A few weeks ago, Jake Melnick’s Corner Tap introduced a new menu item - extremely spicy buffalo wings made with Red Savina peppers. These peppers rate at 577,000 Scoville units, which Chicagoist helpfully points out is sixty times spicier than jalapeno. Since Jake Melnick’s is run by Levy Restaurants, the press release about the wings was heavily circulated, even making Reuters (albeit as an “Oddly Enough” piece). Nevertheless, the interest of the Chicago wing community was piqued, and several of them have survived the experience to report back.
As part of the publicity stunt, patrons must sign a waiver before consuming the wings absolving the restaurant of liability for injury - hence the post title (borrowed from a clever Yelper). Actually the wings don’t have an official name; when we called, they suggested asking for “super hot wings,” which is dull. Anyway, obviously such a thing is almost certainly legally meaningless, as many of these waivers are, but performativity is the name of the game here. The deal is, you get ten of these wings for $11.95, and they come with sour cream and other heat reducers. Oh, and an alarm bell for summoning your waiter in case of emergency. In the event that you clean your plate, your picture will be placed on the wall in perpetuity, or at least until the next gimmick. Now, if it were easy, they’d have pictures littering up the joint. So what’s the real deal?
An early report from LTHer yellow truffle is a good introduction:
The spicy wings looks like normal Buffalo wings, with more of an orange-ish glow, of the sauce, on the outside. These wings were breaded and then coated with the red savina pepper sauce. The aroma was slightly vinegary. Upon tasting the wings, the mouth and lips started to feel the effects of the heat. These were spicy, indeed. And tasty as well. The heat of the peppers was not overpowering that you could not taste the wings, which was nicely prepared.
Sitting there chomping on the wings, one of the staff came over and asked us if we wanted our picture taken (with a Polaroid), but we declined. There was also a waiver that we had to sign that emphatically stated that these wings were spicy and that we could not take legal action against them - reading it was extremely humorous. There is also an option to order a cooling tray, which contained a scoop of vanilla ice cream, double shot of whole milk, a large smear of sour cream, half a slice of toast, and a slice of orange. I suggest ordering this, even if you don’t need it, because it is free. This caused us not to get dessert.
Unlike the suicide wings at the Anchor Bar (the originator of the Buffalo Wings), these were easily edible. Anchor Bar’s wings are, IMHO, about 20% spicier than Jake Melnick’s.
So we went to Jake Melnick’s last night. I ordered the Hot Wings. A table next to ours had also ordered the wings - you could tell because they were wearing the Fire Fighter hats and they were crying. The boyfriend was able to eat just one and his girlfriend managed 3. I wasn’t too scared yet.
I signed the waiver saying I would not sue if I died. The wings came and I took my first bite - it was seriously hot that even the fumes almost did me in. It was going to be tough. After the second wing I started to lose feeling in my legs. After a few more I could not talk nor feel my tongue or lips but I was nearing halfway there - there were 10 wings. I also refused to ring the bell.
My friend, Barry took a bite to see how hot they were and he nearly died. He literally drank 5 glasses of water (first mistake) and then could not sit still for the next 10 minutes walking around the restaurant putting napkins to his tongue. I took the rest of his wing back.
The peppers and the pepper extract really were doing funny things to my body and mind - things got pretty blurry and hazy. My arms were somewhat numb and the end of my fingers were all tingly. My hearing started to go and ironically I started to get freezing cold - even though it was very warm in the restaurant.
Barry’s wife begged for me to give in. There was no way I was going to. I rang the bell so my son could drink the milk and eat the ice cream which was supposed to cool my mouth down. I finished the basket - all ten. I got my picture taken. It was worth it.
That review, by Snark, was accompanied by the picture of the wings at the top of the post (thanks, Snark!) Snark continued his reporting by noting that “it was faily unreal, if that makes sense. The whole atmosphere/environment became different, muffled -almost as if under a drug - which also caused immense pain. It was not a pleasurable experience although got a little better toward the middle and end when you could not feel anything nor did you much care, really.”
Wow, sounds fun! But really, why do people do this? Is it the capsaicin high? Testing one’s ability to withstand pain? Machismo, plain and simple? Yes, yes and yes. Since it’s unlikely that capsaicin causes physical damage when consumed (the pain is real, but it’s a false stimulus), those with insensitive mucus membranes are urged to give in to the marketing ploy. If nothing else, you get a free cooling tray!
Jake Melnick’s Corner Tap [MenuPages]
Jake Melnick’s Corner Tap [Official Site]
Scoville Scale [Wikipedia]
Putting the Hot Back in Hot Wings [Chicagoist]
Levy Restaurants [Official Site]
Snacking on a wing and a prayer [Reuters]
I got the “waiver” wings at Jake Melnick’s [Yelp]
Jake Melnick’s Hot wings [LTHForum]
Anchor Bar [Official Site]
[Photo: “Pictures from Bill: Hot Wings!” on Shutterfly]