We came for wings. Not a knuckle sandwich.
For Guys’ Night this month, we headed to Swagger for Monkey Mondays, when the special is $2 Flying Monkey pints and fifty cent wings. I arrived first, took a seat at the bar and ordered a beer. The bartender was pretty friendly and surprisingly frank, too -- I overheard a fellow patron ask him about one of the many beers Swagger has on tap, and his reply was, “Honestly, it’s not that good.”
All the seating in Swagger’s bar half had filled up by the time Robert, Dorsett and Voytek finally got there, so we made our way to the other side of the place, which aside from a couple of rowdy Golden Tee enthusiasts was mostly abandoned. We grabbed a high-top table and started to study the menu. Little did we know we’d already made a tactical error that would come to haunt us later.
For now, though, it was all about wings. Swagger offers four varieties -- buffalo, jerk, bbq and Cajun -- and we ordered a ton of each. Robert and I also got the Suribachi Burger to split.
Normally, the more kinds of wings a place has, the more average I expect them to be across the board -- so I’m excited to say that the wings at Swagger are delicious. Each variety has an excellent blend of heat and flavor. Here’s a rundown, from dry to wet:
- Cajun -- somehow buttery yet nearly sauceless, with the spices fried in
- BBQ -- tossed in a sauce more spicy than sweet, and then grilled for a nice cooked-in coating
- Buffalo -- one of the better, more well-balanced buffalo sauces I’ve had in town
- Jerk -- with a thick, dark brown peppery-sweet sauce, these were my second favorite after the buffalo
The Suribachi Burger is a 1/3 lb beef patty dipped in tempura batter and deep-fried, then topped with Asian mustard, pepper jack cheese, Sriracha sauce and wasabi coleslaw. I was dying to try it, despite some cautionary words from Voytek, who is currently in med school but should really keep it to himself until he’s a full-on doctor.
Overall, taste-wise the burger struck me as maybe a little too far on the hot end of the ideal heat-to-flavor scale, and surprisingly the batter didn’t add that much to the experience. However, the wasabi coleslaw was fantastic, and the hand-cut fries were great -- perfectly cooked and seasoned.
This is the part where I explain our aforementioned tactical error. Right by our table was a “Test Your Strength” boxing-style punching machine, and about the time we finished eating, a couple of guys wandered over to give it a go.
Okay, putting a punching machine in a bar? Horrible idea, for two key reasons. First off, it costs a dollar. Let’s say you get liquored up and angry enough to want to hit something, and then find out it’s a buck to take a swing. You’ll be looking for some free punching bags before long.
Second, there’s a whole public humiliation aspect to it if you don’t hit it hard enough, and come in on the lower end of the machine’s arbitrary and ridiculous ranking system. The levels are:
- Hopeless -- depicted as a sweaty fat guy
- Anemic -- a skinny old man that looks curiously like Alan Alda
- Brutal -- another old man, but short and droopy
- Killer -- who looks like a mustachioed Izzy Mandelbaum
- Superman -- a muscular, pretty boy type
- Boxer -- a very angry ‘roid case whose shoulders have swallowed the lower half of his head
Doing our best to avoid eye contact with the punching machine’s patrons, we somehow ended up talking to one of them anyway. The conversation went from agreeing that the machine was clearly broken because it wasn’t fully registering the hurt he was putting on it, to declining the opportunity to throw a punch at it on his dollar, to politely yet in no uncertain terms saying thanks but no thanks to a round of shots. And then the next thing you know, he was on his way to the bar to get us all shots anyway.
We never saw him again. Half an hour later when we went to the bar to tab out, neither he nor his friend were anywhere to be seen.
Aside from that, we had a great time at Swagger. I’m definitely interested in checking out more of the menu.
I’m just not sitting anywhere near that damn machine. ___________________________________
8431 Wornall Road | Kansas City, MO 64114