Wild Wings and a late comeback

by Brian Clarey

By the time I take my table we’re 10 minutes into the game and the NY Giants trail the Washington Redskins 7-3. Dammit.

I’m in a district of Winston-Salem devoted to new commercial development: strip malls, big-box stores, competing home-improvement behemoths and a giant shopping mall. But it could be called “Wingtown” for the preponderance of buffalo-style chicken joints in the neighborhood – a Hooter’s here, a Buffalo Wild Wings there.

But I’m inside the Wild Wing Café, right there in the midst of it all, and it’s filled with Carolina Panthers fans for the afternoon game, a few scattered Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos jerseys at tables and the bar, and, right next to me, a pair of Redskins fans putting away beers like it’s their patriotic duty.

It’s going to be a long afternoon.

I take my own advice and order the house specialty: chicken wings that come in 30 or so variations of the savory, sweet and spicy. In order to get a good sampling I decide on the Wild Wing sampler platter, which has five wings each of five different flavors.

It’s the kind of place where the waiter might slide into your booth across from you to talk about your lunch. My guy puts me down for some Gold Rush wings, with barbecue sauce; some Colorado Coppers, which have mustard in them; an Oriental version with ginger and teriyaki; lemon pepper; and the traditional hot wings, because, you know, that’s what wings are all about.

As I place my order the Giants go three and out and in the ensuing series Washington quarterback Jason Campbell, No. 17, makes a long scramble for a big gain.

What the hell, fellas? You gonna stop that guy or what?

From my giant booth on the floor I can also see the Denver game, and if I turn my head just a bit I can also see Cleveland vs. Oakland and, on the big screen, the Panthers, who seem to be faring much better against the Atlanta Falcons than my Big Blue.

The room is about what you’d expect from a wing joint: brick and paneling, with walls covered in neon, sports memorabilia and signs for beers they don’t make anymore. There are high ceilings with exposed ducts; a raised bar area provides an excellent vantage for the Sunday football games.

And now Eli Manning makes a long pass to Plaxico Burress, who bumbles it as he crosses the middle.

Come on dude! You gotta catch those!

The Giants punt on fourth and inches.

My chicken-wing sampler comes, basically a garbage can lid full of chicken, served with plenty of celery and bleu cheese dressing, also four disposable finger wipes and, for good measure, a washcloth.

I hunker down.

For me, wings are about flavor, sure, but I’m not looking for anything too sophisticated – the best wing sauce, after all, is a 1:1 mixture of hot sauce and butter. Moreso it’s about perfect process and the texture of the wing itself, which by my dictates must be deep fried without batter and then soaked in sauce for no less than 30 seconds.

Don’t try to serve me a wing that’s been cooked in an oven or, God help you, a microwave. I’ll know, and I will be offended.

I am not the only one who feels this way. The people at Wild Wing Café know how to prepare a wing; their product is crispy in all the right places, chewy where it ought to be and succulent off the bone.

The different flavors are serviceable. The Gold Rush is interesting for its combination of heat, honey and smoke, yet there is an underlying ketchupiness that cannot be denied. The Colorado Coppers, with a strong mustard base, also carry some tomato tang. The lemon pepper variation is a nice respite from sweet and heat, and the ginger wings were similarly mild – I should have taken my waiter’s advice and ordered the General Tso’s version.

I take 19 of those suckers down before the halftime buzzer sounds and I’m surrounded by bones. The Giants are down 17-3.

For the second half I switch my strategy and order dessert: the Wild Wing Chocolate Thing, which is a brownie (more like two brownies) with a slab of vanilla ice cream, whipped topping and sauce, in this case caramel, but raspberry and chocolate were also in the offering. It’s fantastic.

And here come the Giants!

A long completion to Burress is followed by a crossover to Jeremy Shockey and Reuben Droughns punches it into the end zone. 17-10. Then the Giants’ D shows up and holds the ‘Skins scoreless through the third. The Giants tie it up at the start of the third quarter, and the Washington fans next to me are going nuts.

At 5:32 in the fourth Eli Manning makes the killing blow – a short pass to Burress, who scrambled his way into the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown. This sets the Washington fans at the next table to swearing, pacing the aisles and ordering more beers.

Check please!

To comment on this story e-mail Brian Clarey at