Food crawls are serious business. It takes a little bit of spontaneity, ambition, and strength to complete one from start to finish. I learned this first hand during the 6th Annual Wing Walk in Schenectady this October. Although I’ve done food crawls before like Chowderfest in Saratoga, I wasn’t sure what to expect this time around, except for the obvious fact that I would be consuming a substantial number of chicken wings.
Essentially Wing Walk is exactly what it sounds like, participants walk from restaurant to restaurant in search of the city’s best wing. If I am being honest, chicken wings aren’t my favorite food. They’re messy, hard to eat, and you never really know what you’re going to get. But I’ve never met a food crawl I didn’t like and the 2017 Wing Walk was no exception. The event in Schenectady is so popular amongst the community that all 1500 tickets often sell out. As I wandered the streets of Schenectady, from State St. to the Stockade, down Union and Lafayette chowing down on wings I realized a few tricks of the trade that I’d like to share with you.
Get your tickets well in advance
For $12 you get to try one wing at a total of 20 restaurants. We’re talking around $0.60 per wing, an undeniably good deal if you ask me. But tickets will sell out as they set a maximum, ensuring that lines stay short and everyone gets their fair share. In theory this works, except in my case, when Apostrophe café was out of wings when we got to them (you knew how many you needed, @Apostrophe!)
While you get your tickets in advance, in order to start the walk you have to pick up what effectively becomes your scorecard. We arrived around noon, shortly after the official start of the walk and the line already extended well outside of the Proctors box office. Though it moved quickly, get there early to avoid the wait and get started as soon as possible. Aside from avoiding the initial wait, you will want to get there early to start early, which brings me to step 3.
Starting early will help tremendously with this because you won’t feel like you need to rush to hit all of the restaurants. You can take your time at each location and stroll leisurely to get to the next one. 20 chicken wings is a lot, but over a longer period of time it’s not so bad. You’re going to want to try as much as you can, because that’s the point, so don’t make any plans for the afternoon and enjoy the day.
Pack a water bottle
Most places will offer water bottles for pretty cheap but not for free. Fill up your own bottle before you go and have it by your side all day. I didn’t think about this, immediately regretting it when I bit into my first spicy wing and was desperate for some relief. Even though carrying something extra is never ideal, save yourself the pain and the cash.
Stock up on wet naps
At the beginning of the walk many of the stops had a large bowl of wet naps to take from, but by the time the walk was winding down there were only napkins left. Saucy fingers are okay for a little bit, but walking around all afternoon with honey bbq beneath your fingernails is just not a good time. Maybe people stealing extra wet naps is what made them run out in the first place, but sometimes a girl’s just got to look out for herself. Take a few extra and keep them in your pocket. You will need them, without a doubt.
Enjoy the extras
By extra I pretty much mean beer. Quite a few stops along they way included bars, drink specials, or house beers. We found our first “beer break” to coincide perfectly at Mad Jack where the Harvest BBQ Chicken Wing’s were infused with Mad Jack Brewery beer. I had to try the Harvest Ale, as part of my blog research of course. Along the way many other locations had drink specials, like Wing Walk winner, Rare Steakhouse. Firestone 151 had the doors open and the outdoor bar serving drinks, but after our wing we opted to jump the fence and have a beer at Great Flats Brewery instead. Keeping with the season I tried their Oktoberfest brew, Schenectoberfest. Taking a break from the wings and just enjoying the day, the company, and Schenectady, made the walk even more enjoyable.
Try something different
The fun thing about Wing Walk is that you get to try so many different things. Places that don’t typically offer chicken wings participate as well as bars and restaurants in which wings are a menu staple. It makes for a wide mix of flavors, sauces, and even types of wings. A food walk is a great chance to try something you might not order on a regular day because if you don’t like it, you don’t have a huge order to worry about. It’s just one wing. Things I tried that I would probably not order at a restaurant:
- Aperitivo’s pork wing
- Canvas Cork’s and Forks melted gouda wing
- Bomber’s & Stacks Espresso coffee rubbed wing
- Centre Street’s Peruvian dry rub wing
- A chicken wing from Pho Queen in general
Skip what you don’t want
I would like to take the opportunity to disclaim that I did not try all 20 wings. Although I tried many, in total I only took in 17. Apostrophe ran out, so I had no choice there, but I made the decision to skip Taj Mahal and The Horses Lounge. I had heard through the grapevine that the Taj Mahal wing is notoriously spicy, and by the end of the day I wasn’t in the mood to have something that was going to leave me feeling less than stellar. I don’t really have a reason for skipping The Horses Lounge, but after eating chicken wings all day long, I was reaching my limit. That’s the thing about these walks, you want to try everything but if there is something you’re not interested in, for whatever reason, don’t force yourself.
Keep track of what you try
Throughout the walk you have a list of locations and wings that gets marked to keep track of where you have been, but eventually everything starts to blend together. Take pictures or videos at each place and you’ll easily be able to recall where you went and what you tried. This way later on you can not only remember what you liked (and didn’t) but where you might want to go again.
Cliche, I know. But I am serious! My favorite wing didn’t win, but exploring the city made for an excellent day. A food crawl like the wing walk is the perfect weekend activity for anyone who like to try new things, explore, and eat.
To give you a final recap when it comes to the wings, my favorite was the grilled spicy Tuscan wing from Cornell’s in Little Italy. The great thing about wing walk is discovering new places, like Cornell’s, that would’ve never been on my radar. But now that I know they made a pretty kick-ass wing, I want to go back and try some of their menu items. In terms of classic buffalo, Katie O’Byrnes and Hunter’s on Jay could probably duke it out for the top spot, but if I was to create my own category of most surprising, Pho Queen with a spicy sesame wing would have to take the prize. Honorable mention goes to Firestone 151 for Most Clever Name with a game of thrones themed White Walker Wing and 20 North for a wing that was tangy, tasty and all around delicious.
Wing Walk 2017 was a success and now with these tips you’ll be all set to take on the walk in 2018! Will I see you there?
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