Cricket’s and Pools of Sauce

When I was a kid living in the ‘burbs, my family and I would go to the Varsity once year, usually correlating to a sporting event downtown. I still love the Varsity. At the moment, I am actually craving a chili dog (or two), onion rings, and an FO (Frosted Orange, for the uncultured). I always noticed a restaurant near by with a big cartoon cricket statue, which I always hoped was a Pinocchio themed restaurant that inside looked like the Disney store at the mall and just sold chicken tenders and Sprite. Our family never went in because, if you’re downtown, you’re going to the Varsity for your yearly grease cleanse, and you aren’t going to sacrifice it for a restaurant that has a fishing bait for a mascot.

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I don’t know why, as a kid, I thought this would be kid friendly. That statue is misleading.

As I got older and went downtown to go to cool concerts at the Masquerade, I wasn’t going to the Varsity like “a tourist”, my cool friends and I would go to Little 5 Pizza or eat a Subway sandwich in the car when my friend Adam’s dad would drive us to shows.

I forgot about the restaurant with the big cricket pimp on the outside until I started asking my friends where they would recommend for me to go. My buddy Ed (he’s a super talented illustrator and animator along with being a fearless, funny comic) suggested I go to J.R. Crickets. The pieces all came together….THE PINOCCHIO RESTAURANT HAS WINGS!

It turns out the location of my childhood recollection was shuttered and they took that giant Six Flags Over Georgia reject character and planted it at their new “Original” J.R. Crickets down the street from the Fox Theater on North Avenue.

Yesterday, I was in the mood to celebrate (details will come later… no, I am not engaged. Yes, I would probably get wings to celebrate being engaged. Wings are perfect for any occasion). I knew it was time to go to that cricket joint that Ed recommended and to see if they sold plush versions of that delightful insect hawking wings and ribs.By the way, you can add ribs to everything on the menu.

I took Ed’s other recommendation to get the wings swimming. I ordered ten medium swimming buffalo wings with blue cheese. I wouldn’t come here for the presentation or ambiance. It’s the equivalent of going to get your oil changed. My wings game out and were truly swimming in a cup of sauce (the image doesn’t how how deep that

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spicy pool was.) It’s hard to get a good picture of these wings. Mostly because I was really hungry and wasn’t focused on angles or anything.  The wings were small but I could tell they were fresh. The chicken wasn’t knock your socks off juicy but there was nothing wrong. The sauce had a great flavor; it was runnier than I typically prefer but you could tell they had this buffalo blend down to a science. I was even dipping my fries in the sauce. The blue cheese was also house made. I appreciate when restaurants do their sauces in house. It is easier to have vats of lardy sauce brought in but there’s no love in it.

J.R.Cricket’s is a no frills wing place but there is a reason they have been in business for over 30 years and have multiple locations. They taste like someone really cared about the sauce. I am a fan of quality, flavorful, juicy chicken but there is something to be said about a sauce you think about the next day, even if it’s on a tiny wing.

Selfish

So my birthday was the other day. I am not very sentimental about my birthday so I decided to get my nails done and go home and relax with some wine (alone).

I am at a point in my life that it means so much more to me if I have friends come to a show than to eat with me about of an obligation to celebrate the day I was born. I love celebrating other people’s birthdays but I feel like when someone tells me “Happy Birthday!” its almost the same as “You got a haircut.” Not a compliment, just an observation.

It is our culture to celebrate birthdays (except Jehovah’s Witnesses) and I want to make people in my life feel special and say, “I’m glad that you are in my life. Your parents did a brave thing by keeping you around.” I just feel selfish for me to say, “Hey, it’s MY DAY! Celebrate ME!” when I constantly am inviting friends to shows. “Hey, come see me do what I am passionate about while you sit in the dark and can’t talk to me till after its over.” Comedy, wings, and loved ones are what make my life so rich. I want people I care about to know the comedy part of me and I have no reservations inviting people to come to shows but it’s the ” congrats you made it another year. Sorry you now have to pay for your own health insurance.” that makes me feel weird and undeserving.

Yesterday, I went to my favorite joint, Fox Brothers BBQ. A kind someone knew that I felt weird about my birthday and elected to take me for some wings and drinks. Yeah, I know I have already written about that smokey, flavorful dream of a wing. Yeah, they are just as good as I remember.This time I had them tossed in the sauce. It was a good call. I guess it would have been a better post for me to go to a new wing spot but it was MY day. I wanted some wings that were guaranteed to make me happy. I had to just let go of my hang up about feeling birthday selfish and enjoy being in the moment and enjoy some of my favorite wings in the city. I enjoyed the night and let myself be wrapped up in good conversation and delicious wings.

Sidebar: eating wings with pointy long nails is a blessing and a curse: easier to grip the wings but you get sauce under the nail. (Nothing like spicy BBQ sauce scented dark purple nails)

I plan on eating more wings with friends this weekend to celebrate the friendships and comedy in my life. I hope you can join me.

 

 

Compare

I love smoked wings and I am always so excited when I hear of a place that does it right. There are a few places in Atlanta that do them well : Fox Brothers (currently #1 in my book), the Local, Moe’s BBQ and the Albert (which I need to try again).

My comedy buddy Dan and I decided to grab dinner and landed on Sweet Auburn BBQ since it was within walking distance of the open mic we were planning to go to.

It happened to be “All you can eat” wing night but we both opted for the 6 piece. I love wings, don’t get me wrong but I never want to O.D. on wings.

Dan ended up with the traditional buffalo but I chose the server’s recommended Wu-Tang sauce. The wings came out on a cute metal prison tray. I chose the brussel sprouts with bacon as my side.

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The wings were super aromatic so I had high hopes.

They were good.

They were smoked.

The sauce had flavor but a little too thick and sticky for me.

Would I eat them again? Sure

As I ate them, I kept thinking about Fox Brother’s smoked wings. These wings were so close but no cigar. I felt like I was cheating on the Sweet Auburn wings as I made love to them with my mouth but was thinking about how happy Fox Brother’s had made me.

If only I had eaten Sweet Auburn’s wings first I would have loved them like I should.

Comparison can be so dangerous. Sometimes you can start to compare yourself to other people and feel like you aren’t good enough. I see comics like myself compare themselves to comics who are at a different level than they are.

I have been doing comedy a little over two years (over one year seriously) and it is not okay for me to compare myself to someone who has been doing stand up twice as long as I have. I have to be the Sweet Auburn wings and not compare myself to the Fox Brother’s wings of Atlanta comedy.

Not only in comedy, but in so many aspects of my life I play an evil game with myself called, ” Let’s see how other people are better than you: in exercising and keeping fit, eating healthy, looking better, being smarter, being better educated, having a better job, having more friends…” and the list is endless. That circular comparison thinking is detrimental to self esteem. I have hurt myself too many times trying to compare myself to some top shelf wings when  I felt like I was just Chinese buffet wings (next to the French fries).

I am preaching to myself too, focusing on your meat smokers and your sauce is the most important thing to becoming your best wing. I can’t talk down to myself that I will only amount to Tyson Anytizers,  when if I perfect what I have, I will reach my goals. The Fox Brother’s out there can serve as an example but I have to do my sauce MY way!

 

Ch-ch-changes

I have written about change a few times on here and pivotal moments of change. Somehow, change is the one constant in my life.

I used to have a pet hedgehog named Ralph that I got from a breeder in Tuscaloosa when I lived in Birmingham. A hedgehog was the best decision pet wise for me: low maintenance, eats cat food, doesn’t shed, and not noisy. He was previously owned by a dumb fraternity guy at University of Alabama and was returned to the breeder. The breeder discovered that the hedgehog’s quills had been burned and scarred. The hedgehog was really easily startled. I would love to say that I got him because I have the world’s biggest heart for abused animals but my eyes were on the price first.

I brought the little guy home and renamed him Ralph. He was so scared and made me frustrated that I wasn’t doing a good enough job. Over time, Ralph and I truly bonded. He was my companion during a lot of transitions in my life: losing both of my grandparents, moving in with my cousins briefly while working in the film industry, moving to where I live now, and starting stand up comedy.

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Ralphie trolling the internet with me

When I started doing stand up, I didn’t want to leave Ralphie alone so I wouldn’t go out and go up on open mics as much as I should. I felt guilty every time I was on an open mic and he was at home still in his cage.

Almost one year ago to the day , Ralphie passed away. I was devastated. I blamed myself for going to mics, I blamed myself for what nature did.

I took the day off work and went to Paws , Whiskers & Wags to have him cremated. I decided on this because I didn’t have a yard to bury him and I couldn’t stomach the thought of throwing him in a garbage can. The process was ceremonial and bittersweet.

I took that day as the start of a new chapter, I couldn’t hold myself back from not going to open mics and working hard on new material and getting better.

I miss Ralph and I am so thankful I could give him a better life than he had. I am even more grateful that his passing inspired me to pursue what I love.

Now, one year later, I am experiencing another shift.

The best way was to celebrate with lots of comedy. It was a sad week for many of us as two Atlanta comedy staples move to LA, John-Michael Bond and Dulce Sloan. They both were really influential on my comedy development. John-Michael produced some of the best shows in Atlanta and encouraged so many new and up-coming comics. I am so grateful for all he contributed. Dulce is a comic that is relentless. She is constantly working hard and setting a standard for all comics of professionalism and humor.

Friday night I was on a killer show ran by Joseph Highsmith in Cabbagetown at Milltown Arms Tavern that brings in a huge crowd. I was able to try their wings, which I was so eager to eat.

I felt the energy of the crowd and having that weight lifted of not knowing what was going on in my dating relationship helped me connect. The wings were a happy trophy of the energy I put out on stage. 6 Hot Buffalo wings with blue cheese. The wings were classic. Good crispy skin and a tangy buffalo sauce that was more of a medium than a true hot. Yes, I am wearing an adorable lace and floral print Hazel dress as I go to town on those tender pieces of chicken flappers. The rest of the night was full of gabbing with comedy friends and celebrating our community.

Comedy and wings satisfy me in a way that no dating relationship has (thus far…I’m optimistic that I will fall for someone). Comedy and wings are “there for me” during all of the changes in my life. I gladly accept change and embrace it… as long as I can have some buffalo sauce on it.

Stuck

I have been stuck in a rut lately. I have eaten a ton of wings since my last post but all from the usual places. Each experience was related to spending time with important people in my life, so its worth eating Graveyard a few times.

In my personal life, I have been stuck as well. I’m at a crux. I’m at an anxiety induced middle ground where my heart and mind are not syncing up. My heart wants certain wings that just haven’t been happening. The wings I have are enough and I am enjoying them but the rest of my wing eating is uncertain.

It’s hard for me to write much more than that. I am trying to distract myself with salads and soup but it doesn’t cut it.

To try and get my mind off of things, I want to try somewhere I haven’t been yet. Please vote in the poll below to help me decide where to get wings next.

Where Should Annie Eat Wings Next?
Burger Win (East Atlanta Village)
J.R. Crickets (Various Locations)
Chick-A-Biddy (Atlantic Station)
Jamal’s Buffalo Wings (Outside of GA Dome)
Other

Quiz Maker

 

Hype?

A lot of media outlets have named Fox Brother’s BBQ as the home of the best smoked wings in Atlanta. I have plenty of friends who say they aren’t, mostly for the sake of being counter to the popular.

I am guilty of going against hype. I have not seen the Harry Potter movies (or read the books) or watched Breaking Bad, gone to prom or drank Kombucha yet, pretty much because people tell me I HAVE TO DO THOSE THINGS! I don’t like that kind of pressure. I want to like something on my own accord. That’s why going into Fox Bro.’s I wanted the wings because I wanted wings and to make my own decision about them.

I have had wings three times in less than 7 days. I had wings Thursday with my comedy buddy and regular buddy Dan at Taco Mac in the Highlands. Easy. 6 wings and fries. Honey Chipotle. Good conversation. Nothing to brag or complain about.

I had wings at Graveyard Tuesday night. Easy. 10-12 wings, Zombie sauce, and talking comedy. It was convenient and did what they needed to do.

I really do not get sick of wings so it was an easy decision to spend $17 on a combo plate at Fox Bro.’s last night for pulled pork, 4 smoked wings, baked beans, and mac ‘n cheese.

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Notice the ambient red lighting. This is pre-saucing the wings but mid mac.

I rarely do this but I ordered sauce on the side so I could really appreciate the experience from the skin to the meat to the sauce. The first wing I had, I went sans sauce to really see if they could craft their meat like they say they do.

HOLY HELL. Those wings were so luscious. The meat was juicy, tender, and had smoke down to the bone. The size was perfect. The skin had the right amount of dry seasoning and crisp that was flavorful on its own. I was gnawing on those bones like a bitch [dog]. The subsequent wings I drizzled the hot BBQ sauce on the gorgeous beasts of meat. The sauce adds another flavorful dimension that only adds to the wing.

Only offering one sauce for their smoked wings was the best decision Fox Bro.’s could make. It is the perfect balance. Thank goodness I was in company of people who had seen me eat wings before because I was pretty much making out with those wings from chicken heaven. I didn’t even touch my pulled pork. (I brought it home with a massive container of sauce.)

I felt content after indulging in those wings. I love moments where I’m almost enraptured by wings because they are so tasty. They live up to the hype. I believe there are other places with excellent smoked wings but Fox Bro.’s deserves the top spot in the smoked category thus far.

I could have said, “Naw, I am never going to Fox Brother’s because EVERYONE goes there and it’s full of people who only came here because they read about it in Atlanta magazine! And I won’t ever have their wings because people ALWAYS talk about them. I go to only trailers in cash checking parking lots for my wings.” There is a place and time for all types of wings. I love off-the-beaten-path wings but you can’t dog a place that’s popular…there is a reason people flock to a place like Fox Bro.’s. I want to try as many wings as I can from all parts of Atlanta whether it’s a highly popular neighborhood sports bar or Chinese take out joint that has killer wings.

While I agree with the talk about Fox Brother’s wings, I do not plan on watching Harry Potter (even though beloved actor Alan Rickman sadly passed away recently) or Breaking Bad anytime soon.

Sauce: 4 clucks out of 5

Meat: 5 out of 5 clucks

Overall: 5 out of 5 clucks

 

How does this sauce taste?

I was so happy to go to Raleigh, NC visit my parents over Christmas and my very busy 21 year old sister carved out a little time to go get wings with me. Having a little of her time is almost impossible so I was glad to have some quality sister time doing our semi-annual wing eating.

We went to a local sports bar where I got the recommended grilled wings with “Dave’s Sauce” which was a pepper based BBQ hot sauce.

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The first 3 wings of the 5 pack were really flavorful and the texture of the meat was falling off the bone (which is a good and bad thing).

It’s good to have tender meat but it should stay on the bone when you pick it up. But, as the temperature of the wings cooled, the texture of the skin became rubbery and not one with the tender meat. Grilled wings are a breed of their own and I don’t want to compare the grilled variety to the fried and/or baked variety where the skin melds with the meat and gives that nice crunch. They just didn’t hold up as I ate them.

The more I ate these wings at a run of the mill sports bar in the Raleigh suburb of Carey, the more I didn’t want them. I only ate 4 out of 5 wings; very unlike me.

I didn’t let the change in the wings affect the time I had with my sister but it got me thinking about how our tastes change, even as you keep gnawing on the carcass.

I may think I’ll like a new wing flavor on the menu but once I have it, I don’t want it anymore or it doesn’t taste like I expect it.  Sometimes you make friends that you think their sauce is for you and it’s good at first but slowly the flavor changes. I know I have had trouble in recent times having friends take a less active role or leave my life. It hurts when you think people are choosing not to be friends with you but it’s because maybe their tastes have changed. Maybe I was their “Dave’s Sauce”.

I made a few girlfriends when I first moved back to Atlanta. I was so grateful to have a social life but insecure that I made no money, couldn’t afford to go out, and couldn’t relate. These girls were true Buckhead Betties. Every time I was with them, I knew our tastes weren’t the same but they were on my Buffalo Wild Wings: available, in my neighborhood, and alright. I used to love “B-Dub’s” because that’s all I knew but once I tried more and more wings, my tastes changed. Eventually, I wanted to expose myself to sauces and flavors that blended with my tastes better. I had to eventually pick a new wing spot because I felt awful after being around them (like after eating at Buffalo Wild Wings). I don’t have any ill feelings towards them but my taste buds and their flavors didn’t meld.

This time of year marks decisive change for so many people, like making a hard decisions about friendships or wings. Sometimes I have to force myself to change how the wings taste. I’m motivated to change because there is only so little time you can be okay with Buffalo Wild Wings (which I had this past weekend after roller skating and laser tag). . I don’t hate Buffalo Wild Wings…there’s a time and a place for it and for people who are like that in your life.  I have accepted that I maybe not be someone’s flavor.

The sauce I’m craving now is one full of hard work, late nights, filling notebooks, fostering meaningful relationships, and a healthy lifestyle (including plenty of wings).

Safe Choices

I believe in taking risks and going for the bold, spicy wing at a dive bar. My “safe” flavor is medium buffalo. I don’t want to always want to get the medium buffalo drums and flats but sometimes its appropriate for the setting.

In the beginning of 2013, I decided that I no longer wanted to make only safe, medium buffalo choices in my life. I took a risk and moved back to Atlanta to work in the film industry as a freelance production assistant.

My parents have always told me to ‘live large’, meaning that I am young, I should take risks and do what I am passionate about. They encouraged me to not have “should’ve, could’ve, would’ve’s” in my story.

After college I felt stuck in a life I didn’t like. It took time but I knew I had to make a body and spicy move. I felt like Atlanta was calling me home to try my hand in the film industry. I took a risk and worked for virtually free at a small production company. I enjoyed the 16 hour days on set and liked the challenge. I eventually got booked on some reality TV shows and felt momentum. During this time is when I got on stage for the first time to do stand up and had that habenero pepper burn to do more.

Film work slowed down to the point that I had to make tough choices. I had used up all of my savings and narrowly avoided maxing out my credit card. I loved being on set but  I didn’t love it enough to be a production assistant for the next 5 years till I could be a 2nd assistant director and be stressed about money 24/7.

I made a safe decision to take two retail jobs. I felt defeated that I wasn’t “making” it in film and I was making the “safe” decision to work for an hourly wage. I wanted to tell every customer who talked down to me how I was a hard worker and I wasn’t just a mild, soggy wing waiting to be dipped in Hidden Valley. They didn’t know my slow burn.

That safe decision forced me to look at the future, “Do I see myself being a PA with an unreliable work schedule for the next 5 years? Do I honestly want this career because I love it or because it’s cool to say I work in the ‘industry’?”

That honest moment with myself helped me realize that what I am passionate about it entertaining people and using my voice. I used to believe I couldn’t be in front of the camera or in front of the crowd because I was worthy or that I was pretty enough. Choosing the safe sauce afforded me the clarity to see my dreams. That clarity you get when a wing has such good heat that it clears your sinuses and makes your upper lip glisten with sweat.

I am at an even safer job now, a legal assistant. My boss and I went to Taco Mac last week for wings which is what made me reflect on my safe decision. Taco Mac is the best place for “safe” wings. It has consistent wings, decent sauce and good service. Will people be impressed by Taco Mac medium buffalo wings? No. Does it matter? No. It’s okay to have some things in life that are safe. Eating these basic wings made me realize that making safe decision is a good thing. Making safe choices allows me to take risks later on.

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These wings and my decisions to live large and spicy are a

5 out of 5 clucks for experience

4 out 0f 5 clucks for sauce

3 out of 5 clucks for meat.

 

Never Settle

There are times I just want wings so bad that I will eat whatever is available. Saturday night, I settled for lackluster wings. I met someone at Flat Iron for a drink before hitting a circuit of social engagements together. I hadn’t eating anything so I thought it would be a good idea to grab a bite so I wouldn’t get woozy meeting new people who were going to instantly size me up.

I usually feel ‘meh’ when I go to Flat Iron for more than booze. I ordered the 10 Buffalo Wings. They were fresh and piping hot but that’s about it. The sauce was so thin it was like the kitchen had to cut costs so they thinned out their wing sauce. I don’t like settling for blah wings.

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The rest of my night was not ruined by the wings. I had a lot of fun and the weekend was more fun than I expected.

In my personal life (dating and otherwise), I set standards for myself. When I compromise and accept something that is less than I deserve, I feel bad… just like having lackluster wings.

As like many adolescents, I wanted to be liked. By everyone. Which meant, I was okay proverbially eating wings that had a runny sauce and no crunch because they were available. It spilled over into dating, I was dating people that just showed up in my life, some wings are better than no wings I believed. As my front lobe of my brain has developed, I learned that I would rather have no wings than wings that aren’t good enough.

End of 2014, beginning of 2015 I took several months of intentional dating abstinence (including communication that was not platonic) because all the times I settled, it took a toll on me. I had an idea of the characteristics of the kind of person I wanted to be with but made exceptions… ” these wings have a weak sauce but they are only 25 cents a piece; I guess I will order them anyway.” This time to focus on other things helped me grow in comedy, in my friendships, and in my internal well being.

Once I was done with my dating hiatus, I got some “wings”and they were closer to the standard I was looking for. I now don’t want any wings or anyone in my life who makes me hurt (stomach or heart).

Later on in the weekend, the someone I was gallivanting around Atlanta with all Saturday, took me to a friends party on Sunday to meet more of their friends. Low and behold, someone made wings for the party.

I dropped our case of High Life in the kitchen and I put three wings on my plate, hoping that this someone’s friends will like me.

They were so good. It put me at ease; the wings were good, the friends of the someone were so fun, and I was glad I was with that someone.

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I wanted this sauce on the wings I had 24 hours prior. It was a reminder that you move past the times you settle. There are better wings out there. You have to eat the so-so and the bad wings to know what’s good.

I look back and part of me wants to take back all the times I settled but I am so glad the lessons they taught me.

I am so glad that there are still good wings out there.

Thank You Jesus for Chicken wings

This week, like everyone else, I am reflecting on what I am thankful for. The thing I am most thankful for, is two years ago today, I got on stage at the Laughing Skull for the first time. It was a slow wind up for me, my first 10 months or so of comedy, I was only going up a handful of times a month and now if I do not go up between 3 and 8 times a week, I feel like I am missing out. I feel incomplete if I am not surrounding myself with comedy.

I am so thankful that over a year ago Joe Pettis, gave me a chance and put me on his shows. I am so thankful that people like John Michael Bond, bring great people to town and run shows that make people want to work harder. The Atlanta comedy scene is such a gift.  In two years, I found my passion in life, I know what makes me feel alive, and I know what I want to spend the rest of my life doing. I am so thankful for that. Some people don’t ever figure that out or have an environment that supports it.

One of the open mics that pushed me to be a better comic was The Local, formerly on Tuesdays. I grew so much from going on stage there. Not to mention, their smoked wings are delicious (either before the open mic or after a show on the weekends.)

I had their smoked wings back in September after a really fun story telling show at the Big House on Ponce, hosted by Will Newton and “curated” by Dedrick Flynn. Both of these guys have been working really hard and run some fun shows. I always look forward to seeing them around. A few of us decide to head down Ponce to the Local for some late night wings and beers.

We get some pitchers and several flavors of wings. Laughter and hours of talking over each other ensue. We gushed over how the wings tasted amazing and just live in the moment. These kinds of moments around wings and comedy are true bliss. I can’t honestly describe the flavors or the tenderness of the meat but I know that it didn’t matter. What mattered was how much fun we had.

I can’t wait for the years to come: all the wings, all the open mics, all the shows, all the friendships, all the laughter, all the terrible sets, all the killer sets, all the late nights, all the PBR’s and High Life’s, and all of the Atlanta Comedy Scene.