On a wing and a beer

Memories of chicken-wing Wednesdays at Bella’s

A happy crew circles the wings: (clockwise, from left) Brett Chell, Alex Newlin, Casey Gidel, Alissa Barker and Tony Bolar.

A happy crew circles the wings: (clockwise, from left) Brett Chell, Alex Newlin, Casey Gidel, Alissa Barker and Tony Bolar.

Photo By jason cassidy

Bella’s Sports Pub
134 Broadway

My first introduction to Bella’s Sports Pub—that narrow bar between The Dungeon and Petra Mediterranean Cuisine on Broadway—came in the form of a drunken baseball-team gathering roughly three years ago. Our shortstop spoke excitedly of Wing Wednesday, a glorious all-day special in which one dollar got you three wings.

We found ourselves occupying a corner booth overlooking the street as we devoured wings, squabbled over the jukebox, speculated on our future playoff chances and drank an irresponsible amount of beer, particularly for a Wednesday afternoon.

But we weren’t alone—the turnout would have been impressive for a Saturday night, and it wasn’t just college kids. People from all corners of Chico (and even outside of town) are drawn to the cozy downtown pub every week.

Our team stayed until a drinking game based around The Police’s “Roxanne” (one half of the table drank every time Sting sang “Roxanne,” the other half drank when he sang “red light”) did everyone in.

It was, far and away, the best bar experience of my life.

Not much has changed at Bella’s since then. Although prices have risen to (a very reasonable) $1.50 for three wings, there are still sports on multiple flat-screen TVs, plenty of draft-beer selections and that raucous Wing Wednesday clientele. It’s a beautiful thing.

For starters, they use fresh, hand-breaded chicken wings. Having previously spoken with the owners, I know they don’t hold the frozen-food-tossed-into-deep-fryer approach in high regard, favoring fresh meat from S&S Organic Produce and Natural Foods. But the sauces are really what take Bella’s wings to lofty heights.

On my most recent visit, a friend and I chose to sample three varieties: teriyaki, Bella’s Tiger (sweet and Asian-spiced) and Bella’s Sundevil (sweet and hot). Since the wings all came in one basket, the sauces became one sweet and spicy pool, making it difficult to distinguish which was which. But it didn’t matter so much—we concluded all the wings were delicious, if maybe excessively gooey. Even though our server brought a comical number of napkins with the wings, we still ran out. In fact, I continued finding sauce in undesirable places (i.e. not my mouth) some hours later. Darn gooey.

Since we weren’t quite full after our round of wings, we took another look through the baseball-themed menu. All the usual bar-food suspects were there: burgers, melts and sausages (under “Home Runs”), fried appetizers (“Singles”) and such. And, somewhat shockingly for a sports pub, Bella’s offers a full selection of salads and wraps under their “Second Base” category. After my buddy and I commended the pub for offering healthful options, we ordered a basket of tater tots.

And while tater tots may seem like a difficult dish to screw up, I recalled my unsavory experiences with tater tots in middle school (and I don’t mean having them smashed in my face), and that, at their worst, tater tots can be a grease-soaked mess.

Delivered as a veritable mountain of crunchy fried-potato goodness, Bella’s tots we’re significantly tastier than their cafeteria cousins. The basket and the pitcher of Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale with which it was enjoyed finished off a satisfying pub-grub meal nicely.

We left Bella’s full and a little tipsy, having spent only $20 for lunch for two and a pitcher of beer. My advice: Consider requesting an extra wad of napkins, and if you’re going to play a song-based drinking game, pick a tune less repetitive than “Roxanne.”