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Dining out: The Wing Coop

Published: Friday, April 18 2008 12:33 a.m. MDT

There's a problem with this week's review that I'd better get out of the way straight off. Last week, I visited a restaurant specializing in Buffalo chicken wings, and I have a hard time eating Buffalo chicken wings.

I've happily eaten all sorts of food many people won't touch: blood sausage, haggis (made, of course, from intestines), escargot. Why, just last Halloween I crunched down a chocolate-covered cricket. But I was raised by a mom for whom eating chicken skin was just about on the level of eating a whole, dead chicken — feathers, beak and talons included.

Chicken wings are, of course, amply supplied with skin. And I just can't undo three decades of conditioning, no matter how delectable the sauce that covers any given basket of wings.

In the interests of journalistic thoroughness, my sister and I shared a small basket of wings coated with zippy garlic Parmesan sauce, and I can report that they are among the best of their kind: plump and meaty, unbreaded, fried to crisp perfection (you can also get 'em grilled). If wings are your thing, you'll be very happy with the product at The Wing Coop.

But The Wing Coop was merciful. For folks like me, who love the sauces and dips but not the wings themselves, the menu offers "tenders," those little strips of boneless, skinless meat, either breaded or grilled, coated with your choice of 15 sauces and accompanied by any of seven dips. There also are chicken breasts, salads, wraps and sandwiches such as the "Cordon Coop," two grilled tenders topped with mayo, shaved ham and Swiss cheese, that my husband enjoyed.

But the real fun of The Wing Coop is in the sauces and dips for which the chicken is just a vehicle.

We had three sauces: the award-winning honey habanero, intermediate Buffalo sauce and mostaza, a mustard-based sauce. We dipped those in ranch, blue cheese, honey mustard, vinaigrette and peppery "coop dip." I like blue cheese best by far, but you'll no doubt discover your own favorites.

Every sauce we had was excellent. The honey habanero was less sweet than expected and had a rich chili flavor, with medium spiciness. The "intermediate" Buffalo sauce, though listed lower on the restaurant's scale of heat, tasted much more fiery to me.

The mostaza was our favorite. I'm normally not partial to mustard with chicken, but this sauce was inspired: strong but not bitter, assertive and just spicy enough to leave a tingle in the back of the throat. It was drizzled over the tenders rather than coating them completely, leaving the meat nice and crisp from start to finish.

Our young'uns stayed occupied with the kids' meals, a bargain at $2.99 for a tender coated with any sauce — our kids had the authentic and glossy teriyaki and a nicely balanced but mild barbecue sauce — plus fries and a drink.

We had a bunch of sides. The thick-cut, crispy fries and carrot and celery sticks were favorites with the kids, who also enjoyed the corn bread — cooked in muffin tins so each one looked like a little cupcake. I was hopeful about the coleslaw, but despite the addition of cranberries, it was bland. The baked beans, on the other hand, were an explosion of flavor, with creamy beans swimming in rich bacon-laden sauce.

When I visit The Wing Coop again, I think I'll get takeout. It's a popular option and spares customers trying to secure a table in the teeny dining space. That space is sort of a no-man's-land: I watched several customers try to clean tables themselves in the time we were there, and never saw a staff member come out with a washcloth or broom (though I saw several cleaning the open kitchen area, which is reassuring).

One other reason to get takeout is the music selection. I don't mind tunes played as loudly as they were at the Wing Coop, but I do object to loud music with profanity in public spaces, especially when I'm with my kids.

Individual meals $4.99-$6.99, group plates $11.49-$60.99, salads $6.99, sandwiches and wraps $5.99-$6.99, family meals $27-$39, sides $2-$3, kids' meals $2.99.

Rating: ** 1/2

Where: 3791 Wasatch Blvd. (another location at 4095 S. Redwood Road, West Valley)

Hours: Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

Sunday, noon-6 p.m.

Payment: Major credit cards accepted; no checks

Phone: 274-9464

Web: www.wingcoop.com

Wheelchair access: Accessible, but crowded


Stacey Kratz is a freelance writer who reviews restaurants for the Deseret News. E-mail: skratz@desnews.com