To me a wing is a fried and crispy piece of a chicken covered in a tasty/spicy sauce which used to be considered a throw away/useful only for stock. However, in the last two decades it has become a booming business which has spawned many restaurants and bars to copy the unbridled success of Buffalo Wild Wings. While I have tried many wings across many of these very different outlets trying to make it in the genre, I have never been to any place quite like :D-Spot in Maplewood, MN.
D-Spot is tucked away in an unassuming strip mall next to a McDonald’s and sandwiched between an Asian restaurant and a tiny Carbone’s Pizza which anchors the shopping center. While the Carbone’s and the Asian restaurant were empty when we arrived at dinner time on Saturday night, :D-Spot’s very small dining area was crowded with sticky-handed patrons smiling as they chowed down on what can definitely be considered to be the world’s craziest wing menu created by an absolutely mad food scientist. With a counter order format and 10 or so tables, :D-Spot appears to be setup mainly for takeout and delivery but many people were still opting to dine in rather than take the obvious alternatives.
The menu is packed with well over 60 (yes; that’s six, zero) different kinds of wings, most of which you have never thought of and many more which I will put money on that you would never believe goes with a chicken wing. It’s broken into three categories: spicy, savory, comfort and sweet and there are 15-20 different types of wings in each. All sauces are made from scratch and to order. Here are some examples:
- Spicy: Spicy BBQ (chili, honey, BBQ sauce), Incredible Hulk (green coconut curry), and Toxic Avenger (green coconut curry, Italian salsa verde, schiracha (sic))
Savory: Italiano (mint, parsley, basil, garlic, capers, anchovy, crush red pepper), M.P.G. (fondue style potato and gravy), and iberian (chorizo, smoked paprika)
Comfort: Lalapalooza (lavender, peppercorn, mustard vinegar), Cacciatore (tomato, rosemary, garlic), and MN Wild (wild rice, cranberries, beer maple syrup).
Sweet: Mound of Joy (seasoned coconut milk, dark chocolate, crushed almonds), Chicken & Waffles (maple brown sugar, creme anglaise, cinnamon and powder sugar, finished with an optional berry sauce), and Frenchy (caramelized onions with a sweetened balsamic reduction).
At the counter we met the very friendly, absolutely crazy, and extremely passionate owner, Darin. He immediately began rattling off suggestions for wings we should try even though I knew before I walked in the door what I wanted. While one of his suggestions, the Black Widow (also noted as a “best bet” by The Heavy Table), was already on my list we didn’t follow any of his other suggestions. Instead we placed an order for 12 El Loco (“ridiculously HOT. For the extremist only!”), 6 Black Widow (soy glaze, cracked fennel, jerk rub), and 6 Blue Moon (blue cheese cream). After a discussion on the hot wings he offers as well as the other places I’ve eaten wings including Girvan which he said he has tried, we were offered a glimpse of new items to come including one of the newest searing hot peppers (either the Naga Viper (1.3m Scoville) or the Trinidad Scorpion (1.46m)) and a sausage and cracked fennel wing. Along with that he told us he’d be throwing in an order of his new, not yet on the menu, “Fruity Pebbles” wings to help cool down the heat of the “El Loco”.
We sat down and watched the Vikings suck in their first preseason game with another washed up and overpaid guy at QB while we waited for our wings to arrive. There were several others around us finishing up and several more crowded around outside staring at the menu taped to the window. Of those inside several went up to the counter and noted their profound love for D-Spot’s wings and two asked questions about what each little bit of spice was on their wings.
Eventually our wings were delivered to the table in plastic boats lined with checkered paper. For such fancy wing sauces, the presentation was quite mundane. Aside from the El Loco, the wings were sized nicely and lightly sauced. None of them put off a significant smell and even the El Loco were surprisingly tame when I stuck my nose right up to them.
I tried Josh’s Blue Moon wings first. We were both surprised at how little bleu cheese flavor there was. In fact, I couldn’t taste any at all and might as well have been eating a plain chicken wing dipped in tasteless paste. Josh agreed that there was little bleu cheese flavor but noted he could taste it on his wing. Josh is like me in that he prefers punch and pungent bleu cheeses and this one missed that mark.
Next up was the much hailed Black Widow wings. Syrupy and sticky, this sauce was dominated by the soy glaze. While I’m more of a traditional wing fan, I can certainly appreciate interesting flavors and ones that play well together. While there was nothing wrong with this wing in the least, the soy flavor just didn’t do much for me and the fleeting hint of pepper I kept chasing in the background wasn’t enough to make me give it the high marks that the Heavy Table did. However, if you’re into Asian flavors this one may be great for you.
Finally I grabbed one of the El Locos and stuck one under my nose. Usually with wings made with the ghost pepper, my nose at least clears when I do something similar. Many times it starts running and my eyes start to water. However, I couldn’t smell much of anything with the El Loco wings. The sauce itself was dark, chunky and had noticeable pieces of peppers as well as some unknown vegetable stewed in. The wings themselves were peppery and flavorful but not hot enough to carry the warning on the menu. Honestly, if you’re going to use ghost peppers, let them be hot enough that I break a sweat and get the chili high. Otherwise you’re just wasting your time and money in my opinion.
Then I was left with the Fruity Pebbles wings. Looking at the menu before we arrived I just could not wrap my head around on the sweet side of it and especially not the idea of dessert on a wing. However, being that the owner was so very proud to present these free of charge, I felt I had to give them a try. The wings were a dark pinkish color and syrupy–similar to the Black Widow. The first bite was odd. Not because it tasted bad, but because it didn’t. I had it in my mind that there was no way a chicken wing named after a cereal could taste good but it worked. But not only did it work but, no kidding here, it tasted just like Fruity Pebbles and not in a “well, sorta” type of way but in a really, actually, seriously tastes like Fruity Pebbles sort of way. But I figured I was just burned out from the El Loco so I packaged up the remaining wings and brought them home. Sunday morning I woke up and for the first time had leftover wings which were more like a breakfast food…and they worked even better. Yes folks, chicken wings for breakfast and if I hadn’t told you it was a wing you wouldn’t have been the wiser.
Overall I was surprised by :D-Spot. While I think they miss the mark in many ways with their hottest wings, I think they definitely have something very unique and quite interesting going in that strip mall in Maplewood. With new flavors constantly being worked out and dozens more for me to try as well as an enthusiastic and overly friendly owner putting himself out there to his customers, I see absolutely no reason why I wouldn’t return and I suggest you at least give it a try once. Who knows, maybe you too will shock yourself and find yourself falling in love with flavor combinations no one would have ever thought worked with what was once considered a throw-away piece of the chicken.
Have you ever eaten at :D-Spot in Maplewood? If so what did you think? Even if you haven’t, just looking at their menu may give you some really interesting thoughts on what they’re trying to do. What flavor combinations sound best to you? Would you try dessert on a wing? Whatever you have to say about :D-Spot Wings in Maplewood go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear your thoughts.
705 Century Ave N
Maplewood, MN 55119
Monday – Saturday: 11 AM to 10 PM
See all the pictures from :D-Spot in Maplewood, MN on Flickr here.