There I was, wandering around the guitar store speaking to a person who found out I was a food writer. As usual, it’s a little awkward when people learn this. I guess I don’t look or act like I should be in this position because most people appear a little surprised when they figure it out. “I need a job like that. I love to eat,” the individual says, casually patting his or her belly. It isn’t the lifestyle you think it is, but it’s pretty fun.
This conversation ends up with them telling me their favorite places, what our disagreements are and, of course, what restaurant I’ve “got to try out” because it’s the best place I have never visited. I always listen attentively and smile at our petty differences, but occasionally I pick up a gem or two. This was one of those days.
My newfound friend recommended Big White Wings in the heart of Prichard. This was the second time I’d been referred to this place in as many weeks, so I figured I better go see what the fuss was.
It was a lazy Thursday and I called up my old pal John McCook. As his name suggests, he is an excellent cook — and an even better guitar player. Our friendship is creeping up on the 20-year mark and it’s a shame we’ve yet to go on a review together. This place seemed like it would be right up his alley.
The thing you will repeatedly hear about Big White Wings is that you must try something called Stupid Fries. Apparently it’s fries with stuff on them. That’s enough to get me excited, so we screamed into the parking lot of the small, unassuming building just a block or two off Interstate 165 on Wilson Avenue.
On the window we see the words “Steak & Shrimps” in red lettering, but we knew we weren’t there for the steak. We checked out the menu and placed an order that seemed a little large, but we were not expecting the volume that made its way to our table. People in line behind us snickered at our inexperience. Here is the breakdown.
The Big White Dog ($2.20) was a tad on the ridiculous side. We asked for a knife in order to share this monster and were granted a serrated kitchen blade. Chili, cheese, sweet slaw, red onion and jalapeños made this thing a meal all by itself. Did I say ridiculous? I meant ridiculously good.
You can’t avoid the wings in a wing joint. We tried them two different ways: lemon pepper hot and Buffalo ($9.90 per dozen). As interesting as the hot lemon pepper sounded, it tasted even better, but maybe not as good as the standard Buffalo. These are world-class wings the way wings are supposed to be. I’ll be back to try some of their crazier flavors such as hot Italian or Italian ranch just for giggles.
I think what McCook grooved on the most was the order of fried green tomatoes ($1.50). Thick-cut with a flour batter, they were definitely not the way I would have fried them, usually opting for thinly sliced in cornmeal. They went against all I want in fried green tomatoes and they were fantastic. Firm and tender at the same time, the flavor negated any preconceived notion of the best method of frying.
So you want to know about Stupid Fries ($9.90 large order). Of the many options, we chose cheeseburger over the others. Ground beef, cheese and pickles were topped with a red and white sauce that could have been, but was probably too thin to be, ketchup and mayonnaise. Yes, we were stupid for ordering the large, it took up an entire plastic foam clamshell container. You know, the big one usually reserved for an entire meal. Man, were they good. We barely made a dent. But wait, there’s more!
I had to order this because I knew it would either be fantastic or a train wreck, but Stupid Okra ($9.90) was too wild to pass up. We were steered toward the chicken and bacon version and weren’t disappointed. As a matter of fact, I felt this overshadowed the Stupid Fries by a long shot. It doesn’t even sound good but the okra is very crispy and sturdy enough for the chunks of chicken, bacon and cheese sauce that won my heart.
What a long shot, but this was one of the craziest (should I say stupidest?) meals I’ve had in a while. Aside from powering down the hot dog, we had to take home everything else with minimal damage. It was happily the unhealthiest meal I’d had in a month or more, but Big White’s could be the ultimate cheat day for dieters.
You should also try the lemonade, but stay away from the large. We, of course, got the large. Each of us was treated to a quart of bright yellow deliciousness that was sweeter than the tea at any given catfish joint in the Mississippi Pine Belt. I thought the sugar was going to take me down.
This place is definitely an exercise in excess, but the people are as sweet as the lemonade. It’s really up to you to show restraint, but a small amount of money can feed one person for several meals. This is the soul food we’ve been missing. This is insane food truck fare in a brick and mortar. I’m certain it will end up on a television show one day. If not, then we have a best-kept secret in our neighboring city.
Spread the word. I’m going to call McCook and see if he still has any leftovers.
Big White Wings
405 Wilson Ave.