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Nominations for Tour de Wing: Pine Hills

May 15, 2018

Spring chicken.

It’s spring. And if memory serves correctly, the FLB tries to organize a quarterly food tour. Sure, this past winter’s tour was on the outside edge of the season, but that didn’t stop us from going around Schenectady in search of the best NY Style Pizza Slice.

Perhaps the biggest learning from that tour was that NY Style Pizza might be held in too high regard, at the expense of other, more delicious forms of the dish. I’m not entirely sure I agree, but let’s table that discussion for now.

Because it’s spring, and that means chicken. It used to be that spring was time for our tours of frozen treats. We’ve done soft serve, gelato, homemade hard, and frozen yogurt. But then the summer tour was left for something savory. After the Tour de Italian Deli, I decided never again would we eat spicy meaty treats during the hottest months of the year.

That’s when we made the switch to the spring savory tours. So if you had your heart set on something sweet and cold, you’re just going to have to wait a couple more months.

Today is the day to not only announce the date of the next tour, but also to open the floor up to nominations. So put those thinking caps on, grab your calendar and a pencil, and let’s get geared up for the Tour de Wing: Pine HIlls Edition.

All the fun will take place on Saturday, June 2!

Is that still spring? Yes. That’s still spring. Hey, I’m running a little late this year. With everything. Cut me some slack, okay?

The last time we had a Tour de Wing in Albany it became clear the city needed to be divided up into at least two sections. That first year, when we toured downtown, I promised a Pine Hills tour would be in the near future. A little over a year later, and here we are.

If you’re new to all this, you may wonder what exactly is going to happen on June 2.

Well, anyone and everyone is invited to come along. Even you. Yes, you. If you are reading these words, you’re invited. If you’re friends with someone who is reading these words, you’re invited too. The more the merrier. For real.

Participants will get a map and a scoresheet, and in small groups they will travel to five different places and order the same thing at each stop. In this case it will be buffalo wings. And we’re looking for the best. The official scoresheet will help determine which wing wins the day.

We’ll use the same criteria as last time, so wings will be evaluated based on their skin, meat, and sauce. Those factors will be used to come up with an overall wing score. Then we’ll look at criteria like the side vegetables and the dip. And these factors will be included in a final overall score that takes into consideration the totality of the experience.

At each stop, the check will be divided evenly. Participants will pay their fair share. Then it’s off to the next place.

After all five stops have been completed, scoresheets are turned in. Only completed scoresheets will be valid in the final tabulations.

It’s really a lot of fun.

But more than fun, these tours are also a tremendous learning experience. Because there is nothing quite like having the opportunity to taste five similar versions of the same dish back to back. Not only does it help to reveal and accentuate their differences, but it also helps inform you about your own preferences and the aspects of the food that really matter most in your evaluation.

In the end there will be a winner.

Invariably, when a winner is announced and people see the list of places we visited, they will say, “you should have gone to ‘such and such’ or ‘so and so.’” And I will say, “That’s why we opened up the tour to nominations back in May.”

So now is your chance!

We’re sticking to Pine Hills. It’s a nice tight geographic area. It’s totally walkable. Our results can help inform not just the student population who have the metabolism to eat wings much more than I do, but it can also guide those whose local neighborhood watering holes are in this fun and lively section of the city.

That means at the top of my list are:
1) Crave
2) Graney’s Bar & Grill
3) The Fountain
4) Juniors Bar & Grill
5) Chicken Joe’s

Yes, Chicken Joe’s. Because “chicken” is the first word in their name. Frying chicken is what this place is all about. And sure, it’s cheap college food, but dammit that’s what wings are supposed to be all about. Which brings up a couple other ideas too.

– Washington Tavern is under new ownership. Should they be on the tour for old times sake? Or are they still as good as ever? I’m not sure. Hopefully a reader or two might weigh in on the matter.

-Mild Wally’s is largely a college delivery spot. But they have a huge following. This could be a contender, but if this spot gets promoted into the top five, which place gets kicked to the curb?

-Paesan’s is also super popular, but how are their wings? Surely they sell a lot of them, maybe more than anybody else, but are they worth the fat and calorie load? But if we put a place that’s primarily a pizza delivery joint on the tour, we should narrow it down to just one. Do we go with the big cheese of Paesan’s or the single outpost of Mild Wally’s?

These are big questions.

And I’m certainly open to other places that I might have left off the list. As I said, now is the time to speak and make your voice heard. We want to try the best wings in Pine Hills. Think you know where they are? Let us know.

Just know this, the nomination phase is not a popularity contest. It’s not about telling all your friends to post as many comments as possible. Make the best case you can for the places you love that goes beyond “OMG they are to die for. Totes the best wings eva. Droolz.”

Tell me what makes them great.

Then mark down June 2 on your calendar. It’s a lunch to dinner kind of time frame. The exact time will be announced once the route is finalized. But I’m looking forward to seeing some familiar faces and meeting some new ones! Cheers.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. May 15, 2018 10:23 am

    Get rid of chicken Joes and put in Washington Tavern – I mean come on – no WT’s for a Pine Hills wing tour!? New ownership or not – its long history of serving arguably the best wings in Albany (whether or not this is still true) is deserving of a spot, at the very least.

    Also – I would put in Mild Wally’s instead of Crave. Crave has good burgers – the wings not so much.

    FYI – make sure you order wings “Hot” at Fountain for the classic Buffalo style not Medium

  2. -R. permalink
    May 15, 2018 10:33 am

    I would nominate Capital Q. Smoked, brined and sauced with the house wing sauce. I’ve had their wings, and they are quite tasty (as is their entire menu…perhaps my favorite BBQ joint in the region). The 2nd looks feasible for me to participate.

  3. Adam permalink
    May 15, 2018 11:06 am

    Crave yes!!! Crave all day. And the fountain yes! I’ve heard everything from Washington tavern is now frozen, jarred and premade. I wouldn’t kick someone off your current list for that spot unless it’s to inform people that it just isn’t the same as it once was

  4. May 15, 2018 11:06 am

    Not sure why you feel the need to limit the geography to such a small area. That’s causing you to leave out places that make excellent wings and include others that are mediocre.

    I nominate Elbo Room and Lynn’s Uptown Tavern. Both make very good wings.

    Regarding The Fountain, I remember the eating the wings when we did Third Thursday there and they were nothing special. The Fountain is popular for its pizza, not its wings. I think it’s a mistake to include them.

    And I agree with Buffsoulja, WTs belongs on the tour.

    • May 15, 2018 12:12 pm

      The starting place of the wing tours is that there are just so many places to get wings in the Capital Region, that the only way to approach the task is by breaking it down into micro-regions. As an added benefit, that means these can also be walking tours, which I love.

      So I’m happy to consider following up this tour with an Uptown Albany outing and a Lark-Delaware Corridor stroll.

      After including Stewart’s on the Tour de Egg Sandwich, I’m reluctant to visit places on the tour based on the cultural importance of the business to the dish in question. If WT is truly a shadow of its former glory, it may be a hard spot to justify. If anyone can tell me anything promising about the spot based on the food its serving now and not its past excellence, I’m all ears.

      The last time someone had a positive word to say about the WT wings on Yelp was August 2016.

      • May 15, 2018 8:15 pm

        Little unfair to put Stewart’s egg sandwich in the same category of WT’s wings. It’s not like Stewart’s ever had rave reviews about their egg sandwiches other than it was quick and cheap.

        WT’s WAS the place for wings – and not sure if it still is or isn’t. I think an inclusion is necessary because of this.

        We did TTTT there – what 2/3 years ago? They were right on point then.

  5. MikeH permalink
    May 15, 2018 2:01 pm

    I would nominate The Fountain. My family loves their wings. Have to order them extra crispy, extra saucy. Their medium is not traditional buffalo though and are not particularly spicy if that is what you are looking for. Have never had the hot so can’t comment on that.

    Back in the day (late 90′ early 2000’s) WT’s were some of the best wings around. Haven’t eaten there in about 15 years though.

    I don’t think it is a stretch to put Lynn’s Uptown on the fringe of Pine Hills. The wings I have had there are very good.

    Overall I think the list is pretty solid for the Pine Hills neighborhood.

  6. David Nardolillo permalink
    May 15, 2018 7:15 pm

    I had wings a while back at Crave. It’s a wonderful place, but their wing game was well off the mark. Maybe their nomination here means I have to give it another look. However, passing over WT’s based on the ownership change is a little premature, and a tour stop here might be a valuable public service to gauge the new ownership.

    By the way, the Fountain and Graney’s are not in Pine Hills; the lower boundary of the neighborhood is Woodlawn Avenue.

  7. Randy K permalink
    May 15, 2018 8:27 pm

    Easy enough to get wings from Mild Wally’s and Paesans and probably other local joints and just have a wing tasting party at the park outside Paesan’s front door!

  8. May 16, 2018 4:37 am

    Easy enough to get wings from Mild Wally’s

  9. May 16, 2018 8:20 pm

    It’s looking like Wine Club will be 6/2, so this will be the perfect way to pregame! (I have no recs, though!)

  10. grandmastergus permalink
    May 16, 2018 9:53 pm

    Cousins Pizza on New Scotland has excellent, crispy wings and I think they should be in the running for this. Also, the wings at the Gastropub (they’re called “runners” on the menu, but they are basically the drumette part of the wing) are outstanding. Different from typical wings in that they’re not fried, but they are unbelievably tender and fall-off-the-bone. They are a force to be reckoned with…

  11. May 17, 2018 3:40 pm

    I absolutely agree with the inclusion of The Fountain here. I grew up two blocks away from the place and their wings were always a birthday treat for me.

  12. Sae permalink
    May 18, 2018 11:19 am

    I second Capitol Q wings if you are willing to consider smoked wings as part of this tour. They are always solidly a great choice and has made this Western New York girl a smoked wing believer.

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