From the outside, WingBucket looks like a fast-food outlet, a small drive-up off Cooper Street with its name written large in a jolly sans-serif font. The chain that started on the far side of Dallas moved into an outpost by UTA this past summer, and were it not for the current pandemic, it would be a great place to stop in, grab some bites, and watch the big game on TV. As it is, WingBucket has plentiful outdoor seating until such time that enough of us are vaccinated to safely gather inside.
One important thing to know before you get there: When WingBucket sells you a chicken wing, they mean the whole wing section: drumette, flat, and tip. This is great news if you’re like me and you like to eat the tip. In any case, you’ll need to adjust your wing order accordingly. The place also does chicken tenders and pork ribs, but I found the tenders undistinguished when two of them came to me between two slices of bread as part of the kitchen’s chicken sandwich. The salad entrees and the chicken and waffles came and went similarly without making much impression on me. In addition to wings, you can also order other chicken parts as part of your order, so if you prefer drumsticks (me again), WingBucket can accommodate you.
The flavors are, for the most part, pretty familiar: lemon pepper, garlic Parmesan, mango habanero, and multiple types of barbecue and buffalo sauces. I had my drumsticks with the orange and ginger sauce that mimics the taste of orange chicken. It was too sweet, but then[,] you could say the same for 99% of the orange chicken served in Chinese restaurants. I can say that applying this flavor to whole chicken pieces is something that works.
Enough of that, though: I have to talk about the peanut butter and jelly wings. When I ordered them, I imagined something unappetizing like a chicken wing coated in sticky peanut butter. Instead, the PB&Js were cooked down into a golden, translucent glaze that set off the meat perfectly. Why was I surprised that it worked so well? After all, many African and Asian food cultures like the earthy taste of peanuts with chicken. (Kung pao, anyone?) The difference is that those cuisines pair the peanuts with spicy ingredients, whereas the pop of sweetness from the red pepper jam marked this out as an American creation. The kitchen’s one big burst of creativity translated to the best entree on the menu.
The sides that I tried were consistently good, with the French fries crispy to my liking and the barbecue baked beans livened by bits of diced red bell pepper. I don’t usually go in for fried green beans, but I chose them to go with my combo platter and found them addictive.
The price point for the entrees is generally competitive with the likes of KFC and Church’s, but with the sides and drinks, I found my bill going higher than the fast-food places. Then again, WingBucket does give you a chicken experience that’s more upmarket than those chains, and I’ll gladly pay the upcharge to have those PB&J wings again.
1308 S Cooper St, Arlington. 11am-10pm Sun-Thu, 11am-midnight Fri-Sat. All major credit cards accepted. 817-422-9261.
Wings (4 with one flavor) $7.50
Chicken sandwich combo platter $9.50
Barbecue baked beans $3-5
Fried green beans $4-5.50