May 1, 2003

Finger Lake 'n Good

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I was so proud of myself. Not only did I work out regularly over winter break, I actually taught myself how to cross country ski, a strenuous ordeal that apparently requires cat-like balance and coordination. All the sweating, falling over, and getting freaked out by coyote tracks on the ski trails paid off, and I returned to Ithaca ten pounds lighter.

I thought I was golden. I can cook, and the pizza/Chinese takeout thing had gotten old. So I was going to eat healthy and stay svelte. Then the boys at work introduced me to that shining beacon of deliciousness known as Wings Over Ithaca.

Tucked away in an unassuming corner of East Hill Plaza, Wings Over Ithaca looks harmless enough. It announces its presence in the usual ways employed by fast food establishments: a sign, some neon in the windows, takeout menus on the door.

Inside is where it gets good: walk through the front dining room and from 11-2 Monday through Friday, you’re greeted with an all–you-can-eat lunch buffet, and chances are, some pretty serious eaters chowing down. The buffet features four popular flavors of Wings Over Ithaca’s boneless wings.

Wings Over Ithaca’s wings come two ways: with bones or boneless, and in twenty different flavors. The boneless wings, are, as advertised, “not that processed junk.” They’re tender strips of white meat lightly coated with a batter (nothing heavy) and then deep fried. The wings with bones (boned wings? boneful wings?) are plump and juicy. They’re bigger and have more meat on them than any other wing I’ve had here in Ithaca.

I have been to Wings more times than I’d care to admit. I think that the delivery guys (all of them no-nonsense and very busy, though competent and worthy of your tips) know the route to my apartment by heart. That said, I can honestly recommend every flavor I’ve tried. They are: Barbecue, Honey Barbecue, Kickin’ Barbecue, Teriyaki, Garlic Parmesan, Cajun Blackened, West Texas Mesquite, Cajun Barbecue, and the two mildest Buffalo style variations, Wimpy and Cruisin’ Altitude. My friend Nafis wasn’t wild about the Jamaican Jerk flavor; he thought it needed more bite. On the whole, though, the flavors are all worthy of at least a try. Then pick your favorites –if you can choose between them.

Those of you who like spicy food, be warned. The buffalo sauces, which come in five degrees of heat, are HOT. Every once in a while, I can deal with Cruisin’ Altitude, which is only the second hottest flavor. In fact, wimpy is plenty spicy for this gal. While the Red Alert flavor (number three on the heat scale) is tolerated by my boy Jeremy, even Mr. Macho needs some fries to cut the heat. Although I don’t know anyone who has tried them, it might be a safe bet that Jet Fuel and Afterburner are for masochists. But hey, I always say, if that’s your thing, go for it.

If you’re not in the mood to get your hands dirty, order a wrap, which is a meal in itself. It comes in three varieties: fried (choose your sauce) Buffalo (red alert sauce — although this is negotiable — and bleu cheese), and broiled (again, choose your sauce), which is apparently one of the two “healthy” options on the menu — the other is a broiled chicken sandwich.

Wraps, sandwiches, and ribs, which are equally delicious as the wings and available in any of the barbecue sauces and teriyaki, all come with the option to add fries for a dollar. Your typical crinkle cut taters, Wings fries ’em up crispy and hot.

Dine in orders, once paid for at the counter, are made to order and served in black plastic bowls with Wings’s own yummy bleu cheese sauce. Portions are plentiful, and if you order a fountain drink you can get free refills.

It’s obvious that Wings Over Ithaca is a no-nonsense business tailored to the campus crowd. For one thing, two branches of the budding chain, Wings Over Storrs and Wings Over Albany, are also located in college towns. Ordering is made easier (or harder, depending if you’re drunk while trying to order) because the restaurant is featured on Wings delivers until 1 a.m. on Sunday through Wednesday, and until 3 a.m. Thursday through Saturday for the after bar crowd (or the up all night study crowd). Because the delivery guys are out so late, they don’t start delivery until 4 p.m., so you have to rely on another means of wing acquisition to get your Wings Over Ithaca fix during the day. I suggest any way possible.

Archived article by Kate McDowell