Thursday, May 24, 2012

Red Dog Saloon, 18th May

I have been watching far too much of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, and Man V Food. It’s becoming almost a daily occurrence and might explain why a place like Red Dog Saloon appealed so much. I like the sound of a BBQ place anyway, but Red Dog goes one step further in emulating places in the States by having their very own challenges. They have the Hot Wing challenge, the Philly Cheese Steak challenge, and they have a burger called the Devastator, which isn’t an official challenge but I’m sure would be something of a personal feat to finish.

We had decided we were going to go and do the Hot Wing Challenge. It says on the menu we’d looked at in advance that the hot wings are coated in a hot sauce made from the naga viper chilli. Now, we had been putting the Rib Man’s hot sauce on pretty much everything since we bought it a couple of weeks ago, and that has naga chillies in it, so we thought we’d been in training for this, and would be able to handle a few hot wings. If we had been a bit more savvy, we should have noted the addition of the word ‘viper’. But we didn’t. I was a little more cautious – Stephen wanted us to have the hot wings as a starter and then our mains but I was insistent we order them with food in case we needed something to take the edge off.

When we asked about the Hot Wings, our waitress explained that in order to do the challenge you have to eat the six hot wings in ten minutes, without eating or drinking anything else. You then have to sit a further five minutes without eating or drinking anything in order to ‘feel the burn’. If you did that, then your wings were free and your name went on the Wall of Fame. If you failed, you had to pay for the privilege and your name went on the Wall of Shame. We explained we wanted to both try them and so we’d have them but sans Challenge. 

innocent-looking wings (and I apologise for the quality of the pictures)

For our mains we wanted to try as many different things as possible to get a broad taste of the place so Stephen ordered the beef rib dinner (which comes with a side of your choice – his was fries) 

and I ordered the pulled pork and pork rib dinner with a side of meaty beans. What goes better with meat than more meat?

In due course our food arrived and we were pleasantly surprised that our ‘dinners’ also came with some coleslaw. In just a few moments that pleasant surprised turned to abject gratitude as I tried to douse the pain in my mouth with alternately the cool mayonnaisey coleslaw and great gulps of wine. I have never. In all my life. Eaten anything. So hot. It was unbelievable. It was so painful in fact, that I can’t really believe how painful it was. My mind has blocked the memory of it. Much like childbirth I believe. I had taken a wing in both hands and taken a tentative bite. The smallest of bites. It was enough to burn my lips, my tongue and my throat and almost made me want to cry. I did cry in fact - involuntarily, from the heat – a rivulet of water streaming from my right eye, without me even meaning it to.

Stephen fared worse. Throwing sense to the wind he grabbed a wing and had a bite which took off at least half the wing, if not more. The expression that then appeared on his face is hard to describe. He ate some coleslaw, and drank a lot of his beer. And repeated. But I could tell nothing was working. After what felt like an eternity of this, he looked like he was going to do a combination of vomit or cry or have a mental breakdown and just as I was getting really concerned and was going to ask him if he was ok, he excused himself and went to the bathroom. When he returned he looked much more himself but said that despite repeatedly washing his mouth out with water, his entire lower face was numb. He kept prodding it, almost bemused at the loss of feeling. I then took a moment to wash my hands. Twice. And yet, when I licked my fingers during the meal (because the rest was indeed worthy of finger licking) the residue was still enough to burn my tongue. We pushed those wings as far away from us as possible and declined when they offered to box them up for us.

uneaten wings of the Devil

So, onto the food. I enjoyed it. My favourite morsel of them all were the pork ribs. They were lovely and pink as they should be, moist and a little fatty, coming off the bone easily when torn into with teeth and properly smokey as I expect BBQ things to be. I’d been warned that the pulled pork could be a little dry but I thought mine was fine, I didn’t even need extra condiments for it. Stephen’s beef short ribs were lovely but to me, they didn’t capture the essence of ‘cue enough. I’m never going to denigrate a lovely piece of slow cooked beef, which this was, but apart from a very small amount of BBQ sauce drizzled over them, it was just that – slow cooked meat.

My meaty beans had a nice flavour although the beans themselves were a little too ‘al dente’. The fries were just fries – nothing to write home about. I did like the coleslaw quite a lot, though that may have been because it was such a saviour when combatting those naga vipers. The servings were generous but I think we made a good dent in them...

Service wasn’t the best in the world. We had a reserved a table but it wasn’t ready when we turned up on time so we had to sit downstairs in the basement bar area and have some drinks, which didn't show up until after we were given a table a good 20 minutes later. When we were seated it was in a booth in this same downstairs area, toward the back near the kitchen. This turned out to be a blessing because they also had live music down there, which was just a touch too loud where we were, nevermind if you were any closer to them. And when we ordered a second drink or tried to pay, service was definitely sluggish. But the atmosphere was good, the waitresses were friendly when they were around, and the whole thing felt like a real American-style experience. I would go back, if I had any meatloving friends to impress, or I wanted to torture myself again. And yes, I would try another hot wing if given the chance.  

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