Had Homer’s Odyssey taken him to Westhampton Beach rather than the shores of Troy, Achilles and Helen would no doubt have been replaced in college literature classes by fried pickles. A taste that launched a thousand ships, or something to that effect.
Yes, fried pickles. You can find everything from scallop ceviche to steak tartare on menus throughout the Hamptons, but fried pickles, well…
“You don’t see them many places,” admits Anthony Catanzaro, manager of the emporium offering this particular ambrosia—Big City Burgers and Atomic Wings. “They are sort of a rarity. You bring those over to a friend’s house for the game and that’s something special.”
Big City Burgers has already done something special as the first purveyors of Atomic Wings not just on the East End, but in all of Long Island—they’ve brought the most authentic Buffalo wing experience this side of that chilly upstate NY town of this particular food’s origin. Wings in various forms have started to creep into the corners of haute cuisine, but in their traditional Buffalo form the fiery flavor and flat-out messiness have kept them mostly as the favorite food of tailgaters and sports fans, particularly here in the middle of football season.
There is an art to game-time food, one of the rare food arts rarely mastered on the East End. Wings. Burgers. Hot dogs. Onion rings.French fries. It seems so simple, but if not done right you wind up with the culinary equivalent of the ’76 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Big City Burgers is thinking more along the lines of ’72 Miami Dolphins—the perfect game-day eating experience, every game of every season. Naturally, there is a game plan.
“First, you have to go big,” says Catanzaro with the enthusiasm of a veteran NFL coach. “If you have, say, five people, I’d start with burgers for them all—cheeseburgers, with everything on them. Then at least 50 wings—medium, so pretty much anyone can enjoy them—and fries.” Note to self: Invite Catanzaro to next Super Bowl party.
“Basketball has a little different feel. Maybe you want to go with boneless wings. And mix them up, go with some barbeque and teriyaki.” When baseball season starts back up, “hot dogs, definitely. Onion rings all around. And wings. They really are the perfect food for watching any game.”
But hot wings aren’t just for eating during the game out here. They’ve become a game in and of themselves. The world record for consuming Buffalo Chicken Wings is 7.5 pounds in 12 minutes, set by championship eater Joey Chestnut. But at Big City Burgers, the standard is somewhat different. It isn’t merely quantity, but quality that drives their challenge: Down 10 Suicide Wings in 10 minutes and you get your face on the Wall of Fame. Sounds simple enough…until you go through the sauce options on the menu.
Mild. Medium. Hot. Abusive. Nuclear. Suicidal.
Consider that for a moment. There’s an option that is called nuclear, with every nose-hair-burning, eye-watering reaction that implies, and you can still go one level hotter. With a nod to Nigel Tuften, these wings go to 11.
“We have people who train,” Catanzaro says, referring to customers who’ll come in for weekly tolerance-building orders. Competitive eating may not eclipse the Hampton Classic in the foreseeable future, but if you’re thinking about entering, training is not a bad idea. If you decide to try and don’t get the job done, your mug winds up on the Wall of Shame—and the rules are not going to help you.
“No drinks, no blue cheese, no napkins,” Catanzaro says. (NB: You can thank yours truly for the “no drink” ruling— Catanzaro and I came to that conclusion on my first visit to Big City Burgers, while the challenge was in its planning stages.) “We wanted it to be a real challenge. It’s all fun, but you have to earn it. The record is 1 minute and 38 seconds—that’s going to be hard to beat, no matter how much somebody trains.”
Wonder if there’s a record for fried pickles…
Big City Burgers and Atomic Wings is located at 85 Montauk Highway (corner of Lilac Rd.) in Westhampton Beach. Call (631) 288-WING (9464) or visit them online at atomicwings.com.