Have you ever turned on one of those techno or dubstep stations on Pandora, listened for a while, and then stopped paying attention until an hour later when it finally dawned on you that it wasn’t actually one hour long song, it was several similar songs with not much variation between them? What happens is you get lost in the repetitive and almost monotonous rhythms until something stands out to you, something different and not so full of wub-wubz and fax machine sounds. It’s a breath of fresh air because it’s in the same category, it has many of the same attributes, but it approaches the art form from a different viewpoint and ends up being far more memorable for how it does things than what it does.
Also, it wasn’t made by a guy that looks like a mop.
That’s how we were feeling for a while from all of this wing eating. We worship wings as an art form and we find no greater pleasure than sinking our teeth into a delicious crispy wing, but months non-stop of eating wings made it tough for us to keep differentiating between Place A and Place B (but not Place Flancer’s…that place has a special booth in hell where Nickelback fans go to for eternity). I don’t want to sound like we were going through the motions and being all first-world-problem about the privilege of eating wings and getting sloshed on beer, but if you have enough similar wings, things start to blend together, much like the aforementioned techno-babble bullshit songs.
Then along came ATL Wings to change it all up for good.
I first saw this joint while driving on Warner towards what I assume was a drinking appointment or an asshole convention or something equally up my alley, and immediately texted Tyler that we had a new place to try. I also didn’t think much of their ability to deliver because A) it looked like a tiny shithole place inside a larger shithole stripmall on a larger shithole block (Shitholeception) and B) while I love my brethren from Atlanta [Editor's Note: He doesn't know anyone from Atlanta] they’re not exactly known for hot wings. BBQ wings, maybe. Soul food, sure. But hot wings?
If these wings are any good, I told myself, I’ll do the Dirty Bird in my underwear.
We walked in to ATL Wings unsure and probably a little assumptive, sauntering like big bad wing snobs ready to scoff at another place that thought they were doing wings right, when we noticed something. Ok, I won’t hide from it…you know how if you go to a Greek restaurant and you see a lot of Greek people, or if you go to a Mexican place and there’s beaners everywhere, you think to yourself “Shit, this place must be good!”? Well we walked into a place called ATL Wings that served fried catfish and biscuits and Kool-Aid, and there were a lot of black people. And why does that feel almost racist to say? DAMN YOU AMERICA FOR CONDITIONING ALL OF US TO FEEL LIKE WE CAN’T SPEAK OPENLY! As a Mexi-man/Sexican, I blame whitey.
Seriously though, the majority of people in this place, both behind the counter and in the dining room, were minorities like myself, and that put my food-combative soul a little more at ease. The folks at ATL Wings had to be doing something right, I figured. And then we saw this little gem up near the counter as we prepped to order:
So we’ve got a place that has the right audience, serves Kool-Aid (red, purple and blue), and makes it a point to tell customers that good food doesn’t come quick for anyone. Atlanta wasn’t built in a day. It took us a while to look over the flavors because they have a good amount of them. From their menu:
- Lemon Pepper
- Garlic Pepper
- Garlic Parmesan
- Citrus Chipotle
- Honey BBQ
- Honey Habanero
- Cajun Hot
- Cajun BBQ
We asked for the hottest ones they had and the lady behind the counter politely directed us to stuff our faces with Cajun Hot wings, and because we read online that some folks enjoy their Honey Habanero we went for those too. They don’t serve alcohol at ATL Wings, though I’ve heard rumors that they’re trying to get a liquor license to do just that. If they do, please reserve a table for me, I’ll make a mold of my asscheeks and have a chair made specifically for eating there. Since we couldn’t get liquor we opted for Kool-Aid because, I mean…come on. It’s Kool-Aid, and it’s fucking awesome. Yeah, it’s the main cause of ‘beetus in the hood, and yeah it’s really just powdered death, but I dont give a damn. If it’s good enough for Wilford Brimley then it’s good enough for me.
The pricing for wings is $7.49 for an order of 10, or $12.49 for an order of 20. If you’re eating for 2, get the order of 20 instead of 2 orders of 10. They’ll split the flavors for you and it’s cheaper. ATL Wings obviously put a good amount of money into decorating, I was actually taken aback. Sweet-looking prints of the Atlanta skyline adorned the walls from floor to ceiling, they had two flatscreens playing ESPN, and they even have a smartphone app and a text club. Not bad for a place that I mistook for a shithole-in-a-shithole-in-a-shithole.
The moment of truth finally upon us, they brought out two orders of wings that I could smell from the kitchen. First thought was that these things were pretty damn big. About the size of Cogburn’s, maybe a little smaller, definitely above the average though. The Cajun Hot sauce smelled fantastic, you could see spices floating in it and it was deep, dark red like the color of my heart that is barely able to beat from all this cholesterol I’ve consumed. The Honey Habanero certainly looked every part of both of its namesakes, an orange/golden hue that looked sticky like honey but smelled like fresh peppers.
Tyler gave me that look, the one that says “Oh shit, we might have something here.” and dove in to his first wing. As I joined him, we each had an audible foodgasm, I felt like Meg Ryan in the diner. Yes..Yes…YES!! THIS is what we needed after so much similarity. The Cajun Hot had so many complex flavors, so many spices, so much more than cayenne or Red Devil or paprika or pepper; it was a hot, vinegary wing that seemed like a traditional hot wing and yet felt nothing like it at the same time. The Cajun Hot was just similar enough that it didn’t feel like an “alternative flavor” style of wing (loganberry guava beetroot wings, I’m looking your way), but just different enough that it couldn’t be classified amongst any of the hot wings we’ve had thus far.
These wings were cooked so well for being so huge. The skin had a crisp to it even though they were deliciously abundant with sauce, but the meat inside was tender. It was a fantastic wing. We then tried a Honey Habanero, and while nothing is really ever going to make us into fans of sweet wings, I can tell you that this wing is crafted marvelously. I’ve eaten Buffalo Wild Wings Mango Habanero before and I can safely say that ATL Wings’ Honey Habanero run up to them in the street, jack them for their Timberlands and leave them bleeding in an alley, it’s not even a contest. It’s what the BWW wings WISH they were, a perfectly sweet and sticky wing that embraces the honey but doesn’t go completely soft on the habanero If anyone asked my opinion on them, I’d advise they get them in a heartbeat. So long as they also get a dozen of the Cajun Hot, because damn.
On subsequent visits, my wife has ordered the Garlic Parmesan, something I usually advise against at most wing places. The idea is solid and it always sounds good (who doesn’t love parmesan or garlic? Vampires? Assholes?) but so few places can execute it right that it’s usually not worth wasting the money to experiment. You often end up with an oily mess, flecks of garlic sliding off the wing and never really attaching any flavor at all, so all the flavorful bits end up on the bottom of the greasepile and you’re left with a regular, unflavored wing.
ATL Wings didn’t have any of those issues. At all. None. I don’t know what they did to them, but the parmesan AND the garlic stuck to the wing and it had a full flavor and a bite from all that garlic, and my wife hasn’t been the same since. ATL Wings is absolutely her favorite wing place in the valley, and I can’t fault her for it. I think she’s cheating on me with those wings, to be honest, and if I end up on Maury then I already have my victory dance prepared for when he announces that I am…NOT…the father.
We swam so long in that sea of, I won’t say mediocrity….monotony? Homogeneity almost? Whatever. In that sea of wings all starting to blur together, ATL Wings was our breath of fresh wing sauce, a reminder that things don’t always have to be 100% traditional to be 100% delicious, and it woke us up from our pseudo-wing lull enough to take a far deeper look back at all the places we had already visited. We may go back and test some of the top places on our rankings list now just because we’re not sure of how they stack up now that the game has changed a bit.
Also, we’re going because we’re gluttons and we take any excuse possible to eat more wings. I won’t even hide it. Peace up, A-Town Wings down. Or up, I don’t really get how that phrase works. Whatever way makes them good, that’s the way I’m putting them.
70 W Warner Rd
Chandler, AZ 85225