Chewsy, a food-review app developed by off-duty Microsoft workers, has acquired users in 25 countries and won coverage from The New York Times. But the app still hasn't connected its inventors with the city's best Buffalo wings, the grail which inspired the start-up.
Chaitanya Sareen and his pals realized their wing search could be simplified by an app that allowed users to rate specific dishes instead of restaurants. They didn't care whether an eatery had decent bathrooms or ample parking, so long as it served crisp-skinned wings.
"That's what people get wrong," says Sareen, who now serves as Chewsy's CEO. "They slobber it in sauce and it's got that soft, soaked feel to it."
The free app, which debuted 10 months ago, steers diners toward praiseworthy dishes that may or may not emerge from critically acclaimed kitchens. Within a half-mile of the Weekly offices, Chewsy recommends seeking out a summer corn soup at BOKA Kitchen and Bar; the tuna sandwich at Mel's Market; and king crab legs at Elliott's Oyster House. Sareen says the app solves the problem posed by restaurateurs' typical reluctance to promote specific dishes.
"Restaurants have advertisements, but they never advertise their products," he says. "It's very rare they say 'These are the dishes you have to try."
But when customers take to online restaurant-review sites to gripe about disappointing dishes, restaurant owners often wish they'd bothered to point out a few standouts. "Then there's regret," Sareen says.
Chewsy's designed to serve discerning eaters who end up in restaurants they didn't select, and culinary adventurers willing to brave sketchy surroundings for an incredible dish. But thus far, it hasn't turned up the right plate of wings.
"I can tell you where to get great Italian, but with wings, nothing has knocked my socks off," says Sareen, a Queens native who's lived in Seattle for 11 years. "The search for a perfect wing continues."
Sareen hopes the search might end next month in Alki. He's picked up a tip about a wing maven named "Sweet Lou" who makes wings at Alki Tavern--but only on the first Monday of each month.
"It's kind of shrouded in mystery," Sareen admits. "But this guy swears they're crispy and spicy and everything you'd want in a wing."