February 21, 2014

Alden Cafe

I’m a big fan of local neighborhood bars for the same reason I love going to a friend’s party. Even though I don’t know a lot of the people, everyone seems to welcome you into their little world with smiles. Chain restaurants are very mechanical with the way they bring you in, feed you, and tell you to leave. This is unlike the Alden Cafe, that was a “Suggest a Joint” from Ed, because from the moment I walked in until the time that I left, there was only good feelings spread around the bar. I like the personal attention and impromptu conversations that pop up like “How do you spell Gouda?” or “Since when did they start naming snow storms?” But as pleasant as all this may seem, that’s not the reason for my visit. I hear they have great wings, and I’m going to find out if that’s true.

Seeing how it was lunchtime, I went with the 6 count of their “Killer Wings” and had them tossed in the Medium sauce. They also have an array of others such as Mild, BBQ, Garlic Parm, and Honey BBQ to name a few. But I am more interested in their root sauces that the others stem from, so aside from the Medium I grabbed some of their Hot and Hot & Honey to see where they fell. The Alden Cafe also offers a boneless variety known as “Tails” like some of the other wing places carry. Basically, it is a hand breaded chicken tender that has a flaky texture with meat that is nice and juicy. That is unless you let them sit for a while, then you’re battling a tough eat. So eat them up quick.

The wings were brought out by the cook himself, and not only did that catch my eye, but shortly thereafter, the same man (who I now know to be the same Ed that suggested the place) returned to see how the food was. Mind you, he has no idea at this time who I am or why I’m there, so I found this to be an awesome trait for a cook or kitchen manager to have. Why make food if you don’t care what the customer thinks of it? This shows me that they take pride in their wings and are willing to make changes if needed to help improve their popular chicken dish. Good, because here it comes.

I found their wings to be a great dish. The chicken was a normal size, but looked a bit larger because they leave the tips on the wingettes. This is a good optical illusion, but also helps when someone likes a little crunch. And I’m not just talking about the crispiness of the wing. That breading that they had coating each chicken piece was probably one of the crispiest that I’ve encountered. But if that’s not enough, you can feel free to slam that wing tip in your mouth and go to town. Crispiness being as good as it was, I still need to have the sauce bring the flavor to keep me satisfied.

The Medium sauce that the wings were tossed in was a simple mix of Frank’s and butter, but kept a good ratio that made me enjoy each bite… however it needed more heat. I poured the side of Hot in that I requested, and that did it. Again, just a typical bar sauce that you could expect, so I moved one step further and dumped in the Hot & Honey. Here is where things get a bit interesting. There are a lot of great flavors in all of these sauces, but each one lacks something. The Hot & Honey had that great sweetness that I’ve come to expect, and my favorite part about this sauce is that it left my fingers “sticky-free,” unlike other places with a similar product. The only thing that was lacking was the heat. If that was amplified a bit more, this sauce would’ve made the wings as killer as the name implies.

At the end of the meal, I had the opportunity to talk with Ed and discuss the wings that he hand delivered. The wings themselves killed it with the crispiness which, believe it or not, is tough to find these days. The sauces on the other hand will work for anyone craving a Buffalo style wing, but when you are out looking for the next best thing, it needs a bit more… and they are so close. If Alden Cafe takes the great flavor from the Hot & Honey sauce but boosts the heat level to that of their Hot, they would have a sauce worth noting. Ed claims that they have some new sauces in the works that will be out relatively soon that do just that, and I should stop back another time and give them a whirl. Rest assured, Ed, that if you bring the wing, I’ll be there.

Alden Cafe
302 W. Main St., Maple Shade, NJ 08052
(856) 779-7986