This week, I took a drive out to Brainerd Road to try the tiny Saks Wing Shak at 3911 Brainerd Road. Adjacent to Sonic, the wing shack “keeps things simple but of high-quality,” according to their website. They also boast to have “award-winning” lemon pepper wings, my personal favorite variety of wing.
First, a quick aside regarding last week’s slightly tongue-in-cheek (but not really) video “review” of Taco Bell’s Beefy Crunch Burrito.
Many of you were SUPER pissed about the fact I would take the time out to visit a Taco Bell. Here’s my reasoning behind last week’s column (which was otherwise well-received): Chattanooga is the only test market for this particular item, according to Taco Bell. That fact alone automatically deems it “newsworthy” because people were, literally, planning to drive or fly here to eat one. My job is to not only try food around the city but, if possible, to find interesting ways to present the same information other outlets have already reported on. Several of our competitors had already written about the Beefy Crunch Burrito but nobody had actually tried one. That’s why I chose to write about it for Date Night Dining. The reality of the world is that not every taco can be local. I’ve written about countless local restaurants over the years. The reality is that people eat Taco Bell all the time. The campaign to bring the Beefy Crunch Burrito back to the menu has more than 60,000 Facebook followers. I’m not “out of ideas” and it wasn’t a “cop-out” column. Lighten up a bit, Ok?
Let’s eat some wings.
There is a convenience factor to driving up to a window and ordering food. It is a first world convenience to be able to sit on my ass without moving and go through the entire process of dining out—arriving, ordering, paying, eating and leaving—without hardly any effort at all. My knowledge of Saks Wing Shak has been limited to a few drive-time notes, something like “hey, I should eat there sometime!” Although, more often than not, my wing consumption on Brainerd tends to be at the delicious Heavenly Wings.
I made the treacherous left turn across traffic into the parking lot around 12:30 p.m. on a Wednesday afternoon. Any left turn on Brainerd Road is a bit of a gamble. Be careful. Nobody else was in line ahead of me and the note on the first window said I should drive around to the opposite side. I parked and a large menu displayed a variety of items—mostly fried—that I could choose from. Aside from wings, the shak offers catfish strips, whiting fish, chicken tenders and a specialty of “fried corn on the cob.” Prices are reasonable: a 10-piece regular wing (any sauce) is only $7.99. They offer a “jumbo” wing (the option I went with) for $10.59. As mentioned above, the lemon pepper wings are “award-winning,” so I decided I’d better try them. The woman working—an owner or manager, I assume—was extremely pleasant. She said I’d have to wait a few extra minutes for the “jumbo” wings to cook, but I didn’t mind the time. I pulled up a bit and listened to NPR while I waited.
My wings were ready in about 15-minutes. I drove back to the office to eat them because a mother and her teenage son were occupying the only outside table. Otherwise, I would’ve gladly dined in the sunshine in front of that tiny shack.
My co-workers are used to me bringing smelly food into the office. A few years ago, I got into canned sardines pretty hard for about a month. The daily pop of the tin and rustling of saltines would send them running for the door. Some people say cigars are “idiot repellents,” but if that’s the case then sardines are just repellents. What I’m trying to say is the wings were fragrant, but not so fragrant they sent my co-workers running. The lemon pepper seasoning was doused in melted butter and oil. It sounds gross … it isn’t. At all.
I can see why people have given awards to Saks Wing Shak for the lemon pepper variety. Wings are subjective (as is anything food-wise) but I prefer mine to be crispy and only slightly wet. These wings are on the wetter side. I tolerated the wetness because the flavor was intense. I’ll gladly slop through a pile of wet wings that taste like this any day. Heavenly Wings has great lemon pepper wings—especially if you ask them to fry them “hard”—but they aren’t that much better than the “jumbo” wings from Saks.
One thing I’ve never found with lemon pepper is too much lemon pepper. Most places—Universal Joint and Jefferson’s, I’m looking your way—don’t add enough lemon pepper seasoning to the wings. When eating lemon pepper wings, I want a LEMON PEPPER flavor. Don’t give me a naked wing with some black flecks on it. C’mon, now.
If you’re at all hungry, I recommend the “jumbo” wings. These are the size of wings you’re used to getting at other places. I read a few reviews of Saks and several mentioned the importance of getting the “jumbo” size. The others are “too small.” A look at some of the Yelp reviews suggests my next visit should include a fried corn on the cob and, maybe, some catfish strips.
Would I go back?
I like wings. I don’t need to eat wings all of the time though, so quality is important. For the price, Saks Wing Shak is close to the best deal in town for quality wings at a low price. I slightly prefer Heavenly Wings in terms of flavor, but you shouldn’t hesitate to try Saks Wing Shak if you consider yourself a connoisseur of fried chicken parts. The next time you get a craving for wings you could do worse than Saks Wing Shak.
The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.