Hamilton’s Tavern, known for burgers, potato sandwiches, and spicy wings. Also, beer.
1521 30th Street, San Diego
I enjoy watching football, and I have been known drink beer and eat wings while doing so. When there’s an out-of-market game I want to see, I head over to Hamilton’s Tavern. It doesn’t show the most games or have the biggest TVs, but it’s close to home and I know the beer will be excellent even when the gameplay isn’t.
Sometimes I’ll get a burger, and if it’s a Monday night game I’ll grab the fried-chicken special. Sunday mornings I’ll consider one of the breakfast burritos, which are tasty but pricier and smaller than anything I could grab at a taco shop.
The one constant is that I always get an order of wings or split one with a friend. There are several varieties to choose from, all about nine or ten bucks, including buffalo, hot, raspberry chipotle, and Thai sesame.
But when the game’s a blowout, there’s really only one option to keep you entertained: the Deer Hunter. As in the movie The Deer Hunter, the 1978 anti-war Vietnam epic where POWs Robert De Niro and Christopher Walken are forced to play Russian Roulette for their captors’ amusement. That is, load a single bullet into a six-shot revolver, spin the chamber, and pull the trigger.
There’s no telling which of these wings will get you.
At Hamilton’s, the idea behind Russian Roulette has been adapted in a spicy wings format. The order comes out looking just like any order of the bar’s hot wings, except one of those wings has been treated with an exceptionally spicy sauce. The rest of the hot wings hit a five or six on a ten-point spice scale, but this one goes to eleven. Meant to be shared, two friends each take a turn picking out a chicken wing, thigh, or leg, hoping the other guy gets the spice bomb.
These were the first wings I tried at Hamilton’s, sitting across from a friend to slowly eat our way through to the tongue-scalding end. After flipping a coin to see who goes first, it fell to me. I carefully examined the basket of wings before me but couldn’t pinpoint any visual differences.
I chose one and took a bite. It burned. It seared. My eyes began to water and my nose started to run. Not knowing exactly how spicy the regular hot wings get, I tried not to let on that I was struggling. Maybe the standard hot wings were too much for me, but I wasn’t going to let it show.
I think my eyes turned red — I’m sure my face did. Only when my buddy nonchalantly grabbed his first wing, took a big unconcerned bite, and laughed did I know for certain I’d bitten the bullet. I poured a pint of beer over what was left of my tongue and barely remember tasting the rest of the wings.