Posts Tagged ‘wings’

Take Me Out – Lollipopped Chicken Wings


lollipopped chicken wing

Take a step down to 18th Street in Pilsen a bit off of Ashland. You’ll find this charming little wing spot with people shuffling in and out with large carryout boxes of wings. Inside, we decided to linger and take in the whole experience and sat with out group of a half dozen hungry wing eaters. One by one we stepped in line and submitted our orders to the cashier. Everyone was getting wings and everyone was bursting with anticipation of Korean lollipopped chicken wings.

Let’s take a step back, some of you might be wondering, “What is a lollipopped chicken wing?”  Simply put, imagine this – instead of your traditional buffalo wing with the drumette and the flat, these lollipopped wings have pushed all of the meat on the wing onto the drumette, leaving you with one piece of chicken wing with all of the goodies. After they lollipop the wing, they deep fry it and then spin it around in the savory Korean sauce that have come to redefine wing recipes across the country. Sound good? Take Me Out is run by the daughter of the owners of Great Seas Chinese Restaurant in Albany Park which make up one third of the Holy Trinity of chicken wings in the City of Chicago (along with Wings Around the World and Crisp).

Finally, the winner of 2010 Wingfest Best Exotic Wings came flying down on our table. There were mild wings, spicy wings, lollipopped wings, and buffalo wings all dipped in the Korean wing sauce. Korean wing sauce is usually a combination of soy, honey, garlic, and ginger giving you a dizzying does of flavor that can give most other wing sauces a run for their money.  Of course our table had a conspicuous bottle of Sriracha to along with these wings but no one felt any excessive need to douse their wings in it.

Along with the order came some shrimp fried rice and I split some crab rangoon to round out the eats. The end result was great success and the buffalo wings were not in buffalo sauce but were made with the traditional buffalo-style wing cut. Take Me Out is good for bringing in a crowd and the wait won’t be too long. The food presents good value, texture and flavor and there’s plenty of parking on the side streets to avoid the parking fees.

#1 – Eat at Wings Around the World, Crisp, and Great Seas Chinese Restaurant


And thus the Holy Trinity of chicken wings was complete. What happens when you turn the two parts of the wing into one giant meaty lollipop and double fry it for extra crispiness and dip it into General Tso’s Chicken sauce?

After dodging growling panhandlers on the deep south side at Wings Around the World and watching ice cream workers get hazed post-wings after Crisp it was time to make my inaugural appearance at Great Seas Chinese Restaurant. Great Seas is in the heart of Albany Park off the end of the Kimball Brown Line CTA (yes, I am the mayor!). My foodies friends have always recommended Great Seas, but sometimes you just can’t go by yourself. That’s what friends are for and I had eleven fellow guinea pigs to come along for the wild adventure!

Trying to be a conscientious host, I called a week in advance to make reservations for ten. The manager told me that they don’t normally take reservations for the weekend, but made an exception and took down my info. Showing up on time for a big lunch usually means that people will have to wait, so I made sure to get to the Great Seas twenty minutes early and came just in time to see a party of ten clear out. After this, the servers came in like NASCAR disposing of the evidence and setting up anew and I sat myself down once they were done.

In came the Yelpers and the party was ready to begin. My first instinct was to go try to house 2 orders of wings on my own but discretion proved the better part of honor as our resident Yelp CM took over ordering responsibilities and picked 4 chicken wing orders, 1 order of spicy cuttle fish, 2 orders of crab rangoon, 1 black noodle, and one giant order of egg drop soup to get the party started!

The servers summoned tea, dropped down a pitcher of water and the lazy susan was spinning round and round like a carousel in no time. There was room and I didn’t hit elbows with anyone or struggle for room. I even had enough room to keep my backpack under the table. There were families and people on dates and one old lady with a fuzzy hat chowing down. Finally our food ARRIVED!

****Spicy Cuttlefish****
Hoooo eeeeeeeeeee! This thing was laced with fireballs and plenty of specks of pepper galore marked its path. To play with this cuttlefish was to dance a dance of death as taste buds died from the oppressive heat of the cuttlefish. Mixed with rice, the spiciness subsided and made for good eating as the texture of the cuttlefish was delightful to the tongue and there were plenty of veggies for the health nuts in the party.

****Egg Drop Soup****
While others in the group commented that it wasn’t too salty, I prefer my soups very salty and very hot! The soup was warm but I ended up eating the heck out of my soup quickly since it wasn’t hot and piping when it arrived. Good texture of egg and the soup was very yellow. I prefer the whites a little more hardened in my egg drop but the soup was good enough to feed the dozen of us at the table!

****Crab Rangoon****
Underwhelming, I’d have to say. While high on the crisp factor (just the way I like it), the stuffing was a bit too dense and not spread out enough. Also the stuffing had only the oil flavor and lacked any special oomph that I have marked in other crab rangoon. Still decent, but lacks the great nomnomnom factor that leaves you grabbing the next piece without fear of engulfing the whole thing.

****Black Noodle****
I had heard from many that this was a go-to sort of dish. Down came black noodle and it looked like a giant pile of goo. Remember that episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation when Lieutenant Yar get pwned by the black tar goo? That’s completely what this black noodle looked like! The server let us know that we had to mash it up before it all stuck together which threw me off, but once she mixed it up for us, the black noodle looked like chow mein noodles with the black sauce which was absorbed rendering the noodle brown. Delicious with smooth texture it was a comfy snack to have on our way to the main event.

****Hot n’ Spicy Chicken Wings****
Like Michael’s Jackson’s last stand: This is IT!
Welcome to Great Seas Chinese Restaurant 101, these are the bestest chicken wings on all of the north side. Challenge and appeal all you’d like but all applications would be red stamped DENIED in the face of these beasts.

I was not only owned, but I was pwned! It was hot out the kitchen, it was c-r-i-s-p and begging to be eaten again and again and again. There’s nothing like watching four plates of chicken wings vanish into nothingness and having to call in reinforcements. I don’t know how they manufacture this special lollipopped chicken wing, but they had ALL of the meat all on one piece of bone! Imagine a perfect world: chicken wing meat on the bone without having to bite and chew around crazed edges and ripping off pieces to get more meat. What you saw was what you got and all of the wing was there.

In the end it cost of all of $12 apiece between 12 people! GO NOW!

#1 – Eat at Wings Around the World, Crisp, and Great Seas Chinese Restaurant


There are always thousands of Yelp reviews to dig through from all of the different places my friends have gone ranging from the mundane, such as 7-Eleven or Starbucks to the divine, such as Crisp, Zed451, or Wings Around the World.  The first trek of my wing odyssey took me to 75th and King Drive out in the middle of the deep south side to Wings Around the World, where I had the pleasure to take a bite of Sweet Plum BBQ, Cheesy Buffalo, and Honey Teriyaki wings.  Rounding up the weekly lunch crew, we decided last week on swarming at Crisp to let them show us what they had. It was going to be an interesting experiment to say the least, as none of us had ever stepped foot into Crisp.

Renowned for their Korean style fusion wings, my wing radar always detected good wings were in the neighborhood with every step in Boystown. Every time getting off the Belmont CTA stop, I lamented that I was so close yet so far. Parking around Crisp was a cinch at 2:30pm this Wednesday afternoon. We entered Crisp to find one other person outside of our group already waiting for wings and ample space all around to sit where we pleased.

Approaching the counter, there stood an impressive display of all the various sodas all for the price of $1 with Vitamin Water for $2 including fan favorites such as Coke Zero, A&W Root Beer. Alongside the pop cans were the various house bowls featuring Bulgolgi and Bi Bim Bap combinations with the Bi Bim Bap serving as the main vegetarian fare for any potential non-meating-eating friends. Without any vegetarians on hand, it was clear that we’d all dive into chicken seventh heaven from wings to fully glazed fried chickens to chunks of chicken in bi bim bap bowls.

Knowing that I would be getting a full order of 10 wings, I was surprised when they told me that they had more than one flavor for the wings. For some reason I thought Crisp relied only on the Korean sweet and sour recipe but saw they had BBQ and several kinds of Buffalo Sauce. I’ve had BBQ and Buffalo sauces from all over the place, so I decided to stick with the basics and go with the Seoul Sassy flavors and an order of fries. A can of Coke Zero accompanied my order, which is always a bonus because Coke Zero definitely doesn’t taste like Diet Coke.

My friends all ordered in lockstep various dishes and everyone had some wings on the way. I noticed the business card on crisp declared their head chef the house master of wings. Was it true? Could these wings be as magical as Wings Around the World? We sat down at one of the large tables and awaited our orders.

As my basket of wings and fries was the first dish ready, I had the uncomfortable ordeal of waiting for everyone’s else’s food to arrive. I could no longer adhere to the rules of conduct of good manners and picked off a few fries while waiting since it was pushing 3 o’clock and I hadn’t had a bite to eat all day! I saw some bowls of Bi Bim Bap materialize, a half of a fried chicken dropped in, and another full order of Crisp wings and then realized it was time to go to down!

As with most wing eating experiences, this one was no different, the obligatory wing exchange was facilitated and I traded in one of my Sweet Sassies for a Crisp BBQ-flavored wing. All of the wings were properly fried hard and I found the texture of the wings both majestic and comforting. The Crisp BBQ flavor was less than impressive, with a clumsy taste akin to kim chee. There was heat on thse wings, but there was not enough sweetness, but I didn’t mind trying one for the sake of trying.

After the exchange ritual, I happily dug into my own set of Seoul Sassy and got the rush of flavor that I expected. Sweet and tangy with a subtle hint of spice, the magic combination dazzled my taste buds and even the little pieces of green onion served to heighten the experience. There is something to be said about Korean wing recipes, and there’s no better food experience than tasting a recipe that tries to balance out the different taste sensations and savoring sweet success with every single bite.  The portions were massive and I found myself full after eating about five full-sized wings while another friend threw in the wet nap after four wings. In retrospect, taking pictures of all of the food before we all demolished all of it proved to be fortuitous timing.

In the end, we had way too much food for our own good and thus went our indoctrination into the wonderful world of Crisp. It was a pleasant experience to say the least, not having fight off crowds and being able to enjoy a meal with friends without having to feel like the walls were caving in. Were Crisp wings better than Wings Around the World? It’s a Tale of Two Wings and I don’t think that’s a fair comparison as they’re entirely different beasts. Are mashed potatoes better than french fries or roasted potatoes? The world may never know, but it’s best to try it all before it runs out!

#1 – Eat at Wings Around the World, Crisp, and Great Seas Chinese Restaurant


Having been a fried chicken fan all of my life, I’ve had the privilege to go to college in a fried chicken hotbed: Baltimore. There, names like Tyrone’s Fried Chicken, Lake Trout Fried Chicken, and Kennedy Fried Chicken dot the landscape, easily accessible to all. Chicago has its own fried chicken and wing spots, but the most exemplary recipes of fried chicken are concentrated primarily on the south side. I am neither from the south side nor spend much time there and the south side seems to be some invisible barrier where many native Chicagoans refuse to believe anything exists past Pilsen.

This being the case, exploring and going on the hunt for the best chicken wings in the city became increasingly difficult with friends unwilling to take a step into the south side. After numerous discussions with some of Chicago’s wing connoisseurs, the consensus from the expert panel was that Wings Around the World had the goods and a quick perusal of their menu revealed over thirty flavors from over a dozen countries and an instant call to action. I sent the alarm out to the Yelp crew to make the trek down to 75th Street and have a run at some of Chicago’s best wings.

I got off at the 79th Streed Red Line CTA stop and went over four blocks east to King Drive. Looking south I saw King Cab Company and rolled back northwards towards 75th. Despite being warned that Wings Around the World had no space to eat and was in a rough area of town known for drug dealing and the like, I didn’t pay no mind and kept on going. Along the way I saw JJ Fish, Shark’s Fried Chicken, Harold’s Chicken Shack, and Church’s Fried Chicken ubiquitous on the south side but sparingly sprinkled across the north. As I approached Wings Around the World, I saw two guys carrying some tall boys from the liquor store about to crack one open.

The insides were as glamorous as going to the fish market or butcher shop. There was no smell emanating or crumbs anywhere to be found but everything inside seemed to have the mark of dinginess and looked a little worn out. Black tiles were scratched, revealing a yellow layer of paint under. The tables were all nicked up and everything seemed very old. Proudly mounted on the walls were press articles from the RedEye and The Chicago Defender touting the virtues of Wings Around the World. Free neighborhood newspapers and flyers for parties were out on the table to read while you waited for your food.

For my own purposes, it didn’t seem appropriate to order a normal number of wings. I decided to go outrageous and ordered thirty wings and they only let me try three sauces, thus making another trip mandatory! Off of Andre’s recommendation I ordered Sweet Ginger BBQ and then I ventured for the Cheesy Buffalo and Honey Teriyaki. Reuben and Aurore went for a combination of Cheesy Buffalo, Sweet Plum, and Jerk BBQ. Andre warned that the wait would be long, but I didn’t mind in case some stragglers came in, but none showed up in the twenty minutes / half hour that we waited. While waiting I got a pretty good look of a giant fan sitting near the front window.

An interesting fan that seemed completely out of place, but probably of great usefulness during the summer high heat.  After our wait, we had nowhere to go and with 48° F weather with 13 mph wind it probably wasn’t a good idea to eat outside. In fact, it probably wasn’t a good idea to eat outside in that crazy neighborhood at all! As we headed back to the car, a panhandler asked to borrow 25¢ and we ignored him.

“If you come back over here, I’ll BITE you!” he growled at us.

I couldn’t help but shake my head at such a ridiculous proposition, but he probably was off his rocker anyway. We headed back up to Hyde Park and decided to eat there towards more civilized parts. On the drive up I noticed large blocks with empty lots, looking like the abandoned parts of a poorly built Sim City. Boarded up houses, vacant commercial spaces and endless garbage littered the streets. Urban decay was at its pinnacle and I wondered if this decadence was from the current economic meltdown or if things had always been this way down here.

Back in Hyde Park, the urban decay washed away in a sea of ivy covered walls and new construction. Things were thriving in this part of town and instead of going to The Cove, we decided to hit up The Reynolds Club. “It’s just like a scene out of Harry Potter,” Reuben said, and while I have only watched one Harry Potter movie, I understood. We entered Reynolds and I was greeted by 40 foot tall ceilings and the Hutchinson Commons and endless rows of tables with students diligently pursuing their work. In the back corner, a group of chess players were vigorously playing games and we situated ourselves for WINGS!

From left to right: Sweet Ginger BBQ, Honey Teriyaki, Cheesy Buffalo

The Holy Grail of chicken wings was unveiled! After waiting so long and having gone so far with many aborted attempts to make this trip, the moment was finally here. The first item off the bucket list could finally be crossed off and I would indeed be tasting the best chicken wings Chicago had to offer. Andre didn’t lie, the Sweet Ginger BBQ wings were da bomb and I went sent shaking my head and held speechless from the deliciousness of it all. Flavor, flavor, and more flavor. I found the Honey Teriyaki to be a bit dry and underwhelming, but the Cheesy Buffalo restored my faith. Just looking at the Cheesy Buffalo, it was clear that this would be completely unhealthy, but you have to live once in awhile and it was a buttery and cheesy food experience. I couldn’t tell you what ingredients they put in the wings and I frankly didn’t care – it was a miracle of the food world and it justified the long arduous journey and it was love at first bite.