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Tour de Wing Uptown: Nominations

January 14, 2019

Now, it’s winter. The calendar has said it’s been winter for a while, but with all the rain it has felt more like “the unlocking” than anything else. This week, there is no mistaking that winter has finally arrive.

That means it’s time for the FLB winter tour.

I’m not entirely sure where we got the fool idea last year to do pizza slices in winter and wings in the spring. Wings are most assuredly some of the best, calorically dense, winter foods we’ve got in this frigid zone. They are the staple of taverns, which are designed to warm you from the inside out.

So that’s what we’re going to do in the very near future. And on the last wing tour, I committed to doing one last follow up tour in Albany. We started downtown. We hit midtown. And this year we’ll be exploring uptown, where I don’t think Mike Graney owns a wing place, so he can’t win a third time.

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 pen, and let’s get geared up for the Tour de Wing: Uptown Edition.

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

Wait a second, isn’t that the day before the Super Bowl? Yes. Yes it is. Now depending on who you are, this is either sheer madness or brilliance. For many, that means it will be a weekend of wings.

Maybe the tour will inform your decision about where to spend Sunday. Or maybe it will be just good conversation fodder during the pre-game show, as you comment on the platter of wings, and expertly talk about how it stacks up to the five different wings you tasted just the day before.

Because whether or not you start the day as a wing expert, by the end of the tour, participants will be much much smarter about the form.

If you’re new the Fussy Little Tours, you may wonder what exactly how this all works.

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 January.”

So now is your chance!

We’re sticking to Uptown. The thing that differentiates wing tours from some of the other FLB outings is that they are neighborhood based, so we’re keeping it to a walkable and tightly defined geographic area. That way our results can inform those whose local neighborhood watering holes are in these furthest outlying areas of the city.

That means at the top of my list are:
1) The Orchard
2) Lynn’s Uptown Sports Tavern
3) Joe’s Grill
4) Little Anthony’s
5) TJs Cafe

Sure, one of those may be more of a pizza parlor than a tavern, but wings are wings. Plus I’ve heard good things about them. And it’s right in the neighborhood. One spot that isn’t a tavern won’t kill us. But there are other options to consider as well.

– Sweet Willy’s Pizzeria is around the corner, has been entirely off my radar, and looks fantastic.

– Sovrana’s is a neighborhood staple. They do have wings, but I hear they aren’t in the traditional Buffalo style. That puts them already at a disadvantage. However, it might be interesting to throw them into the mix.

– Pepper Jack’s is less of tavern and more of a sandwich shop. I’ve never been much of a fan, but I think one of the things they might do best are frying up chicken wings and slathering them with Buffalo sauce. I’d like to see how these stack up to the rest.

Those who know the neighborhood better may have some other places to share that I’ve overlooked. As I said, now is the time to speak and make your voice heard. We want to try the best wings uptown. 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 Saturday, February 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.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. Benjamin M. permalink
    January 14, 2019 11:44 am

    Groundhog Day! Awesome. If only every day involved waking up and eating wings over and over again, without any fear of weight gain!

  2. Benjamin M. permalink
    January 14, 2019 11:46 am

    If we are rating “Buffalo Style” wings and Sovrana’s doesn’t offer them, it shouldn’t be on the list. We couldn’t even come to a consensus as to what made “Buffalo Style” wings great, but I am sure there are enough places that do them that we shouldn’t waste time on a place that doesn’t.

  3. WCF permalink
    January 14, 2019 12:25 pm

    I just checked Pepper Jack’s menu and, unless I missed something, only saw boneless chicken wings. Wouldn’t that mean they are disqualified from the competition?

  4. Eric Scheirer Stott permalink
    January 14, 2019 12:45 pm

    Will we be doing the approach of two teams starting the route from opposite ends?

  5. January 14, 2019 1:18 pm

    This is my favorite part of Albany because of proximity to Honest Weight and Asian Supermarket. Did not realize it was called Uptown!

    • January 14, 2019 2:00 pm

      Otis, I live here as you probably know. I get why it’s called Uptown, but I tell people I live in West Albany because most maps list it as West Albany. And it is the western edge of the city.

      • David Nardolillo permalink
        January 14, 2019 6:14 pm

        “West Albany” is another one of those local geography peccadilloes; significant portions of it are actually part of the Town of Colonie.

  6. January 14, 2019 1:48 pm

    You know this, and I’ve made the case to you before; Lynn’s is an absolute must. If you don’t include them, I will not be your friend anymore.

    Okay, I’m joking, I’ll still be your friend.

    By the way, Joe’s Grill is the diviest dive bar in West (Uptown) Albany. It’s so divey I’ve been scared when going in there. I’ve never had their wings but Joe’s should be included because it’s a Central Ave institution.

  7. Kerosena permalink
    January 14, 2019 4:26 pm

    A tip about Orchard wings: their “mild buffalo” sauce is a mix of Frank’s and BBQ sauce. I’m not into that kind of thing, and I don’t think this fun fact is mentioned on the menu. One of the servers said it’s the way it’s always been done, and when new owners took over, they tried to switch back to the accepted definition of mild buffalo sauce. The clientele demanded a return to the mixed sauce, and here we are today. Medium is as it should be, with no alternative definition.

  8. David Nardolillo permalink
    January 14, 2019 6:07 pm

    It seems my only contribution to these things is to be the geography nitpicker. TJ’s is one of our family favorites for a casual meal (we are there once or twice a month–they need to bring back the grilled polenta) and wings are solid, but it is not in Albany proper. The city line is the west edge of the street Little Anthony’s is on.

  9. January 14, 2019 9:21 pm

    Based solely on the slice I had at Little Anthony’s, I think I would head to the Everett Road location of Swifty’s for wings before Little Anthony’s.

    • January 15, 2019 3:38 am

      I feel like TJ’s being out of Albany proper is a disqualify. Same thing with Swifty’s. And I don’t like the idea of Little Anthony’s as it is not a “tavern”. But since we did Crave last year and the wings were a good surprise – I suppose we can make exceptions.

      • Jon in Albany permalink
        January 15, 2019 10:00 am

        I only suggested Swifty’s because I thought it was an Albany mailing address but good point, it is on the north side of i-90.

  10. January 15, 2019 3:48 am

    I have no comment on quality but there is also Luke’s pizzeria next to Pepper Jack’s.

    • Benjamin M. permalink
      January 15, 2019 5:12 pm

      Luke’s pizzeria currently has a 2-star rating on Yelp. Just sayin’…

  11. January 16, 2019 1:40 am

    It does not bode well that Luke claims on Yelp “best food in town” and shows us a picture of his soda cooler.

    What I am really interested in is the walking directions and how they will compare to last summer’s Pine Hills marathon. Picturing our crew staggering through the waist-high snow past the former Chester’s location, on to Dragon Fried Fish and around the corner to Motel 6 … I just may drive.

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