This article appears in the September issue of 400 Life.
In nearly every town in America there is a local bar, pub or restaurant where people in the know go to get their hot wings.
Whether it’s on game day or just lunchtime, coupled with a cold beer and some blue cheese dressing, nothing quite beats a well-cooked hot or buffalo wing.
Luckily, Forsyth County has wing places aplenty, everything from well-known corporate joints to establishments that have been serving wings in the community for decades.
For this edition of 400 Life, we sat down with the owners of some of the county’s beloved local wing spots to talk about their story and what makes their recipe special.
Their story: As Best of Forsyth winners for wings the last five years running, Roosters Café in Cumming is truly the king of wings in Forsyth County.
Over their 28-year history in Cumming, Roosters Café owner Michael Parker says that they have seen the city and county shoot up, growing from a small rural area with few options for dining to the thriving community jam-packed with new businesses it is quickly becoming.
That new business has come with competition, but Parker said that it hasn’t been a bad thing, quite the opposite in fact.
“It’s just proof for capitalism really, competition breeds business,” he said. “It seemed like the more restaurants that were coming into town, brought more people with it … whereas we were originally one of like three places in town.”
With an eclectic family-friendly bar atmosphere and reliable food service, Rooster’s has been able to capture a dedicated following of customers in Cumming, he said. Something they don’t expect to change any time soon.
Their wings: Unlike many restaurants that boast about their wing size, Parker said that Rooster’s specialty hot wings are specifically a “medium-sized wing” that are just a little bit harder to find.
“Our wings are a little bit smaller,” he said. “Say for instance Taco Mac likes to sell a bigger banquet wing and some people like those and that’s fine, but our customers seem to like ours just a little smaller.”
The benefits of a medium wing, according to Parker, are that they are a little bit easier to cook consistently, making them more tender, with more flavor.
Add to that Rooster’s specialty hot sauce and handmade blue cheese, that Parker calls “off the charts” good, and it’s easy to see why people keep coming back to the restaurant.
“It’s just a great combination,” Parker said. “The secret to it all is being small and caring, and our own recipes that are made fresh in house.”
Where: 216 Atlanta Road, Cumming
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday
Contact: 770-889-6890, roosterscafe.net.
Castleberry Ale House
Their story: Started in the wake of the great recession of 2008, over the last nine years Castleberry Ale House has been serving the people of Forsyth County with all the beer, burgers, wings and other bar favorites they can handle.
According to restaurant owner, Aaron Hyder, who runs Castleberry Ale House with his mother, Christine Martines, in that time their family-run business has become an entrenched part of the community, putting the community first, whether that be with donations and sponsorships or food pricing that has remained unchanged for seven years.
“We just try to give back,” Hyder said. “The community here is probably one of the best I’ve ever seen.”
Their wings: “We do beers and wings great, that’s what we do,” Hyder said.
Through years of working at corporate restaurants and bouncing ideas for wings off of other professional chefs, Hyder said that they have perfected a recipe for hot wings, offering a large, meaty wing that is pre-seasoned even before going into the fryer.
“That gives them a little bit more flavor than most,” he said.
Where: 5446 Bethelview Road, Cumming
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Saturday; noon to midnight on Sunday
Contact: 770-292-9999, castleberryalehouse.com.
Summits Wayside Tavern
Their story: This year will mark 20 years that Summits Wayside Tavern has been in the Forsyth County community.
Sitting on Lake Center Parkway in Cumming with a “Hot Wings” sign prominently displayed over the roadway, Summits is a locally-owned restaurant that prides quality and consistency over everything, says owner Andy Klubock.
“Having a fanatical adhesion to doing things over and over again and making sure that something tastes the same at 11 o’clock in the morning as 11 o’clock at night,” Klubock said when asked about what sets Summits apart from its competitors. “Not compromising on the processes … that’s something that we try to appreciate and work hard at.”
Their wings: Klubock said that the secret of their wings lies in that “fanatical adhesion” to quality.
Everything must be made from scratch, the wings have to be the right size, and everything has to cook at exactly the right time.
“A minute too early or a minute too late makes a big difference,” he said.
Klubock said that at Summits they do a slew of flavors including barbecue and Thai chili, but their top seller is overwhelmingly the buffalo sauce, their specialty.
“In [the customer’s] mind, they have an idea of what something tasted like and when they come in they don’t want to be disappointed,” he said. “We try not to disappoint.”
Where: 525 Lake Center Pkwy., Cumming
Hours: 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Friday; 11 a.m. to midnight on Saturday and Sunday.
Contact: 770-886-4374, summits-online.com.
Black Diamond Grill
Their story: Named after the ski slopes that business owner Terry Hanley once spent time on, the Black Diamond Grill has been in the Forsyth County community for more than 10 years.
Hanley says that their mission is to provide a “family oriented” sports bar atmosphere to local residents, serving quality food that is made from scratch daily.
“That’s part of our uniqueness,” he said. “I just think it’s a better quality of product when it’s fresh.”
Their wings: Hanley said that at Black Diamond Grill they pride themselves in their huge hot wings, offering jumbo wings with more meat and more flavor.
“You are going to get a lot more chicken on it than you would with some of our competitors,” he said. “And we’ve come up with a sauce that has been given great ratings and have won in different areas of Atlanta.”
Where: 1485 Peachtree Pkwy., Cumming
Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily
Contact: 678-965-4770, theblackdiamondgrill.com.