Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Review: Say What You Will About Chain Restaurants, Buffalo Wild Wings Will Win You Over

Buffalo Wild Wings Grill and Bar, a 500+ sports bar restaurant chain out of Ohio, recently opened a new location in a vacated Don Pablo’s restaurant on 436 in Casselberry. Being that they specialize in wings, beer, and sports, I was quick to check the joint out.

Upon first entering the massive building, I was immediately impressed. Buffalo Wild Wings has done just about everything right. The restaurant is as close to perfect as a sports bar should be. With plenty of screens, there’s not a bad seat in the house. And there is plenty of seating, let me tell you. The menu is full of food sports fans enjoy eating: wings, burgers, sandwiches, etc. Smiling faces greet you. Friendly servers pour cold beer freely. The restaurant is clean, and nothing is out of place. Everywhere you look there’s the Buffalo Wild Wings logo. It’s on the napkins, on the TVs, on the glasses, on the walls, even on the ketchup bottles. Yea, they went that far.

But the whole branded thing kind of turned me off. Everything is so perfect, and so corporate looking, that it doesn’t seem like an authentic sports bar. Like most chain restaurants, nothing has been left to chance. The menu seems designed by an ad agency rather than a chef. This is a place designed for the masses. Nothing is random. Every element refined by a focus group. If you’ve ever tried to get into Red Lobster or Outback on a Saturday night, you know the huddled masses love chains. Why wouldn’t they love a sports bar chain?

That being said, the wings at Buffalo Wild Wings were nearly perfect. Just the right amount of meat on the bone, and just the right amount of sauce. Let me guess: focus groups liked exactly 1.8 ounces of meat per wing and .4 ounces of sauce.

I ordered 20 traditional, bone-in wings ($10.00) with 10 served hot and 10 mango habanero. I liked both flavors, but the sweet and spicy combination of the mango habanero was my favorite.

My guest ordered 12 spicy garlic wings ($6.00). He was afraid the garlic might overpower, but luckily, it didn’t, and he was quite pleased.

14 other wings sauce flavors are available if you so choose. A few I’d like to try on my next visit: sweet bbq, Parmesan garlic, Caribbean jerk, and blazin’. We visited on a Tuesday night, and traditional wings were the special of the day at only 50¢ a wing.

We split a basket of potato wedges and they were a nice change from the usual basket of fries. The wedges were fresh, lightly fried, and had an unexpected “sour cream and onion” taste.

We went with a couple of Dos Equis drafts, but an impressive variety of other beers was also available on tap and in bottles. If liquor’s your poison, there’s a full bar.

There’s a large patio area outside, and the place is very kid-friendly. The night we dined, I’d say there was a 5 to 1 adult to kid ratio.

Our server was fun, and kept beer in our glasses. I liked the hustle in his step. There was a sense of urgency to his service, a sense that’s lacking in many restaurants. That’s a good thing. We never felt rushed.

By the end of the meal, I guess I got over the whole chain thing. I sat back in my brand new booth, surveyed the pleasant surroundings, caught the end of the Magic game, and just enjoyed my wings and beers. I’m officially a member of the huddled masses.

4 Wild Flying Bison out of 5

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Anonymous said...

I went to the Buffalo Wild Wings on International Drive once. I forget what the details were, but we ended up leaving because the restaurant was unable to serve us in a timely manner (at least they said this up front). Since then, I've never gone to try any of their other locations. I don't enjoy sports bars for some reason, so going there really doesn't interest me...

J.G. said...

I generally avoid chains and sports bars, so this is a bad combination for me. BUT with all those flavors, and perfectly done, I will have to make an exception. :-)