A Visit to Hurricane Grill & Wings in Champion’s
I’ve always been fond of Buffalo Wings, associate them with watching sports, hanging out with friends and just chillaxing. Houston has a new chain that has established a beachhead in the Champions area on FM 1960 called Hurricane Grill & Wings. Now hearing this some folks may want to roll their eyes and say “Does Houston REALLY need another wing joint?” My response is that if it’s a good wing joint with a good product, good service and an innovative concept, then yes we could use another few of them. And thankfully, Hurricane Grill and Wings is NOT just another wing joint. It is way, way more.
|Kaylynn relaxes at Dhanani Beach|
Imran Dhanani, a Houston born and raised restaurateur with a business degree from Texas A & M signed on to take on the Houston territory from Conroe down to Galveston. Dhanani had taken a lot of time to do research into different kinds of restaurants to set up–franchises as well as setting up his own. In the end, he went with Hurricane Wings & Grill because he felt they had a unique concept that wasn’t a Hooter’s or Buffalo Wild Wings retread, that wasn’t just wings and sides, and not much else like Wingstop or Wing Zone, and where the customer would see wings, but would see so much more than wings–literally something to satisfy any palate, whether you were in the mood for Burgers, Latin Fusion or Asian Fusion, and yes, wings as well. But first, a little info about Hurricane Wings from their website:
Hurricane Grill & Wings took the country by storm in April 1995 at our original location overlooking the ocean in Ft. Pierce, Florida. It didn’t take long for our guests from near and far to crave our 30 plus flavors along with our award winning wings which have become the signature of the Hurricane Grill & Wings menu.As a true time opportunity to Live With Flavor the whole family can enjoy, Hurricane Grill & Wings is unlike any other wing restaurant’s here you can escape any time you like. Just walk in, take a seat, kick back, and experience a world of delicious food, exhilarating flavors and no worries.
|Roulette of Sauces, including one iSauce|
When you enter the restaurant, you see a beach theme–surfboards, wakeboards, tiki items, oars and so forth. Dhanani said when you step inside of Hurricane Wings, it’s like you’re transported from Houston into another state–maybe the state of Florida, maybe another state of being. I will admit I liked the beach and surf motif quite well. When I perused their menu, I noticed the Wings were not front and center or in your face, though the inside fold on the left hand side had their completesauce list, which is longer than Hooter’s and Buffalo Wild Wings combined. The sauces are ranked from Category 1 (mild, sweet) up to Category 5 (inferno heat) and plenty in between. Their very detailed & diverse menu, much more varied than other wing places. The menu includes tacos, salads, garlic parmesan fries, grilled salmon, artisan salads and sliders (crab cake, pork, chicken, beef). I also love their special concept for the wings called the iSauce, where the patron can choose to mix 2 or more to create your own. And any of their wing sauces can be used on other dishes such as a chicken taco, grilled fish or a burger. Already I am impressed with the concept and I’ve only just been talking and drinking iced tea.
|Garlic Parmesan Steamed Broccoli and Thai Slaw|
Imran Dhanani suggested I start off with their Garlic Parmesan fries. I’ve had several versions of this snack, and I love me some garlic potatoes, so I was game. These things are about as addictive as the version at The Counter Burger. I was encouraged to try several sauces before deciding on which ones to have my wings spun in. Small cups with different sauces that sounded good to me were brought out. I chose to try: Maple Pepper Glaze, Boss Sauce (Imran recommended it), Firecracker (server Kaylynn recommended it), Jamaican Jerk (one of my favourite chicken seasonings ever, no brainer), Roasted garlic inferno ) also at Imran’s suggestion), Ancho Chile lime sauce (I chose that one too) and my own self-created iSauce made from Maple Pepper plus Jamaican jerk. Imran indicated that the company wants the customers to taste the sauces first (kind of like how The Flying Saucer will give you a small taster of a beer before you commit to a full pint) so that you’re more likely to be happy with what you order. All the sauces agreed with my palate and Imran kindly let me get an order of wings that used each sauce on a couple. (Please note it’s normally one sauce per 5 wings so if you were to order a 20 piece wings, the most number of sauces you could have would be 4). I will also add that if you do order wings, 10, 15 or 20, you can make it a platter and add two sides (like Thai Slaw & steamed broccoli with garlic Parmesan sauce) for $1.99 extra.
Now, after a reasonable wait my wings came out. Here are my tasting impressions of the sauces that I picked, including the ones suggested by Imran and Kaylynn.
Maple pepper: mild, sweet, hint of black pepper, like Canadian terrikayi Grade: A-
Jamaican Jerk: starts sweet, then the heat kicks in, hotter than B’dubs, still good. Grade: A
Boss Sauce: This one had a nice mixture of Medium heat, Parmesan cheese, vinegar and herb. Imran told me this was the most popular sauce company wide. Though it wasn’t my favourite, it was damn good and it’s one I would use on a 20 piece on future visits. Grade A
|Wings around the clock at Hurricane Grill|
Ancho Chile Lime: I liked this one VERY WELL. The flavour was smokey, sour, had a strong lime essence medium heat, and full flavour. Grade A+
Firecracker: This is a semi spicy Asian/Thai style, which is garnished with sesame. I did not find it to be too hot, I did find it kind of musky, with strong cumin essence and a little nutty element too. Grade: B
Roasted Garlic Inferno: This one had me blowing garlic smoke rings outta my mouth & ears! It didn’t start off too hot, but the heat built up after about 20 seconds. I personally didn’t find it to be too spicy or painful, but two wings with this sauce were more than enough. Grade: A-
HankOnFood iSauce (blended JJ & Maple Pepper): This was a nice happy medium between the hot sweetness of the Jerk sauce and the black pepper sweetness of the Maple. I may try to blend the Maple Pepper with the Roasted Garlic Inferno next time to see if it works as well. Grade: A
Besides the wings and sauces I also tried the Garlic Parmesan Steamed Broccoli, the Thai slaw, a pulled pork slider and a Crabcake Slider. The verdict:
|Pulled Pork on the left, Crab Cake on the right|
Sides: Thai slaw–like cole slaw and pad Thai had a baby. Sesame sweet essence fused with cabbage and carrots. Definitely a winner! The steamed broccoli is fresh, crunchy & the garlic Parmesan sauce accents it quite well! These are great options for those who aren’t fond of fries or for those of us who are fond of fries to be sure to get our veggies in with our other food groups. Grade: A for both
Sliders: The crab cake one with a creamy sauce that includes Old Bay seasoning is magnificent! We need more sliders like this in Houston. Fisheries, Galveston, et. al. It’s served on a yeasty egg bun, steamed nicely. The Pulled pork slider was sweet & tender and I had it with honey chipotle sauce, though you can get it with any sauce they have for wings. While this is no replacement for a pulled pork Sammy at a BBQ joint like Brooks Place, it was a nice snack nonetheless. Grade: A for Crab Cake, B+ for Pulled Pork.
The Houston location is the 52nd location. This is the first Houston location out of a total of 29 to come from Conroe down to Galveston, per Imran Danani. I will also add that this enterprise is very much a family affair–Imran’s parents, siblings and one of his nephews came in for lunch and came by to chat with me while I was there. Very nice group of folks, very excited about the restaurant and very proud of Imran. I was also impressed with this young man–he has a good attitude, great energy and clearly believes in what he’s doing. He also has a great love for the Houston area as he grew up here and he figures Hurricane Grill and Wings will find its place among the tapestry of Houston’s restaurants. Given his enthusiasm, focus and business sense, this restaurateur will succeed in is goals.
Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t ask Imran what his favourite dishes were on the menu. His response included the Thai ginger salmon, the Santa Fe Churrasco flank stake, the Yuengling beer battered fish & chips and the Grilled Mahi Mahi taco salad. I will add that the menu includes several colourful salads with all kinds of veggies, meats and fruit, which would appeal to any salad eaters that might accompany the carnivores who came for the chicken wings, seafood or burgers. And for all of us craft beer lovers, Imran made it clear they didn’t forget us–they are carrying 2 taps of St. Arnold’s (one main line, one rotating seasonal), Shiner Bock and Sam Adams too. Of course, given how opinionated I am on this subject I politely suggested he may want to see about stocking cans/bottles/2 more taps from our other local craft breweries like No Label, Southern Star, Fort Bend, Karbach or Lone Pint. No, this isn’t The Flying Saucer, but still I think it’s great that Hurricane Grill & Wings is stocking a few local craft brews among the mass-produced other stuff that’s out there. Nice job, Imran Dhanani!
Before I sign off, I want to personally thank Imran Dhanani, his family and Hurricane Grill and Wings for inviting me out to try their wings, sides and sliders. They’ve only been open 3 weeks, they are doing a great lunch business and I figure once the word of mouth gets going, they’ll be going great guns. I wish them all the success they can achieve here in Houston!
Eat Happy, Y’all!!!