A Californian clustercluck

Wing Guys

Good for: cheap and decadent takeout with refreshing summertime sippers
Notable dishes: Guy Fries, Sriracha honey butter wings, cheddar poppers

Wing Guys

2424 16th St.
Sacramento, CA 95818

There’s something hilariously Californian about a wing joint that doubles as a juice bar. It exemplifies the Golden State’s magical thinking: Yoga is all the exercise we need. For-profit tech companies can save the world. And the cholesterol bomb of fried chicken cancels out with a “detoxing” juice that’s made of sugar.

After opening in February, Wing Guys replaced Green Fish Co. & Juice, which had in turn taken over Slice of Broadway in March 2016—all had the same owners. The resulting restaurant forms an improbable hodgepodge of all three concepts: Green Fish and Wing Guys both carried on the delivery option of the original pizza parlor. And Wing Guys retains holdovers from Green Fish like the beloved tri-tip and, of course, the pressed-to-order juices.

With a green juice in one hand and a drumstick in the other, it’s blissful to imagine that you’re having your cake and eating it too, nutritionally speaking. Heck, it can taste good together, but it certainly ain’t a balanced diet, and it’s dangerous to say so.

On its Instagram feed, Wing Guys has posted a chart showing what types of produce act as a remedy for diseases, along with a comment that begins, “Juice life!” In fact, nutritionists caution against too much juice because it can contain hundreds of calories and strip the fiber from fruits and vegetables. So linking juice with specific medical benefits reads as disingenuous branding, at best.

That said, the combination of fried chicken and the liquid nectar of health nuts might seem kinda outrageous, but it mostly tastes good. Sometimes, great.

Apart from highlighting the chicken wings and strips, the menu does feature plenty of raw and fresh produce in its meals. Robust bowls plate proteins atop greens, rice … or fries—this is a wing joint, after all.

Among the appetizers, the Guy Fries ($7.99) stood out. On mine, supple and peppery tri-tip made a hearty meal out of this twist on dirty fries. The sweet potato frites at the bottom weren’t too greasy, and their crispy exteriors yielded to fluffy yams.

In keeping with the spirit of the restaurant, I attempted to find the ideal pairings of fried chicken with juice. The hands-down winner? Sriracha honey butter wings ($4.50 for five pieces, $8.49 for 10) paired with the Broadway juice ($5.49 for 16 ounces, $6.49 for 24 ounces). The sauce clings in thick layers to perfectly crispy fried skin, and the Srichacha rides the sweet honey butter like a volt of spice. The Broadway juice calms all of that down with its breezy cucumber, kale and spinach.

On the other hand, the mango habanero strips ($6 for five pieces, $11 for 10) were shellacked with delicious sauce that’s chunky with mango, but my accompanying drink of Pink Panther proved to be lethal. The bright fruits and acids of the drink made the strips brutally spicy—this is one sauce best paired with milk.

The milder Show Bam wings were decent. With a dry rub of garlic, butter and Old Bay Seasoning, the full flavor infused juicy chicken, but the skin was dry to the point of discomfort—at times, it would shatter into sharp edges. But its spices played nicely with the Green Dream juice’s chilled-out flavors of cucumber and celery.

Gradually, fried chicken and liquified produce started to feel as natural a pair as PB&J. Instead of hyping the health benefits of its menu, Wing Guys should embrace the juice-and-wings combo for what it is: a uniquely Californian indulgence, from strip to sip.