I've spent much of my week scoffing at the Dallasites who literally wept over the arrival of In-N-Out Burger this week. An astounding number of double-double, animal-style devotees pitched their tents two days before the restaurant opened, so eager were they to consummate their beef-patty adulation.
"I've missed you," the Dallas Morning News quoted a California-born camper as saying, presumably within earshot of the restaurant. "I love you."
I understand people are passionate about different things. Some people like to build ships in bottles. Some people have pet hamsters. But this much emotion over a fast-food chain? As my former colleague Pete Freedman put it on Twitter (I'll spare you the all-cap format): "Stop crying about In-N-Out Burger, loser."
Right on, Pete. But in what turns out to be a sad case of the deep fryer calling the char-grill greasy, I got my comeuppance yesterday when I learned Wingstop was coming to town.
"Wingstop is coming," I texted my husband, who'd checked the distance to the nearest location as soon as we learned we were moving to Seattle (211 miles).
I want to be clear here: I'm not saying I prefer Wingstop's atomic wings to a freshly shucked oyster or a wedge of artisnal cheese. My palate's not broken. But I like Wingstop's wings better than most any wings I've tried, excepting the hot wings at Zingerman's Roadhouse--and its chef won a James Beard award this week.
But atomic wings aren't the best thing on Wingstop's menu. Like many Wingstop fans, I'm most enamored of the skin-on fries, which I've described as "splinters of creamy Russet potato, fried gold and slathered with a seasoning mix so savory the restaurant's website clarifies there's no MSG in it." They're intoxicatingly starchy and faintly sweet.
And I'm not riding the Wingstop bandwagon alone. In 2003, Troy Aikman's agent called his Cowboy client to tell him "Wingjoint or Wingshack" or something wanted him to serve as spokesman. "If it's Wingstop, I'm in," Aikman responded. He's still a regular customer.
Wingstop is planning to open 15 restaurants in Seattle-Tacoma. The franchises will be operated by a Seattle-based company that five years ago opened the first Wingstop in Los Angeles.
"We lived in San Antonio for a few years and just started as customers," franchisee Andrea Southern recalls. "We loved the wings and thought it would be a great concept for the West Coast."
Los Angeles is now home to 60 Wingstop stores.
"We finally thought this is the time to bring it here and introduce all our friends and family to Wingstop," Southern says, citing the chain's 482 locations in 32 states. "Once they try it, they're going to be hooked."
Wingstop has not yet announced the location of its first Seattle store, but is aiming for an early 2012 opening.
"We just signed the deal a week or two ago," company spokesperson Leah Templeton explains. "We hope to have a location pretty soon."
Thank goodness, Wingstop. I've missed you. I love you.