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PETE TITTL: Stupid Wings is smart choice

Streamlined menu and quality chicken shine at northeast Bakersfield eatery

There's a lot to like about Stupid Wings, a new chicken fast-casual place in the northeast.

First, there's the mural with stick figure drawings, mostly black and white, to the left of the front counter that tells the origins of the restaurant. Friends Ali G and Gordo (I saw both of them there when I visited, one at the counter, one in the kitchen) decided they wanted to open a wing place and had to come up with a name. If the mural is an accurate representation of the origin story, they conversed by talking into cans tied together by a string.

The other wall has a fun mural, too, with more jokes about the name. The place is clean but small and it's perfect for to-go orders, as it's right near the 178 and Mount Vernon intersection and there's a lot of traffic to support the place.

As we found, the name may make sense with the contemporary definition of stupid (where it takes the place of "very," as in "the chicken I had was stupid good") as opposed to lacking intelligence. This is a smart place in a lot of ways.

The best part of all this is that the food delivers on the whimsy. When we visited, we ordered a Nashville chicken "sammich" ($10), a five-piece wings with a lemon-pepper sauce ($9), stupid fries ($8.50) and the only dessert on the menu, "stupid'ros" ($5.50). The menu is quite compact, with three sandwiches, fries, mac and cheese, and 10 flavors of wings/tenders. I think it's wise to go this road as it sure helped the kitchen be speedy. Our order was completed with Wingstop speed, and since they, like Wingstop, were frying to order, that's high praise. One advantage of their system is that all orders seem to be presented in the cardboard box that you would use for to-go orders. They've thought things through intelligently.

Hard to say what our favorite item was, but all four were in the running. Let's start with the wings. The people in the line ahead of me ordered their wings "extra crispy," and I wondered if mine would be flabby, like the typical baked wing. No, they weren't, fried without a batter or coating and very crispy. In addition, they were extremely solid wings, big like you usually find the pieces at Church's Chicken. And the lemon-pepper butter sauce was perfect.

The stupid fries were a great creation, too, using their standard crinkle-cut fries topped with a respectable mac and cheese, chopped bits of crispy chicken breast and two sauces, mild and stupid sauce, which was described by the woman who took my order as similar to Buffalo sauce, with some creaminess and maybe more heat than the typical Buffalo sauce. I'm not sure what the mild sauce did for it, but this is a great meal in and of itself and I will definitely order it again. The pasta used was cavatappi, a macaroni in a helical tube shape, which is perfect to catch and hold some of that cheese sauce in the tossing process.

Stupid sauce reappeared on the sandwich we ordered, which took one of those three-quarter-inch-thick chicken breast fillets large enough to stick out of more than one side of the bun that had been freshly breaded and fried and made spicy. With some coleslaw and pickles, of course. It wasn't as oily and smoky as some of these we've sampled around town, but it makes for a great lunch.

I really didn't expect much from the dessert, which had sweet potato waffle fries prepared "churro style" with a chocolate drizzle. Couldn't believe it actually worked, the cinnamon-sugar mix seeming like a quite natural companion for those potatoes, and the chocolate was not overdone, allowing you to taste two different desserts from the same box really, some with chocolate, some without.

The best part I think is that if you're having a party there are a lot of ordering options, including 75 wings or 60 tenders with up to four flavors and 10 dips for $92.95. It's a great way to try the other flavors all at once.

Pete Tittl's Dining Out column appears in The Californian on Sundays. Email him at pftittl@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter: @pftittl.

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