If you are a regular reader of my blog you should be fully aware that I am a graduate and huge sports fan of Purdue University. The university holds a special significance in my life, as it is the place that supplied my education, which made me proficient at my job, enabling me to make those monthly house payments and keep my kids fed.
Even more significant, it was also the place where I ate my first chicken wing.
It is said that college is a time in a young person’s life to experiment. Well, outside of the chemistry lab, the only thing I ever really experimented with was eating different types of food.
One night after hitting the bars, someone had a craving for wings, so we walked into this place called A.J. Wingers. I wasn’t into spicy foods back then and I had never had the desire to eat chicken wings. I grew up on fried chicken and the wing was always that smallest piece no one wanted.
But as I scarfed down many of those saucy, hot morsels of chicken pieces that night, I had a revelation that I might have been missing out on these things all of my life. The rest of the semester I would ride my bike down to A.J. Wingers on Tuesdays to get a basket of 25 cent wings and a few beers.
Sadly, A.J. Wingers isn’t around anymore — it closed up right around my graduation. So, on a weekend visit to West Lafayette to watch a basketball game, I decided to do some Flavor 765 and review the next best thing with the wings at Harry’s Chocolate Shop.
Harry’s is easily the most popular bar on campus. It opened up as a soda shop during prohibition. Once prohibition ended, a lot of soda shops started selling alcohol. Eventually the soda shop (or Chocolate Shop) part of the establishment went away and it is now primarily a bar that sells some food.
The place is really a hole-in-the-wall. There are a few booths and tables, but most people are standing around. Harry’s is plastered with Purdue memorabilia, from autographed photos of famous people to a piece of the goal post from the Rose Bowl victory in 1967.
I’ll admit that I didn’t hang out here a lot during my school years. My friends and I preferred other places that were less crowded, had beer specials or had a band/DJ. Harry’s was so popular, they just didn’t need any gimmicks to get the college kids in there.
Since most of my old hangouts are gone now, Harry’s is usually the first place I go to get a beer when on campus. Luckily, on this weekend I was there early enough for my wife and me to get a booth and order some wings.
I was thinking that it would be hard to write bad things about wings in a place that holds sentimental value. But luckily I won’t have to, as these were exceptional. For a place that is more of an attraction than a restaurant, I was surprised by the size and quality of the wings.
The wings came out lightly breaded with Harry’s homemade “buffalo” sauce. I put “buffalo” in quotes because it is not a real buffalo sauce. It tastes more like a sweet teriyaki sauce, but it was very good on the wings.
The sweetness wasn’t too sweet – it’s not like they were pouring candy on the wings or anything– and my fingers weren’t even that sticky afterwards. It had a slight heat, but nothing a little kid couldn’t handle. I’d put it at a 1 out of 4 on the heat scale.
The size of the wing was huge. Unlike what a lot of menus at other places say, these were truly jumbo sized.
There is one negative to eating the wings here, but I am going to explain it away. The cost is 7 wings for $9. That brings the CPW up to the ultra high 129 cents. That is 13 cents higher than anything else I have written about yet.
But, since I am not writing about wings in the Lafayette area and this is just a special place that people from the 574 might just visit some day, this price can be tolerable.
Look at it this way — Harry’s Chocolate Shop is an attraction, not a restaurant. You wouldn’t refuse to go to Disney World just because they have $5 hotdogs. Same applies here.
You can go to Harry’s because you love the ambiance, you want to remember your college days, or want to visit a place that is considered by many people a landmark. If you get hungry and want something to eat, you are going to pay for it.
Many people in the 574 are connected to the Purdue campus and have had or will have opportunities to visit. Whether you are a student, alumni, have relatives that attend there, checking out the sporting events (both high school and college), or even just passing through, Harry’s is worth a visit.
Drink a beer, check out some history of campus life, and “go ugly early.” If you are hungry, and can get somewhere to sit down, feel free to order off the menu. The wings and other food are prepared well — just be ready to pay for it.