A little after five o'clock yesterday afternoon, the judges took their places at the appointed tables inside the Greensfelder Recreation Complex at Queeny Park (550 Weidman Road, Ballwin). In front of each of them were a score sheet, a stack of napkins and a pile of wet naps. Most whetted their appetites with sips of water or beer. Louis Maull of Maull's Barbecue Sauce fame had brought two small containers of high-fructose corn syrup to mix into his water to help cut the heat.
The UCP Heartland Wing Ding was about to begin.
This year's Wing Ding featured nineteen restaurants competing in four categories: best traditional wing (sauced); best non-traditional wing (sauced); best dry-rubbed wing; and hottest wing. Yours truly was a judge for all but the hottest-wing category, which decision probably costs me some street cred, but which I don't regret after seeing the looks of pure agony on the faces of my fellow, braver judges Evan Benn of the Post-Dispatch, George Mahe of St. Louis Magazine and Andrew Mark Veety of StewedSTL.
Cat Neville of Feast also participated in the hottest wing category, but despite her protestations to the contrary, she appeared to be handling the heat far better than the boys.
Judges tasted each wing blindly. We picked our top three in each category as well as an overall favorite. Attendees also voted for the "People's Choice" award.
Ferguson Brewing Company (418 South Florrisant Road, Ferguson; 314-521-2220) took the "Judge's Overall Favorite" award for its sweet habanero wing.
St. Louis Wing Co. (9816 Manchester Road, Rock Hill; 314-962-9464) won two honors: hottest wing and the "People's Choice."
The winners in the individual categories were as follows:
1. Three Kings Public House (6307 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-721-3355) 2. Fallon's Bar & Grill (9200 Olive Boulevard, Olivette; 314-991-9800) 3. Weber's Front Row (8169 Big Bend Boulevard, Webster Groves; 314-961-4500)
1. The Press Box Bar & Grill (1095 Chesterfield Parkway, Chesterfield; 636-536-9440) for its Grilled Sweet Chili Wing 2. Ferguson Brewing Company for its Sweet Habanero Wing 3. St. Louis Wing Co. for its Cajun Alfredo with Crumbled Bacon Wing
1. Joe Buck's (1000 Clark Avenue; 314-436-0394) 2. Hwy 61 Roadhouse and Kitchen (34 South Old Orchard Avenue, Webster Groves; 314-968-0061) 3. EdgeWild Restaurant & Winery (550 Chesterfield Center, Chesterfield; 636-532-0550)
Erin Wheeler Boyle of UCP Heartland reports this morning that the Wing Ding raised about $15,000 for the organization, which provides services to children and adults with disabilities.