Ker’s Winghouse – Hooters Little Nemesis is a Big Favorite in Tampa Bay.
Feb 22, 2007 (Updated Feb 22, 2007)
Review by mongkut
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:Much better wings than Hooters, better food overall, better atmosphere.
Cons:Can get a lttle rowdy for families with young kids, especially at night
The Bottom Line: If you love buffalo wings, Winghouse has Hooters beat hands down. Great atmosphere for young guys but not necessarily families with young kids.
Several months ago I added my thoughts about Buffalo Wild Wings to the long list of reviews on that chain. I felt compelled to give them praise for their variety of buffalo wings and the fact that they do the buffalo wing sports bar thing without the use of chicks in hot pants for waitresses. Now, Im no puritan and back when I was in my twenties and single I had a few enjoyable visits to Hooters on trips to the Bay area. But do I really want to take my wife and five year old to a restaurant filled mostly with guys throwing back beers and looking at the waitresses like customers in a strip club? That would be no. Beyond that there is something creepy to me about guys in their forties and fifties ogling girls young enough to be their daughters.
Recommend this product?
Even if the atmosphere at Winghouse isnt exactly family friendly, the buffalo wings are good and a family favorite. Even my five year is a huge buffalo wing fan and has grown to want them more and more spicy. So from time to time we will get take out and enjoy them in the comfort of home without my son having to overhear some slightly inebriated, obese forty year old describe to his buddies how he thinks he can charm the twenty year old hottie waitress. (Yeah pal, tell me how that works out for you.)
Kers Winghouse was founded in 1994 by former Dallas Cowboy lineman, and Dunedin High School grad, Crawford Ker. Kers first Winghouse opened in Largo, where the company headquarters is today. The basic premise was a sports bar and grill specializing in buffalo wings and served by attractive young women in tight satin shorts and tank tops. Hmmm, sounds like Hooters doesnt it? Hooters thought so and sued Ker but lost and ended up having to pay him $1.2 million. Well, Winghouse girls wear black shorts and shirts and Hooters girls wear orange and white, so there is a difference. Ker may not have the 400 locations of Hooters, which started in Clearwater by the way, but he is already up to 22 restaurants which isnt bad by any stretch.
The Locations We Have Visited
Ive never been to the original Largo location but have dined in and had take from their Palm Harbor and New Port Richey restaurants. The first location close to North Pinellas, where we live, was up in Pasco County at 6515 US Hwy 19 North in New Port Richey. When we first tried this restaurant I really didnt know anything about the Winghouse chain. My first impression was that the wings were far better than Hooters and the atmosphere felt a little like a biker bar or strip club. Since the Palm Harbor location opened at 34900 US Hwy 19 North we have gone there exclusively. The atmosphere is a little less rowdy and raunchy at the Palm Harbor location but Im still somewhat uncomfortable bringing my wife and five year old. Even if the clientele is a hair more upscale, when you get a bunch of guys around free flowing beer and provocatively dressed young women it doesnt exactly promise a family friendly atmosphere. That doesnt mean its bad but just not a place I really want to take the family. I love my favorite cigar bar but even without the smoke I wouldnt remotely dream of taking my son there.
The décor at both restaurants is very similar, as is the case with most chains. The theme seems to be lots of exposed wood from the walls to the tables and chairs. As one would expect with a sports bar there are lots of TVs, both big and small, and lots of sports memorabilia and photos all over the walls. I will credit Ker with creating a place where it isnt totally about the girls in that the emphasis is equally on sports and games. Both restaurants have a few video games and I believe both have pool tables as well. They host a number of special events each month with anything from showing UFC pay-per-views to Monday Night Football or Lightning hockey.
Of the two the major difference I see is in the clientele. The New Port Richey location seems to have more of a rough and ready good ole boy feel while the Palm Harbor location feels more like a big frat party. Either way its a fun place to hang out if you are young and single and want to let loose. For those people with older kids who would like to dine in I suggest going earlier I the day when it is apt to be less rowdy.
Winghouse is obviously about wings first and foremost and their wings are very good. Im sort of torn between Winghouse and Buffalo Wild Wings as to which I like better. BWW has a much larger selection of sauces, including some that are much hotter than Winghouse, but often we just feel like Winghouse wings. The wings are available in quantities of 5 ($3.99), 10 ($7.99), 20 ($1399), or 50 ($29.99). They come deep fried and tossed in your choice of Mild, Medium, Hot, House on Fire (HoF), or Dallas which is their BBQ sauce. We always get them with HoF sauce and in reality it isnt all that spicy if you really like spicy food. Even my five year old will eat a few with HoF sauce, although he likes the medium the best. The reason I like Winghouse over hooters is the batter Hooters uses, which to me is too much and unnecessary. HoF sauce has enough heat to make it interesting and a nice tangy flavor alla the Buffalo NY originals.
For folks who want wings but not the added fat from deep frying they also of Naked Wings which they describe as lightly blackened skinless wings. These are available in quantities of 10 ($8.99), 20 ($14.99), or 50 ($29.99) and are available with the same sauces plus their sesame-teriyaki based Asian sauce.
The menu features a list of pub grub appetizers such as Texas Chili ($3.49), Buffalo Shrimp ($7.29/10 or $13.99/20), and jalapeño stuffed Poppers ($4.49). Weve tried a few and they are not bad, but not as good as the wings themselves. Their sandwiches and burgers are better, with the Dallas Burger ($7.99), featuring two 8oz beef patties, BBQ sauce, and bacon, being quite alright. Overall the food is good for what it is and a fair bit better than rival Hooters. But it is the wings that keep us coming back and account for almost all of our take out business with Winghouse.
Winghouse has a full bar and the ability to make pretty much any of the more popular tropical drinks, but the bulk of their bar business is beer. The selection is typical of most area sports bars in featuring the usual boring domestic and import macros. This isnt a place for cranberry cosmos and it certainly isnt a place for Belgian tripels. If you like your beer in pitchers, this is your place.
Winghouse is definitely a bargain and the portions are generous. Spending $20 on food here will get you a lot of food.
The wait staff is very friendly and helpful and I think this has a lot to do with the management style that Ker sets for the chain. Obviously the waitresses know theyre going to score higher tips from a group of beer pounding guys than a family of four and youll see a slightly different level of enthusiasm shown between the two tables. If you, like me, appreciate service that is efficient yet subdued, the look at me Im pretty, hee, hee thing can get old quickly. But if youre part of a group of guys throwing back wings and beer it works.
All Winghouse restaurants are open Monday through Thursday from 11AM to 12AM, Friday and Saturday from 11AM to 1AM, and Sunday from 11AM to 11PM.
I havent been to the New Port Richey location since the Palm Harbor restaurant opened a couple years ago but I would imagine it is still pretty much the same. The parking lot was quite large as it was located next to a mostly empty plaza. The Palm Harbor location is a different story and parking can be difficult as The Fountains Plaza where it is located is very busy and Winghouse is right in front of a very popular gym. If you dont arrive early plan on doing a few circles of the lot to find a space.
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