STICK WITH THE MEAT Sides at Binga’s are — and should be — an afterthought to the wings.
Last year was a weird one for chicken wings. The recession hurt business at any restaurant classy enough to plate a chicken breast, so people flocked to casual bars that serve inexpensive wings. The result was a national cheap-wing mania that culminated in a November gunfight when a crowd became frenzied at a 40-cent wing night in Brooklyn. Lawmakers in New York condemned cheap wings as "irresponsible." Meanwhile, markets doing what they do, the price of chicken breast dropped due to lack of demand and the price of wings began to climb. Cheap-wing joints responded by pushing the "boneless" wings that are really just slices of breast. Upscale chefs began to use the chicken's dark meat. Everything has gone topsy-turvy for the wing.
It seems every year is a weird year for Binga's Wingas. Locations come and go and move about. Versions of Binga's have burned to the ground (Congress Street), been vandalized into submission (Portland Street), been nixed at the proposal stage (Washington Avenue), and simply faded away (several others). Finally, tired of peripatetic urban life, last year Binga's moved to the suburbs in Yarmouth. But they couldn't resist the city's pull, and quickly opened a second location in one of our town's oddest spaces — the cavernous, literally cave-like, Stadium on Free Street.
The Stadium space has had its own strange history. A former cinema, it narrowly avoided Hooterdom when the city objected to the franchise, and instead concocted its own sort of Hooters-meets-Foot-Locker waitress outfits and theme. It looked like a sports bar but would transform into a dance club at random moments. When I went to watch basketball a DJ got caught on a zip line above our table. It was awkward.
Things are less awkward now. The waitstaff maintains a white-shirted dignity. I don't think there is too much that can be done with the big windowless box that is the main room at the Stadium, but Binga's has improved it. A raised tier of tables breaks up the space. In place of décor there are about 20 televisions.
Wings are a buck apiece, which won't start any riots. But these wings are pretty big. Some poultry scientist has really mastered the combination of hormones and cornfeed that puff those ladies up. While they are meaty enough, it is the skin and the sauce/seasoning that makes or breaks a wing — and Binga's offers you about 20 options. The best wings tend to be seasoned with a dry rub, but Binga's mostly coats theirs in syrupy sauces.
This works best when there is some heat to cut though the sugars. The Thai chili sauce was too mild, and seemed unreasonably sweet. The thin, orange-tinged classic Buffalo sauce was much better. A "spicy redneck" sauce had too little spice and too much maple. The sauce for the jalapeno-pesto wings had a different, creamier base, which worked well with the green heat.