A wing and a prayer 

J.R. Crickets dishes out addictive hot wings

"Sister Christian" is thumping on the stereo system, and that hot guy you've had a crush on for the past five years is challenging you to a Tekken showdown. At first, you weren't impressed that he took you here on a date, but you're having fun playing arcade games and jamming to Boston and Journey while you wait for your drinks. Plus, it's nice and dark inside the restaurant. When you slide into a booth, an Air Supply medley begins blaring out of the speakers. You might feel like a teenager hangin' out at Mr. Gatti's, toeing the curfew line on a school night. In reality, though, you're middle-aged and about to get married. But no worries -- at J.R. Crickets you can relive the best of the '80s, guilt- and mullet-free, while smacking on hot wings that'll make your lips burn.

Atari teenage riot:

Rolling into its twenty-second year of business, the original J.R. Crickets location on Spring Street doesn't appear to have seen many changes since its 1982 opening. Jägermeister-emblazoned mirrors and Miller Lite neon signs adorn the walls, and the booths' wood tabletops are sticky with years of spilled beer and soda. Video games you thought no longer existed triumph in full arcade size in a hallway by the restrooms. Ah, the sweet forgotten delights of Ms. Pac Man.

Onion ring-a-ding-ding:

Crickets offers a raft of sandwiches in addition to wings by the boatload. The steak and cheese sandwich ($6.59) has been, according to the Crickets menu, the joint's best-selling sandwich for 20 years. And with good reason: This meaty treat is the ultimate grown-up Steak-umm. The steak slices are almost as soft as the gooey white cheese slathered on them, and wedged into a squishy hoagie bun, the sandwich is a great guilty pleasure.

For those who don't wish for a heapin' helpin' of guilt with dinner, the grilled chicken breast sandwich ($5.99) does the trick. Precisely charred yet not the least bit dry, the breast is insulated on both sides of the bun with mounds of shredded iceberg lettuce. Unless you ask otherwise, the sandwich is (as it should be) slippery with mayonnaise. Forgo the boring fries and opt for the tiny, delicious onion rings that bear more resemblance to French's French Fried Onions than the ubiquitous bracelet-sized onion rings that slide apart at first bite.

Wing me up:

The sandwiches are great, but no one really goes to Crickets for anything other than the addictive wings (10-piece single order, $5.55). Encased in the crispiest skin you'll ever find on a chicken, the wings are awash with sauce as hot or mild as you like. "Three Mile Island" sauce draws tears and bores through sinuses, but cooling relief is at hand with creamy house-made blue cheese or ranch dressing.

The wings are a deep-fried miracle, as crispy as they are tender, never mushy or greasy. An order of 20 ($9.75) may seem sufficient, but the wings are much like the Turkish Delight in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: There's no such thing as enough. When middle age and overly fancy food overwhelm, nip on over to J.R. Crickets. Acid-washed jeans not required.



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