Hot Rod Cafe, New London


It’s not often you’ll find me in a sports bar. But when I heard that Hot Rod Cafe had been chosen to represent at the National Buffalo Wing Festival in Buffalo, my interest was piqued. Wings are one of my husband’s favorite foods. And aside from the original Anchor Bar in Buffalo, he’s generally disappointed. He prefers them “suicide”, which basically means burn-your-face-off hot. Normally, he’s a bit tired of being dragged off to try something for The E List but this time, he was game.

The Hot Rod Cafe sits on Bank Street in New London, with a back deck overlooking the comings and goings of various ferries. The interior is typical sports bar decor with three large flat screens and plenty of tables full of wing nuts.

We headed straight to the deck. Surprisingly, the crowd was heavily female. Not what you’d expect from a bar that’s famous for 24 beers on taps and 24 types of wings. Initally distracted by menu offerings of deep fried hot dogs and Lumpia (beef filled Filipino style spring rolls?), I decided to stick to the project at hand, wings. My husband was duly impressed with the beer offerings and ordered me a Big Cranky (ha ha). Here, you order your wings by the half dozen (ignore the dozen stated on the menu), and we got down to business: hot buffalo, regular buffalo, garlic pepper dry rub and cajun ranch. Oh, and some Tater Tots because who can resist? Delivered with plenty of napkins, moist towelettes and a bucket for the detritus, we dug in. My husband’s verdict? He always says the same thing: “could be hotter”. But he easily downed a dozen and a half. Me, I was happily surprised by the Garlic Pepper Dry Rub, which yielded an especially crispy wing. Neither of us were too keen on the Cajun Ranch. Eavesdropping on the gaggle of college students at the next table (none of whom ordered basic buffalo), I learned that the magic was to order two tastes, as in mango/habanero or sriracha/ranch or thai/chili). And those tots? A perfect neutral antidote between spicy bites. It ain’t the Anchor Bar but for wing aficionados, it’s a reasonable facscimile.

All you can eat Wings & Fries on Wednesdays from 4 – 9. Check the website for other specials.