The Taste Bud: Craft House wings are charred and delicious

OK, I finally went to the Craft House a couple of weeks ago and had the poutine, and it was excellent. But after I told people I had done so, I kept hearing, “Did you try the wings?”

Prior to that, all I’d heard about was the poutine. And now you people are telling me I was supposed to also eat wings? Here’s the thing: I’m not grossly overweight for a reason. Poutine and wings in one meal might give me a heart attack.

So I did what any other red-blooded American man would do: I went back. Fortunately, I had not been misled.

The Charred Chicken Wings, as they are called on the menu, are 10 bucks for 10 wings. Sounds pricey for wings, right? But here’s the thing — ever since buffalo wings invaded Louisville in earnest in the early 1990s, they have become more and more common. And what finally came full circle is that you really can only do so much with chicken, butter and Frank’s Hot Sauce. And so now, restaurants differentiate.

That’s what the Crescent Hill Craft House has done. These wings are dry-rubbed with a light spice and grilled until they are charred black at the edges. The good news is, the fresh, plump wings hold their moisture and tenderness while the skin gets crunchy. And the wings are served with two sauces — a pimento ranch and what is referred to on the menu as “hot sauce syrup.” Um, OK.

When my plate of wings was placed in front of me, I nodded to myself. Impressive portions, I thought. I do like the char, and as I plowed through the first wing, sans sauce just to get the lay of the land, I overheard a bartender tell a customer who had noticed my plate, “Our wings are so good. They’re addictive.”

That’s always a good sign. And my mouth was beginning to concur. The Craft House wings easily pass the no-sauce test, and that’s a testament. But the sauces were there for a reason, so I decided to dive in.

I started with the hot sauce syrup. On the first dip I thought it really just tasted like Frank’s and butter. But one must always dip again, so I did. And that’s when I noticed a subtle sweetness. And then a different flavor depth sneaked in. Is that a hint of ginger I taste? Hmm.

And then I went for the pimento ranch. I don’t normally do ranch, but why not try it? Honestly, I quickly thought that the creamy mixture with just a hint of pimento might be the ultimate complement to these charred wings. Soon, I was having trouble deciding which sauce I liked better. And that’s when I made the decision that changed everything: I cross-dipped.

At the moment I had my first taste of the holy trilogy of charred wings, hot sauce syrup and pimento ranch, I understood exactly what Chef Tim Smith was going for, because THIS combination was in fact the ultimate combination. That’s truly when it all came together for me. And from that point on, I was a cross-dipping fool, trying to find just the right balance of hot sauce syrup and ranch to complete the trilogy.

I gobbled up the 10 wings, which, along with the tart and crispy green mango slaw that accompanied them, made for a splendid and filling meal, and washed them down with a West Sixth My Old Kentucky Common. And if I had one complaint about my experience, it would be that most of the wings were too plump to fit into the cylinder-shaped dipping vessels.

What that means is that you’ll likely have to tear meat from the bones to adequately sauce the wings and successfully cross-dip for balance. As such, you may want to bring your own wet wpes. But hey, you only live once. Get your hands dirty.

And for goodness’ sake, get some of those Crescent Hill Craft House wings. Because, dang.