The Weekender staff loves the Super Bowl as much as any other football-loving Americans, but we tend to enjoy the annual championship game for an entirely different reason.
Forget the game. Forget the commercials. Forget the half-time show. We’re in it for the Super Bowl party food. And nothing satisfies our taste buds more than a heaping plate of mouthwatering hot wings.
Whether they’re drenched in sauce, dusted with dry rub or make us sweat bullets, we can’t get enough of those game-day finger foods. Apparently, neither can Siouxlanders, because nearly every sports-themed bar and restaurant in town serves up its own style of Buffalo wings.
Half Moon Bar & Grill offers customers its chicken wings with a variety of sauces. More than a dozen different flavors are listed on Half Moon’s menu. Honey Sriracha, Hawaiian BBQ, Thai ginger orange and Korean BBQ are just a few of the bar’s more exotic options.
So by that rationale, does the sauce make the perfect hot wing? Or is it something else? According to David Princic, the kitchen manager at Half Moon, a good hot wing needs a balance of good flavor and texture.
“For me, I like a crisp outside and a tender and juicy middle,” said Princic. “That sounds a little cliche or cheesy, but that’s what I want in a wing.”
Half Moon’s process to cooking wings starts with blanching the drumettes and flats and then par-cooking and drying them off until they're eventually tossed into a fryer. Princic said this allows Half Moon’s wings to have a crispier outside. As soon as the wings enter the fryer basket, he heats up the sauce.
“You have to heat up the sauce,” said Princic, who has 25 years of cooking experience under his belt. “Not many people do this but you have to. Otherwise it’s a very thin coating unless you heat it first before you toss them.”
And while it’s good to have a bit of heat added to the sauce, the chicken wing won’t be as good if it has very little flavor packed into it. Which is why Princic’s favorite flavor of wings at Half Moon is Hawaiian BBQ, a sauce that has been recently added to the menu.
“It has the heat and it has a little bit of a fruity back to it,” said Princic.
He added that he’s encouraged to be creative when coming up with new menu items. And that includes sauces for hot wings. But how often does he get to come up with new additions?
“Every day,” he said. “Sometimes, believe it or not, I dream up food and I will come in the next morning and I’ll be really excited to try whatever I dreamed about. Four out of five times it turns out fairly good or at least a place to start.”
About once or twice a week, Princic tries out new sauces for Half Moon’s wings. Making sure there’s a variety to choose from for customers, Princic said, is what’s going to set the bar’s wings apart from other places in town.
“Everywhere else has the two or three sauces -- the obligatory Buffalo and barbecue and maybe one more -- but that gets boring,” he said.
CLASSIC WINGS DONE RIGHT
While some may enjoy the dozens of sauce choices available at Half Moon, others may prefer chicken wings that are more traditional and familiar. And it doesn’t get more traditional than at places like Bob Roe’s Point After and Townhouse.
You ask just about anyone in town where their favorite wings spot is and those two places will likely be what you hear the most. While Point After and Townhouse don’t have a wide variety of sauces on the menu -- although there are a few to choose from -- both establishments have a delicious standard Buffalo wings recipe.
Terri Rexius, owner and operator of Bob Roe’s Point After, said wings are the second most popular item at the Transit Plaza restaurant. The No. 1 item is pizza. The sticky finger food is a must-have for customers visiting Point After on “Wings Wednesday,” where wings are sold at half price. She added that about 6,000 to 7,000 wings are ordered every Wednesday.
The weekly special has been going strong at Bob Roe’s Point After for 30 years. Why are wings so popular at Point After? Rexius said it’s because her dad, Bob Roe, is said to have introduced Sioux City to Buffalo wings in 1984.
“Nobody knew one thing about wings,” Rexius said. “So people were not initiated to them until they came into Point After. So it’s been a mainstay since then. Initially, people thought they were kind of weird.”
Nowadays, you’d be hard pressed to find a sports bar without wings on the menu. But back then, adding something that obscure to Point After’s menu was a bit of a risk. Rexius said other menu items and varieties of pizzas were tested but never really clicked with locals. Buffalo wings clicked.
“And it was something unique that wasn’t in this town at that time,” said Rexius. “We have very few new items that have clicked like those have and become our second best seller.”
Outside of Point After’s “Wings Wednesday,” Buffalo wings continue to be popular. Rexius said last weekend almost every pizza she made had wings paired alongside it. And they’re also popular during televised football game days at Point After.
“Wings are just a ‘football’ food,” said Rexius.
Why is that? Is it because they’re served in big heaping piles for all to share? Is it because finger foods are the best options at sporting get-togethers? Or does the searing heat make people want to trash talk less?
“My guess is it goes good with beer,” said Rexius, perplexed.
A simple reason to enjoy such a simple snack.