Located in a small strip mall on Getwell Road in East Memphis, Ching's Hot Wings is easy to miss. The large pictures of customers covering the windows blend into the large pictures of hairstyles available at the African braiding salon next door. However, once inside, Ching's is unforgettable.
The small dining room is decorated from floor to ceiling with signed jerseys of some of Memphis' best-known athletes, more pictures of happy customers, seven flat-screen TVs tuned to sports, and one lone violin. The floor space is filled with wooden booths with high backs that give each table a feeling of intimacy. A few large benches are mixed in for customers to sit on while waiting for to-go orders.
Thomas Robinson, who writes the popular blog "Eat Local Memphis" and coaches lacrosse at White Station High School, says his love for Ching's goes beyond the food. "The food is awesome, but Ching's is Memphis. Look around, and you'll see the pride that we have in our community, and you'll see that it's about more than just amazing wings," Robinson says.
The wings occupy the bulk of the menu and are available whole or in a smaller party size. Flavors include mild hot, extra hot, "suicide," seasoned, lemon pepper, dry hot, honey gold, honey hot, honey extra hot. The honey gold 10-piece party wings are the most popular item, but Ching's is also known for its special seasoning, which is found on the seasoned wings and on the restaurant's French fries. The ingredients are top secret, but there are hints of curry, salt, and parsley. The combination is unique and a little addictive.
"Everything here is made with a special touch and has an original flavor," says Tammy Whitlow, who has worked at Ching's for a year and a half.
Other examples of this originality include the option of getting wings with a small croissant rather than a roll, the marinated carrots and celery that come on the side, and the "Orange Mound Punch" or "G Street Punch" to fill your cup. (Each is a fruit drink amped up with extra sugar, a perfect sweet counterbalance to the salty wings.)
Leslie Berry, 19, a student at the University of Memphis, says she comes to Ching's for the food and atmosphere. "Wings and sports — it doesn't get much better than that," she says. Berry's standard order is a 10-piece seasoned party wing combo.
Sylvester Payne, 23, also a student at the University of Memphis, eats at Ching's at least twice a week. His standard order is a five-piece seasoned whole wing combo. He says that he loves the seasoning but adds that the service is great and the people are nice.
The staff is definitely friendly, and there's a good chance someone will say "Welcome to Ching's!" as you walk in the door. Orders are placed at a small window in the back of the dining room, where you can get a peek into the kitchen.
Everything is made to order, so expect a wait of 10 to 15 minutes depending on how busy they are. If you aren't in the mood for wings, you are in the wrong place. There are, however, other menu items such as hot dogs and smoked sausages and sides that include fried okra, cheese sticks, and jalapeno poppers. Each table is stocked with ketchup, Louisiana hot sauce, napkins, and Clorox wipes. There's a good chance you'll need at least three out of the four.
After a visit or two, it soon becomes apparent that Ching's motto, "Best Damn Wings Period," is spot on.
Ching's Hot Wings, 1264 Getwell (743-5545)