Wings at The Ruck

wings at the ruck overhead

Medium. Crispy.

By Daniel B.

Some people say the Capital Region is a great place with an inferiority complex.

Evidence of this mentality is that residents will declare the best part about living here is that you are only three hours from Boston, Manhattan, and Montreal. Officially, I disagree wholeheartedly with that sentiment. But these are not the only cities that cast a shadow on the affairs of this place.

Out to our west is Buffalo. And given that it is less than a day's drive from our border, there are folks who would have you believe that the state of our chicken wings does not compare favorably.

In fact, there are plenty of places for wings in this area that are great. And after years of research and tasting, I believe the wings from The Ruck should be a source of regional pride.

First, I should share some background information.

I've loved wings since I was a teen. But believe it or not, outside of New York, the rest of the country knows precious little about Buffalo-style wings. It wasn't until my mid 20s that I discovered the distinctive flavor profile of Buffalo wing sauce was Frank's Red Hot. And once I found out, I made it my personal mission to spread the gospel to the good people of California.

I traveled around with a bottle of Frank's Red Hot with me at all times. And when I encountered a person who loved Buffalo wing sauce, invariably they had never heard of Frank's. So I gave them the bottle from my bag, and their lives were changed forever. True story.

There were no good Buffalo wings in Northern California. And it wasn't for a lack of searching. But here there are great wings everywhere. Now I'm not saying that our best wings are better than what you can find five hours down I-90. That would be crazy talk. However, the average level of wings in the Capital Region is far better than what you can find almost anywhere else in the country.

And the wings from The Ruck are some of the best in the region.

Mind you, I did not say the best. The search for the ultimate wing could take a lifetime to complete. And by then the playing field would surely have changed. It's a fool's errand. There are so many places and new restaurants are opening all the time. Plus, there are a lot of flavors to take into consideration. Not only are the wings sauces dramatically different at various heat levels, but there are also a variety of other sauces that would need to be included: garlic parmesan, whiskey barrel, tequila, barbecue, et. al.

wings at the ruck closeup

The Ruck excels at the classic Frank's and butter version. I take mine medium crispy. Some might argue that wings should be blisteringly spicy with heat that makes one's eyes tear up, sinuses burn, and lips ache. There is some strange macho bravado that comes with trying to consume the peppers with the highest Scoville score.

The funny thing is that these blazingly hot foods often come at the expense of flavor. The medium spicy wings at The Ruck are pleasantly piquant. They pack a slow and lustrous burn. Maybe more of a smolder. And while I could tolerate more heat, their "hot" cranks up the dial by relying on what tastes like a hefty dose of black pepper, which detracts from the aged cayenne pepper and butter flavor I seek in a Buffalo wing.

Some iconoclasts prefer the Ruck's hot barbecue wings, but I can't say I fully approve. It's the medium wings at The Ruck that exist within the sweet spot of heat and flavor.

Still, a great sauce is only as good as the wing that it coats. The Ruck puts out some large and meaty wings. Their frying produces the crisp skin and juicy interior that are required for serious consideration.

And they don't stop there. Blue cheese dressing is made in house, from a secret recipe. It's rich and thick with large chunks of cheese. This is not the sweet and thin supermarket stuff that barely has a whiff of funk and is mostly cheap mayonnaise. I'd swear this is sour cream studded with cheese and herbs, because it is thick and tart and powerful stuff.

The carrots and celery are nothing to sneeze at either.

the ruck troy exterior

An order of 10 wings is $8 unless you happen to come on wing nights, which are Monday and Wednesday from 7 pm-1 am, when the same order will only set you back $5. Ordering 20 wings will save you a buck from their regular menu price, but that's madness unless you are eating with at least four people.

Wings are sauced fried foods, and their quality declines rapidly with time. Your best bet is to order what you can quickly consume, and then order some more. Even if there are two of you, and you would each like to eat 10 wings apiece, you are better off splitting two staggered orders of 10 than one order of 20. The difference in taste and texture is well worth that extra $.50 without a doubt.

If you want wings for lunch, you can swing by The Ruck on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday when they open at 11 am or on Sunday when they open at noon. It may be a little odd to visit this dark and virtually windowless beer bar in the light of day, but the wings are totally worth the trip.

Daniel B. is the proprietor of the FUSSYlittleBLOG.

Earlier on AOA:
+ Basil City and the PB&J chicken wing
+ Eating the buffalo chicken wing cupcake from Coccadotts

Find It

The Ruck
104 3rd Street
Troy, NY 12180

Comments

Wings from The Ruck are good, no doubt, but that's not what keeps me ordering, I have to say. It's all about the blue cheese. Ugh, I could eat that stuff with a spoon and feel only the slightest bit of guilt, it's so damn good.

You used to be able to grab a larger container of it to go (8-12 oz or so?) for something like $3. Does anyone know if you can still do that? Love being able to keep it at home for a little while. It's really amazing the number of things you can find to top with it or dip into it.

I recently participated in a wing tour of Troy (and won't be eating wings for a while!). You really should check out the PB&J wings at the Park Pub. We also tried new comer, Basil City on 15th St, and they put out a bourbon teriyaki which were pretty tasty too. They were pretty damn good. But I agree, the Ruck for straight up Buffalo medium, crispy are my favorite.

I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Fussy. The Ruck is my favorite place for wings. The blue cheese is fantastic and there are always some hard to find well chosen beers on tap.

The Ruck wings are so good that I almost ate one off the floor yesterday.

As an RPI graduate, I spread the gospel of Ruck wings where ever I travel, and make sure to gorge on at least a dozen whenever I return.

There are many little things that make the Ruck wings so good: they use locally sourced chicken for freshness. They purchase extra large wings so that the meat doesn't try out during the frying process which produces the extra crispy skin. They stay true to the Frank's Red Hot recipe for Buffalo sauce.

But as many have stated: the magic of the Ruck is the secret blue cheese recipe. I hesitate to call it a "sauce", and I fear when it drips onto my fingers because I doubt I wouldn't stop gnawing to the knuckle.

Thankfully, as a former Ruck cook, I know the recipe... I'll allow the bidding to start at $1,000.

The best Buffalo Wings in the area without question.

I hail from Buffalo and moved to troy 2 and a half years ago. I'll never forget the first time I went in there for Happy Hr when they give away FREE WINGS. yes thats right, free chicken wings. When RPI isnt in session you can find yourself there on a hot summer friday night eating as many free wings as your heart desires. When i first moved to Albany I couldnt find good wings anywhere.. wings over albany, barf, bombers, good but not traditional.... I finally found the Ruck and havent needed anything since. Consequently the Ale House down the road also makes the traditional buffalo style wings very well. I love the Ruck, keep it up.

i dont' even bother wasting my calories on wings unless they are from the RUCK...and I lived in Buffalo for a while, attending many of festival dedicated to their local delicacies: wings and weck

i'd like a bumper sticker/magnet: I Love Ruck Wings

Be sure to try the Ruck's Wing Burger, which is a fantastic beef burger grilled in the wing sauce and served with a side of the bleu cheese batter. Best Burger.... wait for it....

been meaning to try the Ruck...now I HAVE TO!!!

<grumpy old man voice ON>

I remember when those wings were 10 cents each on Thursdays nights.

<voice OFF>

Totally agree with this post. As a former WNYer, it makes me very happy that I have such a great wing place in Troy. The Wing Burger is also awesome.

I agree that the blue cheese is extra special, and have been wracking my brain for many years on what makes it taste so good. On my most recent trip, I finally recognized a slight dill flavoring. Taste it next time and see if you agree....

...or we could take Sully up on his offer! ;-)

Recent RPI grad, and The Ruck is my favorite place in the universe for the beer and food and shuffleboard. That being said, I think the wings at the Ale House a few blocks away are better.

I love Daniel B's Posts!!!

The Hot Fries are another good excuse for eating their amazing blue cheese.

Gotta disagree about one thing: there were always good Buffalo wings in Northern California, at least since the Anchor Bar in Buffalo originated them and they spread around the country. Every bar in the Mission District seemed to have a decent version, at least when I was living there in the early 90s. The phenomenon spread widely, and quickly, and everything about the recipe (including the Frank's RedHot) was easily replicable. It was a national bar/pub craze.

I do agree with Doug (comment above): my first encounter with wings was when they were 10 cents on Tuesday nights at Charlie's, a fine establishment in Amherst, Massachusetts. (Wednesday nights were for 25-cent pizza, meaning a whole pie cost you $2.00.) The wings were good, fairly tangy - I suspect they used a bit of Frank's, a little bit of butter, and maybe just a llittle touch of Tabasco. But Doug's point, at least as I understand it, holds. Wings are not supposed to be gourmet items. They're bar food. Until the Anchor Bar turned them into the food everyone wanted, wings were the sort of asshole of the chicken. You used them for stock, or you tossed them out. The great thing about the renaissance of the chicken wing is that everyone understands now that they make great eating - and no longer need to suffer from any sort of stigma attached to second-rate parts.

I think your piece centers on one basic point: Albany doesn't have to apologize for its food. I agree. Albany has great food; it's up to us to get out there and find it. Your blog does a great service in that respect. Wings or not, the region has great things to offer, and those intrepid enough to explore its less-traveled byways will find those little nuggets of food gold.

I have been a Ruck wings fan for many years and consider them the bench mark for comparing all others. So far only one other place as come close, although they are a different style so no chance of competing wing loyalties!

The real secret is that they probably still use the same fryers from when it was Sutter's Mill & Mining Co. Those things are seasoned with decades of chicken fat and french fry grease. Mmmmmm!

During the early 90's I was young, broke, and living in downtown Troy. Sutter's and The Eldorado had alternating .20 wings and .50 draft nights (don't forget to bring your mug!) You could have a great night out for $10 and still leave a tip! Ping-ponging between those spots put an extra 20 pounds on me but I enjoyed every minute of it!

And while I am all for variety, wings should never be covered in things like teriyaki, parmesan, or BBQ sauce. I mean c'mon, have a little pride!

Are you certain they use Red Hot and butter? Unless they changed the recipe (and it doesn't taste like they've changed it in decades) there is no butter in the wing sauce they make.

While I agree whole heartily that the traditional buffalo wing represents one the finest culinary achievements of human kind, I have to disagree with the purest attitude here. Sometimes it's necessary to stray from the Frank'nButter standard for different occasions and moods.

For example, while the traditional buffalo wing comes from a pub fare environment, another worth while wing experience is the pizza-and-wing gluttony fest that often accompanies parties or dinners prepared by a lazy/tired parent. This too was initially a concept restricted to Upstate/NY/North East. In these occasion I think the best wing sauce to really complement a pizza with is something sweeter. Which is why pizza places often times will cut their Franks with some BBQ sauce or honey. Not only does this make for a delightful wing, but it is a far superior sauce for dipping your pizza into.

Secondly, I'd point out that the recipe for the traditional buffalo wing is pretty basic and generic. Sure, there's the Franks to butter ratio, the size of the wing, and length of the fry, but in the end that doesn't leave that much room for variation. I for one like to go to different places, try different wings, and see different spins on the classic cuisine. Some garlic here, a little black pepper there, something sweet, a pepper pure', lemon, cumin, whatever; it just keeps things interesting. And I haven't even mention light breading or wing zinging!

Looks like a tough bar.. Could you bring a kid there? Like if you went early on a Sat or Sunday?

Lisa- it honestly depends on how used you and your kid are to bars. If the exposure your kids have to adults drinking is limited to Applebees or an equivalent, then I would say no. If you regularly bring your kid out, they can appropriately conduct themselves in an adult environment, and they've heard curse words, then they'll be fine.

The Ruck isn't really a tough bar but this is coming from someone who grew up with a parent who took her to Jessica Stone's and the Arc for wings and DeeDees for BLTs...

Lisa:

I've been to tough bars for the food in the past. Here's a review I wrote of a particularly rough place that had great wings: http://goo.gl/faKxJ

The Ruck is different. It looks like a hole in the wall from the outside. But inside the people couldn't be nicer. In my experience craft beer lovers generally tend to index lower on the ex-con/violent offender scale.

For those, you'll need to check out Altoona, PA. Because that place was full of them.

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