Worth the Drive: Chicken wings are over. Long live Big Daddy’s hog wings!
By Jennifer Kornegay
I am anticipating a few emails about this, as I know there are folks out there who really, really like buffalo chicken wings, but I cannot tell a lie and must, as a journalist, present the facts I find. So here goes: The chicken wing is over. Finished. Done. As over-cooked as, well, a dried-out chicken wing.
I came to this conclusion by accident; I wasn’t looking to kill off a casual-dining icon. While having lunch at Big Daddy’s Grill in Fairhope, “Hog Wings” on the appetizer menu caught my attention, so I ordered one. (If you’re a regular reader of this column, you may think it odd that I asked for only one of anything, but when my waitress illustrated the size of a hog wing with her hands, I decided to play it safe. Plus, I still had an entrée coming.)
Minutes later, my red plastic basket arrived with my one hog wing, (and since it was not quite as big as the waitress had intimated—wonder how she is at judging fish size—I was already wishing I’d ordered at least two).
It was glistening with a thin layer of ruddy red sauce clinging to its meat, which, if you hadn’t fi gured it out by now, is pork. Of course, pigs don’t fl y, unless hell freezes over and the sun rises in the west first, so a hog “wing” is actually a pork shank.
The exposed leg bone makes a handy handle, but I decided I’d use my manners and therefore, used my fork. Tender bite-sized pieces easily slid off the bone, and the flavorful tomato-based sauce was spicy without any real burn. Simply put, it was delicious and better than a chicken wing in several definitive ways. 1) The ratio of meat to bone is easily 4 to 1, instead of a chicken wing’s 2 to 1, on a good day. 2) Th is much more meat takes so much less work to get into. 3) There are no gooey, fatty parts or hard, chewy parts and, this is important, no tendons!
If any of this appeals to you, I urge you make your way to Big Daddy’s because hog wings are really just the beginning. Situated so near the coast, Big Daddy’s is mostly known for its fresh Gulf seafood, much of it served up fried, grilled or blackened on a bed of shredded lettuce in a po-boy or in a basket.
Big, plump shrimp with a dusting of seasonings and a buttery sheen filled over half of my blackened basket, with the other space occupied by coleslaw, hushpuppies and sweet potato fries. As an imperative on the menu instructed, I asked for a cup of Mo-Dat sauce, which, as the menu insisted, really does make everything taste better. The peachy-pink condiment is a cross between the dipping sauce at popular chicken-finger restaurants and a basic Alabama barbecue sauce, thinner and sweeter than the former and creamier that the latter. It’s good on shrimp, fries, hushpuppies and even the coleslaw.
You can eat it all on Big Daddy’s deck overlooking the lazy Fish River. A wooden counter and simple picnic tables topped with tear-off brown paper towels and tin buckets covered in beer logos full of cocktail sauce and ketchup are lined up so each has a nice view of the South Alabama scenery, and an outdoor bar ensures the easy and timely delivery of adult libations.
While Big Daddy’s waterfront spot probably has a lot to do with its popularity, it was pretty packed on a Sunday in January at 2 p.m., when it was far too chilly to enjoy the outdoor space. I’d wager that Big Daddy’s got so big, thanks not to location, location, location but to its tasty combo of location, fresh seafood and hog wings.
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Big Daddy’s Grill
16542 Ferry Road