Most food styles immediately surrounding Tech are the typical city fare: standard American dishes, often greasy and cheaper than most. Among the better of the dozen or so in sight of campus is J.R. Crickets, self-described as “Atlanta’s wing tradition.”
The closest of their 12 locations, just over the North Avenue bridge on Spring Street, happens to be the original that opened in 1982. Wings are their specialty, but the menu also includes sandwiches, wraps, chicken fingers, ribs, shrimp and salad. In fact, the steak and cheese sandwich ($8.29) has been their best selling sandwich since they opened. The reason most go to J.R. Crickets, however, is for a basket of wings, somewhere between a single order of 10 bone-in wings ($7.89) and the giant party platter of 150 ($99.99).
The wings come out from the deep fryer wrapped in aluminum foil and steaming hot with a nice crispy skin, and just enough sauce pools beneath the pile for extra dipping.
If you prefer, they offer all drums or all flats and the option to serve your chicken “swimming” in sauce, both for a little extra. Baskets come with a choice of celery or fries, or a fruit cup could be substituted for $1.59. The celery is usually fresh and crunchy, but the fries are nothing special, so have a ketchup bottle nearby. Don’t even bother with the onion rings.
Covering that crispy fried skin on the wings are your choice of regular sauces (mild, medium and hot), free with your order, or specialty sauces (lemony pepper, buffalo BBQ, buffalo teriyaki, three mile island meltdown, sanchez and fester) for a few more quarters. The best sauce to get, though, is the regular hot, thanks to the comfortably sizzling heat and truly nice flavor without the overwhelming vinegary taste that often finds its way into other hot wing sauces. For those who like reducing their tongue’s lifespan, the fester sauce is the way to go, though it’s not the hottest out there and does have more of a vinegary taste.
If wings’ are not on your plate, it better be either the Buffalo Style Chicken Sandwich or the Buffalo Philly, both $8.39. The seafood is fine for fast-food restaurants, but they are not on par with the quality of the wings. Combine seafood and sandwich to get the Grilled Tilapia sandwich for $6.99, which is probably the healthiest option by far and tastes fine.
All sandwiches are served with fries or cole slaw, and a tasty supplement of five wings costs only $3.29.
Stepping into the dining area is stepping into a healthy slice of the ‘80s, with Sirius Satellite Radio stations playing on the speakers, a row of arcade games on one wall and various Atlantan and beer signs covering the others.
The doors open at 11 a.m. for lunch, but the crowd shows up at night, often close to packing the two-story restaurant. There are only two waitresses working the floor, and they are always friendly. Expect to see more college students on Mondays to take advantage of the student-only deal of half off wings with a college ID.
Wings cost a little over the average compared to most places, but the meat yield and quality is above average as well. The best value by cost per wing is the 30 piece ($19.49), and you could save a dime per wing by upgrading from the single order to the double order. For the rest of the menu, prices are a little high for their worth, with most dishes falling between $7 and $9.