Party Fowl Wins Wingtoberfest 2011

Photo by Rachel Bohanan
"Those are good," laughed Jonathan Jones, chef at Xuco Xicana, as he pointed at Party Fowl's wings last night. "But you couldn't eat a dozen of them."

Indeed, the breakfast-for-dinner wings that Party Fowl brought to last night's Wingtoberfest were the wing equivalent of foie gras: truly excellent, but not something you'd want to eat too much of at once.

Party Fowl's chicken-and-waffle wings had been battered with crumbled waffles mixed with what Joshua Martinez and Lyle Bento called their "maple death sauce." It was sweet, savory, extravagant and filling.

In the end, it was these wings -- paired up with Saint Arnold's latest brew, Santo -- that won the stein at Wingtoberfest, with a whopping 50 percent of the popular vote. Bento, who'd donned a chicken outfit most of the night, immediately filled up the winning stein with Saint Arnold, Stanley Cup-style, to share with Party Fowl co-owner Martinez. Jones, whose restaurant hosted the event on El XX's breezy upstairs patio, took the loss in stride.

"We still have the best wings in Houston, baby!" he proclaimed, referring to his prize in this year's Best of Houston® issue for Best Wings.

Jones had brought his A game to the competition along with fellow competitors Barcadia and Little Bitty Burger Barn. Xuco Xicana shook up bowls of its house specialty wings, garnished with queso fresco and replete with its tart vinegar-based dressing full of chile de arbol, allspice, cloves, cumin and more. Barcadia served up their straightforward Buffalo-style bar wings with traditional accompaniments and cups of Saint Arnold Elissa IPA to cut the heat.

Little Bitty Burger Barn brought out the big guns, debuting a whole new flavor for the evening: a mango Thai chili that was both sweet and spicy, pairing well with its cups of light, floral Saint Arnold Lawnmower beer. And in a special bowl, kept to the side with a wink and a nod, was LBBB's infamous Nitro sauce.

Owner Ricardo Luna warned me against trying the Nitro sauce, which is the same stuff LBBB pipes atop its Charlie's 5 Alarm Fire Burger. The burger, which was recently featured on the Food Network, features an estimated 10,000,000 units on the Scoville heat scale and is so fearsome that less than one percent of the people who buy the burger finish it.

I didn't listen, and dipped an entire wing in the sauce. Five minutes later, I was staggering around, crying all my makeup off and begging Sunday School Jesus to bring an end to my suffering. I couldn't feel my lips adequately for the next hour, and my face had turned a violent shade of scarlet.

I was glad I'd tried the mango Thai chili before the incident. It ended up as my favorite second favorite wing of the night (after El XX). Regardless of who won, however, the sheer variety of wings was a win-win for our readers, who got to try a classic Buffalo-style, a modern Mexican interpretation, a sweet-and-spicy Asian twist and a breakfast rendition of the sports bar staple.

And, of course, breakdancing men in chicken suits and hot chicks wearing Daft Punk helmets were the garnishes to a wonderful, wing-filled evening.

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