A quick internet search points us in the direction of Winking Lizard Tavern for good wings in Cleveland. Are they worth the stop on our road trip?
Once upon a time, there was a race car. A Daniel Hayes race car. And then, there was a text message. âhey, want to go to Cleveland this weekend?â (I received this just a few days before said weekend)Â Being that my whole extended family is in Cleveland, my uncle Tim owns a bar there, and I love getting in to see my cousins, the response was a no brainer, âf@$% yeah… why?â And just like that, we had a plan to hit c-town for a quick two day turn around trip to meet some guy from New York to trade some car parts for the previously mentioned Hayes race car. So how does The Winking Lizard Tavern fit into all of this? Read on.
Since it was a road trip, and we are aWingThing.com, we naturally had to make wings a cornerstone of this trip. I used my work time wisely and jumped on the interwebs to scope out the best reviewed wing joints in the Cleveland area and one of the most popular places that came up often was the Winking Lizard Tavern in Bedford, OH. Itâs just south of Cle off 480 and 271 and amazingly happened to be just a vortex football throw away from uncle Timâs bar, the Blue Star Tavern on Miles Rd in Solon, OH (yes, that was a shameless plug). So after finalizing a couple logistics, we were off.Â
Dave Lorino, Dan Hayes, my brother-in-law Adam, and I were loaded up, trailer in tow, ready to see what Cleveland was ready to offer the wing game. After a couple super inspired rants from Dave about the absurd number of Toyota Priusi on the road, a few motorists almost ending up in the ditch after witnessing me rocking the fuq out in my panda hat, a wrong turn, and some google maps help, we made record time and were trading car parts in a qdoba parking lot. Deal done, handshakes all around, itâs wing time.
The Winking Lizard Tavern is actually a fairly large chain in the Cleveland area (27k facebook likes) which usually means some positives and some drawbacks. The drawbacks of large chains are most often a lack of uniqueness and quality of the food. The Winking Lizard did not have that problem in regards to their wings. In short, our experience as a whole was awesome. The dĂ©cor and vibe of the place was like a bw3âs with more of an old school feel; tons of tvâs, some skiball, and a couple arcade games lined the walls of the real decently sized dining area.
The first thing to hit us when we sat down was their unbelievable beer list accompanied with our sever Darylâs matching knowledge of the list. Countless bottles, taps, and specials all organized by style and country of origin. Once we had our beers ordered, we got our game faces on went after that wing menu. The Winging Lizard Tavern menu is well laid out and informative with 15 different flavor options on your 5, 10, or 20 pack of wings. Iâll save the words and let you check out the accompanying pictures for all the flavors and descriptions. We decided as a group that ordering six 5 packs of different flavors and going family style on them would be the best bet to experience as many flavors as possible. We went with Thai, spicy garlic, spicy bbq, Cajun, goldfinger, and the hottest on the list, magma. (Adam was the first to throw the âliquid hot magmaâ Dr. Evil quote)
The doneness of the wings bordered on perfect for my preference of fried wings. Real crispy outside and tender inside. The one negative of this was one or two of the wings were slightly overdone and a little dry but it was few enough of them that I let it slide. My favorite wing sauces out there are really hot Asian style, sweet and spicy. So I jumped on the Thai wings like Michael Jackson being invited to a Boy Scout jamboree. The flavor was spot on Asian zing and just what I expected from the description but I was sadly disappointed by the weakness of spice. Thai is listed as their forth hottest sauce, so I was expecting some bite but it just wasnât there. Luckily, that was the only time I was disappoint on this wing outing. All the other flavors were great. There was actually garlic in the spicy garlic and the magma was hot as shit but not overwhelming to the point that you completely regret even trying them. The spicy bbq was a little generic but I like strange bbg flavors. If youâre a fan of bbq wing sauces, youâd like this one. Goldfinger actually ended up being my favorite flavor of the day. Like I mentioned before, I love really hot wings with bold flavor but damn, even not being a spicy sauce, this was excellent. It was really unique and the mustard flavor with the slightest hint of the apple cider vinegar doesnât sound appetizing but it was a perfect match. I ended up buying a bottle on our way out.
So everything is going great with our visit. Our service was top notch and the wings and beers were great. At one point in conversation with our server, we mentioned we were from Milwaukee and we were going to be critical of the wings we were about to eat like it was our purpose in life. Just as we were polishing off our last wings and getting the best of those wet naps, our server comes back with Dominic Moraco, GM of the Winking Lizard Tavern, right behind him. The guy was awesome. He hung out with us for a bit and was very receptive of our critique. We started discussing the flavors and he insisted we try some of his favorites: Caribbean, spicy sesame, and teriyaki. If thereâs one style of wing sauce that I have never liked, its Caribbean jerk sauces. Granted, this one didnât have âjerkâ attached to it on the menu, I preemptively hated this sauce but it was on the house so it was my duty as aWingThing’er to get down on it like I was taking the fat chick for the team. Remember how just a paragraph ago I mentioned the only time I was disappointed during this trip was by the lack of heat in the Thai? That shit was the truth. This Caribbean sauce was damn good and I was seriously surprised. The spicy sesame was also delicious and like nothing Iâve tried before. The teriyaki was good, but it was still teriyaki, just not my thing.
So there we were, full and satisfied. AWingThing.com stormed Winking Lizard Tavern and everyone came out better than they went in. But this story isnât over my friends. If thereâs anything I love as much as cars, bikes, boobs, and wings, its whiskey. And right next door just happened to be Winking Lizard Tavernâs version of Heaven on Earth. They call it Lizardville and itâs stocked with every bottled beer on their extensive list available for purchase in make-your-own-sixpacks. Oh, and over 200 fuqân whiskies. Yeah, 200. All are available by the regular or long pour. So for desert, the four of us shared a long pour of Middleton Very Rare; neat of course. (about $130 a bottle). Please understand that I have put some delicious shit in my mouth before, but this may top the list. If youâre a baller, call me up and Iâll let you buy me some Middleton Very Rare.
The rest of our trip was a blurred Jackson Pollack painting of serious alcohol consumption, awesome family*, dirty hipsters, driving through East Cleveland, and a Prius counting game that made me hate life and almost put Lorino in a coma. Oh shit, and Micky Dâs mighty wings at a rest stop just west of South Bend, INâŠ. Iâm not even going down this road right nowâŠ
**(I should mention that at one point on Saturday night, while we were all balls deep in Jameson and Bacardi dragon berry at the Blue Star, uncle Tim hit us with three baskets of some seriously dope wings of his own. I think he went âchallenge acceptedâ style on our positive review of Winking Lizard. I donât think we can fairly, officially review the wings because weâd be biased and we were right about to fall off the top of shitfaced mountain.)