August 20, 2016 was one of the best days of the year after we embarked on a magical experience around the city that we love and the city we call home. On August 20th, Steve and I participated in the Lakewood Wing Crawl for the seventh straight year. We absolutely love this event and it is always one of the most anticipated days of the year. We revolve our lives, our vacations and our social activities around this day because it’s an epic event that just can’t be missed. The stops may have changed through the years, but it’s always a day when we have a great time with friends and family.
This June we even established our very own Lakewood Taco Crawl because we just couldn’t wait another two months for the wing crawl! You can read that post here: 2016 Lakewood Taco Crawl
Here’s the deal: For only $25 we had six hours to choose the winner of “THE BEST WINGS IN LAKEWOOD” by crawling between 13 bars and restaurants along Detroit Avenue. Over the 2.2 mile stretch, we sampled 4 wings at each location (2 buffalo and 2 open flavor), took notes, took pictures, and had an overall good time. After we sampled all of the flavors, we cast our vote for our favorite Buffalo Flavor and Open Flavor wings.
This year I had the honor of serving as a “celebrity judge” (read my bio here!) so you better believe this is serious stuff! As an official judge, I had the opportunity to vote for my top three in each category. I have this blog to thank for my celebrity wing crawl status so you can read last year’s post here: 2015 Lakewood Wing Crawl
In the past, Steve and I have always split a pass, but this year we ended up with two passes, so 52 wings each! Yes, it’s a lot and totally insurmountable. We ended up mostly eating two wings at each location for judging purposes and shared the second pass with other crawlers in our group. We also enjoyed our own or split a drink at each destination, depending on how much time we planned to spend there. With six hours, 13 establishments and 2.2 miles to cover, we approximated 28 minutes per bar (including walking). If you know me and Lisa, then you know we kept our crew on time! Although we took Uber to Around the Corner and walked the entire route, Pillars of Lakewood also offers a complimentary shuttle to/from locations.
We had several new crawlers in our group this year, but the Schurs and Chambers are always the staple participants. We all met at the western-most location of the crawl and also our vote for the best open flavor wings - Around the Corner. Kevin, Lisa, Steve and I all have the same three criteria for voting 1.) Crispiness 2.) Quality of the Wing 3.) Flavor. Steve and I both take notes because it’s easy to lose track of what you ate and where you ate it!
Our first stop on the crawl was Around the Corner. ATC has had a history of success at this event and their black pepper wings are the #1 reason. They are always a group favorite and this year was no different. Both the buffalo and black pepper were the perfect size with the perfect texture. The Black Pepper were perfectly crisp with a nice salt and pepper combination, while the Buffalo was also nice and crispy with really good heat. Starting off with such a phenomenal wing would prove to be tough to beat.
Stop #2 on the crawl was Harry Buffalo Lakewood. Their Boom Boom sauce was nice and buttery with a little Asian spice to finish. They were decent, but not better than ATC’s black pepper. The Medium Buffalo had little to no heat and I would have preferred a little more crunch. I prefer quite a bit of heat, but others in our group enjoyed the low heat and flavor of the wing.
I’m always excited to see Great Lakes Brewing as the title sponsor for this event.
Our third stop on the crawl was Riverwood Cafe. They are always a solid contender and compete with ATC. Their Sweet Heat had nice flavor and was a good quality wing, while the Buffalo was my favorite to this point. It was incredibly crispy with great heat.
At this point, we were 12 wings in and we were pretty happy. The quality thus far was spectacular and we were happy to start the day with a bang.
Stop #4 was Game On and also where we were joined by my mom, Sean and Alex. Unfortunately, these were our least favorite wings so far. I enjoyed the Buffalo Ranch sauce, but needed the wings to be cooked longer. While I love a dry rub wing, their dry Jamaican Jerk wing had too much seasoning for my liking. Overall, the quality and crispiness of the wings didn’t quite meet my standards to take the lead in either category.
Midtown Booths was stop #5 on the crawl. Their Orange Chipotle dry rub wing had mixed reviews. I personally thought they were pretty good. It was interesting and different, but the wing itself wasn’t that impressive. The Medium Buffalo needed more heat.
ElCarnicero was the sixth stop on the crawl and arguably our favorite restaurant in Lakewood. Both wings were well-cooked and had delicious flavor. The Habanero Agave had a little heat, while the Tamarind Chipotle had an amazing smokey flavor. We love seeing owner and chef Eric Williams on-site.
Stop #7 was Plank Road Tavern. Their specialty was a Crown Maple with some good flavor. You could definitely taste the maple and bourbon, but they were a little too sweet for me. The Buffalo had decent heat with a little sweet. Overall, both wings were slightly above average.
Bobby O's was the eighth stop on the crawl and definitely wins the award for most fun location on the crawl! Their cheap drinks, Jell-O shots and pop-a-shot kept us entertained for quite some time.
In year’s past, Bobby O’s had our least favorite wings on the crawl, but they definitely stepped up their game this year and both wings were much better quality than in the past. The Sweet Heat was interesting and sweet and their Buffalo had mild heat. Sean was the consistent winner in pop-a-shot, but Kevin finished with 81 on his final attempt.
Merry Arts was stop #9 on the crawl. An oldie but goodie they put out solid wings every year. Their Jerk wing had excellent flavor, which I really enjoyed. The Buffalo didn’t have much heat but a nice crisp texture. Merry Arts is also where I ran into Mike Polk Jr., another celebrity wing crawl judge!
Deagan’s is another consistent performer on the wing crawl and was stop #10 on the crawl. Another staple on Detroit Avenue, Deagan’s has helped with the resurgence of downtown Lakewood. Steve and I frequent Deagan’s most often for their great beer selection and Manhattans. Both the Buffalo and Soy Chili Jam were excellent with great texture and were nicely cooked. The Buffalo was delicious with good heat and the Soy Chili Jam sauce was excellent. A great combination of salty and spicy.
Stop #11 was Burgers 2 Beer and new to this year's crawl. Their Garlic Parmesan had good flavor and while I enjoyed the amount of Parmesan on each wing, I didn’t love the overall quality of the wing. The Mild Buffalo didn’t offer enough heat and was a little too salty for my linking.
Stop #12 had us at last year’s Lakewood Wing Crawl winner - Forage Public House. We were excited to see if they would be able to keep the trophy! Steve and I frequent Forage quite often and always enjoy the service, drinks and food. Unfortunately, we didn’t enjoy the wings as much as last year and attribute it to being the 12th stop and the end of the day. The Soy Chili Jam and Mild just weren’t cooked enough. I really enjoyed the flavor of the Soy Chili Jam and know the potential is there for an incredible wing. We were also very disappointed to see another crawler treat the bartenders and servers with total disrespect. Although we were clearly not associated, I still felt a sense of responsibility since she was on our beloved crawl.
Our 13th and final stop on the crawl was O'Toole's Pub. Their Mediterranean Chargrilled and Buffalo wings were high-quality and had a nice depth of flavor. They weren’t crispy enough for my liking, but once again, I attribute that to being the last and final stop on our crawl.
In the end, some wings were phenomenal while others were a little less desirable. Here is how we voted:
Shannon Schur Ballot
Best Buffalo: Riverwood, Around the Corner, Deagan’s
Best Open Flavor: Around the Corner, El Carnicero, Merry Arts
Best Overall: Around the Corner, Deagan's
Steve Schur Ballot
Best Buffalo: Around the Corner
Best Open Flavor: Around the Corner
Best Overall: Around the Corner
Best Buffalo: Riverwood
Best Open Flavor: Around the Corner
Best Overall: El Carnicero
Just after noon on Sunday, the results were announced!
Best Buffalo: Game On
Best Open Flavor (Soy Chili Jam): Forage Public House
Best Buffalo: Deagan’s
Best Open Flavor (Orange Chipotle Dry Rub): Midtown Booth’s
This year’s judges included:
Luke Purcell from Great Lakes Brewery
Tia Ewing and Samantha Roberts from Cleveland 19 News and CLE43
Mike Polk Jr.
Greg Brinda from ESPN 850 WKNR
Shannon Schur with www.smstripsandtravels.com
The People’s Choice and Judge’s Choice results are calculated to determine the best overall performance.
Best Overall Wings in Lakewood
I want to personally thank all of the local businesses for their continued participation in the Lakewood Wing Crawl. Without their involvement, we can’t have this kind of fun! If you're interested in getting more involved in the community and more active in events like the Lakewood Wing Crawl, consider joining the Pillars of Lakewood.
Although we didn’t necessary agree with the final results, we had another incredible experience…2.2 miles, six hours, 13 establishments, 52 wings and lots of fun. We cannot wait for next year!