I’ll be honest: When my editor asked me to review Just Wingin’ It, I wasn’t terribly excited. The name conjured up a meal somewhere I’d be less than likely to frequent, but as the Bard himself once wrote, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” and Just Wingin’ It is remarkably sweet.
The space is beautiful — gorgeous lighting, those lovely exposed brick walls that can make a place feel homey yet upscale, and a pretty bar area fit for any night out. I was impressed. But I was there for the food. Would it have the same effect as the aesthetics? To sum it up simply: absolutely.
My friend and I started with an appetizer of grilled boneless chicken ($7.99 for three; $12.99 for six). With nine sauces to choose from, we went for the spicier lemon pepper Buffalo option. They were delicious. Buffalo sauce mixed with lemon may just be my new favorite thing. It zings and pops and the flavors blend so beautifully.
We decided to go for the ribeye Philly wrap ($11.99) and tamales for main courses and accompanied them with the plantation salad ($10.99). The chef didn’t scrimp on the fillings in the wrap, as the meal was enough for two. And it was incredibly tasty. It had been marinated in its own juices for a while, with just the right amount of seasoning. The ribeye was tender, the cheese had melted to perfection, and the sauteed red and green peppers brought with them a rustic, smoky flavor that stayed with you.
The tamales were the “special of the day.” I love tamales, so it’s always a go-to of mine when I see them on offer somewhere new. I’m always a bit wary though, as I’m disappointed when I get given a batch that’s dry. Thankfully, I had nothing to worry about. The tangy sauce over the moist, blended beef was on par with those found in your nicer Mexican establishments.
I was dubious about the salad. During college, I existed off of packaged ramen noodles, food from the Chimes when my shift was done and the plantation salad at Calendar’s. I was a student and could easily make the salad stretch for a few meals, so I was disappointed when it was no longer on offer. But it’s officially back. From the seasoned, battered fried chicken and the perfectly hard-boiled egg to the firm yet mushy avocado and the honey mustard dressing, my friend and I were transported right back to 1989, when all was good within the land of the salad.
We were stuffed at this point, but when our waitress, Emily, asked if we’d like some blueberry and white chocolate bread pudding ($5.99) along with coffee, who were we to say no? The citrus and blueberry glaze poured atop the spongy white chocolate base was delightfully decadent. My friend can’t stand creamer in coffee. Normally when she asks for regular milk, there’s a bit of a hem and a haw from the wait staff, but Emily happily brought out some milk. I noticed that the staff at large was attentive to their guests and knowledgeable about the products they're selling. This only added to the experience.
If I had anything negative to say at all about Just Wingin' It, it’d be the name. It just doesn’t do justice to a restaurant offering not only an extensive wine menu but the opportunity to order special bottles to be saved and served just for you. The name seems to downplay the caliber of the place, so I hope people don’t do what I did initially and let a bit of snobbery be the reason they pass the place by.
And if I had one little secret for you? The morning after your meal, take your leftover tamales out of your fridge, and dip them in the lemon pepper Buffalo sauce you also took home. You can thank me later.
Just Wingin' It
18181 Old Jefferson Highway
11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday
(225) 246-2148; justwinginitla.com
PROS: Great atmosphere; high-quality, thoughtful dishes; extensive wine list
CONS: That name