Chipotle-citrus grilled wings with Tower-style rub at Tower Bar & Grill on West State Boulveard.
Cream of broccoli soup at Tower Bar & Grill on West State Blvd.
The dining room is almost always packed at Tower Bar & Grill on West State Blvd.
The T.G. Chicken sandwich at Tower Bar & Grill on West State Blvd.
Cheeseburger at Tower Bar & Grill on West State Blvd.
A small Greek Salad at Tower Bar & Grill on West State Blvd.
Rib platter at Tower Bar & Grill on West State Blvd.
Hand-cut ribe-eye with pierogies at Tower Bar & Grill on West State Blvd.
Pot roast burrito at Tower Bar & Grill on West State Blvd.
Taco salad at Tower Bar & Grill on West State Blvd.
Fried chicken gizzards at Tower Bar & Grill on West State Blvd.
Tower style boneless wings at Tower Bar & Grill on West State Blvd.
Sunday, April 01, 2018 1:00 am
Leave kids at home to enjoy city's best wings
RYAN DUVALL | The Journal Gazette
Tower Bar & Grill
Out of a possible five
“Who has the best chicken wings?”
If I only had a dollar for every time someone asked me that.
But when pressed, I always say Tower Bar & Grill on West State Boulevard. And I can tell you I eat wings from there more often than any other place out there.
Tower's style is unique, too. There are 13 varieties and four of those are grilled in addition to being fried. But I have all of mine grilled regardless of sauce flavor because the method is so perfect. The bar fries the wings until they are nice and crisp, sauces them, then finishes them on a grill to give them a little smoky char.
I get mine double-sauced, which means they get a little extra sauce during the grilling. The result is sticky caramelized sauce over super-crisp skin with a hint of that backyard barbecue flavor.
My favorite flavor is citrus-chipotle grilled, which has the kick of the peppers, calmed by the citrus' acidic brightness, and there is an underlying sweetness that makes that sauce nice and sticky on the grill.
And if you really want to add some extra flavor, get them “Tower Style.” The signature Tower wings have a little mild Buffalo sauce, but they are dusted with the bar's dried herb blend. It is a secret mix, but there is some thyme and fennel seed visible.
That herb blend can be dusted on any wing you choose and, for me, is a must-add on the citrus-chipotle and grilled honey-sriracha for sure.
The restaurant also offers boneless “wings” that were surprisingly good as I almost never go boneless. Why were they so much better than the normal boneless wing? Because you can have them finished on the grill, too.
Tower has always been a working-man's watering hole given its location near Dana, the TV stations and an industrial park, but it has really morphed into more of a neighborhood restaurant over the years as the food has moved to the forefront.
The place is always packed, and the crowd is very diverse. It makes you feel welcome, as do the servers who know many of the regulars by name and who truly treated me like family every time I visited.
Though the food is what draws the crowd, the menu is still very bar-centric. There is an entire page of appetizers and the rest is basically burgers and sandwiches. There are also more formal daily lunch and dinner specials.
Tower also usually gets mentioned among my best burger places because they do them right. There are five specialty burgers under the “Burger Bar” portion of the menu, along with a basic burger, and you can find a patty melt listed in the sandwich section.
My regular cheeseburger was just right. It had a nicely seared and seasoned, juicy patty and fresh lettuce, tomato and all the fixings. There was nothing bad I could say about it.
If the wings sounded good but you were wanting something a little healthier, the T.G. Chicken will do nicely. It is a grilled chicken breast cooked just like the Tower wings with a little sauce and that herb blend. It was spot on and had the same great flavor of the wings. But I did not ask for it double-sauced and will next time because it would have only been made better that way.
My favorite non-sandwich meal actually came from the appetizer menu, which is kind of an odd place for a pot roast burrito. When I asked why it was there, my server kind of rolled her eyes and shook her head, then told me I could have it as a platter with rice and beans and that she didn't know why it is with the appetizers, either.
A flour tortilla was stuffed with tender, stringy, slow-cooked pot roast just like your mom made, and that burrito is enrobed by a creamy, white, house-made cheese sauce with a little jalapeño kick. It is one of the best burritos you will find anywhere.
Another tasty item from the appetizers list that had no rival was the chicken gizzards. Tower coats these chewy, fatty chicken innards with a light, airy batter that puffs up almost like tempura. The chicken kind of steams inside the puffy batter, which makes them very tender. They were tremendous.
The salads at Tower were better than I expected.
The side salad and side Caesar were better than most you get at sports bars. The greens and veggies were fresh and plentiful and I had no qualms. The taco salad followed suit and was a solid lunch choice with a lot of seasoned ground beef (chicken offered, too), lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, green onions and jalapeño slices in a crispy fried bowl.
But what was really nice about the salad offerings was that I could get any salad in one of three sizes. The small Greek salad was the perfect side to the wings or a burger and it was the best salad of all. The crisp lettuce had a lot of cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions, kalamata olives, pepperoncinis and just enough crumbled feta all dressed in an oregano-heavy herb dressing that gave it the perfect Greek flavor.
The soups I tried also proved worth having, though I struggled to get any soup during one visit.
The cream of broccoli had a wonderful, velvety-smooth cream base with broccoli florets that maintained their integrity – they didn't fall apart into tiny bits – and was deftly seasoned so I just added a little black pepper to finish it. The vegetable beef was standard to the point of being sort of boring, but it did the job on a cold afternoon.
I have no idea how good the chicken noodle or potato bacon soups are because my server never brought them on a busy afternoon that actually led to a few service issues.
There were no service issues at dinnertime even though it was just as crazy with people waiting for tables. The food, however, was a mixed bag.
The featured hand-cut rib-eye satisfied and was a real bargain at just $14 with a side salad. The thin cut of beef was perfectly cooked, well-marbled and had a unique seasoning or perhaps a marinade that provided just the right flavor without masking the beef.
I also loved that pierogies were offered on the side instead of a standard baked potato. The little potato-stuffed purses were mixed with butter and sautéed onions and bacon pieces, and those onions were great when I slid a few onto the steak.
The rib platter – one of the five menu-staple dinners – was a failure. The “slow-smoked baby back ribs” had a dark layer of char on top and the meat was terribly dry and crumbly. They are smoked off-site, I was told, and put on the grill before serving. I ate just one rib and gave up because they were so overcooked and dry.
So not everything is great when finished on the grill. Guess I will just have to stick to the wings next time.
Restaurant: Tower Bar & Grill
Address: 2403 W. State Blvd.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily
Handicapped accessible: Yes
Alcohol: Full bar
Credit cards: Yes
Menu: Wings ($9 for 8), gizzards ($6.25), pot roast burrito ($7.75; $2 as platter), cheeseburger ($6), chicken sandwich ($8.25), Greek salad ($7.75), taco salad ($8), ribs ($10)
Rating breakdown: Food: **1/2 (3-star maximum); atmosphere: 1/2 (1 maximum), service: 1/2 (1 maximum)
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. Email him at email@example.com; call at 461-8130. DuVall's past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net. You can follow him on Twitter @DiningOutDuVall.