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Cheap Eats - Burnin' love

Set your tongue aflame with Hot Mama wings from Wingleader

Cash, checks and credit cards acceptedJust down the street from Martin Luther King Jr.'s birth site and the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Social Non-violent Change is a wing shack whose wings will make your lips blister and your scalp sweat while, powerless, you keep on eatin'. Wingleader's menu is largely composed of (as one would expect) wings. One may choose various sauces, ranging from the usual — barbecue, honey barbecue, Cajun, teriyaki, honey teriyaki — to the slightly less trafficked — parmesan, lemon pepper, Dijon, honey mustard, sweet 'n' sour — to the positively exotic — Hot Mama, Cinnamon Love and Jamaican jerk. The smallest order of wings is $4.99 for 10 pieces; the largest, some 500 pieces, costs $169.99.
That's not all Wingleader has to offer, though. Not only do I have to make up my mind between an order of wings, with their several, sundry sauces, there's also the sandwich menu to consider. There's the grilled chicken melt, chicken cordon bleu, fingers with sauce on a sandwich, plus the standard hamburger, cheeseburger and veggie burger.
Famished, I place my order and grab a cookie to nosh on while I wait for my wings. Not too thin, not too large, not too sweet, the cookie was perfect, with a hint of salt mingling with the chocolate and a perfect ratio of crunchy-to-chewy. And even if I had spoiled my appetite, it was worth the indulgence.
When my order of mild barbecue wings arrive, they are slightly too greasy for my taste and a little ungainly. Lots of sauce, not a lot of chicken. Most of the flavor soaked into my fingers, and I was left with more fried gristle than tangy, sweet flesh.
On my second visit, however, I was not disappointed. I split an order of 15 wings two ways; half Hot Mamma and half Cinnamon Love. I felt somewhat illicit carrying my Styrofoam to-go box labeled "love" underlined with a broad stroke of magic marker and "hot mama" written underneath. I tore into the to-go box as soon as I got in the car, so provocative yet mellow was its aroma. By the time I hit 20 East, my lips were burning. Hot Mama was hot, hot, HOT! Not for the faint of heart, they were seasoned with crushed red pepper, that much I know. My mouth was on fire, and my tongue nearly forgot how to swallow. Needless to say, I was unable to discern the subtleties of its flavor, except to say that it was more spicy, less sweet and even less tangy. Reaching home with mouth aflame, I drained two glasses of milk in quick succession, and was relieved by the mellow sweetness of Cinnamon Love. The chicken was a more golden brown, the sauce was more like syrup and the cinnamon unmistakable. The flavor was more constant, unlike the Hot Mama, which flared wickedly after the fourth bite.
I would have finished up with another chocolate chip cookie, like a perfect bookend to my previous meal, but there were none to be had. But something tells me, as the sweat cools and I suck my teeth, tasting Hot Mama sauce mingling with Cinnamon Love, that I'll be back.