While out in the Chicago area, I decided to pay a visit to a wing chain called Wingstop that has been growing across the nation. Locations are typically in strip malls, and it seems that their primary target is take-out. But this doesn’t mean you can’t sit down to enjoy your food because there are a few tables that allow you to do just that. Out of the many locations sprinkled throughout Chicago alone, I decided to hit up their North Lakes branch because they have the largest sit-down section (as per other locations that I called).
Inside reminded me of a fast food restaurant with the way the seating was arranged, though they strongly stress that their wings are NOT fast food – they are made to order. This is proven by the large glass window that puts the kitchen on display so you can watch your order being fried and tossed like a wonderful wing show.
The menu selection includes traditional wings, boneless wings (nuggets), and boneless strips (tenders). Wingstop has several options to choose from in regards to sauces. The thing I like most about these options is that even though they have sauces such as “Lemon Pepper” and others, they have a good variety of Buffalo flavors. So, I ordered my traditional 10 with “Original Hot” and got sides of “Mango Habanero” and “Atomic.” My wife ordered the boneless strips, because she likes to eat her wings with a fork. 🙂 All that was left was to grab some beers and wait for our food.
After a short moment, “Brian” was shouted and I went up to collect my prize. While there I looked for napkins, but what I found was intriguing: One roll of brown paper towels on a pole. What’s funny about this was it was a community roll… there were no others. So I pulled and pulled, like I was in the men’s room after washing my hands, to get a bunch to bring back to the table.
My wings were a beautiful red color and had plenty of sauce coverage. So much so that I could just dip the wing into the residual pool on the bottom of my basket. Though the bones of the wings were an average size, the meat was extremely lacking. Some of my pieces were even skeletal (see photo). Aside from that, the chicken was pretty tender and the sauce really brought the goods. But holy hell that sauce was hot! Typically when I go out and order hot sauce for my wings it tends to be more of a medium heat. However, when Wingstop says hot, they mean it. The sauce not only smacked my lips around with the spice, but also contained an awesome pepper flavor that would make Buffalo proud. I thought to myself, “If this is Hot, what does the mild taste like?” So I ran back up to the counter to grab some and see. The answer in a word: horrible. The mild tasted like an overchurned sweet butter and was not palatable at all. My advice if you are looking for a Mild Buffalo sauce is to order the Original Hot instead and suck it up. You will be much happier than the alternative.
I took a break with my sweet fries, which were oddly delicious, before moving over to the Mango Habanero. This sauce proved to be exactly what the name implied. At first bite I got a sweet honey-like note from the Mango and I could feel the Habanero sneaking up on my throat. And sure enough… BAM, I am sweating, tearing, and breathing short breaths. Yet, the Mango flavor still remained for a bit making this a great sauce for heat lovers who still like to taste their food.
Next up was the Atomic sauce which I knew was going to hurt because it was a paste mixture of seeds and assorted peppers that was sure to be hot as hell. I globbed some on a wing, took a big bite, and to my surprise it was not hot at all. Confused, I drowned the rest of the wing and practically licked the sauce off of the bone. This turned out to be a huge mistake because it seemed that the heat took a while to build. And if I had just waited a minute after taking the first bite to see that, I wouldn’t have put myself at Hades door. Now, I was left sucking down my beer (a real problem, I know) and using paper towel after paper towel to get the sauce off my face (good thing they have that incredible one roll).
Ultimately, Wingstop has some great sauces, especially if you are just looking for traditional Buffalo flavors, like me. The wings themselves needed some bulking up, otherwise these things would have gotten the Seal of Recommendation. However, the flavors are definitely there so you will be happy you came… just remember to bring your A-game as the sauces pack a punch.
6 W. North Ave, Northlake, IL 60164