Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Cruisers -- Omaha Wing Challenge

8634 F Street
Omaha NE 68127
402- 614-7445

This one will be a bit different from other HitThatDive wing reviews.  Why's that you ask...that's simple. My wing order (as most people can tell you) never changes.  It's always wings with Buffalo sauce, and if I have my choice between mild, medium or hot...I always go with medium.  I am the ultimate creature of habit.

 And as for reviewing wings, I think it's important to keep things as consistent as possible to accurately "judge" one wing place against another.  Plus, last month I was part of the Omaha World-Herald's "Food Prowl" team trying to find Omaha's best barbecue (good luck with that!) and I learned a few more pointers on how to approach reviewing food...from people who actually know that they're doing!
Time to try something a little different
Don't worry, I haven't gone all food snob or anything, I just learned a few tips on how professional "honest-to-goodness" food critics and chefs go about their business determining what makes one place better than another.  So thanks again Sarah Baker Hansen...that was a fun exercise in eating some pretty bad Omaha barbecue.

For those wondering how this works, wings are rated in 5 categories for a total potential perfect score of 50.  The current reigning champion (by virtue of a committee vote) is The Pheasant with a total score of 48.  And, for shits and giggles (mostly to get the shits) the worst score has been the gag-worthy wings at LaVista Keno which flatlined at a 2. TWO? Yeah...they were that bad.

For the sake of this review, Cruisers Bar and Grill can only be judged in four categories because this is the first time ever I'm writing about non-Buffalo wings. And honestly, that won't hurt them too much, because from previous trips there...Buffalo sauce is not their strong suit.

So, with the longest wing review intro in the history of HitThatDive...I give you...Cruisers Garlic Parmesan wings.

That's actually cheese
First Impressions: They actually look, and smell, pretty good...but the white specks of stuff look ever-so lice-like. Relax, this is called "first impressions" for a reason. It gets way better from here...trust me.

These babies came out smoking hot in about 20 minutes, which is A-OK with me...I ordered them extra crispy just to be safe. They don't really smell all that garlicky...but after realizing that the white specks were in fact parmesan cheese...I was ready to go.

Score: 8


Perfect size
Sauce:  Since this isn't Buffalo sauce, I can't really give it a score to compare to others. At first bite I didn't taste garlic at all, in fact, to me it was more of a Thai peanut sauce....didn't see that one coming. But guess what...it was surprisingly great. Slightly sweet, but with a "I could eat about 100 of these" flavor to them, I was shocked just how good they were.

For what Cruisers lacks in a great Buffalo sauce, they sure make up for it with whatever this stuff might be. Keep in mind, this sauce isn't even on the menu, so make sure to ask for it when you're here.

Score: N/A (But I'm telling you, this was a great sauce)

I should have asked for a plate
Crispy: These bad boys were cooked nearly to perfection. One or two were just a tab bit chewy...but for the most part...they were nice and crispy on the outside and piping hot on the inside. And unlike some wing places where the poor wings that draw "the short straw" and are doomed to end up soggy on the bottom of a basket, the crispiness of the wings here held up for the entire order of 12.  Good stuff!

Score: 9

Size: Uniform size in wings ensures that they're all cooked properly.  If you throw in some giant pieces, along with a few runts, one of two things will happen. A: The giant pieces will be undercooked (See LaVista Keno about that) or B: The runts will be turned into chewy chicken jerky. Neither of which makes for good wings.

Cruisers serves up some pretty meaty-sized wings. But they are all generally the same size which allows the "skateboards" and the "runners" to come out evenly.

Side Note: Can we all agree on what the two sections of the wing are called? Apparently even people in Buffalo, New York can't agree on this topic. This article made for an interesting read and probably confused the situation even more in my mind.

Score: 10 
Great stuff!
Extras: Wasn't sure if these would go with the blue cheese they brought out, but oddly, they did...and the blue cheese was excellent. A few big and fresh celery sticks were along for the ride too, even if these weren't traditional Buffalo wings.  A few more napkins within arm's reach would have been nice...but certainly not much of a deal breaker.

Score: 9

Final Score: 36* out of 50

* Keep in mind that Cruisers didn't even get points in the sauce category, and even with that hindrance, they scored better than a lot of wing places in the area who are far more well-known.  For the record, the sauce easily was an "8" which would have made these clock in at an impressive showing of 44 points. 

The garlic parmesan wings took me by surprise, in a good way, mostly because I  only eat one flavor of wing sauce (note to self...do I need to expand my bar and grill culinary horizons?) and yet I thoroughly enjoyed these. If you're looking for a change of pace from traditional Buffalo wings, you definitely need to give these a shot. Perhaps you'll be just a pleasantly surprised as I was. Who knew?

Now, back to my regular beat...which Buffalo wings should be next on the list to review...let me know!

Scuba Steve





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