Wing Review: Between the Buns

BtB Wings

Between the Buns is a great little local restaurant chain in the central-north Indiana area, known for it’s decor featuring the local sport teams from high school to college. They have always had a reputation for great food and strong drinks such as their Papa Smurf, of which customers are allowed a limit of two per sitting due to their alcohol content.

I always wanted to review the wings at Between the Buns, but they had traditionally been in a wing meal only and would limit the amount and number of sauces I could get them in. However, recently BtB decided to throw their hat into the local chicken wing special pool and now feature wings on Mondays for 39 to 49 cents (depending on the time of year).

With a small selection of flavors, they still have some unique ones. Here is my official review of BtB’s wings.

WING REVIEW (all scores out of 10):

Size: 9

These are among the bigger wings I’ve had, and they consist of plenty of meat. Usually I can down about 16 wings with no problem, but I ordered 12 and could only get through the first 7 in my initial sitting.

Texture: 9

They were as close to perfect as you could get without actually being perfect enough to call perfect. Maybe just a minute more in the fryer and they would have gotten that elusive “10.”

FLAVOR REVIEW:

Sweet BBQ: 9

I wasn’t sure what kind of barbecue sauce they used, or what kind of sweetening mixture for that matter, but the two flavors were blended together with immaculate consistency.

Cajun BBQ: 7

This was a new flavor that I hadn’t heard of from any wing place before, so of course I had to try it out. It consisted of wings in a Cajun dry rub then tossed in traditional barbecue sauce. The Cajun was a little rough and overpowering, but I really did like the concept of the blend.

Thai Chili: 8

I’m pretty sure that 90% of wing places in my area use the same exact commercial sauce for Thai chili wings, but it never seems to disappoint. I would have ranked this higher if it weren’t for the fact that it isn’t made in house, which actually is probably my fault for ordering. But oh well, I’m doing the wing review, which means I’m in charge. We don’t grade on a curve ’round hur.

OVERALL WING SCORE: 8.4

I’m really glad that Between the Buns is now an option for my poor self when I get my wing binge cravings, and I will be sure to utilize them in the future. For anyone in the Michiana area who hasn’t been to a BtB before, I suggest checking them out, even if you don’t get the wings.

Moto Mondays: Whoops I Did It Again…

Photo property of James Stewart.

Photo property of James Stewart.

Remember when I said I hated predicting sports? For those that need a refresher, I am jinxed (or I cause the jinx) every time I publicly make a statement saying who I want to win a sporting event. No matter how much insight I have about a team or how many stats I research, when it comes to championships, I am almost always wrong.

A few months ago, I wrote a post about James Stewart, saying that he deserved more attention than he was getting through the first half of the supercross season. As soon as I wrote that post, the moto world seemed to follow suit, and Stewart has been a centerpiece of SX coverage throughout the rest of the tour. However, I made the mistake of predicting that Stewart would shock the world and come back to win the supercross title.

The exact quote: “I never thought I’d say this, but I’m making it official now: I predict and hope for James Stewart to win this year’s SX title. And I hope to God I didn’t just jinx him.” – Me, February 17, 2014.

I want to personally apologize to James Stewart.

Dear James,

The bike malfunctions that kept you out of contention for the main event at both Daytona and Vegas were likely my fault, an act of the dark lord in vengeance for something I had done in my youth. When you temporarily injured your knee in New Jersey, that was not your mistake but mine. I predicted you to win it all, and cursed you by doing so. I want you to win another title, but I am not sure how to root for you, as the more confident I am of your success, the more likely you are to ultimately lose.

Please forgive me,

Joseph Graf

In all seriousness though, I have never seen such a skilled and premier rider have so much trouble with their bike, essentially losing races based on something they have no control over. The whole reason that Stewart switched from Yamaha to Suzuki this year was because he was worried that the Yamaha malfunctions were holding him back from a title. But then the same thing happened again, on a different ride. Maybe Stewart needs better mechanics, and I can’t imagine there are many out there that wouldn’t jump at the chance to help out the only current rider who isn’t injured that has a legitimate chance to out-race Villopoto.

So with that, I wish Stewart the best of luck in two weeks when the outdoor nationals start. I love the outdoor racing, and can’t wait to see more top-end speed and bigger jumps, as I was getting tired of all the technical whoop sections in supercross. These faster and more open tracks should play well to James Stewart’s advantage, as throughout all the injuries and mishaps, he is still known as “the faster rider on the planet.”

Houston Trolls Portland’s Robin Lopez, Hilarity Ensues

Before the series started, even as a Pacers fan I claimed the match up I was most excited to see was the Houston Rockets vs. the Portland Trail Blazers. With two young and very hungry teams with loads of explosive talent looking for respect in the NBA, I knew that these players would give it all they got come playoff time. They didn’t disappoint. The game 1 thriller had Portland down by as many as 13 in the 4th quarter, but it turned into a close battle that went into overtime and was decided by a mere 2 points. Portland came out victorious.

Almost as entertaining were the twitter accounts of both the Rockets and Trail Blazers, both of which I was following throughout the game. I give kudos to the social media managers of both teams, as they blended a perfect line between professional and fanatic, not “crossing the line” but coming close with the hilarious nature of some of their tweets. My favorite one of the night got extra attention on sports blogs (now including this one), when the Houston Rockets trolled Portland’s Robin Lopez:

Robin Lopez Troll

It’s not very often that something I see makes me literally “lol,” but given the way that Lopez had gotten frustrated with the call after it was made, I couldn’t help but make the comparison. I mean really, for a Simpsons character, I think it’s pretty accurate.

Robin Lopez

 

 

NFL Free Agency Frenzy Shakes Up the League

Image property of Sports Illustrated.

Image property of Sports Illustrated.

The NFL free agency market this year has been one of the most prolific in history, with many big names being moved around the league by both powerhouses and rebuilding teams alike. Among the highlights of free agent signings so far are DeMarcus Ware, Eric Decker, Darrelle Revis, Golden Tate, Jairus Byrd, and Aqib Talib.

The Denver Broncos, coming off both the best offensive regular season in NFL history and one of the worst Super Bowl blowout losses in NFL history, have decided to spend some of their extra money on recharging their defense and making sure Peyton can get the ball back in his hands as quick as possible. The signing of the heavily coveted DE DeMarcus Ware and CB Aqib Talib brings a new element of pass rush and pass defense that the Broncos were lacking last season.

Eric Decker, who was released by the Broncos due to cap space, was coming off one of the best single seasons a number two wideout could ever hope for. The Jets, who have struggled to get a decent passing game going with inexperienced quarterbacks over the last half a decade, have nabbed him up in hopes that he can be their number one target.

To make up for the loss of Aqib Talib, the New England Patriots were lucky enough to entice the only other free agent cornerback that could be considered an upgrade; Darrelle Revis. Signed only to a one year deal, his contract allows him to still be franchised next year if the Patriots choose to do so.

Coming off a Super Bowl victory, the speedy Golden Tate has always played with a chip on his shoulder. Considered by many to not be worthy of a starting role at wide receiver, he has always answered the call when the Seahawks needed him, and now has a ring to prove it. The already pass efficient Detroit Lions have grabbed him up, and are likely to start him opposite of NFL superstar Calvin Johnson, which should open up opportunities for each. With these two on the field at the same time, defenses are going to have their hands full trying to cover them both at once.

And Jairus Byrd, one of the best safeties in the entire league, has gone to the New Orleans Saints. Byrd played for the Buffalo Bills, and his talent often got overlooked or just flew under the radar due to the poor records and limited coverage given to the team. Now with the Saints, their pass defense gets an upgrade that it has been starving for to compliment it’s seemingly unstoppable offense.

There are plenty more free agents still on the table, many not mentioned in this article, and many relatively unknown ones that will have a breakout career at their new homes. As the NFL draft approaches, look for this free agent class to continue to shake up the face of the league, including by who and when the incoming rookies get drafted.

Wing Review: Jay’s Lounge

Jay's Wings

Jay’s Lounge is a low-key bar in Niles, Michigan, popular among a middle-aged to older crowd of people who don’t care much about personal appearance. I’m not saying this place is dirty, it’s just really laid back and predominantly a redneck senior night. Every Wednesday however, an apocalypse of hungry people of all ages descends upon the establishment for their 25 cent wing night. At a price that low, these wings could completely suck and I would still eat them. Luckily, they aren’t half bad, and are definitely worth the price. Now that I’ve given them a compliment, let’s see what the judgmental food critic in me has to say.

WING REVIEW (all scores out of 10):

Size: 7

In years past, their wings had been pretty small, but upon my recent visits to Jay’s they have been big enough to satisfy my fat man’s appetite quite well.

Texture: 6

Cooked well, but sometimes the sauces are a little oily and acidic and seem to seep through the chicken skin if the wings not eaten in a short time after being served. This is especially evident in all sauces that are mixed with a hot sauce. Definitely better fresh than leftover.

FLAVOR REVIEW:

Spicy BBQ: 8

I love the taste of this sauce, and I would have likely rated it higher if only it actually had a bit more BBQ to it. Essentially just another hot sauce with a hint of hickory, but good nonetheless.

Caribbean Jerk: 9

Great flavor, and tastes exactly as advertised. I don’t really know what else to say except that I would positively recommend it.

Sweet Heat: 6

This is exactly one of those over-oily sauces I was referring to. It tastes ok, but whatever hot sauce mixture they use is basically pure liquid with little substance to it. If they made this sauce a bit thicker, the rating would be much higher.

OVERALL WING SCORE: 7.2

The Caribbean Jerk sauce helped saved Jay’s overall score from tanking, as I am strongly critical of having hot-flavored oil passed off as legitimate sauces. Still, for 25 cents apiece, this is one of the best deals in town and I will likely continue to take advantage of it for years to come.

Moto Mondays: Where’s The Love For James Stewart?

After a disappointing opening round, James Stewart has been a steady contender in the supercross championship series, claiming back-to-back victories over the past few weeks and a pair of second place finishes last month. But until JUST this past weekend, it seemed that the media was shorting Stewart on the respect he’s deserved.

In winning the Monster Energy Cup this past October, JS7 made a statement to the motocross world that he was back on the top of his game. But somehow during this season, the announcers and live TV never really brought to attention on what Stewart was doing in the races. Even last week when Stewart won his first SX race of 2014, the live coverage was focused on the 3rd through 7th place spots almost the entire race, never really mentioning James after his early pass on Villopoto until he had crossed the finish line. He rode flawlessly, but was somehow an afterthought to the rest of the pack.

It’s understandable that there is a lot going on with a very deep field in the 450 class. Rookie Ken Roczen is turning heads with his ability to keep up with the best in the world, Chad Reed was (until last week’s injury) going into the biggest comeback run of his career, and Ryan Villopoto is of course having an interesting year as the 3-time defending champion who is all of a sudden not dominating as he used to. But those are not reasons to forget about James Stewart, who has quietly been moving up the points chase and is now within striking distance of a championship himself.

Over the past few years, Stewart has been prone to crashing often, and between injuries and unfortunate position drops due to his wrecks he has been held back from reaching the top of the final standings at season’s end in both MX and SX. His style has become reckless and even desperate, losing control of his bike from pushing it beyond it’s limits. But lately, Stewart has reeled in his focus and is riding much smarter, all while still not sacrificing his speed. He deserves more respect than he’s been given this season, and his confidence in himself has slowly but surely started to return.

When I watch him ride, I see something different in him than I’ve been used to. It’s been years since he won a title in professional motocross, and the fans have almost forgotten his dominating run from over half a decade ago. The circus of his success has died down, and the doubters have emerged in full force. The result is that Stewart now has regained what pushed him to win before: he has something to prove again.

I admit that I had often rooted against Stewart in years prior, wanting to see attention be granted to newer upcoming riders. But even as a fan, I feel that the Villopoto domination has become stale for the sport. I’ve become much more interested this season as a result of knowing that there are now a handful of riders who can consistently race and win, not just a couple named “Ryan.”

With Reed out of the picture, the next best comeback season could very well belong to Stewie. I never thought I’d say this, but I’m making it official now: I predict and hope for James Stewart to win this year’s SX title. And I hope to God I didn’t just jinx him.

Wing Review: Tilted Kilt

Tilted Kilt Wings

When you think of Tilted Kilt, the first thing that comes to mind is young, attractive, slutty (but usually nice) women wearing skimpy clothes. This thirst trap is so real that when they opened a location in Granger, Indiana, they basically stole half of the nearby Hooters’ staff and quickly put them out of business (and for this reason I will have to travel if I ever want to review Hooters’ wings). But in addition to flirtatious girls who get over-generous tips from lonely middle aged men, they actually serve some pretty good food. They changed up the night of their wing special on me three different times, but recently I finally got a chance to review their wings, which pleasantly left me very impressed. Almost as impressed as I was at how many women working at a single restaurant had tramp stamp tattoos.

WING REVIEW (all scores out of 10):

Size: 8

These wings were bigger this time around than they had been on my previous visits to Tilted Kilt, and I left my meal feeling full and satisfied.

Texture: 10

The perfect amount and consistency of sauce, combined with the perfect cooking time for the skin to be slightly crispy with the meat well moisturized. I tried to figure out a way to insert a sex joke in here but everything I came up with just sounded creepy.

FLAVOR REVIEW:

Guinness BBQ: 8

It was actually likely better than an “8” but it was kind of rich so personally I found it slightly overpowering in flavor. But if there’s anything I don’t really mind the overpowering flavor of, BBQ and beer would be it.

Kilt Burner: 10

This is a supposedly just Tilted Kilt’s own name for buffalo sauce, but the Kilt Burner was unlike any buffalo sauce I’ve ever had before. I honestly can’t put it in words, but it is as close to delicious perfection as I could ever dream a hot wing sauce to be. Considering I don’t even usually like buffalo sauce on it’s own, me giving it a rating of a 10 is basically a miracle. I highly recommend it.

TK Signature Sauce: 3

It was supposed to be their own version of “sweet and spicy,” but it honestly just tasted like sugar and vinegar. One of the worst sauces I had ever had. This sauce is going to severely hurt their otherwise radiantly positive wing score… Ouch.

OVERALL WING SCORE: 7.8

Had I switched out the TK Signature sauce for another, Tilted Kilt would probably have gotten my best score of all time, especially considering they were the first ever to be awarded perfect 10s in 2 separate categories. However, part of the challenge of my wing review is that any and all wings must be taken into consideration if I happen to order them. Improve or scratch that one flawed sauce and I would say that Tilted Kilt just may have the best wings in town.