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Buffalo Wings & Ribs
** 1/2
Out of a possible five

Surprises for palate take wing

You shouldn’t order fish at a steakhouse, and you can’t be surprised when the spaghetti at the pancake house isn’t so good.

But when I went to Buffalo Wings & Ribs in the Village at Time Corners, I wanted to try a cheeseburger, the Italian beef and even the tuna salad, because I already knew the wings were good. OK, I did have some wings, too – how could I not? – but what I discovered was that the “family restaurant” in fine print under the restaurant’s logo really does apply.

This shopping center eatery feels kind of like a sports bar with beer signs on the walls and TVs tuned to ESPN, but it is not loud, and it feels much more comfortable than some so-called family places that are really just bars in disguise. The staff also impressed with knowledge of the menu – even the out-of-the-ordinary things I was ordering – and promptness.

One server didn’t rave about the open-faced tuna salad even though it is dubbed “our best” on the menu, but assured me it was made fresh on site and was “OK.” And it was OK. The toasted sub bun was smeared with a rather straightforward salad of tuna and mayo, which was covered with melted provolone and a dusting of paprika. The bread was crunchy, the salad was fine and the cheese was chewy. I had no complaints, but nothing really to rave about, either, which is about what I should expect for ordering tuna salad at a wing joint.

The Black Angus cheeseburger, which I ordered with bleu cheese and bacon, was better than I expected. The burger was thick, juicy and nicely seared; the bacon was of good quality; and there wasn’t too much bleu cheese to kill the flavor of the beef.

It was flanked by some pretty-much-perfect loaded potato ends, which are the leftovers from Buffalo Wings & Ribs’ fresh-cut fries topped with cheese, bacon, onion and chives. The ends were crisp around the edges and were a lot like homemade potato chips except thicker.

The hand-cut curly fries are also usually a good bet, but they were a bit soggy during one of my visits, so I may have to opt for ends again in the future.

The best side dish I found was the coleslaw. Red and green cabbage was dressed with just enough slightly sweet mayonnaise base to give it flavor and it, too, was dusted with paprika. It was crisp and refreshing, and was perfect with the spicy wings. It did a better job of cooling my palate than most wing places’ celery and carrot sides.

Speaking of spicy, I wanted to try some of the hottest wings Buffalo Wings & Ribs has to offer, but I was torn between the Cajun Inferno and the Suicide varieties. My server said the Cajun wings were hotter, so I took her advice.

The peppery aroma from these wings was evident as soon as they hit the table, and they smelled as if they were hot. But to my surprise, the blend of spices in this sauce was balanced so well that it just sort of coated my mouth with heat and didn’t shock me the way I expected. I kept waiting for it to hit me, but I just got a wonderful, even flavor that tasted sort of like a warm bowl of jambalaya on a wing.

I cannot imagine these were the hottest wings the restaurant has to offer and will have to try the Suicide next time. But I will have the Cajun Inferno next time as well, because they were that good. All of the wings I tried – hot, hot garlic, mesquite barbecued, teriyaki, Shanghai Red – were good sized, meaty and fried until crisp. I had no complaints about any of them.

I also discovered that Buffalo Wings & Ribs makes a pretty mean chicken sandwich. The Buffalo chicken sandwich can be had with the spicy breaded chicken breast or the charbroiled breast, of which I chose the latter.

The chicken was grilled to perfection, so it was plump and juicy but still picked up a little char flavor from the grill. It was coated in just the right amount of medium sauce – you can choose any variety – and topped with bacon, melted provolone and bleu cheese.

I was not expecting much from the dessert offerings at this wing place, but I found all of them to be decent with one shining star. The turtle cheesecake was scrumptious, as it is nearly everywhere, and the German chocolate cake had moist, cocoa-infused layers and a rich coconut-packed caramel icing, but neither was worthy of top billing.

It was a shame that the tiramisu was served frozen solid and had to go into a box for later, but it was well worth the wait.

Once thawed, the lady fingers held up and weren’t mushy, the cream on top was sweet and airy, and it was a rich, decadent, homemade-tasting treat.

One I never expected to find at a wing joint.

Restaurant: Buffalo Wings & Ribs

Address: 6439 W. Jefferson Blvd.

Phone: 436-9464

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday

Cuisine: American

Handicapped accessible: Yes

Alcohol: Beer and wine

Credit cards: Yes

Kid-friendly: Yes

Menu: Loaded ends ($5.99), wings (10 for $7.39; 16 for $10.79; 25 for $15.99), Black Angus cheeseburger ($7.49; $8.49 with bleu cheese and bacon), open-faced tuna ($5.99), Buffalo chicken sandwich ($8.49)

Rating breakdown: Food: * 1/2 (3-star maximum); atmosphere: 0 (1 maximum), service: * (1 maximum)

Note: Restaurants are categorized by price range: $ (less than $20 for three-course meal), $$ ($20-$29); $$$ ($30-$39), $$$$ ($40-$49), $$$$$ ($50 and up).

Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. E-mail him at rduvall@jg.net, call 461-8130 or go to the “Dining out” topic of “The Board” at www.journalgazette.net. DuVall’s past reviews can also be found at the website, and you can hear Ryan from 5 to 6 p.m. every Thursday on 92.3 FM, The Fort.