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“The heat really slows you down,” a victorious Jay Gorman declared after devouring a total of 53 chicken wings in 10 minutes to take the top prize at the first annual “Fire Breathing Wing Eating contest” on Tuesday night at Capitol Lounge. (Cloture Club has more on the contest here.) The charity event, benefiting the D.C. Firefighters Burn Foundation, commemorated the 2005 cigarette-started fire that devastated the Capitol Hill watering hole (and forever altered this columnist’s position on smoking bans).
It had been at least six years since Young & Hungry partook of the place’s spicy poultry parts—once a weekly staple for a struggling writer on the proverbial shoestring budget. The things cost 10 cents a piece every Tuesday night back then. And I was there virtually every week alongside fellow starving scribe Doug Quenqua, now a regular New York Times contributor, who, despite relocating to foodie-centric Brooklyn, still fondly recalls the “fat, spicy and steaming hot” finger-foods. “D.C. is a town of too many institutions,” he says, “and Tuesday night wings at Cap Lounge is the only one I miss.”
A lot has changed at Cap Lounge since then. The fire consumed virtually all of the soccer scarfs and political paraphernalia adorning the walls (save for the longstanding Marion Barry campaign sign in the stairwell). The menu is a lot different, too, with executive chef Teddy Folkman of Granville Moore’s coming in to upgrade the bar fare, introducing sliders made from Angus beef and a BLT with Applewood-smoked bacon, among other things.
But those “classic wings,” as they’re described on the menu, taste exactly the same.
Only now they cost 25 cents a pop on Tuesdays. And you don’t get the once obligatory carrots and celery on the side.
It turns out that Folkman has a sort of romantic attachment to the original recipe not unlike my own. He tells Y&H via email:
I too used to be a regular in the late 90’s early 00’s. Back then I remember a wing that had just enough meat to call it a wing and you had to ask for sauce. They were also only $.10. When I came aboard in February ’08, I actually started using a different wing for $.25 wing night. We originally used a smaller wing, now we use a wing that yields 6-8 per pound pre-cooked. The recipe for the sauce is still the same 1 pound of butter per 1 gallon of Frank’s Red Hot Sauce.
Photo by Chris Shott