Long Wong’s is legendary in the Phoenix hot wing scene. Seriously, ask anyone around the Valley about where to get wings and about half of the conversations are going to end featuring some incarnation of Long Wong’s or another. When we initially set out to do a hot wing review blog I didn’t think we would ever find anything that could touch Long Wong’s. (Ha, the end of that sentence is kind of funny taken out of context.) As far as I was concerned Long Wong’s was the epitome of Phoenix hot wings.
The original that started it all was the Mill Avenue location in downtown Tempe. This dingy club was the heart of the local Tempe music scene in the 90’s. This was the place where the Gin Blossoms started to make a name for themselves and a shitload of other local bands got their 15 minutes of fame. At the time this was the ultimate place to go enjoy a show. The fact that you could get shitfaced and enjoy some of the best wings Phoenix has ever produced just solidified this place as the transcendent wing spot that every other place in town aims to be.
Not to say that the place wasn’t a monster dive. So much so in fact that after the place closed down in 2004 the knocked the fucking building over. Damn shame too. The City of Tempe should have done something to hold onto that place to keep the music scene in downtown. Or maybe that exactly what they didn’t want and we are all looking back on Long Wong’s through some sort of nostalgia filter.
By this time though you could find several other Long Wong’s locations sprouting up all over Phoenix, official franchises and the unofficial joints just trying to profit by ripping off their name and exploiting their reputation. Teakwood’s bought their recipe and became a sort of spiritual successor, I used to frequent a Long Wong’s ripoff on Central and Baseline when I was in high school that had some very solid wings and some of the hottest suicide sauce I have ever had, and eventually, they even opened a replacement Long Wong’s on Mill Ave on the other side of University but it paled in comparison with no bands playing and it was very short lived.
For our review we chose what seems to be the most official Long Wong’s still around, at least by reputation, the location on Stapley and th 60. Xavvi lives nearby so he had been in there a lot of times. I had been in there more than a few times myself as well. I always remember having great wings but those were pre-wing blog times so what the hell did I know?
This was kind of a more low-key night than usual. We brought our wives with us and it was safe to assume they didn’t want us getting wasted, making asses of ourselves, and embarrassing them so the plan for the night was to grab some Long Wong’s and head back to Xavvi and Sarah’s house to watch the Suns game and drink some more beer (well, except for Amanda who was pregnant with our first kid).
I ordered some kind of combo with either a dozen wings, fries, and a beer. Amanda just got a salad because at this point in her pregnancy she was hating all things fried and all things chicken. I think Xavvi just got wings and Sarah got wings and a salad. So, I was basically the fatass of the group. They have a ridiculous number of flavors to choose from for the wings (I just counted 17 on their menu online and I think they have more than that at the place). Xavvi and I got our usual Hot and Suicide flavor and Sarah got Buffalo Blue Cheese. Pretty sure Amanda did snag some of my fries though.
We snagged a table towards the back of the restaurant and settled in to wait for our food to arrive while we speculated on the future of the Suns and talked about boring work shit (as opposed to awesome wing blog shit). When the food did come out it was hot and the wings looked good if a little small-ish.
The wings were pretty good but not great. They seemed a step down from some of the great wings we have reviewed. They were cooked decently but not perfectly. They really were pretty small. The sauce is always excellent at Long Wong’s and this time was no exception. To be fair, these wings may have only seemed a little underwhelming because we were only a few weeks removed from a four week in a row run of NY Boyz, JT’s Bar and Grill, Rosie McCaffrey’s, and Angie & Jimmie’s which will leave just about any average wing place looking pretty shitty and Long Wong’s still didn’t come off as bad. Or maybe we had just over-hyped Long Wong’s to the point where it just couldn’t live up to it. Of course, Long Wong’s was coming immediately after disappointingly mediocre Casey Jones and just-flat-out-awful Flancer’s so it shouldn’t have been to hard to impress us at this point.
In the end, Long Wong’s did not live up to my memory of it or its legacy in general. The provided us with some pretty good wings with good sauce but nothing that makes you think this is the direct successor to the most legendary hot wing spot the Valley has ever known. We speculated at the time that it is probably just based on the when you go in and we happened to hit them on an off night. Xavvi has been back since and confirmed that very thing. Plus, they had a very strong showing at Wingstock when they came around. Still, inconsistent wings is not what you expect from a place with Long Wong’s reputation.
The wings were good enough I would still drop in if I was in the area. We still are planning on hitting up a couple other Long Wong’s locations (both official franchises and rip-off joints) at some point to see how they stack up so it may not be too late to lift the name of Long Wong’s to its former glory.
After Long Wong’s we headed back to Xavvi and Sarah’s to enjoy some Dos Equis and watch the Suns pull out a victory (which was rare at this point in the season). They also introduced Amanda and I to It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia for which I will be eternally grateful.
This post was written by Tyler