[Ed. note: Throwback to a year ago this month, when we took our famous Casual Encounter Roadtrip to Milwaukee!]
Buffalo Wild Wings is about wings (duh). But we learned during this particular encounter that specialization doesn’t necessarily bring excellence (in your FACE, Adam Smith). BWW shouts its mediocrity from the rooftops. Well, maybe not “shouts.” More like, “mumbles it whenever it decides to makes its appearance on the rooftops, because you haven’t seen it in a while and would like it to bring you your check as long as it’s coming by.”
Food: BWW is primarily known as a wing place, but there were ample other non-wing-related options for our dining enjoyment. But always chicken, everything chicken.
Jenna says: Things started promising – a flatbread appetizer that did the trick – but it was all downhill from there. I’m not a Big Wings Guy so I went with the chicken tacos. The tacos tasted like a bad Taco Bell experience. Most Taco Bell visits I have are actually quite enjoyable, but every so often I’ll have a south of the Border experience that causes me to question everything in life (I’m looking at you, Taco Bell in Anoka). [Ed. note: Don’t drag Anoka into this, Jenna. It’s been through enough.] I did sample the wings, but I don’t consider myself wing-savvy enough to rate them.
John says: Buffalo Wild Wings is known for…wings! We went on a Wednesday and come to find out that it’s BOGO on boneless wings. I hit that up hard, bought 12 and received 12 free. I went with 4 different sauces: Parmesan garlic, mild, Caribbean Jerk, and Chipotle dry rub (also my nickname in college). Cool. Also, I ordered a flatbread appetizer thing for the table. It was fine.
Rachel says: I went in with every intention of forcing myself to get the grilled version of the buffalo chicken sandwich, but I didn’t specify that when I ordered, so I got fried. Self-sabotage at its most delicious. Even with that, the sandwich was disappointing. It was merely topped with buffalo sauce, not coated in it. C’mon guys, I know you have the coating technology back there. The flatbread app was good. I stole one of Aaron’s boneless wings and it was fine.
Aaron says: The appetizer was good. And made even better by the fact that John paid for it.
Jenna says: Beer. Fine. I’m over ordering anything other than beer at a Casual Encounter, unless it’s a well made margarita [Ed. note: That’s probably wise.].
John says: I got there before everyone. Just early enough to catch happy hour. Yay me!! I had a beer. It was mediocre.
Rachel says: I think I got water? Even that was unmemorable.
Aaron says: I got a Coors Light. It was nice and watery.
Service: As we’ve proven time and again, the Casual Dining experience is made or broke by the service. We’ve had some truly stellar service during our journey… but this was not it. You’d think that those jersey uniforms would indicate a little more hustle, but you’d be wrong.
Jenna says: Sam was not great, not great at all. Rarely checked on us, no clever banter, and he definitely DID NOT share intimate details about his dating life. The restaurant was not super busy, and yet it took them hours to clear off the tables around us. Just gross.
John says: Phew, not good. I think our server was named Sam. He was about the blandest server we’ve had since we started this endeavor. He wasn’t bad, just boring.
Rachel says: I learned something new about myself at BWW. I learned that I have a limit to how many dirty dishes I can tolerate on our table at any given time. Not to mention that the waxed paper that lines everything gives height where other restaurants’ dirty dishes only have depth. It was like I was in an interactive sculpture full of dirty serving vessels. Our server was boring and slow. As a cap to the night, he also got my to-go order wrong.
Aaron says: Started off strong, but went downhill. He brought our waters two at a time, like a rank amateur.
Ambience: BWW is a sports bar and boy howdy do they want you to know that every second that you’re there. The staff wear specialty jerseys in an unflattering gold color, perhaps in a bid to stay neutral in a world full of team rivalries. There are also TVs crammed onto every conceivable square inch of the walls so you could sports-watch to your heart’s content. It’s like Hooters but with fewer boobs.
Jenna says: BWW out sports bar-ed Hooters, which I didn’t know was possible. 40+ TVs, jersey clad servers, dudes hanging with other dudes eating wings.
John says: There weren’t enough TVs playing sporting events. JK there were like 5938 of them. It’s honestly hard to talk to people because of all the distractions. It wasn’t even sports I cared about. I am pretty sure they had ESPN 8, [Ed. note: The Ocho] showing dodgeball. But I might be wrong.
Rachel says: The sports-themed atmosphere was what I expected. I can usually ignore TVs at restaurants pretty well because I don’t care about sportsballs. It was tough here, though. There was probably some kind of memorabilia on the walls, but I can’t remember for sure. Any sort of ambience was overshadowed by the aforementioned landscape of uncleared tables.
Aaron says: I learned from Jenna that there were 40+ TVs present. Some of those TVs were playing hockey, so I was all about it.
Casualosity: It seems we’ve stumbled upon a new scientific theory: The more a restaurant appeals to dudes, the higher the casualosity. BWW practically sprays testosterone into the HVAC system, so the casualosity was hard to beat.
Jenna says: Again, dudes hanging with dudes eating wings.
John says: It was pretty damn casual. It was casual enough for a baby to join us or whatever.
Rachel says: I felt comfortable having my baby in there, that’s for sure.
Aaron says: Flip flops in full effect! The clientele was wearing a mix of business casual and sweatpants. Pretty casual, kind of confusing.
Dessert: Our choices were limited, and mostly deep fried. We stuck to our guns and ordered the deep-fried cheesecake bites. We weren’t expecting much, and we got it.
Jenna says: TERRIBLE. Deep fried cheesecake bites that tasted like cough syrup. A real disgrace to the art of making cheesecake.
John says: This was the absolute low point. The closest thing they had to cheesecake were these fried cheesecake bites. There were 8 of them for like 5 bucks. Nope. Unhappy, BWW.
Rachel says: I was willing to give the deep fried cheesecake balls a chance. I was thinking it would be kind of a State Fair thing. Turns out, warm cheesecake is weird.
Aaron says: [Ed. note: Aaron inexplicably gave no comments about the dessert, yet rated it a 4. Phone it in, much?]
Jenna says: Nothing was stolen from my car, unlike at Red Lobster! And Sadie graced us with her charming personality and witty one liners!
John says: Honestly…nothing. Absolutely nothing stood out. Every other casual dining establishment we’ve been to had some memorable, be it bad or good. There was nothing cool.
Rachel says: My adorable baby. Like John said, nothing really stood out.
Aaron says: That flatbread app.
Least favorite part:
Jenna says: The food, by far. I expected it to be better because I remember having positive experiences years ago at the Fargo location. But then I remembered that we used to just play trivia and order soda at the BWW in Fargo, so maybe the food has always sucked.
John says: The cheesecake bites. DUMB!
Rachel says: I was so disappointed by the food. It’s hard to make fried chicken unremarkable, but they did it. Also, the hellscape of uncleared tables.
Aaron says: Service was slower than slow.
Next up: We class up the joint with a trip to the original list’s #1 pick, Benihana!