"These are the combos, these are the flavors," employees of the area's first Wingstop patiently explained to befuddled patrons on Saturday, the restaurant's opening day. But displaced Texans who showed up at the store in Bellevue didn't need any tutorials.
"I'm from Texas, so when my wife and I started dating, we used to go to Wingstop," a relieved dad with a gaggle of kids in soccer uniforms told franchisee Greg Southern. "You've saved me a trip to Portland."
Prior to Wingstop opening this Saturday, the chain's local fans were forced to drive to Portland or Richland, Wash. for wings so good that Troy Aikman in 2003 asked his agent whether the restaurant needed a spokesman. Although the Cowboy legend now sits on the Wingstop board of directors, he hasn't yet gotten his fill of garlic Parmesan and lemon garlic wings: He reportedly still patronizes various Wingstops, a relatively easy task in Texas, home to more than 200 stores.
For eaters in states blessed with fewer locations, though, arranging a Wingstop meal requires considerable creativity (I constructed an elaborate carry-on cooler when I last visited Tucson, Ariz. in order to smuggle home a 50-wing family pack for my family of two. Although my plans were complicated by a flight delay that led to me trekking three miles across the Sonoran desert, the wings made it back to Seattle safely.)
Southern, a Seattle native, became a Wingstop customer while living in San Antonio. When he moved to California, he recruited his brother to send him Wingstop care packages, but quickly discovered the chain's wings and utterly fantastic fries weren't suitable for shipping. So in 2006, he and wife Andrea Southern opened an outlet in southern California. There are now 60 Wingstops in the Los Angeles area.