Issue July 26, 2011

Taste Bud

Cheap wings take flight

One of my favorite sayings is that the only thing better than chicken wings are free chicken wings. Since everyone knows there is no such thing as a free lunch, I try to set my sights on more reasonable and attainable goals. Like really cheap wings.

Enter Mulligan’s Pub. This cozy place occupies the building on Newburg Road that once housed local mainstay Kaelin’s. In addition to having an inviting atmosphere, a good beer selection and a ton of flat-screen TVs adorning the walls, it has one of the better bargains in town: 35-cent wings. All night after 3 p.m. Every day.

Yeah, that’s not a misprint.

An acquaintance told me about this deal, and I knew immediately it had Taste Bud written all over it. I mean, 35 cents every day? Could it even be true? Sure, some places offer wings on the cheap once a week, but this deal is ongoing.

I know what comes next. You’re thinking, “Come on, Taste Bud guy, if they’re selling them that cheap, they probably are pre-frozen, breaded and disgusting. And they’re probably pigeon wings, not chicken.” I understand this way of thinking, and that is exactly why I felt I had to find out for myself. So I did.

Mulligan’s has three different wing sauces from which to choose: bourbon glaze, jerk and traditional Buffalo-style. Each sauce has its own merits, although, in truth, they are designed for an everyman palate that doesn’t crave a challenge. That isn’t necessarily criticism; just don’t go in expecting to be wowed by the flavors.

The bourbon wings are mildly smoky and sweet, and the sauce tastes more like maple syrup than bourbon. It’s heavy on brown sugar, or so it tasted to my buds. Meanwhile, the jerk wings are lightly spiced but with a pleasant and familiar flavor that has hints of classic jerk seasoning (allspice, anyone?), but with no accompanying heat. Again, just stating facts.

Meanwhile, the Buffalo sauce is the traditional hot-sauce-and-butter blend, with just enough pepper to keep things interesting. These have a bit of kick, but I found out after the fact that, upon request, they’ll make them hotter. There’s your ticket — eat the bourbon and jerk wings for smooth flavor, and the Buffalo wings for heat.

The upshot here is that these are quality chicken wings, a fact that makes all the difference. They are medium-sized, fresh wings and drummettes, cooked crispy but still maintaining their moisture. They aren’t breaded — and I’m pretty sure they aren’t pigeon wings, either.

Bartender Kelly Fudge noted that, while he isn’t usually a big chicken wings guy, he considers Mulligan’s wings the best in town “for the price.” Yes, the price point is important. Let’s examine: I ordered 15 wings at Mulligan’s (they come in fives) and paid the paltry sum of $5.25 for the lot.

By comparison, at Wing Zone on Hess Lane: The online menu says you get five wings for $4.49, and it’s $10.99 for 15 (up to two different flavors). Buffalo Wild Wings, meanwhile, sells its wings six for $4.99 or 12 for $8.49. Both of those places have a ton more sauces and solid chicken, but if you want to get your wing on with a group of friends, it’s tough to beat the deal at Mulligan’s.

Owner Tim Clark noted also that half-price appetizers are the norm every day from 3-7 p.m., which almost qualifies this place as ridiculous. One of Mulligan’s signature apps is the mini-cheeseburgers plate — and remember, it was Kaelin’s that claimed to be the birthplace of the cheeseburger — for $5.95. You’re looking at paying under three bucks for this dish during happy hour.

Another is the smoked ribs appetizer for $7.95, meaning — you got it — you can get some tasty ribs for four bucks at Mulligan’s if you play your cards right. Four stinking bucks. See what I mean? Ridiculous. To top it off, Clark said a menu upgrade is on the way in August, along with a new chef, so things could get even better.

So let me amend my earlier statement: The only thing better than wings? Good wings at a ridiculously cheap price. And no pigeons.