by Del Stone
When Brenda Shoffner asked me to do a profile on Buffalo Wings & Rings, I wondered aloud how I would get in there. The restaurant’s location at 402 Mary Esther Cut-Off means if you’re driving west, you can turn right in. From the opposite direction, not so easy.
What I should have wondered is where I would park. While the parking lot is ginormous, it was PACKED the day my co-worker and fellow food conspirator, Brian Perdue, and I went there for lunch.
A packed parking lot is a good sign, and we were not disappointed. The franchise’s motto is, “Great food. No bull.”
I don’t know about the bull, but the chicken wings were terrific.
BWR is a sports bar, so don’t go there with the expectation of ordering seafood or your favorite ethnic food. Sports means wings, burgers and all kinds of spiced and fried goodness.
Start your March Madness chowdown with an appetizer, like Buffalo chicken nachos, fried pickle chips or the appetizer sampler, which I suspect could substitute for a meal. For your sampler, choose three of the following: pretzel bites, Parmesan garlic aioli fries, mozzarella sticks, fried pickles or onion rings.
We ordered what the menu calls Swine Chips. What arrived at our table was a massive plate of Saratoga Chips – thick-cut potato chips topped with pulled pork, Cheddar jack cheese, queso sauce, queso blanca, tomatoes, jalapenos and sweet barbecue sauce, along with something called bistro sauce. They also come with onions and cole slaw, but we decided to forgo those two, mostly (OK, entirely) because I hate cole slaw, and onions are the enemy vegetable.
The chips were thicker than kettle chips and super crispy. With all those toppings, we could have made a meal of them alone, but that wouldn’t have been in the gluttonous spirit of the restaurant profile.
For those of you who like green stuff on your plate, BWR offers a selection of small and large salads with some out-of-the-box dressings, like cool wasabi or chipotle ranch. Makes you almost want to order a salad, doesn’t it?
You can’t go to a wings place and not get some wings. Brian ordered the boneless Buffalo wings, which were juicy chunks of chicken slathered with spicy sauce. I ordered the bone-in bourbon barbecue wings, which were sticky delicious. Make sure you have several napkins handy.
Other wing flavors include roasted garlic, garlic Parmesan, Garlic-Q, sweet BBQ, teriyaki, sweet Thai chili, lemon pepper cool wasabi and peach habanero. Levels of heat include mild, medium, hot, extra hot and ATOMIC, which I’m too gutless to try.
Next up is the burgers. BWR offers eight varieties for every burger-loving palate. Continuing with the Buffalo theme, you can order the Buffalo Ringer Burger, topped with barbecue sauce, applewood-smoked bacon, Cheddar jack and a BWR-signature onion ring. Brian opted for the Big Pepper Burger with grilled jalapenos, bell and banana peppers smothered in pepper jack cheese, fire-roasted salsa and chipotle mayo.
My choice was the Black and Bleu Bacon Burger, a slab of ground beef seared in Cajun spices and topped with melted blue cheese crumbles, strips of bacon, lettuce, tomatoes and pickles. Yum.
Not into burgers or wings? Choose from six sandwiches and five varieties of quesadillas. Finish dressing your plate with a choice of nine sides, including fries, rings (of course), pita chips, bacon mac and cheese or the cole slaw.
BWR offers a brawny selection of beers and, unlike some sports bars, has an actual bar where you can cheer for your team with a cocktail.
What first jumps out at you is the number of TVs. “Lots of TVs” doesn’t do it justice.
Let me put it this way: You can sit anywhere in the restaurant and easily see a large-screen TV. In fact, Brian and I counted and unless we screwed up (we ARE journalists, so believe what you want), and came up with a total of 36. And some of them were actually showing something other than sports.
The rest of the restaurant was clean and orderly, a bit on the noisy side, what with the crowd. Everyone seemed to be having a good time.
Our server was friendly and attentive without being intrusive, which is a tricky balancing act. We never lacked for water, napkins or other dining-out essentials, but we didn’t feel pressured or rushed.
At one point the owner stopped by and checked on us. He also clued us in to the back entrance off Memorial Parkway.
A final taste
Guess what? We forgot to try the rings. That would have been Brian’s responsibility because I never have anything to do with the Enemy Vegetable.
But I will go back to BWR because the food was dee-lish, the atmosphere was convivial, and the sheer volume of TVs make it a go-to sports bar.
And that’s no bull.