A Wing-Off at Serum’s Good Time Emporium

A friend and I get ready to eat an order of 50 chicken wings at a restaurant in Anoka, Minnesota

A co-worker walked by and saw this picture on my screen. She pointed at my face and said, “There’s that dumb smug grin!”

The first 25 wings went down like dots on the very first level of Pac-Man. It was artful savagery; so mellifluously did we operate, I second-guessed whether 25 more was even enough.

What if,” I said to Mohamed, “we got 50 more instead of 25 more?

I work with Mo. He had challenged me to a wing-eating duel. His eyes shifted a little, then he nodded.

Yeah,” he said, “Yeah, I’ll do it.”

We pulled the waitress back and adjusted our order.

So you’re having 75 total, then?” she said.

Yes. Seventy-five total. We nearly got ’em all, too.

The Basics: According to the Serum’s website, they occupy a building roughly 130 years old in Anoka. It’s a block off Main St., on Jackson. The rush hour is nothing to sleep on up there, and their municipal parking ramp was packed when I pulled in at 5:30. Anoka’s a real city, okay? Serum’s website.

Anoka steps up: A line forms at the front door during busy times, unless you’re an obese man who just walks in and oozes into a booth. What are they gonna do, move you? This fat man knew this, and told off the waitress when she notified him of the line.

It could be worse, though: a friend had his ignition stripped last month by wannabe car thieves at the Northstar train station up there.

A plate of 50 chicken wings on a table at Serum's Good Time Emporium in Anoka, Minnesota

Anyhoo, we both showed up late. Late for me meant 5:15; late for Mohamed meant 6:00ish. It was to the point I thought this was an elaborate office prank (it was April Fool’s Day, after all). With my time, I took stock of everything I saw hanging from the first-floor ceiling at Serum’s.

SERUM’S CEILING INCLUDES, BUT IS NOT LIMITED TO: neon signs displaying a watch, Fitgers beer, etc.; baseball mitts; a golf bag; a catcher’s mask; a scooter; several bicycles; several chairs; a little red wagon; guitars painted with the logos of booze brands; a classroom desk; an easel? I believe it’s an easel; an airplane; banners; an ice cream advertisement; a miniature tractor; a tricycle; a Buster Brown Shoes neon, and the greatest thing in existence (approx.); boots; a crib with a fake baby inside; a sleigh with a keg hanging beneath; a CASHIER sign; ceiling fans; a weather vein; a wheelchair; an unidentifiable green metal thingamajig; a toy fire truck with a doll in the passenger’s seat, but no driver; a toy horse; toy airplanes; a bouncy baby seat that looks like Jigsaw designed it for a Saw movie; numerous toy trucks; pieces of farm equipment I didn’t get close enough to identify because I was already creeping out patrons; and “Tulip shop lunch soda.” I’m not sure what exactly I meant by that. There was a lot going on.

The plan was to order a 50-set from the jump and see who could eat 25 wings first. When Mohamed arrived, it was clear we’d have no audience … so why not just eat wings like gentlemen, then?

So, we did. We ordered five each of Habanero Hots (“Something special for the insane” the menu reads); Honey Mustard; Garlic, Garlic, Garlic; The Flying Fajita Wing; and Ragin’ Cajun. We made the mistake of eating the Hots first, but not for the reason you’d suspect.

These aren’t even that hot,” we said.

We kinda-whatevered our way through the Hots and moved on to the others. The Ragin’ Cajun and Flying Fajitas tasted similar, but were nonetheless delicious. The Garlic and Honey Mustard were distinguishable, and rightly-flavored. Serum’s wings aren’t wimpy; unlike the schlock you’d get at Buffalo Wild Wings or the Wide World’s Worst Wings, these were hearty and cooked right. There’s a reason we drive 30 miles for this.

A friend and I getting ready to eat our first order of 25 wings at Serum's Good Time Emporium in Anoka, Minnesota

The first 25 wings, seconds before being eaten

Our waitress recommended the China Syndrome wings instead of the Habanero Hots, suggesting they’re hotter, but we upped the ante by dialing up 10 Habanero Hots, 10 China Syndrome, 10 Chernobyl, 10 Ranchilada, and 10 Wild West.

Of course we dove into the China Syndrome first, and the waitress was right this time. You know in the Looney Tunes, where Wile. E. Coyote runs off a cliff but doesn’t start falling until he looks down?

We just looked down.

I feel like my hair is on fire,” said Mohamed. I, meanwhile, asked for additional napkins to accommodate my now-leaky nostrils. While Mo dabbled in other flavors, I hung in and finished my five China Syndromes before moving on.

The China Syndrome wings were my favorite, no question. They had the heat, they had the flavor, and the sauce texture was perfect. They were sticky, messy, and lit your lips up. There wasn’t a bad flavor in the pack, though.

The Chernobyl wings were the only ones left unfinished; there was a thickness to the sauce that, in that particular moment, just didn’t jive. The Ranchiladas and Wild West were lighter on sauce, just as tasteful, and provided much-needed respite between Syndromes.

Unofficially, Mo had 13 wings on the first plate and I 12. On the second plate, officially, I had 26 and Mo 17. That meant a 38-30 victory for your not-so-humble-right-now author.

None of us had wings the next day.

I took the elevator up the ramp to my car because the stairway was so thoroughly covered in vomit, you couldn’t pass without stepping in it. Stay classy, Anoka.