Last night I attended the “soft” opening party at the Wingdome’s new West Seattle location. For the unfamiliar, this local chain of casual restaurants specializes in hot wings and other spicy things. The Wingdome has locations in Greenwood, Kirkland, Kent, and now West Seattle. For years the Wingdome has specialized in foods that go very well with beer. If nothing else, they serve up food that makes you thirsty for beer. Their motto is, “Hot wings, cold brew, big fun.”
I am an old timer when it comes to the Wingdome. I have fond memories of the original location on 45th Ave. in Wallingford, where my friends and I often consumed many, many pitchers back in the 1990s. In those days the menu was limited, featuring little more than hot wings. Today the Wingdome menu offers more variety, including a selection of wing flavors, appetizers, salads, burgers and sandwiches, specialty fries, and more. Everything is served with an unmistakable nod to the Wingdome’s spicy tradition. They have a lot of great food, but in my opinion going to the Wingdome and not eating wings is a bit like going to Belgium and not drinking beer.
Last night at the pre-opening party I ran into a couple of people from the local beer scene. Eric Radovich, Executive Director of the Washington Beer Commission, was washing down his wings with a Manny’s Pale Ale. Todd Cardin, owner of the Elliott Bay Brewery, was there with his wife and kids. After all, the new Wingdome is just a block up the street from Elliott Bay Brewery’s West Seattle pub.
This Place is on Fire!
The décor is casual with an unmistakable hot rod theme. Albeit contrived, there is a vintage garage feel. Nothing wrong with a little design contrivance—this isn’t an old garage, after all. Behind the bar, the tap handles are fashioned out of old tools. As you gaze around the room you might find yourself thinking of a ’57 Chevy with flames painted on the fenders. Out back, a beautiful new patio and natural gas fire pit await.
The bar could be bigger, with seating for just five people. Admittedly, I say the same thing about almost every new restaurant we visit, especially in West Seattle where catering to the dining needs of young families seems to be the most important goal. I’m not in the habit of telling people how to run their businesses, but for those of us who travel in pairs without children, sidling up to the bar is often the most comfortable way to dine and drink. I don’t mean for this to sound like a complaint, I just wish the bar was bigger. I always do.
Positioned generously around the room are nine flat screen televisions, so the crowd was able to watch both the baseball game and the football game without any problem whatsoever. Me likey.
Keeping the Beer Flowing
Experts will tell you not to attend a restaurant’s opening night. It’s an unfair time to pass judgment. Critics will tell you to give a new restaurant a couple of months to work things out. You cannot go into an opening night unless you are willing to grant a little forgiveness.
Last night the Wingdome’s friends and families slammed the joint to capacity and beyond. The staff performed admirably, hustling to make sure our beers were never empty and scrambling to deliver food as fast as the kitchen could pump it out. My wife and I are Wingdome experts and we noticed a couple of small quality issues coming out of the kitchen, but nothing to worry about. This was opening night. I am sure they were working out the kinks as fast as we could find them.
Speaking of Beer
Here’s what you’ll find on tap: Manny’s Pale Ale, Mac and Jack’s African Amber, Deschutes Inversion IPA, Chicken Bone Lager, Pyramid Hefeweizen, and Coors Light.
First of all, Maritime Pacific Brewing brews the Chicken Bone Lager. When questioned, the server didn’t try to hide the fact that it is a rebranded version of Old Seattle Lager. I respect that.
Second of all, I know that many people who read this blog will think that the beer selection lacks creativity and inspiration. I can’t deny that. With only six beers on tap and the kind of crowd the Wingdome attracts, what would you do? I am not overjoyed, nor am I dismayed. They certainly have something I will drink and enjoy. I respect the fact that only one of their taps is dedicated to ultra light mega-swill.
Keeping it Local
Regular readers of this blog can imagine what tap handles I would switch. After all, we have a number of very fine local breweries making IPA and Hefeweizen. Why import it? The Wingdome is a small, local chain of restaurants. Why not keep the beer local? Especially since doing so represents anything but a degradation in the quality of the beer.
Like I said before, I am not in the habit of telling other people how to run their businesses. Consolidated Restaurants, best known for its high-end Elliott’s Oyster House and Met Grill, owns the Wingdome chain. These people know a couple of things about the restaurant business, for sure. Still, you can count on me putting in a word for our local brewers. Oh wait, I just did.
Welcome to West Seattle! We are very happy to have a Wingdome in the neighborhood.
4523 California Ave. SW
Seattle, WA 98116