Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Buffalo Wild Wings

150 Gravois Bluffs Circle
Fenton MO

14 Nov 2009

The Place:
Located near Red Robin and Chili’s in Fenton which we reviewed earlier. It looked exactly like a chain restaurant, a plastic and brightly lit box in a shopping center parking lot. As we entered we were assaulted by noise, football noise. The dining area was surrounded by TV’s, at least two dozen both large and small including three TV projectors. Three walls held very large screens four by eight or bigger, each showing a different projected college game. The sound blasting through the place was from one, and only one of those games; Ohio State vs. someone less fortunate*. This would have been fine if you happened to be facing the right wall, I was not. The game I was forced to watch was muted, I don’t even know who was playing. I do know that when I looked up towards my big screen when I heard the announcer blasting that Ohio State and Iowa were headed into overtime my screen was showing an erectile dysfunction commercial. It was confusing. I could see a smaller TV showing the announced game, but it was a 21 incher about thirty feet away.
I don’t watch football, ever, but here it was impossible not to when on every wall at every angle there were TV’s with nothing but football, the eyes just got drawn to the motion.

The sound was at a level that required patrons to shout at each other across their tables; incredibly loud.
The menu was a simple laminated tri-fold, with very few options. They pushed the wings of course but also the ribs and to a lesser degree their burgers. I didn’t want a burger, especially at a wings and rib joint.
The young, petite waitress had a voice that pierced the sports noise and I imagine kept nearby dogs and ships on alert. We sent her away a couple of times as we were having some trouble coming up with choices.

The Food:
The tea, coke and diet coke arrived, the tea was generic, perhaps Lipton again. It was fresh though. We finally made our choices. I asked for the ribs and chicken, Angel the ribs and shrimp, Adam threw caution to the wind and ordered eight wings with the most lethal heat they would put on them. The rib meals came with fries and slaw. Adam’s fries were ala carte.

Ohio State apparently won their game while the one I could actually see showed mostly big, strong guys in tight pants standing around scratching themselves I don’t recall any actual huddling, punting or running. Though the place was about three quarters full, no one seemed to be really paying attention to any of the games.
The food came, three slick and gooey ribs and about four heavily breaded chicken strips. Angel’s tiny shrimps were about as heavily breaded. I had reluctantly chosen a dipping sauce for the otherwise bland chicken strips from a selection of about ten different levels of taste and intensity. I picked the safe one, honey barbecue. The sauce was sickly sweet reminding me of generic barbecue sauce. It made the chicken taste like candy corn.** They were okay as long as there were fries to settle the palette between bites. There were simply not enough fries as it turned out. They were shoestring style, limp and pasty, but much better than the ribs, (too sweet, greasy and rubbery) and the slaw which had absolutely no flavor at all.
I noticed the slaw-flaw immediately but Angel was the first to say something about it. It was like shredded raw cabbage, period. If there was mayo, or buttermilk, or pepper it was nowhere to be found. There was a little liquid at the base of the slaw but even stirring it around did no good. It was simply shredded cabbage in a small bowl.
As I mentioned, the ribs were, well let’s just say they were awful. In texture and taste they were on the edge of being disgusting. Neither Angel nor I were able to eat half the meat off the nasty things. The initial bite would be sweet, but then an overpowering vinegar taste soon oozed out and lingered. There were simply not enough fries to kill the assault of too sweet and too vinegary.
With half the slaw, ribs, and chicken uneaten by the end of the thin, limp fries we both gave up. The stuff was simply too awful to continue. Adam’s four remaining wings went into a box. His taste buds irreversibly damaged. I tried one, which was a huge mistake. Not only was my mouth pickled by sugar and vinegar, it was also on fire.
So we ordered desert, not because it looked so tasty, but because we were still hungry AND desperate for something familiar and comfortable to repair our taste buds. Adam and Angel had cheesecake, no topping since the only topping they seemed to have was‘raspberry syrup’ which didn’t seem appealing at all. I love cheesecake, but at the moment it sounded too sweet. I might have been tempted had the topping choice been better, say strawberries or blueberries or my very favorite, banana pudding***.
I chose apple pie with an explanation. Many restaurants, this one included assume I want it piping hot with a wad of vanilla ice cream. No. I like my apple pie cold, just out of the refrigerator cold, and I’m lactose indifferent. Ice cream does nothing positive for me, in fact it makes my tummy rumble. I had to explain this to the shrill waitress that I wanted my pie cold. She wrinkled her face and said “It’s like frozen hard as a brick.” I replied “Nuke it to just below room temperature then please, no ice cream” She returned with the two cheesecakes, fresh out of some box, and a slab of nearly frozen apple pie alongside a large pile of vanilla ice cream. Then she handed us all plastic spoons. I was immediately incensed. Apparently my face said as much. I cannot recall ever eating apple pie with a plastic spoon, AND there was ice cream. I said nothing though; I needed the pie to kill the greasy vinegar taste coating my mouth.
The waitress returned sheepishly, having witnessed my silent rage, with two metal spoons and offered them. “These are the only two real spoons I can find.” She just didn’t get it, it’s PIE. Apple pie is fork-food. It wasn’t very good anyhow. There were real apple chunks, but the filling was over spiced and gelatinous, with less than fresh ingredients, much like the taste and texture of those nuclear-heated apple pie pockets you get at McDonalds.
I didn’t quite finish the pie. The ice cream melted into a pathetic caucasian puddle as I guzzled the last of my mediocre tea.

The check came: Fifty eight dollars and one cent. Yikes! The entrée’s had cost nearly twelve dollars apiece, the drinks were two nineteen each, the pie and cheesecake came in at four seventy nine each. Adam’s eight boneless wings, essentially chicken tenders served in a thin cardboard tray cost a buck apiece; his fries were two dollars extra.
None of us finished our meals. I added a very, very small tip**** to compensate for our displeasure; one dollar and ninety nine cents to bring the total up to sixty dollars even.
Of all the places we’ve been Buffalo Wild Wings was by far the worst. There was absolutely nothing about it, price, service, atmosphere, selection, or food quality that would make us ever consider going back. Angel asked me if I would ever recommend it to anyone. I replied “I would not only not recommend it to anyone; I would not even acknowledge its existence.” As for a score, we’ve hit a new low, so I’m just shoving this out there. It is remotely possible that a worse place will be found so I can’t really give it a zero. On a 100 point school type scale I’m going to set it at a dismal, irreparably failing forty. I’d go a little lower if the food contained live vermin or actually caused hospitalization.


* Iowa. I had to look it up. I don’t care for football.

** I like candy corn, in fact it’s my second favorite vegetable after lima beans. I do not like things that just taste like candy corn, especially meat. Candy corn is only good contextually confined to its natural form.

*** Many years ago Angel and I worked for a division of Litton Industries (now defunct) in Springfield Mo. It had a full cafeteria and served full hot meals, including deserts. A lot of the food was mediocre at best but there were a couple of standouts, one being the extra-cheesy macaroni. On cheesecake night they would often top the cheesecake with blueberries or cherries, but on a rare occasion they would top it with leftover banana pudding containing small banana chunks and graham cracker crust, mmmm, luscious! I have not seen this combination offered anywhere since, but I have tried to duplicate it at buffets. It is simply the best desert idea ever. In fact on my list of the best things in the world, cheesecake takes the top three slots, with Angel, my lovely wife, tied at number two with blueberry cheesecake. (She knows this and has been striving to improve her standing for over twenty years. She might make it someday.)

**** I know that tipping is supposed to be based on service, not the quality of the meals. I KNOW that servers are generally underpaid and rely on tips. I’ve been taken to task many times with my strict, merit-based system of tipping so don’t bother I'm not changing. With food service I simply cannot mentally separate good service from lousy food. In this case the food was bad and too pricey for what it was. I have no direct option to pay less for the food, so the tip must suffer to compensate. I have on such occasions written an explanatory note on the receipt or an in-store survey card. Angel hates when I do that.

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