Bosses (CLOSED)

My First Visit

Back in July, during a "temp" assignment for an irrigation company, I had lunch at Bosses. Located near Clark Tower in East Memphis, the restaurant primarily serves hot wings. Like with most reviews, I sort of came across Bosses by accident. On the day that my crew went to lunch, we headed down Poplar Avenue to a location that we assumed had a KFC (short for Kentucky Fried Chicken, who isn't changing many minds with its "healthier" image). As we arrived, we discovered that a Baskins-Robbins/Dunkin' Donuts franchise replaced the chicken joint. With us having to change plans, one of my “bosses” suggested that we go to The Half Shell. Being the cash-strapped guy that I usually am, I quickly suggested that we go to Bosses because I felt it was more affordable. Although its prices were a little higher than I expected, I didn't have any regrets about choosing the place.
Once we arrived at Bosses, we placed and paid for our orders at the front counter and were immediately seated. We all got the eight-piece wing combo smothered with Buffalo-style hot sauce that cost approximately $8.72. While we waited on our order, I "checked in" to Bosses on Foursquare where I saw that first-time visitors get fifty percent off the price of their orders. I wished had known this ahead of time, because I could have gotten a complete order of wings instead of having to split them with my "temping" cohort. In the future, I hope the host/cashier advises diners of the special. Anyway, I immediately got a partial refund from the host and waited for our wings.

Ten minutes later, our orders of hot wings arrived. The wings came in the form of "cut" or "party" pieces rather than whole wings that are served at wing joints like Don Don's. In terms of size, they were slightly smaller when compared to other wing joints. Therefore, I had to make do with the four pieces that was my share of the order.
The hot wings themselves were a bit of disappointment. My gripe isn’t due to the size of the wings, but rather its lack of “heat.” While the wings had the requisite Buffalo flavor, it lacked the proper amount of "heat" needed to qualify as hot wings. I initially thought I had gotten the wrong order, but my server assured me that my order was right. Still not convinced, I went "Nuh-Uh" by mooching a wing from one of my "bosses" ("Nuh-Uh" is a reference to a "foodie" frequently blogged about by, "well you know"). His wings, like mine, were lukewarm in terms of spiciness. After asking all the guys what they thought, we agreed that the "hot" wings were mild yet good nonetheless. For me, it was a bit of a letdown although not the end of the world.
By the way, I later read the review by Best Memphis Burger about Bosses' hot wings. The review came to the same conclusion about the lack of "heat" in the hot wings. With six people coming to the same conclusion, it's safe to say that Bosses doesn't "bring it" when it comes to meeting expectations. However, owner John Yacoubian said that he doesn't want to cause discomfort by making the wings too hot. I see the logic in that but disagree with the tactic. I'll talk more about this later.
As I said earlier, I ordered hot wings as part of a combo that included seasoned fries and a soda. The fries were crispy and slightly salty due to a sprinkling of Bosses’ dry rub seasoning. Surprisingly, the best part of the meal was the blue cheese dressing. It was thick, chunky and very creamy (which seems different from what Seth at Best Memphis Burger had). I liked the dressing so much that I dipped everything in it, including the fries. In terms of taste, the cheesy richness of the dressing made a huge difference in my hot wings. The satisfaction that I got from it almost made up for the wings' lackluster spiciness. For me, the blue cheese dressing made a so-so lunch into something enjoyable.
After I finished eating, I left Bosses feeling slightly disappointed, but was anxious to give it another shot. I was curious if its hottest wings could provide the heat that I desired. Before I go on, I'm not a glutton for punishment, but I love spicy foods. However, my tolerance for spiciness isn't on the same level as a “heat freak” like the blogger of Burn My Mouth. Rather, I prefer food that balances spiciness and vibrant flavor in a way that makes for a well-rounded dining experience.

Round Two

After months of procrastinating, I finally got around to giving Bosses a second shot. To do that, all the stars had to line up with regards to my schedule. My visit was on a Friday when I worked a rare evening shift at FedExForum (the NBA season has kicked in so no more "temping" for now). I took advantage of this by getting a few errands done such as shopping for Halloween makeup (my character this year was a zombie). While doing this, I felt it was a good time to get a second order of wings from Bosses. This time, instead of getting wings with hot sauce, I stepped my game up a bit. I got the combo with half my wings in honey gold sauce and the rest of it in a sauce called "Pure Hotness." I didn't go all in with the heat because I feared the worst. For all I knew, the wings could have been as hot as Kooky Canuck's "Holy Smoke!" wings that kicked my ass. On the flip side, they could have been as weak as Flying Saucer's "Atomic" wings that are its hottest, although I didn't break a sweat eating them (when the time is right, I will talk more about it).

The wings arrived a few minutes after I placed my order. Just like the last time, the wings were small in size but it didn't matter. For me, I wanted to know if Bosses could live up to its name in the world of hot wings. The "Pure Hotness" wings didn't disappoint even though I wasn't sure initially. The sauce is Habanero-based and mixed with a good amount of vinegar. Like my experience at Max's Sports Bar, the heat didn't hit me at first. My initial impression was that it was spicier than Bosses' hot wings but not overwhelmingly strong. However, as I ate more of them, the heat increased significantly. The "Pure Hotness" definitely kicked in on the fourth wing that had me sweating. I managed to get through all five wings by drinking 1½ glasses of water and plenty of ranch dressing. I'm not sure if I could have made it through a whole order of "Pure Hotness" wings because of the spiciness. While they're not as spicy as Max's, the wings were more than hot enough for me. In terms of taste, the sauce and the wings were really good. For this portion of my meal, the "Pure Hotness" wings changed my view of Bosses in a very positive way.
As much as I liked the "Pure Hotness," Bosses' honey gold wings provided a relief from the "heat." In terms of taste, the mix of honey mustard and hot sauce made the wings very sweet while maintaining a small degree of spiciness. In my opinion, they were a little sweeter than most honey gold wings that I've had. Overall, I liked them just as much as the "Pure Hotness" wings.
The sides that I had during this visit were decent supplements to my lunch. The fries tasted the same as the ones I had earlier and were even better with dressing. Speaking of that, the ranch dressing didn't impress me as much as Bosses’ blue cheese dressing. Not that I had any complaints, but the ranch dressing didn't stand out in terms of taste like its counterpart did. Still, it was as good as most places that serve it and went well with my meal.
After I finished my lunch, the owner wanted me to try Bosses' other offerings, which are catfish fillets and chicken tenders (and a nice selection of beers). The catfish tasted as good as the servings I had at some of the best "Soul Food" restaurants in Memphis. The extremely thick tartar sauce was great with it although some (like my doctor) might object to the amount of mayo in it. The chicken tender, consisting of white meat and light breading, was well seasoned and tasted great on its own. However, the sauces that I got with it made the chicken even better.
Out of random, I chose the Hot BBQ and Honey Hot sauces to dip my chicken tender in. Even though I didn't give it much thought, I was happy with the choices I made. The Hot BBQ sauce seemed to have tomato and vinegar as its prime ingredients with a bit of chili peppers for added spiciness. The taste is somewhat similar to what I've experienced at places like Corky's that is famous for barbecue (personally, I believe it's overrated).
As much as I liked the barbecue sauce, the Honey Hot sauce really impressed me. While not quite as spicy as Bosses’ hot sauce, the perfect balance of spiciness and honey mustard sweetness made the Honey Hot the best sauce that I had at Bosses. The owner later told me that it is a favorite with kids. Although I don't think of myself as a kid at heart, the Honey Hot will be my choice of sauce for my next visit to Bosses.
During this visit, I got an opportunity to talk with the owner. We mostly talked about chicken wings and other stuff related to his restaurant. The most interesting thing that I learned was how to tell if a wing had been frozen prior to cooking. If the bones are dark and/or gray, it means that the wings were frozen. However, unfrozen chicken retains its white color. This is something I will remember when I review chicken in the future.

SIDE NOTE: Bosses' wings come straight from Tyson and Sanderson Farms (whose wings were the centerpiece of a recent cooking effort). The catfish, which is Mississippi pond-raised, is supplied by Delta Pride and Pride of The Pond.

We also talked about the lack of spiciness in Bosses ' hot wings. While I understand the logic in not making them too spicy, I'm not sure it is a good tactic. I am a firm believer in making good first impressions, something that Bosses’ hot wings didn't do for me or my co-workers. While we all liked the wings from a taste standpoint, the lack of spiciness tempered our opinion. While I was forgiving, I'm not sure if some of my cohorts did the same. If I were running Bosses, I would tweak the hot sauce a bit so it is slightly hotter. I believe there is enough room for improving it while maintaining a degree of separation from the hotter sauces.
Putting aside my mild hot wings, both of my visits to Bosses were great. Everything that Bosses serves is original, including the wing sauces, dressings and dry rub seasoning. The wings, tenders, catfish and fries are hand cut and prepared by an expert kitchen staff so there's no need to worry about quality. The service at Bosses is excellent, for it didn't take long to get my orders. Plus, the attentive servers made sure that I had everything I needed, including extra napkins. Overall, the professionalism of the staff at Bosses is top-notch and a cut above most so-called "wing joints." In closing, I want to thank John and his people for the hospitality I received. I appreciated it and hope to return the favor by encouraging others to visit Bosses.


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