Taste Bud: Wings that haunt me
Nashville isn’t far away, yet it’s not close enough for me. Why? Because while there on a weekend getaway recently, I found my wings. The wings. And now I won’t be able to enjoy them again for — well, as long as it takes me to get back to Nashville.
There’s a back story here: You see, Sundays during football season are days when I am at my happiest, watching NFL games (preferably the Green Bay Packers) while enjoying a couple of pints and some tasty food. But finding a place that gives a crap that you’re serious about watching every second of your team’s game isn’t easy — or at least it isn’t in Louisville.
“Can you put the Packers game on one of these screens?” is a question I find myself asking all too often.
“Sure, we’ll get it on there for you,” is a standard response. And then 15 minutes after kickoff, some lackadaisical bar manager is still scrolling through the satellite channels while you sit, wringing your hands and staring death rays through the NHL Network.
One of my favorite places in Nashville is Broadway Brewhouse — typically either the downtown or midtown locations — primarily for the beer selection. I’d been there countless times before but never had the food — and that brings us full circle back to the wings, by way of football. Looking for a place to watch the Packers game on a recent Sunday, my girlfriend Cynthia and I wandered inside, the place nearly empty, and approached the bar.
“Can you put the Packers game on one of these screens?” I asked the bartender, expecting him to shrug and change every screen to the Golf Channel or the Badminton Network.
“How about this one?” he said, pointing to the biggest screen. “I’ll even make sure the sound is up so you can hear it.”
Within 45 minutes, the place was crawling with NFL fans wearing jerseys from dozens of teams, all wanting to watch their game. But true to the bartender’s word, the Packers game remained on the best screen, and the sound remained on. Wow.
And because of this, we decided to stay put and have a bite to eat. I perused the bar-grub menu, considering Texas Red Chili and Santa Fe Tacos, but kept coming back to the wings: Four styles, all with their own spin, including Gringo, Chipotle BBQ, Panama and Mojo. The mild Gringo were dry-rubbed, while the medium-heat Chipotle BBQ advertised a “tangy, smoky sauce.”
The Panama seemed more interesting, with a “jalapeno, molasses glaze,” but the Mojo wings hooked me with a description of “habanero sauce, sticky/sweet/hot.” Sticky, sweet and hot? Reminds me of a girl I dated in college. But I digress.
If Louisville truly has a signature wing, I’m not sure I’ve found it yet. I love the full-sized wings at Hilltop Tavern, I love the barbecued wings at Rooties, and Against the Grain does a very nice (if a bit overly smoky) wing as well. But when those Mojo wings landed before me and I had that first taste, I knew I’d found my wings. The wings.
Why? For starters, the Broadway Brewhouse wings are roasted instead of fried, which means you get a charred, tender texture with a big, moist layer of dark, roasted flavor over clean, fresh, white meat. These aren’t just wing sections that have been deep fried and then slathered in sauce — these were made using a roasting process. Cynthia took a small bite of one and immediately said, “Ooh, that char is really good.”
But the flavor combo is what really made them. When I read “habanero,” I expected rampant heat. But somehow, Broadway Brewhouse infused the coating with habanero flavor that didn’t go over the top. And the description of “sweet” was a bit premature as well — I dislike sweet, especially on chicken, but the tiny hint of sweetness worked here. The interesting thing is that it wasn’t mango, which is what is usually paired with habanero. The truth is, I really couldn’t tell what it was. It was just, well, Mojo.
Knowing full well we had a sushi dinner planned for later in the day, I got only a half order. After my wings had been reduced to a pile of bones, the bartender walked by and said, “You want another pint?” I said, “Yes, and another half-order of those Mojo wings. They’re like crack.”
He chuckled as he grabbed a glass for my beer and said, “Aren’t they, though? I eat them all the time.”
The closest I’ve had in Louisville to these wings, at least in terms of freshness and texture, were the wings at the dearly departed Taste of Jamaica. If you know of a place in the Louisville area that you think might live up to or even — god forbid — top the Mojo wings I’m describing, please email me. I’ll not only write about them in the Taste Bud, but your first pint is on me.