Don’t let the popular, often rowdy club setting fool you. Chef Lenard Rubin is a classically trained talent who has worked at some of the Valley’s most important resort restaurants (see page 180). So when he decided to tackle chicken wings for his whimsical American menu, he wasn’t about to send out any freezer-bag bird dunked in pre-fab sauce.
He called his creations “vings,” dahling, and he ditched the everyday grease bath. Instead, his plump poultry is baked slow at a low temperature, then quick-fried at a high temperature, and then, here’s the real secret: He sauces, then grills the wings, so the goodness cooks into the meat and adds a crisp, caramelized edge.
You can get them in traditional buffalo style, sweet-spicy homemade barbecue, or a complex, Thai sweet chile sauce kicked up with Rubin’s secret ingredients. For even more flavor, the chef sends out a side of gorgonzola dip. To finish, a pile of celery sticks add familiar crunch, while fluffy slabs of warm naan bread are an unexpected treat, used to sop every last bit of stunning sauce.
760 W. Chandler Blvd., Chandler
The menu at this relaxed family eatery and bar has illustrations of tiny bombs next to the heat levels available for its chicken wings. The no-bomb choice is a friendly affair, with no heat at all. One bomb brings a familiar tanginess, while five bombs means you may soon be apologizing to your tongue for the nuclear burn from a 2 million Scoville unit pepper extract.
No matter the heat, however, taste shines through, since Monk owner Jim Lolli is a true wing pro. He opened Buffalo Wings & Rings’ first Arizona franchise in 2008 before going independent and renaming his eatery Hungry Monk last year.
It starts with fresh, never frozen, chicken. Lolli uses soy-based oil with zero transfats, cooking the bone-in wings plain, and the boneless wings dusted in a light flour/herb coating. Sauces can’t be skimped on, so the Monk puts together an array of homemade choices, including original buffalo, sweet barbecue, roasted garlic, “crazy” (barbecue with roasted garlic), parmesan garlic, Cajun (with an extra dose of Cajun pre-seasoning), lemon pepper Cajun, honey-hot and bleu cheese. Need more? Try honey mustard, sweet and sour, Thai peanut or teriyaki.
Siam Thai Cuisine
5008 W. Northern Ave., Glendale
Thailand was known as Siam until 1939. And for more than two decades, Glendale’s Siam restaurant has been celebrated by Valley foodies as having some of the best Thai food anywhere. The specialty is old-time authentic recipes, focusing on brilliant food rather than décor (the nondescript building is a basic hole in the wall).
But inside, heaven awaits with what the chef calls “angel wings.” These are moist and tender poultry appendages stuffed with a juicy-crunchy blend of marinated ground pork, silver noodles and vegetables. They’re certainly good enough to eat plain, but if you crave something even dressier, get the combo, which brings a fresh papaya salad of sweet fruit dressed in an invigorating vinaigrette of Thai chile, lime juice, tomato and fish sauce. On the side are four wings, paired with a vibrant spicy-sweet sour sauce for dipping.
And don’t worry about being dainty, dear. You eat it all with your fingers, nibbling every last little speck of delicious meat from the bone, with plenty of napkins required.
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