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Taste These Broken Wings: Bar Louie might be in a mall, but the atmosphere and wings are classier than you'd guess

My wife and I got some babysitters and headed to University Park Mall in preparation for the “third stage of Santa Claus.” Not familiar? My priest, Fr. Bob, once revealed the four stages of Santa during one of his homilies, as he was entering stage four.

The first stage: You believe in Santa.

The second stage: You don’t believe in Santa.

The third stage: You become Santa.

The fourth stage: You look like Santa.

So we headed on a mission to find such treasures as Paw Patrol trucks and a stuffed Olaf.

The University Park mall made some major renovations a few years back. In addition to making it harder to navigate when you drive in from the west side, they added some nice outside stores as well as a giant bookstore. They also added a few new restaurants.

We had to choose between the two wing offering places of Bar Louie and Granite City for our Santa meal this year. Bar Louie was settled on, since it was closer to where we parked.

Bar Louie is a really nice place. It is dark and gives the vibe that you’re in a more urban setting instead of at the side of a mall out in the suburbs.  So far, this is definitely the fanciest place I’ve eaten chicken wings. The food isn’t as upscale as the décor, but it looks to be an updated version of bar food.

And with all bar food, there appeared to be chicken wings on the menu.

I was intrigued to try two types of sauces. The first was the Szechwan sauce. I’m not a big fan of sweet sauces, but I am particular to the Asian ones. I usually get the Szechwan dishes when I go out for Chinese food, so I was curious to how this one tasted.

The second sauce was the En Fuego. I asked the waitress if it is really hot and she not only confirmed it, but advised I may not want to order them.

Of course, now I have to get it. Once it becomes a challenge, I won’t back down.

The wings came out and I will admit I was pleasantly surprised. I mean, the place kind of reeks with phony as you are supposedly at this fancy, urban bar when, in reality, you are in a shopping mall next to Five Guys and a Men’s Warehouse.

I expected sub-par casual-dining-type wings, but these were large, prepared well with crispy skin and piping hot. I rather enjoyed eating these wings.

The Szechwan sauce wasn’t very spicy, but it was tasty. I give that on a 1 out of 4 on the heat scale.

The En Fuego was a 3, so I was able to eat those without much trouble. There was something a little off about the En Fuego sauce — it had a certain aftertaste when the heat went down. It wasn’t necessarily a bad taste, but the best word I can describe it as is “distracting.” I realized it was green or banana pepper taste, like something you would taste when you cut up a sweet pepper and put it on a sandwich. Usually the pepper taste on wing sauces comes from a cayenne pepper, which has a milder flavor.

I wonder if this was done on purpose or created by someone who never eats buffalo wings. It’s like the Bar Louie chef creates this great traditional buffalo sauce and serves it to the CEO. The CEO sends it back and says, “it doesn’t taste like a pepper.” The chef, confused, then tries to please his boss by putting in some sweet pepper flavor like the ones they put on their steak sandwiches. The CEO then tastes the sweet pepper and declares, “This is our new sauce, change nothing.”

Like I said, it’s not a bad taste, just different from the other sauces.

The price is on the high side. Ten wings for $10.50 yields a CPW of 105 cents. But, you are in a mall. Mall prices are always higher.

Overall, Bar Louie is a pretty nice place to hang out for a while, especially to take a break from all the craziness that goes on at the mall from all the Christmas shopping. The atmosphere is quiet, they serve some grown-up food and drinks, and if you are inclined to take down some wings, you won’t be disappointed.

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