Chew On It
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By Andrew Kochirka GoErie.com staff blogger
Food has been an integral part of Andrew's life from a young age; from cooking with his mother and grandmother to creating recipes in his own kitchen. Now he scours the area's non-chain restaurant scene to find the best of the best of local food from chicken wings to French cuisine.   Read more about this blog.
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Chicken Wings 2

Places where the Beard ate Chicken Wings 2
Posted: October 25th, 2011

My, oh my, I’ve come full circle. It is hard to believe that it has been 18 months since I started my blog with chicken wings. My week one stop of wings tour round two was very similar to my first tour. I had never been to the Brotherhood of St. Joseph in North East before, but I am glad I got the chance. Though it is a social club, the dining room is open to the public, and the menu looks fantastic. From Friday fish dinners to delicious gourmet burgers to the wings I was there to taste, I wanted everything.

Amanda and I were joined by my co-worker, Jenny Ore, and her brother, Jeremy Ore. They have been eating at St. Joseph’s, (St. Joe’s, as they affectionately call it), for years, and it was on their recommendation that I went there at all. When we arrived, we were greeted by the manager’s son, Samuel Rizzo III. He is one of the masterminds in the kitchen. He let us look over the 20 or so wing flavors, gave us a few suggestions and then let us place our order. I would have loved to try all of their flavors, but we decided to go with the House Honey Mustard, Buffalo Bleu, and two others that have a similar (and odd) name, but a very different taste. The flavors are entitled “Titter 1″ and “Titter 2.” To get the origin of the name, you will have to go there and ask for yourself.

It took about 15 minutes for the wings to be prepared, but we had some carrots, celery (with made-from-scratch ranch dressing) and good conversation topics to hold us over. Sam and fellow kitchen wizard, Jesse Phelps, delivered our wings to the table and, wow, did they all look amazing. Jesse told me I played it a little safe with the flavor choices, but I just look at it as a reason to go back.

I knew what the House Honey Mustard was before it came out. The best-tasting honey mustard is Cattlemen’s Gold Barbecue sauce, and I figured that’s what they would use. As soon as I saw the rich yellow color, I knew that they would be great. The bite from the vinegar and the cayenne really sets this sauce apart.

I was concerned that the Buffalo Bleu wings would be overpoweringly strong, but they were just right. The house buffalo sauce is combined with the homemade bleu cheese dressing and then poured over the wings. The chunks of cheese added a perfect amount of creaminess to each bite. Next time, I would probably order these on the spicier side, but they were a good choice as is.

Titter 1 and Titter 2 are difficult to describe. Titter 1 is a local favorite. This wing sauce is a mix of honey mustard and a medium-heat hot sauce. The overall flavor is a sweet tang with a playful slap on the cheek of heat. The thing that really sets these wings off is the fact that they are tossed in Parmesan cheese before they come to the table. I’m not sure if it is a taste thing or a texture thing, but the parm was awesome. I couldn’t get a direct answer when I asked Sam what was in these wings, but they were delicious.

Titter 2 is just as secret and just as good. This wing sauce has won awards at the Erie’s Best Wing Cook-Off. Sam creates his own BBQ sauce and mixes it with just enough hot sauce for you to know that it’s there. The sauce has a smoky sweetness to it, and the heat hits you right in the back of your throat. The first wing isn’t too hot, but after a few, the slight burn is just right. You could put this sauce on a roof shingle and you’d want to eat it. The Titter 1 and 2 are some of the best wings I have had anywhere, period.

Thank you to Sam and Jesse for the perfect start to my second wing tour. This will be a very hard act to follow. Thank you to Jenny and Jeremy Ore for the recommendation as well as the company.

Until next time,

Andrew – Beard vs. Food

Brotherhood of St Joseph on Urbanspoon

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Posted: November 1st, 2011

Our wing selection from The Beechwood InnMonday was Halloween and instead of sitting on my porch and passing out candy to trick-or-treaters, I decided to go out to The Beechwood Inn for some treats of my own. Friends Justin and Whitney Catalano tagged along with Amanda and me to try some of their chicken wings. The cold, wet weather gave this Halloween night a terrific spooky feel and made the drive out on Route 8 even creepier than it already is.

Being that it was Monday, that meant it was $.40 wing night at The Beechwood Inn, so it was a little crowded when we got there, but finding a table was no problem. We chose the table in a dark, back corner surrounded by mounted deer heads and artistically taxidermied fish. Our server, Kaleigh, came over and turned on another light so we could see our menus better. Though we were there for wings, we were hungry enough that we ordered fried veggies as well as jalapeño poppers. The appetizers were delicious, but I was ready for wings. After recommendations from coworkers, followers of the Chew On It: Beard vs. Food Facebook page, and our server, we decided to go with Hickory Smoked BBQ, Honey Cajun Hot, Buffalo Parmesan, and Maple Mustard.

I thought the smoke flavor of the Hickory Smoked BBQ was nice, but it tasted like just that, smoke “flavoring.” I know not every restaurant has the ability to actually smoke wings or add true smoked components to their sauce, but it tasted a bit fake.

The Honey Cajun Hot wings were a middle of the road wing as well. I absolutely love wings with honey in the sauce. The sweetness of the honey gave fantastic balance to the hot sauce used. My only issue with these wings was the actual Cajun seasoning. They are just tossed in the seasoning which doesn’t allow them to get an even coating. If the spices were mixed in and actually incorporated with the honey and hot sauce, I think this could be the makings of an incredible wing.

The final two wings were both fantastic, in my opinion. I have had Buffalo Parmesan wings elsewhere, but these were especially good. The buffalo sauce tasted like it was either plain Frank’s Red Hot or a slightly doctored-up version. The wings had a very liberal coating of Parmesan cheese which not only held the sauce in place, but it gave the wing great texture. The house ranch dressing was perfect on a wing like this. The sauce was so good; I was dipping our veggies, poppers, and sometimes just a fork into it.

Not only had I never eaten the final wing, I had never seen it on a menu before. Maple syrup and mustard sounds like an unappetizing combination and I probably wouldn’t have ordered them if not for the suggestion from my co-worker, Laurie Thompson, but I am glad I did. The smell alone was intoxicating. The maple was super prevalent in smell, but at first bite, all I could taste was mustard. The more I ate, they better they became. The tanginess from the mustard cut through the sugary maple syrup beautifully. The molasses flavor also added another level to these wings that was just perfect.

The wings, though not the best I have ever had, were pretty good. There are a few other flavors on the menu that I would love to go back to try and I hope that I make my way back out there soon. Thank you to Kaleigh for your good service and thank you to the kitchen for the delicious wings.

Until next time,

Andrew – Beard vs. Food

Beechwood Inn on Urbanspoon

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Posted: November 8th, 2011

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I have been to the Avonia Tavern once before, but it was for pizza, and that was over a year ago. It was time for a return visit, but this time, I’d be trying their chicken wings. I was joined by friends Brandon Sease and Katie Winterhoff. I picked them up around 6:30 on Monday night and we made our way out to Fairview.

There wasn’t much of a crowd, so we found our way to a booth next to the pool table, which gave us something to do while we waited. Our server, Michelle, was at our table taking our drink order in no time. We took a few minutes to look over the choices of wing flavors. I decided to let Brandon and Katie each select a wing flavor, and I would let the server choose the other two. Brandon is a fan of super hot food so he picked the Extra Hot. Katie went a different route and went with the milder Ranch flavor. Michelle informed me that the Carolina Kickers are the most popular and also that the Bang Bang wing is a fan favorite. With the choices made, Michelle took our order to the kitchen.

The wings came out in about 15 minutes, which was good, because we were hungry. I started with the mildest flavor, Ranch, and worked my way up. It’s hard to mess up dry ranch flavoring, honestly, but it is made significantly better by a perfectly cooked wing. They were crispy and had a great, even coating of the seasoning. The tang provided by the buttermilk is my favorite part of Ranch wings and these really got us off to a good start.

I moved next to the Bang Bang. This sauce, which is on the creamier side, seemed to be mayonnaise-based with some orange juice and Asian spices. This wing had a sweet start, but finished with a little kick. The heat was barely noticeable until a few wings in. Even then, it was more of a flavor enhancer than a mouth burner. I was thinking this was going to be a little more on the zesty side, but it is a wing I would order again.

The Carolina Kicker is a wing I have had before. The sauce itself is a sweet, smoky barbecue sauce mixed with some of Avonia’s hot sauce just to add that extra heat layer. The wings are broiled instead of fried, so it really lets the sugars in the sauce caramelize and glaze over the wing. For the most part, these wings were also cooked perfectly. A few of them had a burnt spot or two, but it was easily overlooked because of how good the rest of the wing was.

Our final wing was the Extra Hot. These fell out of favor with all three of us in comparison to the other choices. Brandon and I both enjoy a good hot wing, but flavor needs to be first and foremost before heat. These wings were the exact opposite. The regular hot sauce contained very little flavor, and the extra hot is just sauced and then coated in Cajun spices. To us, these wings had very little flavor and were just an attempt to make the hottest wing they could make. If there was a way to get the flavor of the Carolina Kicker with the heat of the extra hot, that would be an amazing wing.

In comparison to other places I have been, these were some of the most expensive wings at $6.50 plus tax for 10; however, I do want to come back and try some of the other flavors. Thank you to Michelle for the great recommendations and service, and thank you to Brandon and Katie for joining me.

Until next time,

Andrew – Beard vs. Food

Avonia Tavern on Urbanspoon

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Posted: November 15th, 2011

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This week was a back and forth battle between The Kelly Hotel and Doc Holliday’s. Votes for both locations were neck and neck until the very end. The Kelly Hotel took the lead in the final minutes. Amanda and I made the stormy drive out to 10759 West Main Road in Ripley, N.Y., around 6:30 last night. My co-worker Mariah Wittmann anvd her 11-month-old son, Tristan, joined us as well.

Once seated, we met the owner and chef, Kris Kubasik, who gave us some information about the location and then left us to our menus. He returned shortly with a few cars for Tristan to play with while Mariah got his dinner ready. Monday night at The Kelly Hotel is 50-cent wing night. You can get one flavor per every five wings, so we decided to try a couple more flavors than usual. There are some oddly named wing flavors like Cadillac Ranch, Cubby and Sirrachi Kickers, so we asked Kris for some input on what we should order. When all was said and done, we ended up with six flavors: Hot, House BBQ, Hot Cubby, Garlic Parm Ranch, Sirrachi Kickers, and Rob’s Wings. We were in for a feast.

The wings took about 15 minutes to prepare, but the time went quickly while playing with and feeding Tristan. Once the food arrived, there was little room for anything else on the table. We started with the Hot. These were delicious. Heat for the sake of heat can really ruin a wing, but luckily, the flavor on these wings was the star. The hot sauce is a mixture of peppers, Frank’s and other spices. It was thick and coated the wings perfectly. The homemade bleu cheese dressing was the perfect accompaniment.

The House BBQ was just as good. The sauce had a nice rich, dark brown color and had just the right amount of sweetness. The molasses flavor mixed with a peppery bite to make a great sauce. There was a subtle heat that came after a few wings, but it just added another layer to enjoy.

After having his last name continually mispronounced, the owner took on the nickname “Cubby” and gave two different wings on the menu his namesake: Cubby and Hot Cubby. We went with the Hot, and it stumped us a bit. The combination of flavors left the taste muddled and a little bland. It had a mild sweetness of a Catalina dressing, the vinegar taste of ketchup and a hint of lasting heat from what tastes like a cayenne hot sauce. With so many flavors in it, I was surprised that it was lacking in taste.

Garlic Parm Ranch is a delicious mash-up. All of the garlic is fresh pressed, and the Parmesan is grated in house. These wings were tossed in butter and then heavily coated in the fresh cheese-garlic-ranch mixture. If you don’t like garlic, these probably aren’t for you. The ranch gave that delicious buttermilk tang at the end. The flavors are super bold and really punch you in the face, but I could eat this sauce on anything.

Asian flavors are some of my favorites. If you haven’t experienced Sriracha sauce, you are missing out. The Sirrachi Kickers sauce is a combination of Sriracha, soy, ginger and a few other ingredients. The spiciness from the Sriracha mixed with the fresh ginger really gave it a good depth of flavor. When hot, the sauce is a thick glaze that stuck to the wing. Once it got cold, it thinned out a little and started to separate, so I wouldn’t recommend these as “to-go” wings.

Finally was Rob’s Wing. It is a combination of Cattlemen’s Gold Barbecue sauce, Frank’s and the Garlic Parm Ranch sauce. The sauce was a little overpowering in flavor for our liking. Like the Hot Cubby, there were just too many flavors. In this case, however, instead of muddling each other out, they all competed to be the star, and it ended up being a bit much. The bleu cheese helped mute some of the flavors, but these were not our favorite.

All in all, it was a successful and delicious trip over the state line.

My only real issue was the cost. Without the 50-cent wing night special, the wings are about 92 cents each. The wings are definitely jumbo wings, but they are a little pricey. Each side of dressing is 75 cents, and each order of veggies is $1.75. If you aren’t paying attention, the numbers start adding up.

Thank you to Kris for the fantastic service and good food. You run a great restaurant, and I will return for sure.

Until next time,

Andrew – Beard vs. Food

Kelly Hotel on Urbanspoon

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Posted: November 22nd, 2011

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The One Way Inn, a contender from the first week’s poll, slid past the other three locations this week. Brandon Sease and Katie Winterhoff joined me again to help with my wing review. The One Way Inn is located at 4344 Peach Street in Erie and serves food, but still allows smoking inside. Brandon and Katie sat down and I headed to the bar to get menus and some wing recommendations. The bartender, Tina, as well as a few other patrons at the bar, gave me some flavor suggestions that I took back to the table. After talking things over, we decided on some flavors. This week, our choices had a spicy theme; Hot BBQ, Hot Country Ranch, Hot Pepper Parm, 24 Karat, and Dry Parmesan Ranch.

We got through one game of pool while we waited and the wings arrived just after we started the second. The wings came out quicker than we expected and I started with the Hot BBQ. The sauce was a rich, dark brown and rather thick. I’m not sure if it was the BBQ sauce that was vinegary or the hot sauce it was mixed with, but Carolina-style vinegar-based BBQ is my favorite so this sauce struck a fantastic chord. The heat came a little late in the wing, but it was just right. The sauce was tangy with a hint of sweet and was really a good choice.

The Hot Country Ranch and Hot Pepper Parm were similar. The hot sauce they used had a similar taste, but the dry ranch in the Hot Country Ranch gave it a little zip. Though both had some heat, neither was overbearing. Flavor was the main focus. The Hot Pepper Parm had some really great flavor combinations. The parm absorbed some of the sauce and gave it great umami. For those of you who don’t know, umami is a type of flavor, like sweetness, saltiness or bitterness, it describes a savory-type flavor. The richness of the cheese combined with the heat of the hot sauce and pepper was delicious. I liked these more than the Hot Country Ranch.

Though I prefer wet wings, I always like to give dry wings a try. The Dry Parmesan Ranch were pretty much as dry as they come. The flavors weren’t quite strong enough and the fried chicken taste came through more than the toppings. They are just begging for some ranch or bleu cheese dressing. They taste good for a fried chicken wing, but not enough like their said flavor.

Finally, on to the 24 Karat. Anything with “gold” or a reference to gold in the name should be a dead giveaway. That just means that it is going to be a Cattlemen’s Gold Barbecue sauce based wing. Though I love it and I know it is popular, they wings don’t change much from place to place. The 24 Karat here are Cattlemen’s Gold Barbecue sauce mixed with some Frank’s Red Hot. All I could taste was the Cattlemen’s. Frank’s would be a great addition to these, but I couldn’t taste any if it was even there. Like I said, I really do love this BBQ sauce, but it is hard to make it taste original.

At 45-cents a wing all the time, the price is very reasonable and worth every penny. The cigarette smoke is a little bothersome, so if it’s something you feel strongly about, get the wings to go. Thank you to Tina for the flavor suggestions and the good service. The wings were cooked perfectly and tasted great.

Until next time,

Andrew – Beard vs. Food

One Way Inn Incorporated on Urbanspoon

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Posted: November 30th, 2011

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After a fantastic Thanksgiving weekend, I was able to try some wings from Doc Holliday’s Country Bar and Grill. I drove up to 7425 Schultz Road , just north of Presque Isle Downs & Casino, around 8 o’clock last night. I know that I typically dine in restaurants, but for someone who doesn’t smoke, the smoke inside was pretty thick, so I ordered my wings to go. Between recommendation from Mark Mazzocco on Facebook and some suggestions from the bartender, I narrowed my selection to four flavors: Sheboygan, Hubba Bubba, Smokey Jacks, and Wyatt’s Wild Sauce.

I was told that the Sheboygan was a great flavored dry wing. That description let me down a little. The wing was a very well cooked dry wing, but did not have a lot of flavor at all. I could taste hints of garlic and some salt, but over all, it tasted like fried chicken. The homemade ranch dressing added flavor, but then again, all I could taste was the dressing.

The Hubba Bubba is one of the most popular wing flavors and for good reason. By blending hot sauce with garlic, Parmesan cheese, and dry ranch, this wing was loaded with layers of flavor. The spices in the house hot sauce had some added dimension when compared to a normal store-bought sauce. The parm wasn’t over powering and gave it just a little texture. The ranch seasoning probably could have been toned down a little, but the contrasting tang of the spice was delicious. This is a wing that would draw someone in for sure.

My overall favorite was the Wyatt’s Wild Sauce. This is the wing that keeps you coming back for more. The thick BBQ sauce has a good hearty flavor. Although it finished with a spicy kick, it had some sweetness to it, which really balanced it out. I usually enjoy a good amount of heat in my wings, but the slight burn of this medium-heat BBQ was enough to satisfy me. This was the only flavor that I finished, and I would have gladly finished another order.

Finally came the Smokey Jacks. Right off the bat, you get that strong smoke flavor. It tasted a little like it was out of a bottle, but it wasn’t off-putting. The Jack Daniel’s flavor was not as strong as say, TGI Friday’s Jack Daniel’s Glaze, but to me, that was a good thing. It held its Jack flavor without getting too sugary sweet. The BBQ-style sauce was a little thinner than the Wild Sauce, but it was still great. This wing is very mild with a good amount of flavor, which makes it a safe choice for someone who doesn’t want the heat of the previous two.

Though I did enjoy the wings, I like to be able to go eat without being engulfed in cigarette smoke. I would get takeout wings again, but I probably won’t be dining in any time soon. Thanks to the kitchen for some delicious wings and to Mark and the bartender for the suggestions.

Until next time,

Andrew – Beard vs. Food

Doc Holliday's Country Bar and Grill on Urbanspoon

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Posted: December 6th, 2011

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After getting a recommendation from Kevin Marsh to visit the Country Tavern at 8107 Perry Highway, I entered them into my poll. The voting was a back-and-forth tie until just before I walked out the door. Amanda and I drove down Route 97 around 6 o’clock last night. If you aren’t looking for the Tavern, you will drive right past it. The driveway is just north of the Presque Isle Downs and Casino entrance and from the outside, it might actually look closed. When we got there, only a few patrons sat at the bar and one table was occupied with a family eating some wings as well. We picked a table and our server, Amy, brought us some menus. I decided to do things a little different this week. Instead of choosing my own wing flavors, I told Amy that she and the cook could select their four favorite/best flavors for me. This made the wait to eat even harder. I was excited to see what they chose.

When the wings arrived, they all smelled delicious. My four sauces were Butter and Garlic, Honey BBQ Cajun, Buffalo Cajun, and Honey Mustard Horseradish. I started with Butter and Garlic. Typically, I stay away from most dry wings. The seasoning either doesn’t get down into the meat or just falls off when they are picked up. These wings were just the opposite. The butter sealed in the heat (temperature, not spice) and the garlic was perfectly strong in every bite. The garlic flavored the butter so even if the garlic fell off, it didn’t lose any taste. Dipping these in ranch elevated their flavor, but they were just as fantastic without it.

I moved on to the Honey BBQ Cajun. The first wing I picked up from this basket pushed me away from them altogether. Somehow, it didn’t get an even coating of spices and sauce and was almost all Cajun. The spices were extremely overpowering and I couldn’t even taste the chicken. I figured that I would at least try a second one and I am glad I did. The BBQ sauce was nice and sweet. When evenly mixed, it gave a great balance to the Cajun seasoning. The sweet start had a little Cajun heat at the end and made this sauce just right.

When Amy told me that there was another Cajun blend, I was hesitant. The Buffalo Cajun wasn’t anything like the last one though. The buffalo sauce reminded me of the Hubba Bubba wings from last week. I enjoy the vinegar flavor that comes from most bottled hot sauces, but this one was more flavorful due to the Cajun spices and didn’t have that vinegar bite. I would actually have liked these more if they had a bit more heat, but they are still a good choice.

Last, but not least, were the Honey Mustard Horseradish. I am a huge fan of horseradish. The honey mustard wasn’t too strong and really let the horseradish flavor shine through. I think it was horseradish powder instead of fresh horseradish. They were delicious wings, and, like the last ones, they could have used more heat and fresh horseradish would have done that for sure.

Not only were the wings cooked perfectly and covered in tasty sauces, the price was great. For 35 wings, it was only $14.95. Thank you to Amy and the cook for the great choices of wing flavors for me and Amanda, and a special thank you to Kevin Marsh for the location suggestion and for reading my blog.

Until next time,

Andrew – Beard vs. Food

Country Tavern on Urbanspoon

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