I was down near Atlantic City for work, and on my way back I passed through Egg Harbor City which has a neighborhood bar that’s known for their wings. Now when I say neighborhood bar, I mean it. The Rusty Barrel is located on the corner of St. Louis and Buerger smack dab in the middle of houses, not strip malls or parking lots, but actual houses. This is great if you live nearby and frequent the joint because you would never have to find a designated driver. This is definitely my kind of bar.
I walk in the door and couldn’t find a seat because this place was packed with locals and there was a band setting up. The band “Blondage,” consisting of two women, one guitar, and a sound system, may have been the reason this bar was packed on a Wednesday. Or maybe some people simply misunderstood the name of the band and thought it was a different kind of party. Either way this place was jumping, and when you’re hungry for some wings, you might sit just about anywhere. AND as long as you can get past hearing a man singing “Wizard of Oz” songs, two older women hitting on you, and the waitress forcing you to smell her, you should be just fine. So, I grabbed a beer and menu, and ordered up some of these well-known wings.
The menu claims to have jumbo wings, and because they offer multiple quantities, I decided to go for the 8 count just in case they weren’t lying. The sauces, too, come in many varieties ranging from “Sweet Chili Sauce” (said to be the best by my recently acquired two best friends) to “Bottom of the Barrel” (said to be the hottest sauce they have). There is even a challenge for this sauce where if you complete the meal you receive a t-shirt. I don’t know all the rules, but I wasn’t going to do it so….
The wings came out and were just as advertised: big and meaty. The chicken had a nice breading to it with the Mild sauce I ordered drizzled over top. The Mild smelled really good, but there wasn’t enough of it. I love to drown my wings to get them nicely coated, and the little sauce the chef gave me wasn’t going to cut it. The two extra sides of sauce that I ordered (the Hot and “Bottom of the Barrel”) looked like nasty applesauces from hell, so I didn’t want to dump them on the wings… or at least not just yet. Luckily, the pleasant smelling waitress (ask me how I know that) was kind enough to grab more sauce from the kitchen so I could take my first bite, and I’m glad I waited because they were delicious. The meat was tender and the light crisp of the breading, covered with the great flavor of the sauce, made each wing extremely enjoyable.
The sauce, though called Mild, was actually pretty hot. Not too insane with heat, but enough to be considered a Medium for sure. The next step up in the Buffalo flavored sauces was Hot, which was a HUGE jump in heat from the Mild, and consisted of a mishmash of ingredients including crushed red pepper and real pepper seeds. This sauce wasn’t that bad actually. It was incredibly hot and offered a bit more “real” pepper flavor, unlike the “Bottom of the Barrel” which smelled, looked, and tasted like they took crushed red pepper powder and just mixed in some water. It was hot as hell, but incredibly disgusting and offered no desiring flavors whatsoever. It’s no wonder they use this for the challenge ’cause you would have to really want a new shirt to put yourself through that suffering.
Ultimately, the Rusty Bar is a dive that offers friendly staff, friendlier locals, and unique entertainment. But most importantly… They have some damn good wings. If you find yourself near Egg Harbor City jonesin’ for some wings, I recommend you stop in and grab a plate of the Mild for yourself. Not only will you enjoy some great tasting wings, but who knows, you may just walk out with some interesting stories.