In an attempt to be an equal opportunity lover of wings, I ventured into the depths of Chef Balsac’s creative juices for the vegan wings at Gwar Bar.
Recently named one of the top Pabst Blue Ribbon sellers in the country, coming in hot at No. 64, Gwar Bar’s brick exterior in Jackson Ward is unassuming, delicate even, when coming in from the right-hand side on West Clay Street. But if you find yourself the street over, a demonic fake baby with questionable genetics greets every customer alongside other horror masks and heads.
Once inside, the heavy metal grunge atmosphere, inspired by the Richmond band, consists of body parts hanging overhead — a leg here, a boob there — “Seinfeld” playing in a corner and blood-splattered tabletops covered with old Gwar concert tickets. If executioner chic could be a vibe, Gwar Bar is the embodiment of the character hired to kill Buckbeak the Hippogriff in “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.”
If not for the wings, the build-your-own mac n’ cheese with a Vegan Wopper scum dog would be calling my name. But alas, there’s business to attend to. Here’s a rundown of Gwar Bar’s offerings of seitan “wings,” beer-battered cauliflower and fried artichoke nuggets soaked in vegan Buffalo sauce.
For the seitan wings, it depends on if you’re a boneless-over-bone wing enthusiast and how far gone you are from the meat spectrum. If you like the juicy, crunchy bite of a boneless wing at Buffalo Wild Wings on Thursday nights, this is not for you. If you’re a texture person, the seitan won’t satisfy a wing craving. I was hoping for the sauteed type of seitan that parallels a barbecue rib’s grittiness. Instead, it’s on the mushier, mashed-potato-like side.
The artichoke alternative provides a sweetness to the wings, and for those fans of the roasted artichoke taste, perhaps you won’t mind that juiciness overpowering the Buffalo sauce. But for me, the sauce should linger long enough to make you sweat a little. I found myself dunking copious amounts of it onto a singular nugget — which is arguably the size of my fist — to no avail. The vegan Buffalo sauce is watery, and while seeing it slide off the side of the wing is satisfactory, the flavor isn’t.
Now the cauliflower option? It elicited a swift three-second closing of my eyes to take it all in. This is it. It’s tender and crisp, with the Buffalo coating so smooth, thick and substantial that it deserves a place in my closet for the upcoming winter. I can only imagine what it’d be like with the in-house barbecue sauce.
So when I die, bury me in Gwar Bar’s cauliflower wings.