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In this area, all things wing related are judged against The Hangar Pub and Grill and their food arm, Wings Over, the rapidly growing franchise that originated in Amherst serving my fellow UMass alums. Famed for their boneless wings and dozens of sauces, it was a staple for us as college students and has remained so since graduating several years ago (albeit with some loss of quality of late, in my opinion). As such, anytime someone mentions that they had wings, the inevitable question is, "how did they compare to the Hangar?"
So, when Kali B's Wings and Things opened a restaurant in the former home of Ristorante DiPaolo in downtown Turners Falls, of course, everyone asked just that question. And incredibly, the resounding response was "they're better." That is high praise, and of course, it made me want to try the restaurant immediately; naturally, life got in the way of that, but I finally had the opportunity to try it the other day, dropping in for some wings and beer with my friend Jay.
The first thing I will say is, please, do not be put off by its location. Turners Falls is, to say the least, a broken village, but it will never get better without places like Kali B's; plus, with its private parking lot, you do not have to leave your car parked on the street or walk a ways down Avenue A to get to it (though I forgot about the lot, and did just that). Once you get near the restaurant, all you smell is the delicious odor of fried food. Inside, it is a nice set up, with a few seats at the bar, some small high tops (no more than two people can comfortably sit and eat at them, I would say), and a few booths in the main room, then several more tables and two large, comfortable looking semi-circular booths for larger parties. It is all very well lit, with some televisions in the main room that were tuned to the Red Sox post-game show, and while it does not have a dive-bar feel, it also is absolutely not going to be confused with being hoity-toity; I would say it is a perfect place for a family to have food or to go later in the evening for a drink and a snack, and everything in between. Clearly the owner/s did their hiring with the same basic criteria as the owner of The Hangar; young, pretty, and friendly, while also being competent...good mix for a sports bar type place.
Now, the important part; the food! Boneless wings are ordered by weight essentially, so Jay and I grabbed the "Over 1 lb" size, at a very reasonable $12 (same price as The Hangar; noticing a pattern here?), with their "hot" buffalo and honey mustard sauces, along with a large side of fried pickles. The wings were spectacular, giant white meat chunks of well cooked meat with a crispy breading that tasted delicious. While the buffalo sauce doused the three wings it was on, the honey mustard was less evenly coated, so there were parts of the chicken pieces that were not covered; I actually do not mind this, especially with a slightly sweet sauce like honey mustard, but it may not be everyone's favorite method. The sauces themselves were very good, with the buffalo sauce just a little spicy (neither Jay or I could figure out what their mild must be like, since this seemed very mild to both of us), but really flavorful, much better than most similar sauces that are all heat. This seemed very traditional, primarily just butter and a hot sauce like Frank's Red Hot, and it was delicious, among my favorite I've ever had. The honey mustard was fine, though it is a flavor that I think is a little played out, probably because I ate so much of it as an undergrad.
The fried pickles were huge, both the portion and the individual pieces, with thick slices of dill pickle coated in rather a large amount of batter. I really liked them, but I immediately regretted ordering the large, and we left nearly half of them uneaten as we were both stuffed and Jay didn't love them. The batter was relatively crunchy, they stayed very hot as the heat was trapped by the fried coating, and the pickles were sharp and crisp inside. I think a small order between two or three people would be fine, but the large was enough for at least four to six people.
So, it comes back to the question everyone must ask in this area: "how do the wings compare to The Hangar's?" Quite frankly, they do not. They are different, and not in a negative or a positive way; they are just different. I think to just grab a beer and some wings, I prefer Kali B's, but it will never replace The Hangar as the place where we gather to welcome back our friends when they return from Afghanistan, bid them farewell as they depart to start a new life (or just a summer) elsewhere, or congratulate them on a new job. It is just plain different. But, it is also highly recommended, and I hope it is just one of many new successful businesses in downtown Turners Falls.