I don't love sports -- unless you count roller derby, which holds more of a prurient interest -- and I really don't love sports fans. But I do love the kind of food that sports fans eat while watching games, especially chicken wings. There's nothing more satisfying than reeking up my kitchen with hot sauce for chicken wings -- except, that is, the mouth-burning sensation of eating them.
I happened to be in the south suburbs -- I know, right? -- when I spotted the Buffalo Wild Wings outpost at 8255 South Chester Street in Englewood, and decided it had been far too long since I'd had someone else make wings for me.
But I almost changed my mind after I walked in and heard the din. This location has an enormous dining room and huge take-out area, with big-screen televisions everywhere -- and diners yelling at those screens. I considered putting in my ear buds, but instead chatted with my server as I ordered jalapeno pepper bites, spinach artichoke dip, Asian Zing wings (mid-level heat) and the hottest wings on the menu: the Blazin' wings. "Are these really gonna burn, or is this 'blazin'' just a gimmick?" I asked my server, who assured me that the warning on the menu about keeping the blazin' sauce away from eyes, pets and children was totally legit. The wait for my meal seemed endless. The table of rabid fans next to me was making what my grandpa would refer to as "a ruckus," the fans across the room were yelling and slamming fists down on their table, and the big top of fans across from me was drinking like the world's supply of Bud Light was going to dry up in ten minutes.
I put in my ear buds.
My food came in about twenty minutes -- twenty years in sports-bar time. The spinach dip app was heavy on chips and light on dip, and the dip itself was an unremarkable drippy, bland white sauce with too much salt and too little artichoke. I was expecting the jalapeno pepper bites to be of the disappointing, grocery-store freezer variety, but they ended up being fat, rich, Cheddary-bacony and sprinkled with bacon. Everything is better with bacon.
The wings came while I was downing my last pepper bite, and I took out the ear buds while my server made a little ceremony about presenting me with the blazin' wings and the extra side of blazin' sauce I'd requested. He warned me to be careful not to touch my face or eyes with my fingers, and since I was still doubting the ferocity of this sauce, I asked if anyone had ever actually injured themselves eating these wings.
He laughed and told me he'd seen a few people make themselves sick by showing off and gulping down sauce, or doing impromptu wing-eating contests -- but since I'm not a dump-brained fuckwad, I wasn't scared.
The jalapeno wings were just all right: Although B2W gets props for using large chicken wings rather than the smaller ones you sometimes get in other bars and restaurants, and the sauce was equal parts sweet and spicy, these were nothing remarkable.
But my server was right about the blazin' wings: They were pretty hot. Not the hottest I've ever eaten in my entire life, but still high on the spice scale. In fact, they were hot enough for me to pause between wings, make damn sure not to grind my fingers in my eye sockets, and take a big sip of Diet Coke.
Hotter than the wings was the argument at the table next to me, about whose wife was a bigger bitch.
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Sports fans may not be the most irritating kind of fans, but I definitely prefer the company of stamp collectors, WoW players, artsy types and bird-watching enthusiasts -- because at least they are calm and quiet. The next time I'm in this neighborhood, I'll get the blazin' wings -- and only the blazin' wings -- to go.