't say much for the name; but DC's version of the popular Falls Church eatery makes a mighty fine wing. $8.99 gets you 10 BIG wings, bursting with flavor (and charred to perfection.) Not one was under (or overcooked) and they stayed piping hot almost 30 minutes later. Want more heat? Spread MIAB's homemade Moroccan hot sauce on top, for a little extra kick. Messy to a fault (moist towelettes... please) I can live with sticky fingers, if it means getting wings this good again.

Grade: B+

10-Pc. Chicken Wings at Meat in a Box

Nanny O'Briens: Nanny's Wings come in seven exciting flavors (including Bourbon Street & Maryland Style) but break the bank at eight for a tenner. If you can, stop by Wednesdays from 5-10:00 PM when they're only $.35 each (that's $2.80 for the same eight wings.) Pricey or not, there's no denying their crispy exterior... bursting with flavor, courtesy of Nanny's Cherry Pepper topping. Some are big, some tiny: Perhaps it's time to weed out the "small fries?"

Grade: B-

Nanny's Wings (Cherry Pepper)

Pizza Hut: I may never go boneless bone-in again. Value Hut (seriously, is anything here expensive?) scores again with a Wednesday special (Bone-Out Wings $.50 each.) $6.93 nabbed me 10 wings and a 20 oz. bottle of Diet Pepsi: Look up and down this page... You won't find a better deal. After a 10-12 minute wait, I had a box full of foil-wrapped wings (plus a paper plate with lots of napkins.) They offer eight different sauces applied after cooking, or you can eat them naked. Based on Pizza Hut's heat index, Buffalo Medium was the 2nd hottest (and lived up to its billing.) Zero fat and tons of flaky chicken breast... What's not to love? Messy, eat 'em with a fork (they're boneless after all!)

Grade: B-

Buffalo Medium Bone-Out Wings from Pizza Hut

Popeyes: Where's the beef meat? I can tell you where it isn't... Popeyes' Spicy Cajun Wings, on sale for $3.99/half-dozen. Tons of flavorful batter covers bone, and little else. At this rate, you may as well call 'em vegan wings. Unfortunately for me, I ordered mine for take away, and couldn't return them.

Grade: F

Popeyes' Spicy Cajun Wings

St. Arnold's Mussel Bar: My first visit to St. Arnold's was a roaring smash compared to today's misstep. I can handle 10 wings for $10; but only if they're good, and these are average at best. Not much meat, and I have to wonder if they were oven roasted at all (I'm guessing fried) before getting smothered in barbecue sauce (likely from a big bottle, as opposed to house made.) Shoebox space... one I likely won't return to. Worst of all, my friend's burger order came out wrong, and formerly great (Grade: A-) fries were soggy and tasteless this time around.

Grade: D+

Oven Roasted Chicken Wings at St. Arnold's Mussel Bar

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