And the “Best Wings in the Valley” are …
What an assignment! I had the great pleasure of gathering around a table with fellow foodies, former football players, a one-time World’s Strongest Man and Charleston’s mayor to help judge this year’s “Best Wings in the Valley” contest as part of the Guys Night Out WVU football tailgate fundraiser to benefit the YWCA’s Sojourner’s Shelter.
Under impossibly gorgeous skies Saturday afternoon, we all sat down at halftime to sink our collective teeth into wings from six local restaurants vying for this year’s crown.
And in a development rarely seen when trying to get a large group to agree on anything – especially when it comes to something as subjective as food – we were all unanimous in our blind tasting of this year’s entries.
Once each wing’s origin was revealed, we discovered we had ALL chosen the wings from The Cold Spot as the best of the bunch. Every single one of us. While wings from other restaurants lost points for being a little too dry or too tough or too bland, The Cold Spot’s wings fired on every cylinder to claim this year’s title in a surprising upset.
Surprising not only because it topped previous longtime event winners, but also because The Cold Spot – once widely considered as serving the area’s biggest and best wings – hasn’t been getting as much public love of late for the noticeable drop in both size and quality of its wings. Nearly everyone I shared the results with seem shocked as well.
But make no mistake, The Cold Spot was the judging panel’s clear winner Saturday, with Adelphia Sports Bar & Grille coming in second and Black Sheep Burrito and Brews very close behind in third.
Other wings in the running, in no particular order, were from Sam’s Uptown Café, Tricky Fish and the Red Carpet Lounge.
You don’t just have to take our word for it, either. The Cold Spot made it a clean sweep by winning the People’s Choice Award for best wings as well.
While the outcome of the game itself left much to be desired, it was still nice to see hundreds of dudes show up to hang out, drink beer, devour plates of food, puff on cigars and yell at large TVs, all while supporting such a worthy cause.
• • •
After hearing last week’s news about a new pinball arcade in the Beckley area, reader Bruce Haley told me he can’t wait to check it out.
“Thanks for the article,” he wrote, “they had me at pinball!”
He said his wife brought him a Gilligan's Island pinball machine just before the pandemic, which gave him plenty of time to play it.
“It was great timing and I fell in love with pinball all over. It took me back to my youth when I would set pins at the bowling alley above The Strand (formerly on Hale Street) in downtown Charleston. I was paid 8 cents for each game I set pins for.”
Afterward, he said he and a buddy would then head over to Capital Lunch, which was on what used to be Broad Street (now Leon Sullivan Way) between Lee and Quarrier.
“We'd drop our nickels into whatever machine they had at the time,” he remembers. “That, of course, was after we had a wonderful serving of their incredible creamy mashed potatoes with dark gravy and a huge homemade roll – all for 15 cents.”
• • •
Steven Keith is a food writer and restaurant critic known as “The Food Guy” who writes a weekly column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail and has appeared in several state, regional and national culinary publications. Follow him online at www.wvfoodguy.com or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. He can be reached at 304-380-6096 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.