If you listen to the radio at any time on any given day, you’ll notice two things: One, you’ll notice that it’s awful. Two, you’ll hear a Maroon 5 song. It’s inescapable, you ARE going to hear one. If you ever turn on the radio and flip around and don’t hear one, you can take it as a sign of the impending apocalypse. One can recognize them by the incredibly shitty falsetto of the lead singer and the completely dull and unmemorable nature of the song. For some reason, people love this lifeless crap and for the life of me I can’t understand why.
After leaving Half Moon, I realized that this phenomenon of people loving dull things is not limited to music alone.
I went once and was not impressed, but that was years ago. It could have been the prices, or it could have been the coiffed-hair touting mid-30s fellows lounging in there (not quite Affliction bros,they were more of the 401K and stocks-talk variety ) which doesn’t really jive with my style, because I am fat and eat hot wings. Plus, I didn’t even go into the bar that night, I went to the sit-down restaurant portion of Half Moon which seemed to be half sports bar, half contemporary ski lodge.
This place is a New Times Best Of Phoenix winner from 2009 for the Best Wings in Phoenix. That’s not something we take lightly considering we’re the same people that had a serious emotional reaction when finding out NY Boyz didn’t win the Wingstock King of Wings award this year. Any reservations we had we quickly cast to the side.
The New Times said of Half Moon’s wings, “…they don’t joke around with these juicy little snacks, because they know how desperately we crave ‘em. Plump and crispy, these wings are the ultimate guilty pleasure, fried until golden and served with a choice of seven different yummy sauces.” Good enough for me. We drove to Half Moon and it’s a good thing I had been there before, because if I had been looking for a bar that looked like a bar, I would have ended up elsewhere. The exterior of Half Moon looks more like an unfinished planetarium than a sports bar.
Half Moon is a classy joint, I’ll tell you that much. The bar, the lighting, the TVs, the chairs, they were all expensive looking but nothing felt TOO expensive. It was welcoming, not like those for-show living rooms people have where the overly-decadent furniture looks stuffy and unused and you’re not actually allowed to sit on anything.
While Half Moon’s prices aren’t going to keep me a proper alcoholic any time soon, they did have a nice selection of local beers to choose from which we both found to be pleasurable to our sophisticated and refined beer palates. We’re beer assholes. We ordered a couple of IPAs or porters or something else that snobby dorks would order and sat back to focusing on the menu for these wings we’d heard so much about.
The menu says “Half Moon Legends” and then offers the wings both bone-in and bone-out. First of all, bone-out wings aren’t legendary anywhere for anything, ever, unless it’s one of those legends like “Say ‘Bloody Mary’ three times and Chad Kroeger will pop out to rape you.” You know, legendarily bad. Bone-out wings aren’t even wings, but that’s another topic for another day.
Half Moon has a hot flavor, but they call it “Sambal” instead. Sambal is a chili sauce that you can find in various Asian countries, and it can have any number of different chilis and flavors in it, so I was definitely looking forward to the complexity and spice that it would bring. For our second set of wings, since we had such a solid experience with Venezia’s similarly-named flavor, we elected for Sweet Chili Garlic.
It wasn’t long before one big plate of wings came out, our flavors not really separated but rather just placed on either side. How many wings? I don’t know, because Half Moon is one of those places where you order by weight instead of amount. So we ended up with two pounds of wings, which I assume is closest in measure to two dozen, but I have no real way of knowing and we didn’t bother to count them after the fact because that’s fucking stupid and so is the convention of ordering wings by weight, so please stop this immediately if you’re guilty of it.
Once we figured out which flavor was which (the “Sambal” was more red), we dove in. My thoughts as I started chewing on the first wing:
“So…this won Best of Phoenix at one point?”
“Did the wings get worse since 2009?”
“Or maybe the people that voted were in a godflance coma?”
I looked over at Tyler and he gave me that disapproving look that said “Well, there’s always next week.” They weren’t horrid, they weren’t Flancers or a soggy delivery wing, but they weren’t cooked particularly well. They just had no texture and were smooth. And that flavor I was looking forward to from the “Sambal”? It just wasn’t there. It was almost flavorless.
Opting to go for a chili-based sauce as opposed to a vinegary hot sauce is ballsy because if it works then you have this rich, dense sauce with layers of flavor but if it doesn’t work then you get none of the sting or bite from a traditional sauce and are left with a dull flavor that doesn’t really get into the wing and imparts no memorable tastes whatsoever. That’s what this was, unmemorable, and I say that because while I know in my mind that it’s true, I can’t even remember because I could hardly be bothered to care.
I only have this to say about the Sweet Chili Garlic flavor: Venezia’s, a chain pizzeria, does Sweet Chili Garlic so much better that it’s crazy. If Venezia’s Sweet Chili Garlic is the Phoenix Suns fanbase here in Phoenix, then Half Moon’s Sweet Chili Garlic is the Lakers fanbase residing in Phoenix…just a pointless trespasser on a better place’s territory, and it needs to just give up and go away. What I’m saying is, go away Lakers fans.
We finished up our wings, agreeing that these wings were just forgettable, and were definitely towards the bottom of our wing-eating career thus far. Tyler paid with his card, which has an ASU pitchfork on it, and the bartender decided to start giving us shit and telling us about how much better Tucson was than Phoenix and how great U of A was and how completely awful ASU was.
After calling him something like “Functionally retarded, possibly insane and certainly not fit to tend bar” we proceeded to ask why, if he hates it here so much, he is living in Phoenix. He proceeded to tell us that since ASU is in Tempe and not Phoenix, it’s ok that he works at Half Moon (which completely skirts the question of why you would come to Phoenix if Tucson is so much better). I then went on to let him know that he was a dipshit for not realizing that ASU has a downtown Phoenix campus, which he waved away with his hand, like our words of truth were flies and his hand was a flyswatter made of sheer willful ignorance that allowed him to just dismiss silly things like “facts” and “people being right” and “him being a complete fucking idiot.”
Leaving Half Moon, we ventured to Old Town Scottsdale, a place somewhat out of our slovenly jurisdiction. We watched the rest of the Suns game (they won…weird) on the patio of Loco Patron under the world’s hottest heaters before walking to Dos Gringos. The bouncer informed us that we could pay $20 and get basically all-you-can-drink beers and wells if we wanted. Bars run this on slow nights because dumb people think “ALL YOU CAN DRINK? SIGN ME UP!” and never do the math. The bars did the math, and they’re certain they’re going to come out on top. A regular Dos Equis at Dos Gringos costs about $3.50ish. Assuming that, one would have to drink 6 beers to spend more than $20 at the bar. Most people end up not drinking a six pack by themselves, and even if they do, the bar evens out more or less. They bank on you being a pussy, basically.
We are no such pussies.
10 beers deep a piece and we were only getting started. Enjoying the frigid February air on the upper deck patio, bullshitting and people-watching, we ended up taking that bar for as much as we possibly could before calling it a night and heading back to our respective lady-folk.
We always manage to make the best of any night, and that particular Thursday was no exception. As we walked out of the bar, I looked up and noticed something. While the perfect half-moon in the desert sky had hit two days earlier on Valentine’s Day, there we were on February 16th, and that half-moon was already waning. And we didn’t mind one bit that it was going away.
Half Moon Sports Grill
2121 E Highland Ave
Phoenix, AZ 85016
Sampled February 16th, 2012