People who don’t know any better might think Wild Wing Cafe in Augusta is a totally local joint. It just has that feel — the family who opened up the location back in 2004 is still leading the way, the restaurant showcases tons of live local music every week, and the food is on point.
It’s obvious from the name that wings are their specialty — 33 made-from-scratch sauces are the focus of the menu. But if you’ve not been into Wild Wing, what you might not realize is that the restaurant has much, much more to offer.
Wings admittedly aren’t everyone’s favorite food. Not that they aren’t damned tasty. Some of us just prefer to eat messier foods with a fork, and that doesn’t really work with chicken wings. However, even for someone who isn’t completely down with messy fingers, Wild Wing’s wing menu is worth getting saucy. One flavor to try if you’re unsure of where to start is the honey lime sriracha. If you’ve not jumped on the sriracha train (it got pretty trendy in the past few years), this is a good way to try it — the wing flavor has just enough of a kick to wake up your senses, but it’s also got a perfectly sweet finish, with honey in the mix.
But back to the menu offering more than just wings. Wild Wing’s menu is huge — and though with the fresh ingredients lending themselves to diners thinking it’s all local recipes, owner Tricie Scholer says they stay true to the menu of corporate Wild Wing Cafe, which got its start in Hilton Head Island in 1990 and now has more than 40 locations.
“The food is all fresh and made here,” Tricie said. “We try to keep it as pure and unique to Wild Wing as we can, and we follow the corporate menu. We could change it if we wanted to, but we don’t.”
Their food is craveable. Like, even though the idea of an egg on a burger isn’t that unusual, it sounds weird the first time you hear it. But if you try even a bite of Wild Wing’s bacon, egg and cheeseburger — provided you’re already a burger fan — you’ll be hooked. The fried egg, cooked over easy, is a perfect complement to the restaurant’s thick and juicy hamburger patty.
With the restaurant being Southeast-based, people might assume it’s all high-calorie food and that none of it can really be good for you. People tend to be more conscious about that in January, and they should know Wild Wing has tasty grilled items and a satisfying salad menu. As for their salads, anyone can request to reduce the calories by swapping out dressing for oil and vinegar, by removing the cheese or simply by increasing the amount of veggies and decreasing the amount of meats. But that might not even be necessary. One of their salads, The Wild Chef salad, clocks in at just under 600 calories and is topped with grilled chicken, julienne ham, Monterey Jack and cheddar cheese strips, and spicy shrimp. And the salad is so big, you might even be able to turn it into two meals and take half home.
If you go in at lunch or dinnertime, you’re bound to see a wide array of people eating inside the space spanning about 10,500 square feet. From families with young children to older couples, Wild Wing is ready to cater to all. And as the night wears on, Wild Wing Cafe becomes more of a party atmosphere — trivia night is hosted there on Monday nights, and live music happens five nights a week.
A couple of years ago, the Scholers added an inviting, 4,000-square-foot patio to the exterior of the restaurant. The area has eight new big-screen TVs that — like the TVs inside — mostly show sports (right now, think football, and the upcoming Olympics), unless something else big is going on that customers want to watch.
“Even in the wintertime, the patio is popular. Like tonight, we’ll have people sitting out there in those little lounge areas with fire pits going,” Tricie said on a late December day that didn’t get above about 45 degrees. “As long as it’s not windy and rainy — people love it.”
Part of the community
The family and community aspect is important to Tricie and her husband, Jan. They have four grown children, all of whom worked at the restaurant when they were growing up. And two of their sons, Daniel (the general manager) and Will (the assistant general manager) have gone back to work full time with their family in the years after finishing college. Daniel says with mom being mostly retired now, he doesn’t have any plans to leave the business. He says working for his family has been great.
“(My mom and I have) always had a good relationship, and we worked together for a long time,” Daniel said. “I came up doing some different stuff through the restaurant, and then we were managing together for several years. It’s nice working for the family.”
Along the lines of a family atmosphere, Tricie said they have some staffers who are not related by blood who have stayed with the restaurant since it opened nearly 14 years ago.
Caring about the community is another big priority for the Scholers and their restaurant. They regularly hold charity events and fundraisers there — just a couple of months ago, the restaurant hosted “A Night Out for Drew,” a fundraiser for the Drew Passmore BattleWon Foundation, which was created to give area high school students resources they might need for education, athletics and service opportunities. Drew Passmore had been an athlete at Augusta Christian when he tragically died in March after a vehicle wreck.
And the restaurant’s staff looked out for the community in another big way in December, by taking action that led to a man being arrested on a child molestation charge.
“We try to look out for folks; I don’t know if you read the news story recently where some of our servers noticed that there was a man with a young child and they were acting inappropriately,” Tricie said. “It was pointed out to them by other customers. … The girl was 13, and the man was 51. And they were out here making out in the middle of the restaurant. It’s the craziest thing. So (the staffers) followed him, took a license plate down, and the sheriff’s office was able to trace the man and arrest him. I was really proud of my staff.”
Stay for the live music
Music happens five nights a week at Wild Wing. On Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, the restaurant tends to host acoustic acts, with bands hitting the stage around 9 in a corner near the bar, which features 23 beers on tap. Friday and Saturday nights are a little more rowdy, with full bands playing starting around 10. Tricie says they try to make sure families getting dinner have had their fill by the time music gets started, in case they want to get the little ones home before the music starts. And there’s never a cover to see a band play.
“It’s a fun family place during the day, and casual dining, but comfortable,” Tricie said. “Not so that you feel like you’re dirty. And then at night, we can sort of turn into a party venue. We’re always ready for a party here, of course.
“But we try not to make it too over the edge. You won’t see any strippers here… at least, not invited. We’ve had it happen on occasion, but it’s usually late night on Sunday. I don’t know why Sunday night,” she said with a laugh.
Wild Wing Cafe
3035 Washington Road
Open seven days a week, lunch and dinner