A Thing for Wings

You have to admire Yankee ingenuity.

Take some chewing gum, tissue paper, and a ball of twine, and pretty soon you've got a sleek aluminum sausage capable of flinging hundreds of drunken customers and surly flight attendants across the continent at 35,000 feet. Take a nitwit collection of wannabe pop stars blathering the most annoying sort of musical drivel, and you've got the biggest thing in mass entertainment since Romans started turning Christians into entrées for the benefit of hungry lions.

Or take one of the skankiest parts of a chicken — the wing, a vestigial ornament that's mainly bone, gristle, and skin, and is about as useful to the bird as a tail on a Ferrari — add some hot oil and sauce, and you've got the foundation for an actual restaurant.


House of Wings Sports Grill

19401 S Dixie Hwy, Palmetto Bay; 305-254-7260. Open Monday through Thursday 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11:00 a.m. to midnight, Sunday noon to 9:00 p.m.

Which brings us to House of Wings, a restaurant that trumps ingenuity with more ingenuity by combining fried and sauced chicken wings with Americans' passion for sports, in the form of high-def plasma TVs scattered around the otherwise austere dining room and installed at individual, leather-seated booths.

If wings don't make your taste buds go pitty-pat, and you couldn't give a shiitake about whether the Heat scored a touchdown against the Marlins, that can sound like a recipe for serious indigestion. Thing is, though, Wing's wings are really pretty good. You can get them grilled as well as expertly fried, and the handful of the more than 50 sauces I sampled were a lot better than I had any right to expect.

Of course this isn't exactly health food, though a meal at da House does include all the major food groups — fat, cholesterol, sugar, and beer. But that's all you need for checking out the game, or feeding that junk food jones, or doing a little culinary slumming. I'd go for the fried wings over grilled; the latter are a trifle juicier but the former's crispy skin and firmer-texture meat get me every time. Multiculti sauces range from ranch dressing and curry to Japanese spicy chili and lemon-pepper-honey barbecue. The mojo is bland, the jerk and "golden" (honey mustard barbecue) very good, the lemon-pepper-garlic (actually more of a dry rub than a wet sauce) terrific.

Beyond wings, there's not a whole lot of variety — Bahamian-style conch and tilapia, fries and onion rings, a few salads, and some thumb-size shrimp with delectably crunchy jackets flecked with plenty of black pepper that are works of the deep-fryer's art. In fact all the frying here is exceptionally well done. Wings, shrimp, and thin, frite-like fries all emerge from their boiling oil bath crisp, tender, and without one excess drop of grease.

As for salads, well ... you don't come to a place called House of Wings for greenery. If you must, the caesar salad includes leaves of decently fresh romaine, garnished with what is almost certainly dressing from a bottle and "Parmesan" cheese from a can. It's not nearly as ingenious as turning iffy chicken appendages into tasty chicken wings but, hey, you're not stuck on one of those aluminum sausages or listening to a nitwit pop star wannabe either.

19401 S Dixie Hwy, Palmetto Bay; 305-254-7260. Open Monday through Thursday 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11:00 a.m. to midnight, Sunday noon to 9:00 p.m.


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