Eating Buffalo wings without some kind of frosty drink seems a bizarre, foreign practice, like putting tap water on breakfast cereal. But apparently plenty of diners don't have that preconception, as restaurants in the Zaxby's chain have thrived serving fast-food platters and sandwiches based on chicken fingers and Buffalo wings. Originally called "Zax" and founded in 1990 in Statesboro, Zaxby's now has nearly a hundred locations across the Southeastern states, with its Zax sauce (comparable to peppery Ranch dressing) packaged in Athens.
The Tucker location on Hugh Howell Road, located next door to Tucker Plaza, proves representative, with a pair of mass-produced dining rooms giving off a vibe comparable to Wendy's or Boston Market. Zaxby's points out that food is made to order, so you queue up at the counter, make your choice and return when your name is called, usually in about five minutes. The decor sports a perfunctory selection of ersatz antiques, although the pattern of national license plates on some of the booths proves a nice rec room touch.
Zaxby's chicken finger sandwiches are competitive with the kind you can order from Chick-fil-A, with tender, reasonably ample portions of fried white meat on square, chewy slices of Texas toast (the franchise's bread medium of choice). The Kickin' Chicken Sandwich basket ($4.39) comes dabbed with a blend of Ranch dressing and hot sauce (the "kickin'" part) that gives it some tangy sharpness, but nothing unmanageable.
Unbound by bread, the fried chicken strips of the Chicken Finger Plate ($4.79; $6.49 for a large) come with crisp, crinkle-cut French fries, toast and a paltry but palate-cleansing portion of mundane coleslaw. The bits of cucumber are a welcome addition to the "Zaxby's Zalad" ($2.99; $4.79 with choice of grilled or fried chicken strips), a generous, generic assortment of iceberg lettuce and tomato. The addition of melted Monterey Jack cheese gives it some substance, while rather defeating the purpose for health-conscious salad eaters. (The menu also offers Greek and Caesar salads, as well as Club, BLT and Triple Grilled Cheese sandwiches.)
Something about eating Buffalo wings in a brightly lit fast-food restaurant with cola to drink on an August day made me balk. Instead, on a later evening some in-laws and I ordered an assortment of Jumbo Buffalo Wings ($2.49 for each five-piece box) from the drive-thru window and brought them home, where we could sample them and quaff our beverage of choice.
Of the seven available varieties, we tried the Original, Wimpy (mild), Tongue Torch (hot), Teriyaki and BBQ. The menu also has "Nuclear" and "Insane" options, but for us, discretion is the better part of flavor. Served with carrot and celery sticks and the requisite Ranch dressing, the wings were adequate but not especially memorable, with the plump wings sporting sauces neither distinguished nor unpleasant.
Apart from the vinegary astringency of the original wings, sweetness more than temperature proved the unifying factor. The Teriyaki wings were sweet and an unsightly black, the BBQ sweet and tart, the mild sweet and so mustardy it may have been mislabeled "honey mustard." The Tongue Torch wasn't too painful on the taste buds, but had a persistent afterbite.
Some of the most satisfying menu items are the "extras." The spicy, deep-fried mushrooms ($1.89) are moist little morsels with a veneer of soft batter, and could accurately be called "popcorn mushrooms," a la "popcorn shrimp." The "Onion Peel" ($2.29) arrives as an unsightly knot of onion pieces, fried to an airy, crunchy consistency.
With a surprisingly but understandably stoic-looking chicken as its logo, Zaxby's seems best for diners in a time crunch, needing a fast-food fix but weary of the bigger-name franchises. Chicken wing fanatics may appreciate Zaxby's convenience, but otherwise the pride of Buffalo seems plucked from its natural habitat.
Great food, yummy drinks and perfect atmosphere who could ask for anything more! Oh and…
WOW, Cliff writes an article promoting a $9 crappy steak at a gay bar and…
Oh, this is sad.
Great, great food. I have been there 3 times. The smoked chicken wings rock. The…
NYE Party at Smoke Ring with Sweet Auburn String Band. Come hang!