UPDATE: Draft House on the Reef has now changed their name to just “The Reef”. Good call.
If I made up my own religion, wings would be the holy food. In lieu of a sabbath, we’d have the Sauce-bath as a day of reverence to worship the mighty buffalo wing and praise it for all it has bestowed upon us. The mighty chicken wing delivers us from anorexia, crisp from the oils of heaven and bathed in a sauce with the heat of hell itself to remind us of our sins as we eat of the body of Chicken-Christ our savor…err, savior.
Yes, if I started my own religion, buffalo wings would be the meatsiah, and the Draft House on the Reef may well be the rock upon which I build my church.
Draft House on the Reef had long been on our list of places to eat wings. So long, in fact, that we had it on the list before the “on the Reef” part existed. Back then it was just Draft House, and was known for its clientele, a mixture of chunky skanks wearing clothes three sizes too small for themselves and guys trying to gangbang (while reppin’ Chandler), and it was apparently an awful cacophony of underboob-cheese smell and Cool Water cologne. This all culminated in someone getting shot a couple of years back, which is sad but not unexpected when people who try too hard to act too hard get shot down too hard by women (that also try too hard) and thus have no chance to use their hard-ons, get hard feelings, do something hard-headed and end up doing hard time.
I don’t say all this to scare you away, but rather to make a point: the Draft House on the Reef as it existed then may very well have had good wings, but it also sounds like it sucked to be within 500 feet of it. Literally, like a black hole existed in and around it to suck the class and general societal niceties from all who end up within the borders of its event horizon.
Lucky for all of us, that Draft House is dead and gone, and in its stead is the Draft House on the Reef. Purchased a few months back by new owners and under new management, there is already marked improvement in both the clientele and the overall condition of the bar. The place is what old school sports bars used to be. Dark as hell, neon beer signs, old tube TVs, and not much else. No frills like “bright lights” because that’s for girls. No sunlight, because sunlight is for pussies and sparkly vampires (and since sparkly vampires are massive pussies, I guess I could have just left that part out). Nowadays it’s still a bit dark in there, but they’ve replaced the old tube TVs with flat screens and renovated the bathrooms, and we’re told that the renovations aren’t stopping there. They currently only have about 10 beers on tap, and about 6 of them would be the correct response if you were on Jeopardy and Alex said, “This beer is something a fratboy would buy a 30-pack of for Toga Night.”, but we were told the owners are trying to get more beers on draft.
Which would be appropriate. Since it’s called…you know…Draft House on the Reef.
We’ve reviewed far divier, shittier places. Draft House on the Reef was clean inside and the new owners obviously give a damn. The wait staff is attentive and comfortable in their environment, and it seems like the faux-gangsters and skanks quotient has been significantly lowered. Maybe the new owners don’t cater to them by playing Lil Wayne and Drake so much after 9pm. Maybe bringing in live bands that play a lot of Ozzy and Tom Petty drove them away. Do gangsters not like Tom Petty? What kind of cruel world are we living in where a man can’t bang his gang to the sweet sounds of Free Fallin’?
I just wanted you to know when you walk in that you can feel safe and clean in case you heard of the reputation or were put off by its old school sports bar feel that is ever-evolving. But we did get wings here, and I will write about these wings here. And we had a third person with us! Tyler’s cousin James came with to discuss and partake in the wingery, and we were glad to have him.
Ordering the wings, we realized that there was nothing labeled “suicide” on the menu. There was mild and hot and jalapeno hot and jalapeno honey and honey mustard and garlic parmesan and spicy ranch and lemon pepper and cajun…but no suicide. There was, however, something called “donkey”, and we ordered it because we figured that either it’s their name for the suicide wings, or they had a sauce made from the blood of donkeys, and either way there’s nothing to dislike about that.
We got the Donkey and an order of the hot wings. James got the spicy ranch, which we were told were a dry-rubbed wing, and we waited patiently while enjoying a Kilt Lifter since it’s one of the few beers that didn’t suck (Attn hipsters: They do have PBR for $1.75 all day every day).
Draft House on the Reef is almost literally across the streets from a WhyDidIEatThis.com favorite, ATL Wings, and we had a hard time not just veering to the right on Warner to go get some of those awesome Atlanta chickenpops. That was kind of a sticking point for us when walking into Draft House on the Reef; even if the wings are good, are they going to be good enough to justify coming to this place when ATL is across the freaking street?
The answer, I’m happy to say, is yes. These wings are stellar. Better than ATL? Worse? More like “different”. ATL puts that southern charm into everything they do and it shows. Draft House on the Reef bluntly says “We make WINGS, you stupid bitch” and you take it like the bitch you are and eat your delicious wings while maybe crying because of how hard they bitch-slapped you with their blunt wing making and your bitchness.
Now you may be asking yourself, what’s up with that one wing in the foreground? The one with the bone poking out. The obvious answer is that he lost his legs in Desert Storm and that you need to show some fucking respect. The real answer is that Draft House on the Reef apparently cleans up some of their wings by scraping the bottom cartilage and fat off of them. Not all of them, but some of them.
[EDITORS NOTE: We were later informed that those were actually a batch of wings sent to them by a vendor to try. They were good, but the regular wings they serve are equally good and equally large, even though they're not scraped clean or anything.]
We took another picture for posterity.
It didn’t hinder our wing experience at all. It may have even aided it a little, and if nothing else it shows that it takes more for them to make a wing than just “Open pack of chicken wings, drop in fryer” so you know more care has to go into each dozen.
These wings, by the way, were about on par with ATL Wings for size, which means they were pretty big. Biggest ever? Still gotta give it to NY Boyz, close runner up to NYPD Pizza, but these weren’t too far off. And they were cooked so damn well for being so large. It’s cool, we’re seeing more and more places with large, well-cooked wings and it makes my heart warm and my stomach full.
Now, crispy is a word we overuse on this site, along with terrible and unimaginative adjectives like “solid” and “spicy” but you’ll forgive me for assigning all of the above to this wing because it was crispy like fried duck skin and it was solid (if solid means “fucking awesome”) and it was spicy. That’s it, just spicy, but that’s pretty damn rare for us to say a Hot wing is spicy.
Normally we like the flavor of the hot but get heat from the suicide. No, this crispy-solid-fucking awesome Hot wing was spicy and rich, traditional but with extra craftiness to the way they flavor their hot sauce, like there’s something more than just hot sauce and butter, and thank Wing-God it works so well. I wanted to devour the hot dozen by myself and let the suckers deal with their other flavors. Alas, I shared, and I’m glad I did.
Taking a bite of the Donkey, I instantly got some serious heat. Tough guy Tyler flexed his heat-tolerance and said that it wasn’t all that spicy. What we both noticed right away though, was that this Donkey wing tasted amazing. This was the first suicide-level wing to touch Teakwoods on that level of heat and still maintain a delicious flavor. No sacrificing flavor for heat, the taste may have actually gotten BETTER with the Donkey wings than it was with the Hot.
On my second Donkey wing, I was already sweating. Tyler realized that he may have gotten a slightly-less hot one or something because the second wing started kicking his ass too. It’s funny, when I eat something hot as hell I start to sweat on my forehead, my lips burn because they’re humongous, and I sometimes get the hiccups. Tyler on the other hand eats something hot as fuck and you can only tell when it’s affecting him because he pauses for a minute, tilts his head and looks quizzically at it like a dog does when it sees a cricket or when a baby hears another baby crying. It’s like he’s trying to fathom how something can be hot enough to affect him because he’s been known to siphon lava from volcanoes for fun.
His cousin James, on the other hand?
James was one-and-done for the suicide wings, and I can’t say I blame him. We’re idiots for loving things this hot, but a good burst of capsaicin does the body right. We did have one of his spicy ranch wings, and they were pretty good for a dry rub wing. It wasn’t just ranch powder and cayenne, it seemed to have a good complex flavor and the lack of sauce really showed the crisp they put on these things. My lips were stinging at this point. Just sheer, actual sting.
On a separate trip to Draft House on the Reef, I took my wife so she could see what all the fuss was about, and she got parmesan garlic wings (again). God damn my lips are burning. Honestly, I’m thinking of just telling her to write her own stupid blog about parmesan garlic wings and title it “Things Girls Like, Like Parmesan Garlic Wings and Sparkly Pussy Vampires”. She didn’t think they’d be able to topple ATL Wings for her love of parmesan garlic wings, but the woman honestly seemed puzzled upon first bite.
She wondered aloud, “Is this…better…than ATL Wings?” It’s a damn good question, too. ATL has those wetter, oilier ones with fresh garlic and they’re awesome. But these were like a dry rub that had a garlic orchestra belting Ode To Joy out of the pores of the chicken skin, with a hint of parmesan. It was pretty fucking fantastic, even coming from a guy who usually shuns non-buffalo flavors.
Godflance it, my lips are STILL fucking burning.
We were even alternating between Hot and Donkey wings, one and then the other, to help quell the heat from the Donkey. There was just no such luck to be had though, these things were fucking blazing. The very nice server, Jessica, told us that on occasion it’s possible to find Ghost Pepper wings here. Yes, that’s exactly right. Bhut Jolokia wings. Hottest pepper in the world. They can make wings with that pepper. IT GETS HOTTER, BUT MY LIPS ARE ALREADY BEING BARBECUED ALIVE.
Draft House on the Reef had us reeling. This divey shithole wasn’t as divey as it could have been and was far less of a shithole than its reputation led us to believe, and their wings were carefully made and beautifully sauced and I was – fuck my lips are burning – I was seriously wondering how we were going to find a way to squeeze this place amongst our top tier wing places.
That’s exactly it, we can’t just squeeze it in. Someone has to be bumped down in order for a newcomer to make its way into the list. It will be a tough call to figure out who gets bumped for Draft House, because someone in the top 10 is going down after eating this awesome shit. The food is great, the service is good, the prices are fine (I should mention we ate with the help of a $20 for $40 coupon from Yelp, and Draft House on the Reef does not restrict you from using it on alcohol like other places do). I only wish it was less ugly in there, a little more comfortable and less ” you have to pull out your cellphone to read the bill”. Still, it was almost a religious experience to be in the graces of wings this awesome.
Thusly, I shall leave you with a prayer from the Church of the Holy Wing:
Ye, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of Flance, I shall fear no awful wing, for thou art with me. Your bone and your cartilage, they comfort me. You prepare a table full of wings before me in the presence of my enemies, Lakers fans mostly. You anoint the wings with oil; my cup overflows with beer. Surely goodness and deliciousness of wing sauce will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Wing forever. A psalm of FUCK MY LIPS ARE STILL FUCKING BURNING ARE YOU KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW? CAN I GET SOME SOUR CREAM OR SOMETHING??
Draft House On The Reef
393 W Warner Rd
Chandler, AZ 85225