Bidwell Tavern & Cafe

Review by: ayersian

You can consider us chicken wing fanatics. We have eaten them as appetizers, side dishes, and main courses. We have eaten them from San Diego, California to Buffalo, New York. Feasts have occurred in pizza joints, bars, at Super Bowl parties, and occasionally in our own kitchen. With all of the wings that we have consumed, it is difficult to keep most of them straight. There is, however, a section of our collective brain reserved exclusively for the chicken wings from Bidwell Tavern in Coventry, Connecticut. Since 1822, this establishment, housed in a former water mill, has been a mecca for award-winning wings, microbrews, and local color.

Our first few visits to Bidwell were a bit overwhelming, in light of the 30-odd flavor possibilities. The tavern size platter is perfect for a small group, consisting of 24 medium-sized wings in up to three different flavors. We tried the traditional Buffalo (in mild, hot, or “complicated”), went out on a limb with the Green Mountain (flavored with cayenne pepper and maple syrup), and tested our taste buds with the BBQ and Mexican Hot wings. Each time that we returned, we sampled another variety and expected to find a dud. It has not happened yet. Each wing is juicy and flavorful, contained by a satisfying deep-fried crunch. The number of flavor choices allows everyone at the table to adopt a unique personal favorite, but among those at the top of our list are the Mustard Horseradish, Cajun Honey BBQ, and Hot Teriyaki Sesame. In the B.B. (Before Bidwell) era, bleu cheese served as a tasty accompaniment to a platter of wings. In this enlightened age, however, it would be an insult to dunk a Bidwell wing into any foreign matter. Here, the cup of bleu cheese should be considered strictly as a vegetable dip, set aside for carrots and celery.

What sets Bidwell’s wings apart from all others in the state (yes, even the famous Archie Moore’s of New Haven, Wallingford, et al.) is their crispiness and distinctive flavor-locking quality, the latter of which is especially manifest with a choice like Mustard Horseradish or Green Mountain. The wing is fried, then tossed in sauce, and finally tossed in a dry rub, resulting in non-greasy finger food that leaves very little residue on your digits. The spice rub actually contains the wing’s sauce almost completely, to the point that worrying each joint and knuckle for that final morsel of meat is that much more enjoyable.

The menu extends well beyond wings, including salads, sandwiches, burgers, steaks, and seafood. We have been as adventurous as to try an appetizer or two with our wings (and all have been tasty — from quesadillas to potato skins), but have not yet garnered the strength to try a meal that does not center around Bidwell’s specialty. They also sell Hosmer Mountain sodas, bottled in nearby Willimantic, which are perfect for cooling our tongues from the wings’ collective heat. If you visit Bidwell at dinner time, both weekdays and weekends, expect to park across the street (for the huge rear lot will probably be full) and wait for a table.

What To Eat

Chicken Wings

Skins Bidwell

Buffalo Quesadilla

Chili Nachos



Bidwell Tavern & Cafe Recipes


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