Cheap Buzz: Buffalo Wild Wings


[Photo: Carey Jones]

While I shouldn't start an article by professing my love for a location that I review—though with chain restaurants, let's be honest, I almost always have an opinion going in—I do want to at least call out a few good things about Buffalo Wild Wings.

They tend to be big and lively and feel like sports bars, with huge screens on the wall for my Steelers games. Beyond the wings, they have Naked Chicken Tenders (grilled tenders with no breading) which are a rare chain restaurant order that's not awful for you. (Hey, I write about McFlurrys all day; I'm allowed my off-duty low-carb diet.) And finally (to negate that last sentence), it has an awesome beer list.

But at Cheap Buzz, it's about the cocktails. And I must say, my friends, trying those drinks was a learning experience.

The Mojito at Buffalo Wild Wings reminded me of mint chewing gum, almost as if there were a mint flavor in the cocktail along with the mint leaves that filled my glass; it was very sweet, weak on the rum, and aggressively minty. If I had to guess, I'd say it was a mix doctored up with cosmetic mint and ice. Drinkability: Not bad, but not good.

If the Mojito was chewing gum, the Margarita was a Pixie Stick—incredibly sweet, with a strong "fruit" flavor—not fruit flavor. It was reasonably tart, in its favor, but couldn't overcome the sweetness; in the end, it just tasted like watery store-bought mix with a minimum pour of tequila. Drinkability: Like the mojito, generic and sweet.

The most interesting drink of the night, the Loaded Lemon Tea, combined sweet tea vodka and lemon; though it too was sweet, it wasn't as offensively so. Lemon, honey, and that tea vodka were all in balance; it's refreshing and easy enough to drink. That said, it's my favorite only in that there wasn't anything I hated about it. Drinkability: A great idea for a summer drink, and not too bad a version of it.

But things went wrong again with the Red Stag and Coke—a promotion with Red Stag, Jim Beam's Black Cherry flavored bourbon. Though the Stag and Coke had the most alcohol of any drink here, it also had the most sugar; cherry-flavored sodas are fine by me, but even for a guy who likes Cherry Coke, this thing was undrinkably sweet. Drinkability: Worst of the evening. Should Red Stag even have a mixer?

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My favorite, by process of elimination, would be the Loaded Lemon Tea; however, best of the worst isn't a good place to be.

Luckily, there's an easy solution: stick to the beer. By any standards, their beer selection is impressive. At the Brooklyn location I visit, you can find Abita, Arrogant Bastard, Stone Ruination, Lagunitas, Coney Island Brewery, and a slew of others in bottles and on draft; other chains only carry the big brands, and maybe Sam Adams. Buffalo Wild Wings is miles ahead. I feel bad giving them a D+ for cocktails, but I feel like an A- beer rating makes up for it. And really, aren't sports bars are about beer?