It was moments before kickoff, the sun was beating down and the AC ran full blast, belching cool air out of gaping garage doors flung open to bring the outdoors in. A gentleman to my right ordered four Nodding Donkey Punches and a Miller Lite, reminding me where I was, and also making me question the mixology at the Uptown sports bar. (The gentlemen to my left drank Purple Nurples, a grape-infused vodka drink the color of a Jolly Rancher.)
If I'd had my choice, I'd have found a seat at the Londoner across the street, but timeliness matters when there's a big match on a Sunday afternoon and real estate was more important than a well-poured pint. I got there just in time to snatch the last open bar stool, ordered a Guinness, and watched Spain systematically disassemble the Italians.
People ought not go to sports bars in search of great culinary pleasures, but sometimes you can find a gem or two hiding on the menus stained with beer rings and the runoff from green shots. The Nodding Donkey's best offering to bar food aficionados may very well be their chicken wings.
The kitchen smokes the wings till the flesh turns pink and then fries them till the skin toughens a touch before tossing them in a bowl with a choice of four sauces. Celery is standard, but the ranch is "red" according to the menu. (If the dipper had any heat, it was lost in the fiery Buffalo sauce.)
They turn out fine enough. The two-step process lends the wings a slightly rubbery texture but the smoky flavor is worth it, clearly coming through a heavy slathering of piquant sauce. The extra dimension is a nice touch and unexpected twist on a snack I thought I knew in every possible variation. It makes me wonder why more bars in Texas don't smoke their wings before bathing them in a bubbling inferno of hot oil. In a city looking for its culinary identity, smoked wings could offer a Texan counterpoint to Upstate New York's greatest offering to the bar food genre.
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