Let’s start off with a few things. Before you send me a message saying “But why wasn’t MY favorite place on this list???” The answer is simple. To be included on this year’s review list the ONLY requirement was that the participating bar had to donate $100 (all tax deductible) to Ted E. Bear Hollow.
So a big thank you is in order to all nine local wing places that each donated directly to an amazing charity to be part of this year’s competition. Who was on the list year? Here they are in order of which way the HTD judges traveled around Omaha sampling some of the best wings this area has to offer one-by-one. The contestants are…
|The Good Life|
- The Good Life Sports Bar and Grill
- Oscar’s Pizza and Sports Grill
- The Observatory Lounge
- Paloozas Sports Bar and Grill
- Addy’s Sports Bar and Grill
- The Buffalo Company
- Donohue’s Pub
- Ray’s Original Buffalo Wings
- The HopHouse Bar and Grill
Again, these are all locally owned small businesses that rely on the support of the people in our community to provide jobs, and well, keep us happy that we have so many great options for wings and beer!
So thanks again to everyone that participated. And for those of you reading this…make it a point to try each and every one of these places in the next few weeks…we’ll tell you exactly what to order when you’re there…just keep reading.
|Not my sippy cup|
How It Worked
A casting call was sent far and wide to assemble a rag-tag bunch of judges of anyone that loved to eat wings, and had some time over the course of two weekends in June. Our cast of nearly 15 judges were provided with score sheets and asked to rate wings on the now famous/infamous HitThatDive scoring criteria, which always include the following five categories.
- First Impressions
- And the always ambiguous “Extras”
Judges were asked to grade each type of wing, at each place, with a 0-10 in every category…which means a 50 is a perfect score…and a ZERO of course means we must have made a wrong turn and are now eating at LaVista Keno.
|Judges took it seriously|
I (Scuba Steve) did not take place in any of the judging, and was just there to eat wings and answer any questions in regards to proper scoring. Keep in mind that the HTD judges ate at nine places and had been served, in some instances, more than 10 varieties of wings…at ONE stop. So this was no easy task to judge and score. The HitThatDive judges did an amazing job, so thank you all for your time, efforts and stomaches.
Lessons Learned for Next Time
- Judges will eat at no more than THREE places per day…we are not competitive eaters.
- Bars will submit no more than three wing flavors in advance.
- Judges must fast for 24 hours before we eat. (OK, well that’s not really going to be a rule…but as we learned…it’s a damn good idea!)
- We will draw straws to decide order because the most difficult spot to be in for bars are the ones going first or last.
- Ultimately, we learned a lot of lessons on how to do things much better the next time we do this. Promise!
|Scoring some wings at Addy’s|
Let’s Get Down To It
For this section, we’ll walk you through each bar and let you know if any of the wings that the judges scored received a 35 (or higher) out of 50 points (combined average)…those are the ones you should order for sure next time you’re in these places.
Wing categories were broken down into three separate flavors which included: Traditional Buffalo. The now (almost) famous Omaha Charbuffed. And specialty…which can include anything from teriyaki to peanut butter and jelly.
The Good Life Sports Bar and Grill — This, our first stop, we were just trying to figure out how all of this would work in real life. After figuring out how to eat and write at the same time, the judges all agreed that the Teriyaki (both bone-in and boneless) and the BBQ wings were the winners of the bunch here at TGL.
Judge Quote: “Good sauce. Right amount. Tasty.”
Oscar’s Pizza and Sports Grill — Judges here, according to their score sheets, were highly impressed with the flavor of the double-dipped Buffalo wings and made several comments on the great heat-to-flavor ratio of the wings and the sauce.
The Charbuffed wings also rated out above a 35, but several judges pointed out that they love the Charbuff wings here but these were not quite as good as usual. But this is Oscar’s after all, and even if not firing on all cylinders…they’re still good enough to make the leaderboard.
Judge Quote: “OMG! This had a great “hot” flavor that lasts!”
Observatory Lounge — The OB pulled out every stop to make an impression on the judges…and they all took notice. Oh, did I also mention that everything wing that they served us all earned rave reviews too? Several score sheets when out of their way to mention the great impression that the OB made on them including an honest-to-goodness rendition of the Chicken Dance!
The winners here were the Buffalo (Mild and Hot) and the Parmesan Sean’s. Of the parmesan wings, several judges pointed out that they’re not really into that flavor but here “Parmesan all day baby!”
Judge Quote: “Probably the most interesting taste I’ve experienced…ever!”
Paloozas Sports Bar and Grill — This stop brought us to the end of the first day of judging, and for nearly every judge, the first time here. For being a newcomer on the block, Paloozas clocked in with four wings that broke the 35 average point total that included their Charbuff, Breaded BBQ, Dry Rub BBQ and their Memphis wings. Also of note, is that this is the home to arguably the largest wings we had seen on the entire competition.
Judge Quote: “So…definitely different. Breaded which is a treat. And good! And the chef is definitely proud of his work!!”
|The Buffalo Company|
Addy’s Sports Bar and Grill — As to be expected, Addy’s scored big on five varieties of wings including their Spicy Garlic, Hot Buffalo (charbuffed), Bloody Mary, Teriyaki and the hottest wing we tested Sriracha Ghost Pepper. As noted by one judges after eating just one sriracha ghost wing…my mouth is still burning and that the heat sure stays with ya!
Judge Quote: “Sweet with a kick! Nice change from the traditional teriyaki wing sauce!”
The Buffalo Company — I always enjoy the guys at the Buffalo Company, and they did not disappoint scoring on all three types of wings the judges sampled including their Medium Buffalo wing, Garlic Parmesan and one I had never seen before their Rubbed and Charred wing. Across the board, judges were impressed with the overall crispiness of all the wings here.
Judge Quote: “Way better than expected! Pleasantly surprised!”
Donohue’s Pub — Often overlooked when people are thinking of new places to try wings around the area, Donahue’s made the judges take notice by scoring above at 35 on their Original Buffalo, Spicy Garlic and their Peanut Butter and Jelly wings. One judge ever went so far as to say the PB&J wings here were the most original we had tried at any place on this year’s tour.
Judge Quote: PB&J — If you like peanut butter chicken, this tastes like really good chinese peanut butter chicken.
|Ray explaining what makes a good Buffalo wing|
Ray’s Original Buffalo Wings — To sum up our stop at Ray’s, one of the judges comment on their score sheet “The other bars should be glad we came here towards the end! I’ll be back!” Ray’s wings all earned rave reviews for their Medium and Hot Buffalo and for Teriyaki wings. Also noted on several scoresheets was Ray’s homemade blue cheese dressing.
Judge Quote: “The medium buffalo was awesome and the blue cheese was amazing.”
The HopHouse Bar and Grill — Our final stop also was a first for many of the judges (including myself) and even though they had the unenviable task of being the last stop on this year’s wing challenge, made an impression on the judges with their PB and J wings and also with their Parmesan sauce.
Judge Quote: I sort of feel bad…last stop of the challenge and it’s hard to compare to eight others!”
So, there’s the quick tour through all of this year’s stops. So, I know what you’re asking…who are the damn winners?!
Here’s how were going to do it, the top three places in our three wing categories (Buffalo, Charbuffed and Specialty) will be listed as well as the top three overall places based on average score of all their wings…so HERE WE GO!
|Biggest ones we saw!|
SPECIALTY WING CATEGORY
3. Donahue’s Pub — Spicy Garlic: (41) TIE
Addy’s Sports Bar and Grill — Sriracha Ghost (41)
2. Observatory Lounge — Parmesan Sean’s: (43.1)
1. Ray’s Original Buffalo Wings — Teriyaki: (45)
3. Oscar’s Pizza and Sports Grill — Charbuffed Hot: (37.5)
2. The Buffalo Company — Rub and Charred: (39.5)
1. Addy’s Sports Bar and Grill — Charbuffed Hot: (40.2)
3. Oscar’s Pizza and Sports Grill — Double Dipped Buffalo: (40.7)
2. Ray’s Original Buffalo Wings — Medium: (45.5) TIE
Ray’s Original Buffalo Wings — Hot (45.5)
1. Observatory Lounge — Buffalo Hot (45.7)
3. Addy’s Sports Bar and Grill — (40)
2. Observatory Lounge — (43.1)
1. Ray’s Original Buffalo Wings — (45.3)
How close was the scoring? Keep in mind that between third and ninth place there was only a difference of 7.1 points…TOTAL! The voting was that close…and in most instances…a point one way or the other could have made a huge difference for just about every bar on this list in every single category.
Over the next few days, I’ll be hand-delivering the original score sheets to every bar owner and will be available to walk you through the scores…that is if you want and any additional detailed insight.
Thanks again to every bar that participated!
People of Omaha…if you want your favorite wings included in this challenge next time…start telling your favorite bar owner(s) to pay attention to HitThatDive when we’re looking for places to include in the future!
|Who’s still hungry?|