I am not a fan of wings. Maybe that is why I never get invited to Super Bowl parties anymore. I was the guest who looked at the trays of greasy little drumsticks, actual wings, or wads of diced “chicken” and turned away. Wings fall on my waste-of-calories list just below State Fair food, but I won’t go there today.
In last week’s edition of French Fry-Day, I reviewed the potato-y goodness of Village Burger Bar. I love surprises, and VBB’s skinny fries bowled me over. I posted the SideDish item to my Facebook page where my friend, former colleague, and all-around smart woman Christine Perez wrote this comment: “Have you tried Wing Stop w/ ranch sauce yet?”
My brain puked. That is if a brain can do such a thing. My first thought was that since leaving her post at D CEO, Perez had lost her mind. “I hate wings,” I said. She replied, “I hate wings, too, but the fries are awesome, and the sauce is homemade.”
The only things I knew about Wingstop were that they started in Garland and Troy Aikman used to do commercials for the young company. I checked the website and learned that there are now over 1,000 locations, some in faraway places such as Indonesia, Russia, and Singapore. And they recently inked a deal with France. Really? France? The country that invented fine food now has former gastronomes chowing down on boneless chicken wads (Gary Larson’s famous boneless chicken ranch cartoon springs to mind) seasoned with a Louisiana rub and joining The Club to get email updates about wings?
It’s true. The food world is rapidly becoming one big club of sameness. In Dubai and need a pick-me-up? There’s a location near Jumeirah Beach not far from the El Chico I once visited. You can work off the calories by taking a camel ride down the beach. I am not making this up.
Hoping to top Perez’s palate, I headed to the Wingstop located a half-mile from my house. It is tucked in a tired strip-mall. It was mid-day, and the open sign was off. The place looked deserted. I left my car running and went up to the door. I was shocked to see about five tables of people eating and a guy in the kitchen peeling potatoes. So the claim that they hand-cut their fries is true. Imagine maintaining quality and cost of fresh fries at over 1,000 locations. That’s a big deal these days.
I ran back to my car, turned it off, and went inside. I really didn’t want to order anything but fries, but since I was there, I thought I’d give wings another chance. I ordered some made with lemon pepper and some sauce. I swear I can’t remember what style of dipping sauce I ordered because once I got home and took a bite of the wing, I had no use for it. They’re still wasted calories.
But the fries? Oh, my. They are glorious, cooked-to-order beauties of Russet potatoes fried to a crispy golden brown and tossed in a blend of spices. I reached as far up the chain’s chain to find out the ingredients only to be told by a representative of the company: “Alas, the seasoning is a proprietary blend, so I can’t share much, if anything.” Dang New York executives! A quick search on the internet revealed Wingstop copy cats use Lawry’s Seasoned Salt and extra sugar.
Some of the thickly cut soldiers were almost six inches long. The generous order contained fries of all lengths and degrees of crunchy. Some were soft and yielded mashed potato-y goodness; others were crunchy wonders. Imagine my joy when I reached the bottom of the wax paper container and found a layer of crusty nubs. Why would anyone need a dipping sauce for these? These fries are worthy of being served in France.