Dig In! – Hudy: Bring a big appetite, helpers for birthday celebration at Rusty Nail in Clifton Park

Wings from The Rusty Nail in Clifton Park
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Wings from The Rusty Nail in Clifton Park

CLIFTON PARK – There are many ways to celebrate a birthday — a party, a meal out with friends, a romantic candlelight dinner. For myself and my wife Reda, the day is dedicated to wings at the Rusty Nail Grill & Tavern in Clifton Park.

Since 2012, the Rusty Nail has offered, on your birthday, an amount of free wings equal to your age, and the two of us have made it an annual tradition. The promotion was added to the Rusty Nail’s sister location, Bentley’s Tavern in Malta, in 2017.

The offer is only good on your birthday and proof of age is required, along with a few rules: no takeout, no take-home boxes — and come hungry.

“I tell the staff that this is a huge privilege for us to have people come here on their birthdays,” Rusty Nail assistant manager Amy Estill said between lunch and dinner rushes. “I mean, they could go anywhere, but they choose to come here — sometimes wait for an hour for a table to get some free wings when they could go anywhere else.”

How many wings can you get? The answer is how old are the guest, or guests, of honor?

Estill said she had the privilege of serving 80-year-old triplets in the past year.

“We don’t take reservations but the families called in and told us about the triplets, so we were able to let them know our slowest times between lunch and dinner so they could all come in and enjoy it,” Estill said. “They didn’t come anywhere near eating 240 wings. They were ordering appetizers, sandwiches, and I’m like, ‘Don’t you want to get the wings first and then something else?’ ”

Rusty Nail bartender Grace Whelan might just have seen the oldest birthday wing guest to date: 100.

“She came in with a group of people from a nursing home,” Whelan recalled. “A few of them came in with walkers, but she walked right in.”

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Once again they had their fill of wings, but didn’t reach the century mark in the free chicken offerings.

“When they were done, I came over and she was crying,” Whelan said. “I asked what’s wrong? She said she wants to come back next year when she turns 101.”

That will be mid-November, and Whelan hopes the 101-year-old makes a return trip this year.

Once a birthday is verified by a server, the wings are brought out on plates of 10 per each person in the party, allowing the food to be served fresh with as little wasted as possible.

The birthday guest has a choice of a beer, soda or the famous Blue Hawaii tropical cocktail at a special price and served in a 32-ounce commemorative birthday cup to take home. The guest also gets one refill for free.

If you’re not familiar with a Blue Hawaiian, I consider it the Long Island Iced Tea for the Capital Region — sweet, goes down smooth and requires a designated driver.

While Reda and I aren’t about to celebrate our octogenarian birthdays anytime soon, her birthday was in late August (marking a 50-plus wings day). She ordered her usual — Blue Heat wings and a Blue Hawaiian in her commemorative cup.

We still have the cups around the apartment — some relegated to just pen-holder status, among other uses — as reminders of great days.

I helped Reda celebrate with my first order of 10 honey barbecue wings.

We are always optimistic about the birthday day date — rest up, skip breakfast and be ready to do some damage.

It’s a good plan, but ordering tavern fries or nachos as an appetizer always seems to derail our wing consumption rate.

Reda will usually bow out after her first 10 wings, or offer to share a plate of 10 garlic parm with me.

Decisions, decisions.

During this year’s celebration, we celebrated her birthday wing date with four other tables also there as part of the promotion — each easily identified with an “I Got Nail’D On My Birthday” celebratory cup on the table.

A hearty happy birthday was shared that afternoon with her new Virgo friends.

Estill said the restaurant ordering system actually has 25 different buttons for wings with, options for doneness — crispy, extra crispy — and sauce level — dry, wet, sloppy.

Sloppy honey barbecue just became an entry for our November date on my birthday.

We do go a little bit lighter on my birthday: I’m short three wings on my birthday compared with Reda — something I remind her of as one of my birthday presents to myself each year.

Visit The Rusty Nail on the web at www.MyFavoriteTaverns.com.

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