Wings take flight at Schenectady chicken party

20 restaurants take part in annual event
Falon Kaczmarek serves a chicken wing from Firestone 151 at the Wing Walk in Schenectady on Saturday.
Falon Kaczmarek serves a chicken wing from Firestone 151 at the Wing Walk in Schenectady on Saturday.

Twenty chicken wings were no problem for Jacklyn Ennis on Saturday.

“I basically live off Buffalo wings, so any kind of wing walk is OK in my book,” said Ennis, 21, who lives in Schenectady.

Ennis had just tasted the “Holy Trinity” chicken wing at Katie O’Byrne’s tavern off Erie Boulevard — one of 20 restaurants on Schenectady’s sixth annual Wing Walk. The chicken party organized by the Schenectady Downtown Business Improvement Corp. attracted a sellout crowd of 1,500 people who paid either $12 or $7 for the culinary adventure.

People strolled from restaurant to restaurant in occasionally drizzly and occasionally humid early autumn weather conditions. All the restaurants were ready for wing lovers who often arrived in waves.

“It gets people through the door who may not be here on a regular basis,” said Courtney Berlin, manager of the Centre Street Public House at North Broadway and Union Street. “They get to see the space, which is good. Everything we have to offer they get to see when we have events like this.”

The Centre Street wing was a Peruvian dry rub special with a secret Green Goddess sauce. Four hundred pounds in the fryers meant 1,700 wings for the serving table.

The Katie O’Byrne wing combined three sauces, and co-owner Tony DiCarlo said that in addition to the 1,500 wings for the walk, he was ready to cook 500 more. “We’re prepared for whatever they throw at us,” he said.

People were happy to eat and walk.

“We love wings,” said Tom Cassidy, 69, of Colonie, sampling the maple chipotle mango wing at 20 North on North Broadway. “And it’s something to do.”


“Big world out there,” added Cassidy’s wing partner for the afternoon, Martha Cusack of Niskayuna. “You have to do things.”

Sara Mae Pratt, owner of Puzzles Bakery and Cafe in Schenectady, left her ovens for the day.

“We love being part of the downtown atmosphere,” Pratt said. “This is an event we really look forward to. We love wings, we love Schenectady and we wouldn’t miss it.”

Pratt loved the 20 North flavors. “Amazing,” she said. “These guys are always the best.”

Chefs around the country have heard about a chicken wing shortage. Schenectady kitchens have been able to keep the tangy and tasty bites in stock.

“I know the price has been going up pretty steady,” said Dave Nigriny, who co-owns 20 North with Eric Warde. “We have not had a problem obtaining wings.”

Brothers Steve and Scott Ference teamed up for the chicken tour and loved the 20 North appetizer.

“We love wings, we always order wings wherever we go,” said Steve, 36, who lives in Saratoga Springs. 

Scott, 34, who lives in Schenectady, said he prepared for the extravaganza by cutting out calories — and Saturday snacks.

“No breakfast, no lunch,” he said. “This is the meal.”

At Pinhead Susan’s, the “Mad Jameson” barbecue wing was the star of the bar. The sauce contained Mad Jack Brewery’s Dutchman Ale and Jameson whiskey. 

“To me, it’s sweet on the first bite, you get a hint of Jameson in the middle and then a kick at the end,” said head chef Anthony Bianchine.

Bianchine loves the wing routine.

“It brings people to Schenectady, fills the bars,” he said. “It’s just a great event for Schenectady.”

Lisa Omicinski of Scotia brought her family along for the wing session, and the crew got a table at Pinhead’s. “We can all be together, it’s outside and it’s a nice walk around Schenectady,” she said.

Like other chefs and owners, Brian Coyne of the Backstage Pub and Grill said there was no problem securing wings from distributors. “But they’re definitely on the expensive side,” he said.

At Aperitivo Bistro, owner Matt Mazzone didn’t have a chicken problem. His “When Pigs Fly” wing was made out of pork.

“We always try to be a little bit different,” he said. “We’ve had no trouble at all getting a pork wing. I know the chicken market is a little bit tight right now.”

The winners, by popular vote ballot: Rare Craft Steak & Cocktail House took first with its maple bacon barbecue wing. Second place went to 20 North Broadway; third to Centre Street Public House.

Reach Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124, [email protected] or @jeffwilkin1 on Twitter.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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