The Student News Site of Summit High School

The Summit Pinnacle

The Student News Site of Summit High School

The Summit Pinnacle

The Student News Site of Summit High School

The Summit Pinnacle

Playing to Wing

We went to five Bend restaurants and tried their chicken wings to find the best in town
An+artistic+take+on+the+whirlwind+of+wing-tasting%2C+drawn+by+Adri+Jolie.+
Adri Jolie
An artistic take on the whirlwind of wing-tasting, drawn by Adri Jolie.
“You have a lot more ‘can’ in you than you realize.” – Wes McGovern

 

While many attribute society’s greatest advances to modern medicine, sliced bread and air travel, chicken wings are undoubtedly the most invaluable contribution to the advancement of the human race. If dinosaurs were still walking the earth, they would, without hesitation, trade in their babies for a plate of those sauced-up chicken wings. Open a history book and ask yourself: Where are chicken wings mentioned in any World War? Trick question: they aren’t. However, if they had been around, they would’ve achieved world peace. Wings are one of those marvelous inventions that make living worthwhile and solve all major problems, including depression and decreased libido.

We visited five wing places in Bend recommended specifically for their killer wings. The criteria for selecting restaurants consisted of restaurants recommended directly to us by teachers, peers or Yelp. Over three long, wing-filled weeks, we were eating, dreaming and growing wings. Our blood was buffalo sauce. Wes cried real tears. Our cars were filled with damp, orange napkins. We had a ton of deep and random conversations while waiting for our orders to distract from the pain. With the memories unfortunately seared into our brains, we ranked the restaurants from zero to 10, in ascending order.

As any good food critic must, we acknowledged our biases before we wrote our final thoughts: Adri has always preferred dry-rub over wet wings, whereas Wes was primarily concerned with the crunchiness of the wing and a good buffalo sauce. 

5. Hardy’s

Overall Rating: 3/10

Walking into Hardy’s made us question reality. We knew for a fact that we had walked through a door that said “Hardy’s,” but upon looking around, it was hard to tell if we were in a man cave decorated entirely by Hobby Lobby signs, or transported to 2010 Glenwillow, Ohio. The centers of attention — when it came to decorations — were the fireplace (a flatscreen TV playing the 24h 4K Yule Log Program) and the Christmas stockings modeled after Converse shoes. The waitresses working were incredibly polite and gave us (false) hope for the meal that awaited. 

We ordered our wings online—seven buffalo hot wings—but still got more than enough of a feel for the restaurant from the quick pickup. The to-go container had a massive hole in the corner that leaked sauce and resembled a bite mark that was in no way intentional. Our order was only for six wings, however we got a bonus seventh wing that looked as if it was made from a mutated chicken that escaped from Area 51. Seriously, this resembled an awful turkey leg more than a wing. However, this unusual pattern wasn’t unique to the bonus wing: the wings themselves were absolutely boggling. The bones inside the wing broke easily, and were completely hollow. A regular chicken has semi-hollow bones, but they aren’t usually as disturbingly hollow as these. You could breathe underwater easily with a Hardy’s wing bone. 

The meat was equally as disappointing — stringy, full of ligaments (although that probably isn’t as uncommon as we perceived it to be) and very disproportionate in terms of size. We pulled out random bits of inedible chicken while eating, making our meal interactive, as well. 

Our sampled buffalo wings, thought to be the classic flavor, had an initial burnt taste that stayed for hours afterwards. However, after eating three wings each, the taste grew on us. 

For a wing joint, Hardy’s is certainly not the first place we’d go. However, in a pinch, their wings might just do the job—plus, you get an eco-friendly straw for free!

4. Northwest Wing Shop

Overall Rating: 5/10 

We had high hopes for Northwest Wing Shop, the one restaurant in our list that had “wing” in the name. Northwest Wing Shop is a weird place because it’s not actually called “Northwest Wing Shop;” the restaurant itself is called “Tradesmen Coffee and Taphouse,” a contradiction in and of itself. 

Walking in felt like walking into a pub on a logging settlement. Despite it being peak business hours, it was completely empty, echoing sad acoustic country with saw blades and hatchets on the wall. 

We were greeted by a flannel-wearing cashier. Waiting for our wings, we sat, confused as hell, because we were sure this was, not, in fact, Northwest Wing Shop.

For all the emptiness, it took about 15 minutes for us to get our order, a boneless five-piece in buffalo sauce ($13), and a five-piece bone-in with lemon pepper sauce ($11). When it finally came, it was largely underwhelming compared to the man in the hallway’s testimony: “Good wings!”

After trying all the wings, we couldn’t tell the vast difference between a single flavor, even though the color was different between orders. The buffalo sauce had a good smokey flavor, although the wings themselves weren’t very flavorful. There was also a substantial (but ignorable) amount of fat and dark meat compared to some of the other options we tried later. 

The boneless wings were tiny—they were larger chicken strips cut into oddly shaped chunks—and overly chewy and dry. For the price, it was a let-down. While it wasn’t anything to gag at, the meat tasted like expensive Sysco frozen chicken, and we heavily relied on the sauce to get it down. We were a bit surprised, as it had been recommended to us as a great, reliable wing shop. It averages at a 4.4 star review on Google, but we were disappointed, especially given the hype. 

As we began trying other wings, we quickly started to realize the sheer mediocrity of the wings at Northwest Wing Shop. If the Tradesmen wanted to be emblematic of the dreariness and gray of the Pacific Northwest in their wings, they certainly did a good job. 

3. Dear Mom

Overall Rating: 7/10

Dear Mom, a Thai restaurant that opened in late March, was our next stop. The restaurant was busy, with neon lights and that quintessential Portland ambiance that makes you feel like you’re being environmentally conscious and cultured at the same time. Despite the packed seating, we were able to find a table for three within 10 minutes. Among the other restaurants we tried, Dear Mom had the most diverse menu and the best atmosphere. We got two orders of the “Midnight Chicken” wings, rice and “Grandma’s Pad Thai,” which paired perfectly together and came out 15 minutes later at the same time (a feat which is not achieved by many restaurants in this day and age). 

Something Dear Mom did differently from all the others was the addition of pickled vegetables instead of the regular, chopped celery that most wing places offer. With a sweeter wing, the pickled side was a nice balance of flavor. 

Throughout our wing expedition, we came to realize the importance of spice in creating a good wing—an area where Dear Mom fell slightly short. Dear Mom offered two styles of sauces, spicy and original. Both sauces tasted the same, with no noticeable difference in spice level. 

However, Dear Mom is not primarily known for their wings, so it’s unfair to compare Dear Mom’s sauce to the others on our list. Because their sauce wasn’t the classic buffalo or lime cilantro, but rather a caramelized fish sauce. Dear Mom provided a unique twist on a classic and fit with their overall mission to “reflect Thai traditions infused with Central Oregon influences.” The sauce was sweet but had a distinct flavor that was unique and ultimately made up for the sub-par meat.

The meat itself was strange, for lack of a better word. The wings were large, yet lacked meat, and tasted rubbery due to the overwhelming presence of tendons — something we had not experienced anywhere else. Dear Mom doesn’t try to make traditional wings, but the unusual chicken takes away from the distinctive flavors that make the dish so interesting. 

Although Dear Mom fell short of the perfect wing, they certainly made up for it in style and flavor. While dining, we recommend trying the wings as a side. Bend has a variety of regular pub-style wings to offer, but Dear Mom’s sweet-and-savory take on the chicken wing proved to be a standout option. 

2. Chicken Bonz

Overall Rating:  9/10

Comfortingly reminiscent of Buffalo Wild Wings, Chicken Bonz is the local classic when it comes to fried chicken. Football on all TV’s (with staff watching) and an overall laid-back vibe meant that we were perfectly at ease. Popular among Summit students at lunch or before football games, it isn’t hard to see why. 

It took eight minutes for us to get our shared order of the six-piece wings ($10.50), five boneless strips ($12) and fries; we found ourselves astronomically full by the end of the meal. Wes was going to pop!

The wings themselves varied in size, some being small and others being comically large. However, this isn’t a negative, given the price and consistency of crispness and flavor among all wings. 

The juiciness made up for the noticeable fat, and we still found ourselves saying, “this is how wings should taste!” The pronounced flavor of the chicken on its own stood out as a winner, when wings typically rely on the sauce to carry them through.

The chicken strips were similarly flavorful, though notably dry. With much larger portions than any other restaurant, Chicken Bonz packed these large strips with flavorful chicken, enveloped in a crunchy exterior. 

Chicken Bonz’ dry rub certainly takes the cake (chicken?) out of every option we tried. Their lemon pepper rub was better than their buffalo sauce, although since wet wings are typically the fan favorite, advocating for a dry wing is equated to advocating for the devil. 

Although the lemon pepper was the star, their buffalo sauce was reminiscent of Frank’s Red Hot sauce, with a tiny kick. The skinny fries were the perfect palate cleanser that didn’t make you feel disgusting about shoving 20 in your mouth. 

Chicken Bonz certainly isn’t the most experimental out of the places we tried — they’re the wings you have with some bros before the now-deceased PAC 12. They’re the wings you come back to after a long night out. They’re the wings you think of when your friend says, “want to get some wings?”

In terms of affordability and value, Chicken Bonz is the clear winner. It had the cheapest price, but was filling, and is a sustainable option for any wing addict or aficionado. It’s not anything new, but it’s something you can count on when the times get tough.

1. Fire on the Mountain

Overall Rating: 9.5/10

Fire on the Mountain is by far the most uniquely decorated restaurant in Bend. From its Cheesecake Factory-esque lights, to the intentionally dirty blue floor, Fire on the Mountain is a mixture of every microcosm that white America has to offer. The customers are no different—people out for a nice night, to kids in pajama pants filling their own sodas at the counter. If someone told us that the owners had gone to the clearance section of the interior design aisle and picked out their furniture blind, it wouldn’t come as a surprise. 

However, the hodgepodge isn’t a result of poor planning. Rather, the very essence of Fire on the Mountain is one where “good people can share good food while listening to groovy music,” per the owners. This goal is clearly achieved judging by the buzz of the restaurant and soundtrack straight out of Woodstock 69’. 

Fire on the Mountain, which opened in late October, is already a cult favorite amongst Bendites, no matter the background. The line at 6:00 pm was fast-moving, but long. We waited about 26 minutes for our food, nine wings for $14.95 since our previous intention of six wings couldn’t split two flavors.

Fire on the Mountain was the only other restaurant to feature a balanced dry-rub (garlic Parmesan), and a smoky, lime cilantro. The dry-rub, when it stayed on the damn wing, had a fantastic, umami flavor. Similarly, the lime cilantro wet wing balanced the perfect line between being spicy and still adding to the flavor. Even though Wes was a big fan of the buffalo sauce, it sort of disturbingly resembled tomato sauce, albeit not in a terrible way. The biggest catastrophe of the night was that we forgot to order a cherry Coke. 

The most endearing aspect of Fire on the Mountain was that they individually wrapped our to-go order in smart packaging, which kept the heat inside for as long as we needed. The tin foil wrapping inside perfectly separated our wings, which helped distinguish between flavors. Our vegetables were wrapped in their own compartment, which delighted us. Compared to Hardy’s packaging, Fire on the Mountain was a gift sent from God Himself. 

Going beyond one God, Fire on the Mountain brought the whole theology department together to challenge what is possible. The flavor of the chicken and sauce beat out all other joints, and despite the semi-off-putting vibe, was still our overall winner. 

Ultimately:

We are absolutely winged out. After trying five of the top-most recommended wing places in town, we laughed, we cried and we cringed most of all. Wings are one of those cultural pockets that seem to be unchangeable throughout history, no matter your background, religion or spice tolerance. As Adri likes to put it, “you can’t eat wings diplomatically.” Wings are the great equalizer — and while you can have a bad wing, you can also have the best wings of your life… if you’re seated next to good company.

View Comments (1)
More to Discover
About the Contributors
Wes McGovern, Co-Editor-In-Chief

Meet Wes McGovern, the last (or first?) third of the Editor-In-Chief team. After enrolling in News Staff three years ago, Wes fell in love with journalism, politics, law and contributing to the community at large. Although, it is really Mr. Williams’ table-top-talks that keep him coming back. Despite the rumors, Wes doesn’t bite, so if you see him wandering the newsroom or running to a class at COCC, always feel free to stop and talk with him. 

Hobbies include: biking, writing, getting thrown out of windows by Adri, writing, cursing the Common App, speech and debate and snowboarding.

Adri Jolie, Co-Editor-In-Chief

“Mom, I finally made it in the newspaper! Are you proud?”

A brilliant mind and philanthropist, Adri enjoys classical music, regular music, rock music and all other types of music, as well as various forms of art, writing and anthropology, and tormenting her poor editors. Contact with any pertinent inquiries.

Comments (1)

All The Summit Pinnacle Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • H

    Hardee's CEOFeb 16, 2024 at 11:59 pm

    I will find you

    Reply