I recently read a review from some seemingly nice fellows about The Hungry Monk in Chandler. They extolled the virtues of its beer list, the convenience of its location with regard to proximity of other craft beer hotspots (specifically San Tan Brewery and Whole Foods) and mentioned they loved the wings…
…the boneless wings.
I have to give credit to these guys though, The Brew Bros [Editor’s Note: Why can’t we have a catchy name like that? The Wing Warriors? The Imbibing Idiots? The Drink….Drinkers?], they seem pretty legit in their knowledge of craft beer. They’ve got interviews with San Tan Brewery and reviews of out-of-state breweries, whereas all we have to show for our dedication to the craft is getting drunk at a beer fest and getting drunker at a different beer fest. Then again, we also spent a lot of our time narrowing down the exact science that is the art form of the buffalo wing, so we’re not completely useless. And since The Hungry Monk has developed a reputation for both their craft beer list and their wings, what better place to expand our beer repertoire (read: drink more beer and act like we’re doing it for science)?
The Hungry Monk started off as a franchised location for Buffalo Wings & Rings, a restaurant you’ve almost certainly never heard of unless you’re from the Midwest, Florida or Texas, and probably don’t care about anyway if you’re reading this site because franchised wings are akin to heresy and I’ll ban your IP if I find out otherwise. I actually ate there when it was still Buffalo Wings & Rings, though I didn’t eat the wings. I don’t know what the hell was wrong with me back then, I went to a place with the words “buffalo wings” in the name and ended up eating a gyro quesadilla. I was a real stupid bastard at the time.
The owner apparently broke ties with the franchise and decided to go it alone, a decision that seems to have paid off. There are still a few holdovers from the Buffalo Wings & Rings days though. The decor hasn’t changed too much, and their menu is still pretty similar. I actually wonder if the menu is the exact same, because that gyro quesadilla is still there and that’s a really random thing to just happen to still be serving.
At any rate, the way they want you to order wings also sticks out as a reminder of the Buffalo Wings & Rings days: you order the amount of wings you want, then the type of sauce, and then you choose a heat level. This says two things to me immediately.
1) That this offers a huge level of customization for everyone who always loved the flavor of buffalo sauce but couldn’t handle the heat or any variation of flavor and heat thereof.
2) That this also means the sauces aren’t created with a heat built into them, it’s added into it at some point later in the process. This means that while the options are certainly wide open, the sauces also tend to be a bit more homogenized by whatever heat ingredient they’re adding. More on that later.
While awaiting our little cholesterol-boosters we got a chance to look at the beer menu. Hungry Monk doesn’t have the massive tap selection of, say, Copper Blues (or, if you’re Aimee, “Copper Blue” because apparently that big giant S on the end doesn’t apply to her) or Yard House, but is close to even par with Angels Trumpet Ale House for number of taps. Besides the hard numbers, what they do have is a beer list that was obviously crafted with care by people who both love and love serving beer. The list shows the name of the beer, the brewery, the location of the brewery, the alcohol percentage, a description of the beer and then a beer rating based on Beeradvocate.com’s ratings usually. And considering that this list rotates constantly, that’s a lot of work for someone to go through to put their beer list together. Pretty awesome.
Camera faux pas aside (does ANYONE want to come photograph for us? We’ll pay you with our company and my sincere promise to not take pictures of you when you’re drunk and passed out and put the pics on the site), we were rather impressed with the beer list. Hungry Monk isn’t the biggest place in the world, and while it’s decorated and well-lived in, it still shows the roots of a strip-mall restaurant, but the effort they put into their beer is to be applauded both because of how unexpected it is and because it’s just a damn fine list of beer.
I guess the layout is a gripe about the place, if you can say that. They’re doing the best with the space they have, but I almost wish the entire place was just one big bar. As is, they have the small restaurant divvied up, half for the “bar area” and half for the “restaurant side” Really, there’s a row of 3 booths, a walkway, 3 more tables, then a pony wall and the bar and bar tables area on the other side. Just make the whole restaurant into the bar area and quit acting like you’re directing us to different wings of the manor when we walk in, sheesh. That shit isn’t very feng shui.[UPDATE: We were schooled by someone much smarter than us about the subject. In their own words: “The Hungry Monk is a restaurant and not a bar by license. As such they have to have a split layout by law so as to keep minor children from kicking your barstool while you drink. It’s (the license) also why they can’t fill growlers.” Minor gripe explained!]
Besides the layout-bitching, I didn’t find much to complain about in Hungry Monk to this point. I did wonder if the wings would be a letdown, and if so how I was going to reconcile the idea of loving a place for its beer but loathing it for its wings. Tyler was too enraptured in the beer to really even formulate a thought about that scenario. I remember him being a bit miffed at the fact that they ran out of one of the Lost Abbey beers they were serving, but I can’t really blame them. A keg of that would run out pretty fast at my house too. Also, if anyone wants to buy me a keg of that, I promise to load it in my kegerator and drink it every day while thinking of you.
I really need a sugar-mama for all my beer-related arousals. Maybe she can even pay a photographer for us…
Sooo…I was getting hungry. Much like love-making, drinking copious amounts of good beer really makes me ravenous and so when the wings came out it wasn’t a moment too soon. Are you picturing me nude in bed drinking ale out of a golden goblet and gnawing on a whole turkey leg yet? Go ahead, I can wait….. ok, so we got 5 buffalo hot, 5 buffalo whatever their hottest option was, 5 Thai Chili, and 5 of these “crazy” wings that were like half bbq, half garlic. Note that these names might not actually be the names of the sauces, but don’t blame me. Whoever the dingbat is that runs their website decided it’d be a good idea to leave the wings COMPLETELY OFF THE FUCKING WEBSITE.
“Oh hi, I’m The Hungry Monk! People know me for beer and wings. I’ll now proceed to leave WINGS off the fucking website, because that makes the most sense of anything ever. That makes as much sense as that album where Paul Anka reinterpreted pop songs as big band songs, only that was awesome and this is completely stupid. I won’t put wings on my website but I’ll put up a god damn event calendar but not wings.”
Seriously though…Paul Anka. All that being said, we got the wings, we ate the wings, we really liked the wings (to varying degrees). I’ll break down the sauces first, here:
Buffalo Hot: Good, not great. The sauce was standard buffalo, not terribly hot, not overly tangy, nothing unique, but they didn’t completely wuss out on the heat. It was like taking that really average looking blonde girl to prom – no one made fun of you for it but your friends weren’t exactly excited to ask you if you were going to bang her in the backseat of your cousin’s Honda CRX afterwards.
Buffalo Nuclear/Suicide/Whatever: Again, the flavor of the sauce was kind of mediocre, but we were impressed that they tried to bring it on the spice. It didn’t kick us in the junk like The Reef’s Donkey Sauce did, but it certainly caught me off guard after tasting the regular Hot. Best flavor of the night because they managed to maintain a standard buffalo flavor while upping the heat. Most places just screw up the flavor and barely add anything to it.
Thai Peanut(?): It tasted like a Thai peanut sauce. I don’t say that to be a smart-ass, I say it because, frankly, it tasted exactly how you’d imagine it tasting. Ok, pretend I tell you to imagine a Thai peanut wing sauce. Ok, got it? Yeah, you just tasted these. They weren’t bad by any means, but there was no depth, no layers of flavor. Four Peak’s Thai wings? Those had inventiveness, those had effort in the sauce. Those had gusto. These had both Thai and peanut. Ok.
“Crazy” (Barbecue/Garlic): …I didn’t hate them, and I can see how someone would like them. Their bbq tastes like it came out of a big tub, and their garlic sauce tastes like it came out of a salad dressing bottle, but even so the combination works on a flavor-profile level. Sweet BBQ meets tangy-as-hell but creamy garlic sauce, creates garlicky barbecue children that take over the condiment-hybrid market in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, live to be 87.
All the wings were cooked pretty well. They certainly weren’t undercooked, which is usually the problem when you get an above-average wing size like Hungry Monk offered. Their wings weren’t upper-echelon massive but they certainly were big enough to dwarf Native New Yorker’s wings (not that that’s very tough but still). The wing itself really was the star of the show though. Well-cooked, good-sized, they really became just a beautiful palate upon which to lay the sauce of your choosing as an accoutrement and not a main ingredient. Sort of like how cologne should be used, though Mexicans apparently never got that memo because they stay keeping Cool Water in business.
As good as the wings were though, they were still no match for the beer list. I suppose I hope that there’s a little more style-diversity in the list next time, when we were in there the list seemed a little heavy on stouts and IPAs. There’s nothing wrong with that, and I love both, but it’s the sheer variety of style AND brewery at a place like Angels Trumpet that sets it apart from Hungry Monk, and I think that part of it is something that’s easily rectified, or maybe we just happened to be there on a weird week. Who knows.
We’re certainly no Brew Bros, and I can’t even begin to act like I have any manner of expertise on beer, but I can tell you this much: those guys completely missed out by eating the boneless wings. It’s kind of an affront to humanity, really…here are these beautiful natural wings and there you go eating compressed chicken toes and shit. Maybe next time give us a call when you’re doing wings, we’ll be glad to join. We’re still learning in regards to beer but we wrote the fucking book (almost literally!) on wings.
As for the Hungry Monk, I enjoyed myself. The place was packed, the wings were good, the beer list substantial, and I can’t even remember the prices because I was so enamored with the beer and wings and the inebriation that was taking over. I can remember that after we left, we got even more beer and went back to Tyler’s house where we waxed philosophical about Robert Sarver’s failure as an owner and why people that eat boneless wings can go step on a fucking Lego. And then this happened:
This post was written by Xavvi