Back in February I had just over an hour give-or-take to kill in downtown Kingston. I decided to use that time to eat wings, as a Lord of the Wings does. I've had a few places in my wing research log and I re-referenced Wingston, a local chicken wing review blog, and based on their review and my proximity, I ended up at The Sports Tap & Grill.
Wingston (love that title), looked very favourably at The Sports Tap in their review from 2015:
“The staff here are friendly, and fun. The Wings are solid, and they offer a couple flavours that you don’t typically see anywhere else. Always an enjoyable spot!” “Great flavour, great size, slightly dry outside but quality meat. Overall well above average. Special shout out for the excellent service, personable, witty and very prompt.” “My personal favourite, and the only restaurant where I always have to get a second pound. So good!” “These were easily the sauciest and messiest wings I’ve had in a long time and I loved every minute of it. I want to bathe in the Guinness sauce.”
I just glanced at these reviews when I was picking that day, but reflecting back after having been there, this review is almost 4 years old and things clearly have changed.
The Sports Tap is one of two pubs inside the Queen's Inn, a historic hotel built before 1880. The other restaurant on site is Copper's Pub, but they share the same menu. I didn't see Copper's, but Sports Tap is a modernized historic pub with a loose sports theme, which is essentially sports on TV. This day it was golf, so I was even less interested in sports than usual.
It was the middle of the afternoon, so too early for a dinner crowd and too late for lunch. There were a bunch of regulars at the bar and only one other patron at a table. There is lots of seating, the place was clean, and a little dark (in a good way). I was greeted from the back at the bar by Kerry, the bartender/server who was taking care of everything. He told me to sit where I wanted, asked if I wanted a menu, which he brought and took my drink order. He seems like he's been working the bar for decades, and was a pretty funny guy through his friendly but gruff demeanor. He seems the perfect character for the place and he was great at his job.
I checked out the menu and found wings. They state they are "Voted Kingston's Best Wings" but I've searched online and can't find that vote. I did find that on their website they state "Rated Kingston's #1 Chicken Wings by Wingston!" but that's not the same thing.
I saw on the menu "Regular or Welsh Style" so I had to ask Kerry about this. He said that the Welsh style wings were baked with the sauce on, making them less saucy and popular with the 'suits' (business guys in suits), but he said they were more dried out. I asked 'if these are baked then the Regular ones were deep fried?' and Kerry said no they were both deep fried, just the Welsh ones were then tossed in sauce and baked. Got it. Well I really wanted saucy wings so I went with an order of Regular.
While I was waiting, Kerry dropped off some napkins and generic moist towlettes for clean up. I did not receive any bone bowl or plate though for disposal.
It wasn't long before my wings came out. Kerry couldn't get over how big they were.
The wings only come in one order - 1 pound, which is about 8 wings, for $14.95. I rarely get wings at full price, and a pound at $15 is not a price I would normally pay, but they had been rated fairly high, and they were big. I did ask Kerry if there was a wing night, but he said no. "Does anyone have a wing night anymore?" he asked, kinda scoffing. Actually yes, but I wasn't going to point that out.
The wings don't come with any sides, but they did come with blue cheese dip. The dip was nice and creamy and there were little chunks of blue cheese. It was needed with the wings.
Kerry was right, these were large wings. While 8 wings aren't a lot when you order a pound, they are when they are this size. While they weren't super long, the were very very meaty.
While meaty wings can be a good thing, they were really tough and dried out. The skin wasn't crispy either, and on top of that, the wings weren't very saucy at all. Texture wise I was not really happy with these wings.
I started to wonder if these wings were in fact, the Welsh style wings? They weren't crispy or saucy. If they weren't, I couldn't imagine what they would be like.
I went with hot, and these wings vaguely tasted hot. There was no heat to the sauce, but then there was very little sauce. That's not to say the wings tasted bad - they were decent wings - but with the texture fail and the lack of sauce, lets just say it was a good thing there was blue cheese dip on the side.
I was pretty full after eating all the wings. When Kerry came to take away my platter, he asked if I wanted more. I said I was stuffed, and he said something to the effect of they have a deal where if you eat 5lbs you get the wings for free. I said 'oh really?' and he laughed and said no, but he should be careful because one day someone was going to take him up on that.
He asked if I wanted another refill on my drink, but I said I just wanted the bill. He said I was welcome to stay and keep working as long as I liked, but I thanked him as I had to get going. When I was leaving, he said to make sure to come back for their wings, 'unless I guess you find a wing night somewhere'. Then he reiterated that they had the 'biggest wings in town'.
I really liked the atmosphere at the Sports Tap. Really friendly service from barkeep Kerry, clean, updated yet historic sports bar. I was not impressed with the wings. Yes they were big and meaty, but they were so dried out, tough and un-sauced. Clearly the wings had changed since the Wingston crew had reviewed them. Maybe I had an off day. Maybe I got the Welsh style instead of the regular wings. Either way, I didn't hate the wings, but they didn't do much to win my love either. 6.5/15
The Sports Tap & Grill
The Queen's Inn
125 Brock Street, Kingston ON