HEUVELTON — Every small town in America has its covered-dish church supper, its fire department chicken barbecue, its spaghetti and meatball fundraiser in the school cafeteria.
It's an opportunity for a small community to come together and socialize, keep in touch and keep up with a little local gossip.
While Heuvelton no doubt has its share of church suppers, firemen's barbecues and spaghetti dinners, it also has Doug's Tavern.
Doug's is an icon in the center of downtown. It's been there for years — so many years, even some of the locals I asked at Pickens General Store down the street couldn't remember.
Every Wednesday night, it's wing night at Doug's Tavern. I stopped by last week with three buddies on an impromptu "guys' night out." Really, what's better than some chicken wings and a few brewskies at a friendly local tavern?
Doug's is a tavern in the true sense of the word. A long "L"-shaped bar runs nearly the entire length of the large room. There's a pool table and an electronic dart board and a jukebox. Neon beer signs grace the front windows and provide some of the interior decorating.
There are a couple of TVs hanging on the wall behind the bar, one tuned to ESPN, the other to "Jeopardy." A crowd of mostly 20- and 30-somethings lines the well-stocked bar along with a smattering of old timers wearing their John Deere high-top baseball caps.
The bar was stocked like a country bar — Coors Light, Budweiser, Amber Bock and Labatt's Blue Light on tap and bottles and cans and the usual array of liquors. Don't expect to get a German Hefeweisen or a Czech Pils here. And it really didn't matter. The Blue Light and the Bud we were drinking tasted every bit as good as a Hacker Pschorr Weisbier in the down-home ambiance of Doug's.
The rest of the room is filled with long rows of tables covered with inexpensive white paper tablecloths, in turn covered with some hardware store sheet plastic.
The chairs are filled with people of all ages, from toddlers in booster seats to their parents and grandparents. Everyone is eating or chatting or laughing.
The atmosphere is warm and welcoming.
So here were are, although thoroughly dressed down and appropriately flannalized, four out-of-town strangers walking into Heuvelton's version of the local community hall, and not one person breaks conversation or turns around to size us up. And there had to be 100 people in the place, easily.
We quickly grabbed a tall table with barstools that separates the bar area from the dining area. A perfect spot to enjoy the whole spectrum of activity. It didn't take long at all for a friendly young waitress to greet us, explain the finer points of wing night, and run our order to the kitchen.
We got nine orders of wings, six to an order, with each of their sauces: mild, medium, hot, barbecue, sweet and sour, honey mustard, honey garlic, butter garlic and "grande," creating a wing tasting, of sorts.
Now how cool is this: The wings came in those little paper boats, and without our asking, each boat was labeled with the name of the appropriate sauce, inscribed with a black Sharpie. Additional boats contained celery sticks; several plastic cups contained blue cheese dressing.
The wings arrived hot directly from the fryer, they were generally crispy; the "hot" wings were hot without being painful. "Grande" is a combination of hot sauce and Catalina salad dressing.
Other than that ... what can you say about wings? They've practically become one of America's food groups over the years, and the amount of people in the room downing chicken parts that once were a throw away item were a testimonial to that.
In addition to wings, we could have had fries (regular or sweet potato), onion rings, mozzarella sticks or a variety of other classic deep fryer offerings that made you want to go home and double up on Lipitor. And there's pizza, too. But at 40 cents a wing and pints of draft beer for two bucks, why shop any further?
The food tab came to $26.75. We didn't keep track of the bar tab, but I'm quite sure it exceeded the amount we spent for the wings. Hey, a restaurant can't give wings away and not make money somewhere else. We did our part.
And as we were leaving, around 9 o'clock, the crowd began to swell again. Later, we learned that wings are served until 11 on wing night.
Doug's Tavern in Heuvelton gave us a taste of small town Americana. Stop by on wing night to see what we discovered.
I had the opportunity to try some great smoked meats made by a Polish sausage maker in Western New York. His business, European Meats and Deli, is located in Gasport, north of Buffalo. Owner Walter Sadujko is the son of a butcher in Poland and brings old-world tradition to the craft.
What a great sausage fest! I got to try double-smoked Polish sausage, hunter's sausage, Hungarian hot sausage and smoked pork ribs.
The Polish sausage was thoroughly dried, much different from commercial kielbasa found in supermarkets. The drying concentrates the flavor and firms up the texture.
The hunter's sausage was similar, but with the addition of juniper berries and more black pepper and only smoked once
Hungarian hot sausage was smoked but not cooked like the others. It was long on paprika, which overshadowed the more subtle flavors.
The smoked ribs were a lot like ham, but a little fattier. They'd make a good base for a great pea or bean soup, but didn't fit the bill for a night of sausage sampling.
European Meats and Deli is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday. They generally have 15 to 20 products in the meat case and generously provide samples for their customers.
For more information, you can give them a call at 1(716) 772-2950. There's also a 2008 review of European Meats online: http://gasportnewyork.blogspot.com/2008/02/buffalo-news-looks-at-european-meat.html.
You can contact restaurant reviewer Walter Siebel via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
26 State St.
A country bar with a community feel — a taste of small town Americana.
HOURS: 1 p.m. till closing seven days a week
Kitchen open Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
Wednesday is wing night. Enjoy chicken wings with nine different sauces in an atmosphere that feels like a local community hall.