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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Brick Street Tavern -- OMAHA WING CHALLENGE

4936 South 135th Street
Omaha NE 68137
402-359-1604

Oh boy. This one gets a bit interesting about half way through so hang in there.  First off, let me preface everything that transpired with an interesting statistic from the National Chicken Council. During Super Bowl Sunday, Americans consumed more than 1.25 BILLION chicken wings. That's a lot of damn chickens!

So, that also means that the quality of wings on the market (to meet that insane amount) can potentially suffer quite a bit to meet such incredible demands. Remember that statistic, it plays into this review a little later on...I think.

Not a bad start
So here we go...I was asked a question on Twitter about a place to check out for wings out west. Since it was a Tuesday, for whatever reason, the Brick Street Tavern popped into my head because I know that's when they do their .55 cent wing special.

I've only had wings there once before back in July, and from what I remembered, they were pretty good for the price. Then I figured, what the hell, why don't I head out there too. Made plans to meet up with "Hit That Diver" Asian Joe...and off to Millard it was.

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.

Meaty
First Impressions: An order of 10 wings came right from the kitchen and they were steaming hot. But, WOW, these things are all huge...like in an over-sized novelty way. As Asian Joe pointed out, they looked like chicken legs for the most part and not wings. I've eaten countless thousands of wings and something looked just slightly off to me.

But can't argue that they are big and meaty, and even had some char marks on them. These aren't quite as I remembered them from my last stop here...but so far so good.

Score: 8


Not too messy
Sauce: I do remember from the last time that the hot Buffalo sauce was HOT. So I just went with regular Buffalo sauce, well, because that's just what I usually do. Not very authentic as far as real Buffalo wing sauce goes, but nothing all that offensive either. Definitely a lot more "zing" than just a regular sauce, as the sweat from Joe's forehead would indicate.

In fact, the word that I wrote down about the sauce was "aggressive". Again, it looked like they had been charred on a grill just a bit, so the sauce was a somewhat baked in...but still a little messy on my fingers. I don't know, not the worst...not the best and a little bit better than average.

Score: 6


Looks weird
Crispy: Some were pretty crispy, some of them weren't. Kind of a mixed bag on this one. But it seemed that as I worked my way from the smaller ones to the larger ones...they were decidedly less crispy. And then...IT HAPPENED!

Joe takes a bite into a wing the size of a turkey leg and OH MY GOD...it's raw on the inside. Which, I guess, frozen things are crispy in their own way. But we're taking poultry here and not freeze pops.

OH MY GOD!
To get clarification on how something like this comes out of a kitchen, I asked Chef John Horvatinovich of Salt 88 what he thought was going on.

Look, shit happens. The dude working in the kitchen looked to be a hard-working guy that I'm sure doesn't want to have raw wings coming out to customers. Was the whole batch like that? No.  Do I think the owners of Brick Street want to poison customers? Of course not. But man, that was pretty nasty thing to encounter. I stopped eating at that point.

Score: 4


Flipping me off?
Size: Let's get to the root of the problem here, shall we? These bastards were HUGE, but not all of them were gigantic. And, that will always be an issue when wings are all fried at the same time...you run the risk of the GIANT ones being undercooked...in this case by a wide margin.

Like I said at the beginning, good quality wings are much harder to find this time of year due to everyone pigging out during the Super Bowl.  And, it may just be a case of Brick Street having to deal with what they're supplier had on hand. But, man, if you see you're serving wings of mammoth proportions (including one giving me the finger) you just have to adjust your cooking methods to compensate for longer cooking times.

Of note: These were some of the funkiest shaped wings I've seen in a while.  For those people that like gigantic wings...these are all you. But man, I just think life is easier with wings that are a bit smaller and more easily prepared. But, as they say...to each his own.

Score: 5


What IS that thing?
Extras: Oh, you know, I don't want to get too nitpicky on this one. The blue cheese was fine enough, no celery, no extra plate, no napkins at first.  Wait...I guess I am being a bit nitpicky. Look, for $5.50 for an order of 10 wings...I really can't complain on this one. I guess what this section really indicates is attention to detail.

And maybe attention to detail is really the biggest issue. Add to that the Brick Street Tavern didn't fair all that well in a recent Restaurant Report Card from WOWT...and maybe just an ounce more on the overall details of the food coming out of the kitchen would go a LONG way...because this is actually a great little bar with a ton of blue-collar regulars.

Score: 4

Final Score: 27 out of 50

Let's be clear, these review are simply my experience...almost like an unpaid secret shopper. Never do I leave my house thinking "Man, let's find something really awful about the place and only write about that!" Bar Rescue already does that for me.

The Brick Street Tavern is the kind of place I like to go to, and root for to succeed. But I've also built a reputation (for what it's worth) of being, if nothing else, honest with what I see. And what I saw yesterday was not an issue with one person...just a bit of lack of attention to detail top to bottom. This could, and should, have been a much better experience. And who knows...maybe next time it will be. The devil, my friends, is always in the details.

**EDITOR'S NOTE** Just received this message from the Brick Street Tavern. Very cool response...as I figured...this was basically an issue of getting wiped out of supply during the Super bowl.

"How's it going? I'm the kitchen manager up at brick street tavern. First off, I just really want to apologize to you for the undercooked wing. That should not have happened. I wasn't there last night, but I saw your photo. Second, I want to thank you for the honest and fair review. 

You were pretty much correct in your assumptions. Our normal wing stock got cleared out this weekend during the Super Bowl, so we had to go to Sam's to grab some more to hold us over until our food truck made its delivery. These wings are oddly shaped (like you said) and were flash frozen. 

Our normal wings are kept fresh and not frozen. Most likely the wing wasn't fully thawed in the middle before it was fried. It's no excuse, I just wanted to explain what happened and offer my sincere apologies. Next time you stop out here, your meal is on me. Thanks again, stay warm!"

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