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Schenectady’s Wings Don’t Suck

March 9, 2016

Last Saturday, eight people gathered together at the Apostrophe Cafe inside Proctor’s theater before embarking on the Tour de Wing: Schenectady Edition.

We had a plan of attack. The group would divide into two. One group would start in Scotia at Mohawk Taproom, and the other group would start in Schenectady proper. At each stop we would ask for an order of medium wings, crispy. A lot of thought went into the order. But I’ll spare you the analysis of that for right now.

The wings were evaluated based on their skin, meat, and sauce. Those factors were considered in coming up with an overall wing score. Then we looked at criteria like the side vegetables and the dip. And of course, there was an overall score that took into consideration the totality of the experience.

In the end, I received six completed score sheets. I think everyone survived the tour, so I don’t know what happened to the final two. But it didn’t particularly matter, because there was one clear winner of this outing.

Here’s the story of my foursome, which included Burnt My Fingers, Zena Goddess of Fire, and Steve N. And I’ve sprinkled in some insights from the other group which included Tom C. and Barbara L.

Mohawk Taproom started out strong. Traditionalists might bristle because the wings see a bit of flour before being fried. They aren’t breaded, but they are certainly dusted. This gives them a great crunch and helps the wings hold some of the classic sauce. Nobody was all that happy with their blue cheese dip, which seemed to be a combination of mayonnaise and cheese crumbles. But the medium wing sauce had its fans, even if some would have liked more of it, preferred a more intense heat, or hoped for less vinegar.

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The wing mojo at Mohawk is strong. These are seriously good.

20 North Broadway Tavern doesn’t look like much. In fact, it’s pretty easy to miss it entirely. Or you might think it’s some kind of service entrance for Centre Street Pub. But go here. Go here and eat wings. Go here, eat wings, and be happy. Steve N. described these as, “super crispy skin on meaty wings with plenty of sauce. These were a joy to eat. Interesting, tasty, and unique sauce with a good level of heat.”

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That skin. That skin was amazing. I don’t use that word lightly. It was fried so crisp that it was toasted by the oil. The sauce itself was beguiling. No simple Frank’s and butter here. I picked up some oregano, but would love to delve into its depths some more. The veg and dip were unspectacular. But i cannot stress the gorgeousness of the skin on these wings.

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Without a doubt, these were both the crowd favorite, and mine as well.

Bomber’s was next. The Troy Bomber’s didn’t fare that well in the last wing tour. There was speculation about that resulting from the restaurant being a franchised location. But the high hopes of something good coming from this kitchen were quickly dashed when confronted with soft skin and a giant pool of industrial-tasting sauce. Why the blue cheese was pink is anyone’s guess. And why you would only get two measly celery sticks for an order of wings is a mystery.

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Both teams agreed this stop had the lowest mark for wings.

The two teams ran into eachother at The Bier Abbey. This was a happy accident, as it gave us a chance to order a beer and compare notes with our eaters in arms, both before and after our Bier Abbey wings arrived.

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We got the best blue cheese of the day here. It was creamy without being clumpy, and filled with a deep blue cheese flavor. However, the other team wasn’t served any. That was kind of tragic. But the Bier Abbey makes some really good wings. They had crisp skin, and the hottest of the medium sauces we tried all day. Combined with the bar’s incredible beer selection, this is a solid choice for wings.

Hunter’s on Jay is the new place on the block, and it remains a bit of a mystery. Mostly because the two teams had two very different experiences. My group thought the skin was quite good, but we felt let down by a sauce that tasted like little more than butter and black pepper. Whereas the other group found it to be their favorite stop of the day.

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There are some places that sell wings where you have to kick up your order to “hot” before you start getting any of that good buffalo flavor. Maybe Hunter’s is like this. Or maybe we just got a bum basket, much like the other team missed out on the blue cheese dressing at Bier Abbey.

It’s hard to say. More research is probably required.

But what’s not hard to say is that 20 North makes some killer wings. If you haven’t been, get there. Now. And maybe once you eat them, you can take a stab at what brand of hot sauce they are using as the base of their wing sauce.

Because I’m completely stumped.

18 Comments leave one →
  1. March 9, 2016 11:17 am

    If you add scoring for ambience and value, 20 North would pull even further ahead. A dozen for $9.25 was the best price of the day, and the wooden booths and leprechaun-ish barkeep are a classic. Steve N noted that during Schenectady Soup Stroll they served some seriously good gumbo. I plan to further investigate this diamond in the rough.

  2. Angelos permalink
    March 9, 2016 11:25 am

    Why is Bombers still a thing? Seriously, nothing is good at any location.

    • -R. permalink
      March 9, 2016 2:04 pm

      Not only nothing good at any Bombers, but at any Matt Baumgartner owned establishment, IMO.

      • March 9, 2016 7:32 pm

        I think that’s a step too far. I’ve had good wings from the Albany Bombers. And I’ve had other good things at Matt’s other joints.

  3. March 9, 2016 11:50 am

    My son has recently taken an interest in chicken wings. This is great timing, as I want his first experience with the food to be stellar. 20 North sounds like a winner!

  4. Anthony permalink
    March 9, 2016 2:39 pm

    Did you come to Pinhead susans?

    • March 9, 2016 7:30 pm

      Nope. We have to limit the tours to five stops. Which place would you have removed to make room for it?

  5. Bob Canton permalink
    March 9, 2016 4:19 pm

    The Memphis King makes way better wings than anyone in schenectady
    We smoke our wings to perfection then deep fry them to order
    So how can u judge wings when u don’t try all of them
    This story is Totally bias

    • March 9, 2016 7:36 pm

      You are correct. It is. I’d tell you that myself. The bias is towards beer halls with buffalo-style wings. Smoked wings are delicious. I know this to be true. But those were disqualified from this tour.

      Sorry that the bias wasn’t made explicitly clear in the final write up. It was clearly evident in the prior posts leading up to today’s summary of the event.

  6. anonym permalink
    March 9, 2016 5:36 pm

    you might want to seriously consider stopping into Firestone 151 for their wings.. the garlic parm are out of this world. generous side of celery AND carrots with *the* best blue cheese dressing anywheres in schenectady

  7. Tony permalink
    March 9, 2016 6:01 pm

    Did you try Katie O’Byrnes?

    • March 9, 2016 7:30 pm

      Nope. We have to limit the tours to five stops. Which place would you have removed to make room for it?

  8. Grrrr permalink
    March 9, 2016 8:10 pm

    The problem with Bombers is that they’re trying to become more then they are. Their original Lark street location fed the taste buds and wallets of late-night drunk college students which is why that location was so popular. Now that they’re expanding, they’re raising prices, still offering “drunk” food and expecting everyone to jump on board. They either need to up the food and service quality for their new larger ventures or keep all as is and move forward in smaller locations with a similar demographic as their original shop. But hey, what do I know, right!

    • March 11, 2016 11:42 am


      Dry, bland burritos, overly sweet HFCS-aritas. It’s fine drunk college food. Maybe. Nothing more.

  9. March 9, 2016 8:34 pm

    Thanks so much for all of your hard work and for your report. I’m so glad all of you were willing to go out there and taste for the rest of us!!

    The smoked wings thing is catching my interest. Pehaps there needs to be more research and a tour de smoked wings.

    Perhaps there need to be some “Tour de….” franchising opportunities so that all the things that should be tasted are tasted. It’s tragic how many categories have to be left out.

  10. Sheila Wagner permalink
    March 9, 2016 11:06 pm

    Luca’s on Nott St. Best wings!

  11. Beach permalink
    March 10, 2016 12:44 am

    I am from Massachusetts and grew up in Schenectady. All of you don’t know how lucky you are to have access to such great food. The food in Schenectady (especially the wings) are amazing. The food in Boston sucks!!!! Every time I come home I make it a point to get north 20 wings. Best I have ever had.


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