All afternoon and evening, from 3 to 9 p.m., scores of attendees meandered about the spacious McFadden's Restaurant and Saloon (located at street level just beyond Citi Field’s Bullpen Gate), as the penetrating aroma from the best hot wings in the city wafted through the air.
While Hooters girls and McFadden’s girls strolled about the venue enticing customers to sample their wares, chefs from local favorites like New Hyde Park’s Tavern 18, Greenpoint’s Red Star Bar, and Maspeth’s O’Neill's manned steam tables to ensure that their entries would taste as good as they always do at home, as well as to answer any questions patrons might have. McFadden's was even generous enough to donate use of their kitchen to all participants. At stake: the opportunity to claim “Best Wings In The City.”
As diligent voters moved from station to station, each vendor would tout that extra-special-something that their establishment had to offer: for Red Star Bar, it was the savory butter flavor of their hot wings; for Tavern 18, it was the extra crispiness and meatiness of their batter-dipped wings; for newcomer The Avenue, it was the unmistakable flavor of their Jack Daniels sauce; and for the veteran O’Neill's, it was their expanded variety of flavors, including Hickory, Teriyaki, and a new creation, their Barbecue-Pineapple.
As 9 p.m. finally rolled around, and General Manager Shawn Baker and his colleague Richie Sullivan began to tally the votes, it soon became evident that the word-of-mouth enthusiasm that had been building for O’Neill's all evening would prove true in the ballot box as well. To the cheers of a great many, the Maspeth eatery was awarded the top prize, which manager John McDonald accepted on behalf of O’Neill's chef Jose Dominguez and the entire staff.
Also a part of Friday night’s festivities was the much-anticipated Wing Eating Contest, which featured more than a dozen contestants in a race against time to determine who could chow down on the greatest number of wings in a five-minute period.
In a landslide, the top prize of $500 went to Joe Manchetti, who managed to put away 49 of the 60 wings provided in the allotted time. To Manchetti’s credit, it wasn’t even close. But then again, the Wallingford, CT, ticket broker just happens to be a champion competitive eater on the side, one whose specialty apparently is diversity, as his portfolio includes wings, dumplings, pizza, burgers, curry, even corned beef and cabbage!
Built in New York City in 1977 by proud Irishman Steve McFadden, the McFadden's organization has since grown to 14 locations nationwide. The company’s mission statement has always been a simple one: a place for family and friends to gather and celebrate good times while enjoying great food and drinks. The Citi Field location in particular has been enjoying a reputation all season (it opened on Opening Day) as not only a place to head pre-game or post-game, but also a terrific place to host a large gathering when the Mets are out of town.
As an event, The Wing Bowl itself originated in Philadelphia in 1993, but has since become a staple of a great many other of the McFadden's franchises throughout the country. Last Friday’s was the first ever to be held here at the new Citi Field location, but staff told us we could definitely count on it – as well as a host of similar events – to be an annual feature on the restaurant’s calendar for years to come.
For a photo gallery from the McFadden's Wing Bowl, please visit us on the web.