The Contender: Epic Wings-N-Things’ Lemon Pepper Wings
The hunt for the city’s best wings finds an unlikely entry at the longtime S.D. chain
Epic Wings-N-Things is the kind of place you root for, a local chain of 22 restaurants from the Sacco family—New York transplants who opened their first shop in San Diego the same year Survivor released “Eye of the Tiger” (1982). Epic’s motivation is to mount never-frozen fried chicken wings in various sauces, and “Eye of the Tiger” motivates you to mount a treadmill to atone for your trespasses against nutrition.
Very few serious food people would want to go into Epic. Their Convoy Street location has none of the earmarks of relevancy in this modern restaurant world. It has artless chain signage. Their interior decor is akin to a 1980s Pizza Hut with the lights fully cranked. There’s a Coke machine full of sodas that haven’t been artisanal in a century or so. Two San Diego Chargers jerseys—Philip Rivers and Shawn Merriman—hang above the counter, invoking post-traumatic loss in locals.
But I learned a long time ago not to judge a restaurant by its Instagrammability. Hip establishments are visually and emotionally inspiring, but I’ve yet to see a plant wall or reclaimed wood come to life, go back in the kitchen, and cook good food. Plus, K Sandwiches’ new digs kind of look like a chain, all glossy and pretty. And that’s a San Diego institution, a trailblazer of the banh mi arts. To eschew chains is to write off the Double-Double and Blue Bottle Coffee.
I don’t expect much from Epic, especially since the staff is tending to the table next to us with a warfare amount of cleaning product, so the dining room smells less like wings than it does Dimethyl Benzyl Ammonium Chloride.
A Buffalo wings classicist knows to order the “medium hot” wings, so that’s what we get, and they live down to expectations, the sauce too thin and mostly vinegar. This basic, protean wing sauce simply can’t compete in today’s advanced Buffalo sauce world. Just, really, to check the box, I try the lemon pepper wings and—oh dear god.
They are intoxicating. The mix of herbs and spices in the crispy coating reminds me of KFC, only… better. (Although quality of chicken and cooking skills of KFC can be questioned, the magic spice blend of the Colonel—a real human, by the way, who went door to door selling his fried chicken—is not debatable). The wings are tiny, even a tad overcooked, and the salt level is set to hypertension. But empires were built on lesser things than that herb-and-spice mix. The mere thought of it now makes me drool a bit.
Epic Wings-N-Things, 3904 Convoy St.