Restaurant review: Ray Ray’s Chicken Wings fly high

By Columbus Alive
From the May 23, 2013 edition

In a scenario befitting far-fetched fiction, Buffalo, New York radically changed our country’s dining habits. Yeah, that unlikely “trend-setting” city began the hot-sauced chicken wings craze still raging all over these United States of Gourmet-rica.

Many establishments — even fancy ones — have tried to personalize this gotta-have-it culinary addiction by concocting all manner of sauces. But leave it to the Columbus master of Ray Ray’s Hog Pit to expertly combine two of our nation’s passions — fried chicken wings and barbecue — into a single delicious repast.

Ray Ray’s food truck will continue cooking none-better “Q” exactly as before, but Ray Ray’s has lately added regular evening wing service from 5-10 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays. These wings are sold ($8/pound, i.e. about nine) inside of Ace of Cups from a window opposite the bar and can be devoured in the bar, on the patio, to-go, or in a specially designated, bus-your-own-table upstairs dining area. On weekends, AoC’s patio-overlooking window will also fill wing orders. And oh yeah, Ray Ray’s wings — which are big and meaty things — are freakin’ great!

They’re perfectly smoked, meaning they trigger an atavistic lust-center in the human brain. Then they’re flash fried to order, which endows them with a crispiness which doubly activates that center. This inspired two-step process results in grease-less bacon-y bones that mimic barbecue ribs, only leaner.

Three dry rubs and three sauces — all house-made — are offered, and they’re all terrific. I recommend ordering your wings dry-rubbed and saucing them (try all three, it doesn’t cost extra) on the side, dip-style so they better retain their “ribbiness” and crispiness.

I’d start with the hits-lotsa-buttons savory and sweet house shake (my all-purpose favorite), then play around with the jerk rub (medium-hot, perfumed with some Caribbean spice) and the flame-igniting hot habanero rub (NOT for sissies). Sauce-wise, the Buffalo is aggressive — as it should be — with salt, vinegar and cayenne; the habanero likker is fruity and fiery; and the thick, hot and sweet Sriracha barbecue is also excellent — and the best rib-like match.

Good wing-partnering Fried Plantains dipped into Sriracha mayo ($4), though they could occasionally be crisper and less oily, eat like (as I overheard someone say) little “crack balls.”

Photo by Eric Wagner