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Vickroy: Why wings soar at Super Bowl parties

Hot wings Blarney Stone Pub Oak Forest Illinois Tuesday January 29 2013. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media

Hot wings at Blarney Stone Pub in Oak Forest, Illinois, Tuesday, January 29, 2013. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media

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In this column

Blarney Stone, 15400 S. Cicero Ave., Oak Forest; (708) 535-4800; blarney-stone.net

Hooters, 15300 S. LaGrange Road, Orland Park; (708) 460-4088; originalhooters.com

Harold’s Chicken, 8738 S. Kedzie Ave., Evergreen Park; (708) 424-8400

Philly T’s Prime Table, 9750 S. Roberts Road, Palos Hills; (708) 599-1333

Updated: March 4, 2013 6:11AM



Let’s be honest: Do we have a real reason to watch the Super Bowl?

Unless you hail from Baltimore, have relatives in San Francisco or have money riding on one of the Harbaughs, you could probably give a deep-fried chicken wing about the outcome of the game.

Then again, if you’re like a growing number of Americans, you might opt to keep that chicken wing and give a pizza puff instead.

For those of us living in the loser cities, the Super Bowl is all about the halftime show and, most important, the food. It’s an excuse to gather with friends and finally put an end to that New Year’s resolution.

Yes, sports fans, your diet’s demise likely will begin with wings. Despite a concern last week that there could be a wing shortage (not the first such scare), the National Chicken Council expects some 1.23 billion to be scarfed up on Sunday alone.

I don’t get it. I love chicken, as my family will attest — roasted, grilled, sauteed in Marsala wine. But I think wings are kind of, well, icky.

Maybe it’s the meat-to-skin ratio. Maybe it’s the network of bones one has to navigate. Maybe it has something to do with the number of napkins required to clean up after them.

I feel the same about those bags of peanuts at the baseball game. So much work, so much mess, so little payoff.

That said, I totally get the M&Ms vs. Snickers bar thing. If you only have five minutes to stop the shakes, grab the Snickers. If you want that chocolatey goodness to last until you finish writing a Sunday column, opt for the M&Ms.

But why wings, and why now? I seem to recall wings being the last pieces of fried chicken to be chosen at family parties and graduation bashes. They often were pushed on the kids or the grandparents.

According to the council, deep-fried wings long have been popular with folks down south. The concept of adding hot sauce came about quite by accident during the 1960s when the owner of a Buffalo, N.Y., bar prepared them as a late-night snack for her son and his friends. They were so well-received that they were put on the menu the very next day. The trend gradually took off.

In that respect, I’m glad they found a new purpose.

I just don’t get why wings are suddenly the bomb.

In the interest of understanding human nature — OK, I’m nosy about people’s eating habits — I decided to investigate what makes wings fly.

Hooters restaurant in Orland Park expects to sell 31,000 to 34,000 wings this weekend, mostly through to-go orders destined for Super Bowl celebrations.

“They’re easy finger foods that can be reheated,” manager Dave Schmolke said. “People like them better than hot dogs in barbecue sauce or chips and salsa.”

Not all people, Dave. I have a soft spot for chips and dips, especially if the dip contains tomatoes, olives, cilantro or black beans.

But I’m told even salsa can’t hold a candle to wings these days. And why is that?

When I put the question to Mark Evans, manager of Harold’s Chicken in Evergreen Park, he busted out laughing.

“If I had the answer to that, I’d be rich,” Evans said. “I guess it has something to do with the batter, with the way the wings are made.”

Evans said his store expects to sell well into the thousands that day.

“Wings have always been our biggest seller,” he said.

For Mason McCormies, wings sometimes trump pizza.

“They’re just chicken deep-fried and slathered in sauce. You can’t go wrong,” said McCormies, a bar back at the Blarney Stone in Oak Forest, where wings are the top-selling appetizer. “I like them with buffalo sauce — butter and hot sauce, two great ingredients.”

Blarney Stone owner Kim Keane said buffalo sauce is the most popular, although most of the nation prefers ranch.

“People just like to snack while watching sports,” Keane said.

They also like to wash those snacks down with beer. While Chicagoans may be wing connoisseurs, they still reach for good old Miller Lite more than any other beer.

“I don’t really care for wings but if I was going to eat them, I’d wash them down with 5 Vulture,” Keane said. “It has a bit of a jalapeno kick to it.”

Anthos Chrysanthou, whose dad just opened Philly T’s in Palos Hills, said wings are quickly becoming more popular than pizza, especially among the younger male demographic.

Chicken strips, perhaps a wing’s counterpart, are “so old-school; kids stuff,” Chrysanthou said. “Guys just like to get together and go get some wings.”

Joe Rhodes said wings and sports just go together.

“They’re like the kick that goes with sports,” the Burbank mechanic said.

“I like them hot. I like to feel that burn and I like to wash that burn down with beer,” he said.

He likes the atomic wings at Philly T’s and the habanero ones at Buffalo Wild Wings.

“If you stop eating them, the burn goes away,” he said. “Maybe that’s why we keep eating them.”

Rhodes said his wife likes wings, too, only she prefers the boneless kind.

Not only are wings tasty, Rhodes said, you can eat them with your hands, always a plus in his book.

Seems there is much more to wings than simply satisfying hunger.

When asked what she likes about them, Ruth Sheahan was quick to respond.

“They’re an excuse to shove bleu cheese into my mouth,” she said.

So there you have it — insight into the world of wings and the people who dip them.

Now go enjoy your feast.

May your favored team win. May the halftime show deliver. And may you make it into work tomorrow, either bright-eyed and bushy-tailed or on a prayer and a wing.



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