Welcome to the Wing Wings rodeo.
Angry Korean wings. Very, very angry. And saucy.
Gravy fries. No, not pretty to look at, but hella tasty to eat!
The photogenic (and delicious) chicken salad on a biscuit.
Boom boxes and Old Bay.
The art of the fryer. Some people have it. And one of those people is Christian Ciscle, who gained legions of fans for his fried chicken while he was doing damage to our arteries at Little Skillet in SoMa. Now he’s returned to the Lower Haight (back in the day, Ciscle was part of Big Sherm’s—working with partner David Sherman—for you Lower Haight old-timers), opening ~WING WINGS~, his homage to the joy that is the ability to hold onto little bony things and gnaw the meat off of them.
It’s a tiny spot, with a counter on the left and right with about 10 barstools each, and in the back is Mooney, aka the mothership of this place, who is going to take your order and dispense some Jedi ordering wisdom (so listen up). The guy is pure personality, and is a big reason why this place is the wings equivalent of a barber shop: people wanna hang out (I even saw someone go on a beer run). There’s a big ass boom box busting out some hip-hop and soul jams (with a few more vintage ones functioning as décor)—and since Mooney used to work at Open Mind Music on Divisadero, the tracks are choice. Baltimore folks will totally clock the boxes of Old Bay seasoning and the Baltimore Orioles cap kicking it on a shelf (Ciscle is a Baltimore boy).
The city needed a good wings place, and while I know some folks would be happy to just have a chain like Wingstop in town, sorry, I could do without an establishment that has served over a billion wings. Everything here is made from scratch, from the Buffalo sauce to the ranch dressing to the potato salad to the biscuits. The wings are from free range, naturally fed California chickens (from Mary’s). So while they’re not big, honking, over-meaty wings from birds that have never left a cage, they have that other thing going for them: flavor. And they’re not pumped full of antibiotics and Lord knows what else. And yes, you will have to pay a little more.
You can order 5 for $6, 10 for $10, or a jumbo of 25 for $23 (which enables you to pick two kinds of wings if you go the jumbo route). Anyone who reads tablehopper regularly knows I am a big fan of spice, so the hot Buffalo wings here totally rocked my world. Spicy-ass mofos. You can order regular as well, but if you like it hot, well, you know what to do. My second choice was the Angry Korean, made with a bangin’ sauce of gochujang (Korean chile paste), ginger, garlic, sesame, Korean chile powder, soy, and rice vinegar, sporting a flurry of sesame seeds and scallions. What’s funny is Ciscle told me the sauce is actually a Korean sauce that is traditionally meant to accompany octopus. Ciscle’s business parter, Lisa Shin, is Korean, and her parents were horrified that they’re using the sauce on chicken, but hey, I think we can all agree it tastes frickin’ good!
There’s a bright “herb” sauce, which is Ciscle’s variation of a jerk sauce, but too many people were commenting on what jerk sauce means to them (oh, people), so he renamed it. It comes out like a tomatillo salsa verde on the wings (it’s made with habañero, jalapeño, green onion, garlic, herbs, honey, vinegar, allspice, vinegar, and black pepper), and is a little less integrated as a sauce with the wings, but still rocks really good flavor and tanginess.
The eponymous Wing Wing sauce leans on the sweeter side, made with a thick soy sauce (Indonesian kecap manis), ginger, garlic, chile, molasses, and vinegar. And this is where things can get crazy, because that’s when Mooney will start recommending add-ons like smoky bacon ($0.50)—which was a very good recommendation. You can also get chopped garlic, fresh chiles, and chicharrones. Go crazy, you blunted stoner, you. Yes, you.
The ones that fell a little short for me were the dry rub (just call me a saucy girl) and the BBQ, which had lots of spices in it, but didn’t really pop and lock for me. There’s also a sweet mustard sauce, and orange miso. Yup, you have hella options. The wings aren’t battered with flour (heavy batter lovers will need to go elsewhere) and aren’t oily at all—the skin is nice and crisp, and they come out super fast, so don’t drop it like it’s hot.
Some folks are complaining that you have to pay extra for sauce ($0.50), and I think for something like the jumbo, it would be cool to include a sauce gratis. But, they are housemade, and both the ranch and bleu cheese taste fresh and good. And not every wing type needs a side sauce, so choose well.
You’ll see some complimentary hot sauces on the counter—jalapeño ginger, and hella hot habañero—but I didn’t need them for anything since I found all the wings to be very flavorful (and spicy). But if you order the fried plantains ($2.50/$6), I could see them coming in handy.
The menu has a bunch of other items, like fries with Old Bay ($2/$4), and then there’s the gravy fries ($3.50), which are, like, whoa. (I know what I want for my next late-night binge—and the price is right.) It’s a very creamy sauce that is based on chicken stock, with herbs and mushrooms—it’s like a homemade cream of mushroom soup. The fries get a bit soggy halfway through, so I’d almost want the kitchen to crisp ‘em up a bit more if they’re destined for the gravy treatment. And of course that Mooney is quick to suggest bacon on your gravy fries. Whether you listen to him or not totally depends upon your relationship with cholesterol.
Portions of the sides are serious: a large of potato salad ($5.50) will feed you and your friends for days, while a small ($2) is just right. There’s a coleslaw that is very finely chopped—and more fresh than saucy—and the potato salad is German in style, made with Yukons, fresh dill, and plenty of whole grain mustard and Dijon. Loved it.
And now for one of the best deals in town: the biscuit with chicken salad. It’s only $3, and features a delicious, peppery chicken salad (with notes of pimentón and Old Bay) tucked into a mighty fine biscuit. Another night there was a pulled pork with ginger slaw on a biscuit for $3.50, also a steal, but the pork itself was a touch dry.
There’s no beer or wine, so you’ll just need to figure that out yourself. Lots of folks do take-out to the neighboring bars—or just bring it all home. There aren’t a lot of seats, so be prepared to find other seating options elsewhere if it’s really busy.
And now for the bonus round: they deliver! Granted, it’s a limited area, but they deliver to my apartment, so color me badd and stoked. And it was via TCB Courier (on bike), so it was not only quick but environmentally kind. $20 minimum order for delivery. Just imagine getting these things delivered to your next lunch or party—your people will love you even more than they already do. Oh, and it’s a $10 minimum for credit cards, FYI. The late-night hours come in handy: until 12am Sun-Mon and Wed-Thu, and until 2am Fri-Sat. Clap your hands and say wing wings!