On Fire at the Wild Wing Cafe – Charleston, SC

Yes, I’m getting around to trip updates from the Charleston excursion.

If there’s ever a mecca for wing eaters, it’d be the Wild Wing Cafe.  At any given moment, Wild Wing has over 30 different types of wings, ranging from five or six different heat levels of your standard buffalo wing, to alternate flavors such as Thai, Lemon Pepper, or Garlic.

Wild Wing also lays claim to one of my favorite appetizers, the Hot Shot, which is what you see pictured above.  A basket of Hot Shots, along with an introductory beer, is the preferred way of slipping into a meal here.  Served piping hot straight from the fryer, hot shots are similar to fritters and consist of spicy sausage, cheese, and batter-of-some-sort, rolled into balls and fried crispy.  All of this is served with a dipping sauce that looks like a tub of melted margarine with some lemon pepper thrown into it (which is probably exactly what it is).  It’s the finest appetizer of its kind.

Coming to Wild Wing immediately after checking in at the hotel, we were fortunate to find ourselves arriving on Wild Wednesday, which is their way of saying ‘2 for 1′ on the wings.  Charleston is, after all, a college town, so there’s lots of deals to be found that are appropriate for a college student’s budget.  We each ordered a dozen, with two varieties per order for a total of four flavors.  The hardest thing about coming to Wild Wing is figuring out which kinds you want.  We ended up getting Gold Rush, Garlic! Garlic! Garlic!, Lemon Pepper, and CHINA SYNDROME.

Gold Rush and Lemon Pepper have been our favorite flavors since well before we were married, so it was a no-brainer to order them.  The Lemon Pepper is exactly as it sounds – the wings are tossed in a light margarine coating, and then liberally sprinkled with lemon pepper seasoning.  They aren’t spicy, but they sure are tasty.

The Gold Rush, which is my pick, is a tangy, slightly spicy, slightly sweet sauce.  The menu describes it as honey BBQ with a kick, but the flavor is more subtle, less cloying than your typical honey barbecue flavor – and I think the barbecue in this case may have been mustard-based.

So that brings me to the China Syndrome story.

I have quite a tolerance for heat.  For some time now, I’ve maxed out on the heat level at Hooters, and their 911 wings don’t affect me at all.  Everywhere I go, I tend to order the hottest level of wing that is on offer, and, for the most part, I am rarely impressed.  So, when it came time to order a typical straight buffalo wing at Wild Wing, well, I went for China Syndrome.  On the menu, it’s two steps above the typical ‘Hot’, and two steps below what the restaurant calls Braveheart.  When our food came out, it’s the first one that my fingers went for, and I promise you, I will never, ever order that flavor ever again.

I have been defeated by a buffalo wing.  Here’s the thing about the wings at Wild Wing – they aren’t served covered in sauce, like you’ve seen in other places.  Here, what seems to be happening is that the cooks fry the wings, toss them in sauce, and then pop them into the oven for a bit, so that the sauce bakes onto the wings.  The sauce still comes off on your fingers, but they’re a little neater.  So, with the China Syndrome, what I discovered that evening is that the wings actually had red pepper flakes baked into them, and that’s what made all of the difference.

My mouth was on fire in a way that hasn’t been seen since the Bhut Jaloki Incident, which I have yet to tell you about.  Beer, as quenching as it may be, was no match for the pain and fury that my body was experiencing.  So, with that one wing, my entire meal was put on hold while I waited for the effects of the China Syndrome flavor to subside. I’m never doing that again.