“Open a restaurant,” they said. “It will be fun,” they said.
And sometimes it is. But the not-so-secret truth is that 60% of new restaurants don’t survive their first year in business. After four years, 80% are finished. You’ve probably heard of the 80/20 rule. It still applies but the odds are worsening.
However, if you’re good enough, and “lucky” enough, to be in that 10-20% tier, here’s what success can look like. You get to work 10 to 16 hours a day, seven days a week with little to no paycheck. You do, however, get to pay your employees, many of which will be unreliable and may even steal from you. You get to deal with insane customers (who are always right) and have to defend yourself against negative internet postings, which always feel personal. You should ultimately break even on your investment sometime between years three and five.
That’s a win.
I have nothing but love and respect for all entrepreneurs, but especially restaurant owners. Like in everything, there are good and bad restaurants and good and bad owners. It’s easy to identify the ones who “get it.” However, sadly, even some great owners who run great restaurants fall to the axe blade. And the covid years surely didn’t help matters any.
In this blog post, we pay our respects to some great wing spots we’ve hit over the past three years who (for whatever reasons) have been permanently closed. Some may have failed, some may have retired, and some may have simply just sold the business and moved on.
And like always, you can click on each photo to view our Wingaddicts video episodes there for additional perspective. We hope you will.
When we started Wingaddicts, we heard about this legendary spot in Watertown that had two and three-hour wait lists for pizza and who’s wings were said to be “out of this world.” Doni and I made our visit one afternoon during Covid - without Wingchef Ryan. The parking lot was set up with picnic tables and we parked on the street (it was tight) so what we could film on the hood of the Jeep with the restaurant behind us. To this day, I’ve never been more impressed with the visual of the wings that were delivered to our table (hood). They were almost too beautiful to eat. When we did eat them, though, we were equally floored. Daveluy’s wings were probably in my Top 5 favorite all-time. The place soon closed down for renovations and never reopened again. It sits, empty. We're sad.
With its easy-in and easy-out location right on the train tracks along Route 34 in Derby, Reid’s was the scene for another of our all-time favorite episodes. We destroyed six different flavors of smoked wings (all amazing, and impossible to pick a favorite). Doni and I even snuck back the next morning for a brisket omelette. Oh dear! Owner Kevin Reid was a delight, but was forced to close down less than a year later. Reid’s reopened for a short period, in a collaboration with a second local business called Liquid Lunch, but that partnership was short-lived and it closed again. It’s looking like something is happening again in that building, and we’ve heard rumblings that Reid’s may be looking to go the food truck route. We only hope we can enjoy more of Kevin’s wings in 2023.
One snowy night in the winter of 2021, we ventured into this US Military-themed restaurant and felt damned patriotic upon entering. This super cool spot in Naugatuck was empty that night (a Tuesday night during a snow storm), but the Wingaddicts are like the US Postal Service. We get there! Haha. Owners Mike Kosciuszek and his wife Taryn Finley had purchased the spot as an investment and never intended to open a long term bar/restaurant there. But we’re glad they did. AFP had its own unique dry blends, and we ate six different flavors that night. Like at Reid’s, Doni and I snuck back for breakfast the following morning for the homemade hash. It was the second (and, to this day, the only other time) we had ever done that.
We rolled up to 585 on Main in Naugatuck during another snowy winter night, when our scheduled visit to a different local spot (Deeman’s) had to be cancelled because they didn’t get their wing delivery that week. But bad luck led to good fortune, as we enjoyed six great wing flavors in this happening local spot. We were shocked to find that the kitchen stayed open until after midnight there, and it was a local hot spot for late-night takeout. We never got back there to see what the nightlife looked like in this spacious club. They closed in spring 2022.
We met up at Cold Creek in Ellington with Tim Leininger, a reporter from the Journal Inquirer who wanted to write a Wingaddicts feature piece. There we met owner Jamie Boucher, who treated us to some super interesting caramelized, beer-brined wings that used a lot of dry rubs from a local company called Joseph Que's. We had unique flavors like Cooper’s Sweet & Sour, Firecracker, Chili Lime, Tavern Hot and Grandpa Joe’s Honey Chipotle. The tavern was an offshoot of the successful Cold Creek Brewing, simply so they could have an actual restaurant that served food with their craft beers. The Tavern is no more and we've been informed that the brewery is shut down as well.
This spot, right on South Main Street in Southbury was one of the town’s hallmarks for many years. Driving past, you could smell the wood fire pizza oven and normally see the smiling owner, Saki Papanicolaou, flipping pizza dough in the front window. While pizza was their main thing, Mad Greek had a large wing flavor selection as well. We did takeout a few times and shot an episode right out front during the summer of the pandemic where we smashed six flavors. I don’t think the reason was financial, but sadly we drive past an empty building there now dark in the windows except for the ghosts of wings (and pizza) past.
We met up with a Hartford Courant photographer at Beachland Smoke in West Hartford one evening in the fall of 2020, to be featured for a big Sunday edition story. What we found was a clean and modern, although tiny, little BBQ joint. Owner Chip Kohn treated us to four amazing wing flavors in an episode that was beyond memorable. The bad news is, Beachland Smoke closed. The good news is, Beachland Tavern (also in West Hartford) is the spot where those killer wings originated. So we (and you) can still get you some! And even more potentially good news is that another restaurant “Smoke Public House” has replaced it. We haven’t been by yet, but they offer smoked or traditional wings in five or six flavors including “Housemade Dirty Sauce.” Saddle up, boys!
This cool spot in Unionville, was a stop on our outdoor summer tour in 2020. We grabbed a six pack at the liquor store across the street and filmed from their parking lot with Taprock as a backdrop. We ordered all four wing flavors on the menu, which were excellent. Taprock, sadly, fell to the blade but has been replaced by Puente American Latino Pub, which has no wings on the menu - but has dry rubbed buffalo drums “drenched in Frank’s and drizzled with bleu cheese."
Wingchef Ryan and I popped into this Jamaican themed Manchester spot one summer night in 2020 on a tip from friend and Wingaddict, Andel Green. In a little shopping plaza area, we set up the camera out on the patio and enjoyed seven wing flavors including, of course, the Jamaican Jerk. It was a wonderful and memorable episode but we won’t get the chance to go back. However, a restaurant named Fish N Tingz (also Caribbean themed) is currently in that location and we see “Grilled Jumbo Wings” on the menu in “FNT Signature Jerk Sauce,” Tangy Honey BBQ, Zesty Buffalo and Mango Pineapple. Hmmmmm.
Doni and I met up with owner Mike Mingolello in October of 22, at this popular location near Hubbard Park in Meriden. While wings weren’t necessarily “their thing” we had heard great things and finally made it there for our “Pizza Joint Wings” Season 7. We sat on the patio near the tabletop fire and enjoyed some great wings, most notably the “Secret Cajun Fire Roasted" wings which were roasted in a cast iron skillet inside the pizza oven. Unforgettable. Wise Guys sits empty now (signs still up) but it says a new pizza joint is coming soon. We'll let you know if they have a wing game! Mingolello already opened a new restaurant in Southington called Fireside on Main. We haven’t been there yet.
This was a great wing stop we hit (also during the Wings on the Hood) season on the intersection of 63 and 73 in Watertown. The wings there were breaded and flavorful and two of the most-memorable wings we had were Flamin’ Raspberry and Angry Peach. Triple Play closed down shortly after our visit, but the great news is that 16 Straits came in to replace it. And 16 Straits is a super legit wing stop on your Connecticut wing trail!
This popular live music destination in Southington was also a memorable stop on our wing journey. We endured one of the hottest wings we’ve ever encountered, aptly named “The Eruption” and also had THE most-unique wing to date, “The Doughnut Wing.” Yes, there was a chicken wing inside of a doughnut. You’d have to try it to believe it. Sadly, Tipping Chair and its awesome owners Jeff and Audra Vitti, didn’t make it. However, Mike Miller (of Hop Haus fame) took over, renovated and opened up The Salty Dog. This is an excellent new wing destination that you must visit!
Rounding out our list of casualties is Chubby’s in Stratford. Restauranteur Chris Delmonico has owned and operated several successful restaurants over the years and Chubb’s was unanimously one of our all-time favorites. We each agreed that this was an all-time Top 10 spot for us, as we delighted in six beautiful and delicious flavors. We even got a special “Wingaddicts” selection added to the menu . . . “The Wingaddicts Pick Six” based on our unforgettable visit. Sadly, before we could get back to film a RELAPSE episode, Chubby’s was gone. On the (very) bright side, the new restaurant that took its place is called Hendrick’s Tavern and has the same exact menu. They’re high on our list of “next places to visit” and have our fingers crossed!
We at the Wingaddicts wish all these awesome business owners nothing but the best in future endeavors. We don’t have the full story of why you closed, but we hope that you’re all well planning a comeback. Whatever the future holds, there’s one thing we know for a fact; you know how to put out some awesome chicken wings! Please keep us posted.
Tommy Wyatt is co-founder of Wingaddicts and writes this weekly blog “Under the Wingfluence” for Wingaddicts.com.
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