Schenectady County

Schenectady Wing Walk warms up a chilly day

18 restaurants, thousands of wings warm a chilly fall day.
Tamara Murphy carries in a fresh platter of chicken wings at Nico's Rooftop Tavern on State Street in Schenectady during the 2015 Wing Walk Saturday.
Tamara Murphy carries in a fresh platter of chicken wings at Nico's Rooftop Tavern on State Street in Schenectady during the 2015 Wing Walk Saturday.

Just two restaurants in to Schenectady’s Wing Walk, 4-year-old Stella Petersel was enjoying the day as most adults probably wanted to: a wing in each hand, sauce smeared all over her face, being pulled around in a wagon.

She was sitting outside Nico’s Rooftop Tavern with her 2-year-old sister in a red plastic Radio Flyer around 1 p.m. Saturday, an hour into the Wing Walk, now stretching five hours and including 18 restaurants in downtown Schenectady.

Stella’s mother, Briana Petersel, was standing next to the wagon with her two other children and some family friends, finishing off some Jack Daniel’s Grilled Wings from Nico’s.

And the winners are:

People’s choice:

20 N. Broadway Tavern (Sweet & Spicy Buffalo Style Wing)

Judges’ choices:

— Most creative: Aperitivo Bistro (7 Hour Cherry Pepper Wing)

— Spiciest: Taj Mahal Restaurant (Spicy Masala Wing)

— Best sauce: Mexican Radio (Vidalia Onion Georgia Peach Wing)

— Best traditional: 20 N. Broadway Tavern (Sweet & Spicy Buffalo Style Wing)

— Judges’ favorite: Bombers Burrito Bar, Lemon Pepper Garlic Wing

Petersel said this was the family’s first time at the festival, spurred in part by Stella’s “obsession” with chicken wings. With the longer running time this year and move from Thursday to Saturday, they were planning to take their time and make a day of it.

“We’ll try to get through as much as we can before the kids go crazy,” she said. And when they get home, “I think we’re just going to kind of throw them in a bucket of water before they can touch the furniture.”

The Wing Walk was expanded for its fourth year because of the “overwhelming success” of previous years, according to the Schenectady Downtown Improvement Corporation, which organizes the event along with Schenectady County Visitors Center.

Attendance this year was capped at 1,000 instead of 600 as it was last year.

For Mark Young, owner of Mexican Radio, that meant making a lot more wings. Last year, he made 400, he said; this year he had 1,200 prepared.

“The sauce is Vidalia Onion Georgia Peach sauce, so it’s a little sweet but it has a touch of spice, and I think it makes a very unique wing,” he said.

Wing walkers, as long as they tasted at least nine wings, could vote for their favorite, to be crowned at the end of the walk. There were also four celebrity judges — WEQX radio DJ Ryan McCalla, Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, Times Union Table Hopping blogger Steve Barnes and The Daily Gazette reporter Haley Viccaro — choosing winners in the categories of most creative, spiciest, best sauce, best traditional and judges’ pick.

At Mexican Radio, Young said he felt they had improved on their wings from last year and “put their best foot forward,” but he had no idea how they would stack up against the competition.

“One of the unfortunate things about doing this event is you don’t get to taste other people’s wings,” he said. “I think we’ve got good competition. When I looked at the ballot, there seemed to be a lot of interesting wings out there.”

The list included recipes like Lemon Pepper Garlic Wings from Bombers Burrito Bar, 7 Hour Cherry Pepper Wings from Aperitivo Bistro, Garlic Parmesan Wings from the Grog Shoppe, Thai Sriracha Wings from Thai Thai Bistro and Cider House Wings from Isopo’s Downtown Pizza.

New to the walk this year were Firestone 151 and Ninja Asian Restaurant, both of which have opened their doors since last year’s event, along with Aperitivo Bistro and Pinhead Susan’s.

The day was rounded out with live music and comedy at a handful of downtown establishments and an after-party at Firestone 151.

Visitors were already lined up at the Proctors box office when the $10 tickets went on sale at noon, and the line remained steady over the next few hours.

Jackson Wang, 22, a College of St. Rose student who lives in Rotterdam, was in line around 1 p.m. with three friends for their first Wing Walk experience. Like many other walkers, they said they were planning to take their time.

“Just looking to check out some of the bars and restaurants in the area, try some beers and enjoy the fall festivities,” Wang said.

Exploration was a common theme. As he worked on his seventh wing, Tim Shannon, also of Rotterdam, said he came to check out the Schenectady cuisine.

“I’ve been to most of these places, but not all of them,” he said. “Cafe Nola I’ve never been to, the new Firestone 151, I’ve wanted to check that out anyway. So it’s a good opportunity.”

Shannon bit into the Bier-B-Que Wing at the Bier Abbey, where more and more visitors sat at the outdoor tables as the day warmed to a tolerable, but still chilly, temperature. Bier Abbey manager Mike Fahey, who was serving wings, said he was happy with the switch from Thursday night to midday Saturday, which is typically a slower time.

“It gets people in here to see what we’re about,” he said during a momentary lull. “This year, we’ve had people stay and have a couple of beers afterward.”

The lull didn’t last long, and soon a new group had entered the Bier Abbey with their Wing Walk checklists, followed up quickly by another.

“Hi, How we doing?” Fahey greeted them. “We’ve got some Bier-B-Que wings here for you.”

Categories: Food, News

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