You don’t realize you have habits until they’re well-established, well, habits. I travel some, and when I’m home I tend to stay near where I live. There’s Chinese nearby, and pizza, a couple of franchises I don’t go to, and bars that serve decent food. In the next few months, there’ll also be a brand new brand-name supermarket, and I’ll be able to buy ordinary provender for prices a few percentage points above Whole Foods’ totsier fare. (There’s a nice view of the work-in-progress from my toilet.) There’s a great Thursday night pizza special at a place on my block, but it’s their Monday night ten-cent wing special that somehow gets stuck in my mind (and later, in my teeth). If it’s eight or nine o’clock and I haven’t heard the barman ask upon my approach, “Kirin, twelve teriyaki crispy?” something just seems wrong. (If I wait another ten minutes, J. will almost invariably text from nowhere: “Wings at Cs? HUNGRY.”) Part of what I like about this pert bellyful comes from the South again—it’s like what I seem to enjoy most about an authentic pulled-pork sandwich: the bits that were on the outside of the moist white goodness, what got burnt, the short ends, the skin. I like the savor of the sauce toasted into the crispy skin with only a little bit of meat inside, probably more than the plump joints with a knob of white inside. Aside from the metabolic stress all the sodium would cause, I don’t care at all for cracklins, even though they’re sold at just about every small store I’ve ever darted into in the Loop. Twenty or twenty-five efficiently chewy bites, and maybe dousing a couple in the blue cheese dressing on the side, leaving the celery naked. The guy next to me with the meaty mitts will be twirling the hot-hot ones, soiling his bitten nails and plump lips with the radiant curry-orange spicy Buffalos, and that’s when it’s time to have a nice long swig of the bubbly Japanese beer in the iced pint glass.
Sometimes in Chicago it seems there are more chicken wings than there could ever have been chickens; you can get up to a dozen with beverage purchase as the Monday night offering at the original Cleo’s location, 1935 West Chicago, (312)243-5600, which has food specials every night except Sunday.