Indoor Wing Fest

I am so over September. Last weekend, I was in a friends wedding up in the mountains after a week full of shows. I had my “public” face on for a whole month it seemed like. If you’re not sure what I mean by public face, I mean that alert, self-aware, poised, polite self that you are when you are in public situations. Either working retail, being a comic, or being a bridesmaid: you gotta be on your best behavior. I was ready to let my hair down.

The day after the wedding, my man, B and I decided to take a long motorcycle ride which is exactly what I needed to unwind. I never understood the appeal of motorcycles until I started riding with B. It’s very freeing and helps clear your mind like meditation does in an odd way. The rumble of the motor, the wind on your face, and the silence of your thoughts inside the helmet really is so relaxing.

As we were riding around, we saw signs for the “Atlanta Wing Festival sponsored by Chicken”. We rolled up to the Puritan Mill on the Westside and were surprised to see a massive line forming at the entrance of the event space. It didn’t look like a wing fest. It looked like a cook book signing.

We get inside and hear that it’s sold out. I have been to a few food and music events in my day and usually food events have tickets reserved for walk up sales. So I was a little peeved. Maybe I didn’t have the right to be, but I was assume that they would consider how many signs they put up that didn’t say it was sold out.

Just as B and I started to walk a way, a friendly photographer offered up her two tickets that she claimed she didn’t need. We tried to pay her for them but she refused. Holy chicken nuggets! VIP for free!?!?!

We walk in and it looks way way too fancy for a wing fest. It looked like someone took a leopard mini skirt and tried to dress it up for a cocktail party. Essentially, taking all of the fun out of wings.

Georgia heat can be unbearable so I can totally understand the appeal of having it inside but with the black table cloths and white swag hanging from the ceiling, they should have been serving samples of she crab soup. We saunter over to the “Very Important Persons” section for our complimentary cocktails and small leather couch section for even more important people. It was odd. I practically never have cocktails with my wings, and the event had two cocktail sponsors and Goose Island as a beer sponsor. Where is the local beer? I do not want a fruity vodka drink with spicy wings. I want a delicious pilsner or hoppy IPA.

We finally get to the wing stations each chef and/or restaurant has set up. You could tell how much the event coordinators liked certain wing slingers based on their location. The middle sections had the best wings and the wings on the perimeter, were on the perimeter of adequate.

We tried practically every wing that was to be had. Their system of wing accumulation was a free for all. You could get as many as you wanted from as many or as few stations as you would like, which seems like a good  value but ended up pretty wasteful. I would take one bite and if I didn’t like it, I would toss it.

Out of all the wings we sampled, NONE OF THEM were traditional buffalo or even BBQ. (A few Nashville Hot Chicken contenders showed out, thankfully.) If you wanted fusion wings, this was your joint. Too many wing slingers focused on being different and fancy over being good. (See the wing above covered in cilantro and sesame seeds.) To me, a really great wing is simple: well seasoned and tender chicken with a crispy outer layer, covered in a well crafted sauce. NO ONE DID THAT! By the end of the second recon, I was really over Asian inspired wings (and really tired of trying to balance wing trays and a drink with few tables). I was really over average wings with below average sauces.

I truly appreciate that Taste of Atlanta had a wing-centric food fest but there was no fun spirit. It felt stuffy, pretentious, and serious. Most people there seemed to enjoy the acoustic guitar music and eating pickled watermelon compote atop a sesame and chili glazed wing, but there was no fun.

Fortunately, B and I hopped on the Harley and went antiquing like most millennials after a wing fest would do.