Wing Cup 2014: Cluck or Chuck Final 4
Well wing fans, this is where we separate the Clucks from the Chucks. It’s down to four. Sure, a couple of our quarter-finalists may have snuck in due to some favorable match-ups or poor performances by their opposition. But there’s no more time for excuses. There is no room in the Wing Cup final four for flukes, flakes, or the flavorless. Any of the four winners of these match-ups are worthy champions – they are the best of the best in the Fort. Let’s see who will continue on and who flew the coop.
Wrigley vs. Pint & Slice
As told by Wolfgang Cluck
I hate the Cubs. It really all stems from an incident that happened when an inebriated Harry Caray stumbled across me (literally) as a young boy after a game in the friendly confines. OK – I had to get that off my chest.
This matchup provides an interesting contrast. On the one hand you have 816 Pint & Slice: a downtown eatery that knows exactly what it is – so much so that it tells you right in its name. Its setup is made to appeal to both the hipster and the downtown employee. They also happen to do wings. On the other hand you have Wrigley Field Bar & Grill: a no frills, blue collar sports bar. They also happen to have a daily salad bar and lunch specials that seem to attract contemporaries of Harry Caray – without the stumbling.
The Pint has unceremoniously made it through to the Quarterfinals with their workingman approach to wings. Aiming to please their downtown clientele, these piemen and women clearly take advantage of the fiery oven to provide a consistently baked wing – generously breaded and served with barbecue or hot sauce – to their tasty pizza and grinder repertoire. The wings are a decent option to quench the craving; however, proceed with caution if you want these wings to come crispy with your carry out order.
If Wrigley is confused as to its clientele, it most certainly isn’t confused on how to prepare its self-proclaimed “World Famous Wings.” While some joints will comply with a request to do so, the grill comes standard here where every wing is fried, grilled and then sauced. We’ve been told that regulars also know to request that the sauced wings be placed on the impinger (conveyor oven) to finish with a hot, sticky coating. We tried the original wing (a medium buffalo) and teriyaki (a more salty/savory than sweet version than many others), which came with positive reviews.
VERDICT: While the benefits of Wrigley’s grill were lost on this carry-out order, the effects on the Pint’s breading were far more severe. Wrigley moves on easily for the opportunity to prove that the Curse of the Billy Goat is simply a fowl rumor.
Buffalo Wings & Ribs vs. Wings Etc.
As told by Cletus Nightrain and Wolfgang Cluck
Amidst the backdrop of Germany’s drubbing of Brazil in the World Cup (dare we say that the score was a Brazilian to zero?), the match-up between Buffalo Wings & Ribs (BWR) vs. Wings Etc. was a much tastier battle, but the results were similar. Even if our entertainment fell short on this night, Buffalo Wings & Ribs was the unanimous choice.
At Wings Etc. we tried four sauces, all Daytona style. Rumor has it that Hooters coined the term “Daytona” named for both their sauce and the way they finished off the wing on their flat grill…in Daytona Beach. This fact can neither be confirmed nor denied since none of these esteemed judges have been to Hooters (Editor’s note: these two judges’ manhood and credentials are now being re-investigated). However, we are willing to take the Wing Cup on the road to Daytona for 2015. On our tasting this day, Wings Etc. provided us with a much meatier wing. However, the cook grilled all the sauces off these wings, leaving the panel consistently searching for sauce (and thus flavor). Alas, there isn’t much reason to identify the 4 sauces we tasted because we’re just not sure that we did.
Perhaps our most consistent performer has been Buffalo Wings & Ribs. This locally owned operation came to the Fort via transplants from Buffalo, New York. As their story goes, Al and Mary Baldassari moved to Ft. Wayne in 1966, a few years after the first Buffalo wings were served at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo. However, they waited until 1987 to bring their culinary skills to the public and opened the second restaurant in 1990. While the Brazil national team disappointed on this day, BWR did not. Their traditionally prepared wings came out with their usual good taste and consistency. On this day our waitress encouraged us to try the Extra Hot wings. Although we did not find them to be extra hot, we did find them to be extra tasty.
VERDICT: In this match, Buffalo Wings and Ribs again produced a more consistent product which was enjoyed by all. For this reason, they advance on to the Semi-finals.
Acme vs Buffalo Wild Wings
As told by Clucker
It was one of the most anticipated wing bouts of the tournament. Spectators from all over watched and waited. Could the neighborhood bar beat the national wing dynamo? We all recognize the chain restaurant as being a wing joint with ‘something for everyone,’ while offering nothing more than loud noises and tiny wings. But they’ve beaten out everyone else to get to this point. Was it a poor showing by the mom and pop shops? Maybe. Or did B-Dubs just deserve to be at the top? No, that can’t be it…must have been poor showings.
The choices were Hot Buffalo from Acme, and Mild and Honey BBQ from Buffalo Wild Wings. Acme provided a nicely cooked wing that was smoked then tossed in their buffalo sauce. The sauce wasn’t too hot, but still provided that kick you want in a wing. Balanced with the smoke, the wing was very well done. B-Dubs on the other hand provided soggy, lifeless wings that were truly abysmal…something you’d expect from a national chain. Also, their mild sauce? No sauce should look like that.
VERDICT: Moral of the story? FINALLY Buffalo Wild Wings was knocked out for the sub-par, flavorless wings that they offer. And Acme continued to rise to the top, being the only smoked wing left in the tournament.
Checkerz vs. Black Dog Pub
As told by Wolfgang Cluck and Patrick eWing
We’ve already written quite fondly about the great wings produced by Checkerz. We won’t wax poetic about them. Needless to say, they delivered once again.
So, with the bar set quite high by Checkerz we were all ready to go through the motions and simply “get through” the Black Dog tasting and let Checkerz take its rightful position in the final four grouping. In the words of legendary college football personality and chicken wing lover (we assume) Lee Corso – not so fast my friends.
On this trip to the Pub we bellied-up to the bar to be served by our friendly barkeep, Brooke, who was well-prepared to prove that this Black Dog will hunt. Indeed it did. We went with her recommendation for the Hot+Garlic sauce combination as well as their Sweet Chili sauce – both grilled. What she placed before us were two very tasty orders of wings. We noticed that the meat fell easily off the bones. Brooke confirmed that their wings are first slowly baked. Next they are deep fried for crispiness and then sauced. For good measure, you are provided the option to grill.
These judges certainly appreciated the fine efforts to bring this palatable poultry to our plates. Indeed, they were baked, fried and grilled…and still came out juicy and crisp. Bravo, Black Dog, bravo. We devoured this formerly feathered fare with great pleasure – until it dawned on us that we still had a tough decision to make. Our one critique is that the sauces lacked heat. At this stage of the competition a missing element can be fatal for our fowl friends (well, they’re already dead…extra fatal then.) Indeed it was. After confirming that Black Dog did not offer a spicier sauce, we knew what we had to do.
VERDICT: Checkerz wins a hard fought battle against a great neighborhood bar in Black Dog. But rest assured that we will visit man’s best friend again.
Here’s your updated bracket:
SPECIAL REPORT from CLUCK NORRIS
By Cluck Norris
The monumental honor of being one of the 2014 Wing Cup: Cluck or Chuck judges is something none of us took lightly when we signed on. This tournament has truly been tasking on schedules, Total Gym workouts, digestive track systems and relationships to such a degree that it would have caused many a great wing eater to wet wipe their hands and push back from the tables for good. The tournament has not yet concluded though and some serious match ups remain for the Judges to decide upon in order to crown the 2014 Wing Cup: Cluck or Chuck Champion.
The importance of these final decisions caused me inner turmoil. And as sort of a free ranger and rebel, I left the comfort of this fine city during the mid-point of the tournament and traveled to the City that is widely considered the birth place of the modern preparation of chicken wings – yes, Buffalo, New York. It was there that I could finally benchmark my champion. Fear not, fowl friends, I would use no metrics.
There are many wing establishments that Buffalo residents consider to be the best. However, the City has not yet held a well published Wing Cup tournament to help me select a champion Buffalo Wing establishment in their eyes. So, I was left to fend for myself. I passed on the chain restaurants and didn’t care about the ‘original’ establishment status that some claimed, as these ‘originals’ also had poor reviews of their wings. After considerable thought I decided on an eatery know as Gabriel’s Gate. It has an eclectic atmosphere and great service, but most importantly, many of the reviews zeroed in on the approval of their wings.
Tying my bandanna extra tight, I ordered their Hot Wing (House Choice) and the Cajun Dry Rub (Judge’s Choice). They were of good size and good crisp. I determined that the Hot was better than the Cajun Dry Rub. My non-experts companions on my journey with me (aka non-judges) devoured them with great joy and acclaim. I, too, enjoyed eating them. They were good. But I have had better in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I had wanted to make sure that when I selected a Champion for our tournament, I had the proper Benchmarking in order to do so with complete confidence. Mission accomplished. I now have an anecdotal confirmation of what every American believes in their heart: that a love and passion for improvement on an ‘original’, no matter what, where or when can sometimes result in a great triumph. Our Cluck or Chuck Champion should wear its crown with pride.
Your esteemed final four is official. All of these local establishments have much more than just the finest wings in the Fort – they offer some of the best pizza, beer specials and selections and/or buffets in the city. They’re great places to watch a game or sing some karaoke. But it’s their drummies and splits that bring them to the top of this heap. Whether fried, grilled, smoked, or a combination thereof, you can’t go wrong with any one of these joints: Acme, Buffalo Wings & Ribs, Wrigley, and Checkerz.