The Phoenix Bar and Grill is good for late night fun, but the chicken wings leave something to be desired

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By: Michael Tomko
miketomko@outlook.com
facebook.com/tastethesebrokenwings

Photo supplied/Michael Tomko

Two corners of the Lincolnway and Main intersection in downtown Mishawaka contain bars. About half a year ago, I sampled the wings at Roc’s, so this week I walked to the opposite corner, The Phoenix Bar and Grill.

About a decade ago, I bowled at Chippewa Bowl in South Bend. Afterward, we would get some wings at Wings Etc. on the south side of the city. By the time the second season rolled around, Wings Etc. had burned down and we were relegated to the TGI Friday’s near where the Scottsdale Mall used to be.

My teammates and I got friendly with some waitresses there, and they suggested going to the Phoenix for some karaoke. I’m not sure if we were more excited about hanging with the girls or belting out some tunes. I don’t remember meeting up with the waitresses again, but we went to Mishawaka to sing darn near most every Wednesday night after leaving the alley. The place was packed. You may get only one song to sing that night, but you had a lively crowd to cheer you on to Whitesnake’s “Once Bitten Twice Shy.”

The next year we moved to the closer confines of Rainbo Lanes. Granted, we didn’t have to trek across the bypass in the middle of the winter to bowl anymore, but we sacrificed the late nights of hanging out at the Phoenix during the weekday (much to the advantage of our Thursday mornings at work).

Since it’s been 10 years since coming to this place, I was looking forward to hanging out and getting their Wednesday wing special. They have 12 wings for $5. That is a great price at a CPW (cost per wing) of 42 cents. On top of that, they were pretty big wings. Unfortunately, that’s about the only good things I can say about this visit.

When I write these blogs, I so want to be like Guy Fieri. I want to say how good this place is, how awesome the food was, goof around a little bit and head to the next place. I really don’t want to go all Gordon Ramsay on the restaurant, but I don’t want to sit here and feed you a bunch of lies or selectively omit certain places so it seems like every place around here is so great and perfect. So here we go…

As I walked in the door there was a sign stated that smoking is allowed. It has become a disappointment for me these days. It’s like going over to someone’s house for a party and instead of them taking your coat they just let everyone throw them on the floor.

There was only one table where people were sitting (everyone else was at the bar), but they had about four waitresses working. So they all were chatting in the corner with the bartender in their own world for much of the time (although I will admit the bartender was very nice and did fill my drink when it got empty).

Right off the bat, some customer started yelling at the wait staff for not getting her the correct change. She was shouting and demanding free drinks; pretty much making everyone uncomfortable sitting around the bar. I’m not sure if she was a regular joking around, but the staff didn’t do much to appease her or kick her out.

The wings took a while to come out (which is never a problem), but they were lukewarm when I bit into the first one. All I ordered was wings. I understand if the wings get a bit cooled off while they are making your fries or a burger for someone in your party, but if your only food is wings and they are cooked fresh, they should be piping hot from the first grab.

The wings were also very “stiff.” The skin was rubbery and the chicken dried out, kind of like eating chicken jerky.

The hot buffalo sauce was OK. It wasn’t really spicy, but had a good kick to it. The teriyaki sauce was pretty much just soy sauce, no sweetness to it at all.

In my opinion, the Phoenix is better utilized as a late night bar to hang out, drink a few beers and listen to some music.  I usually don’t require some fancy, expensive place to enjoy a meal; I love hanging out at dive bars. But I do like to feel comfortable while eating a meal. This place just didn’t sit right with me. The Wednesday wing price and size was one of the beat deals, but when the quality is low, it is just not worth it.

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