Wings and a Prayer 

Nestling in at Mighty Chicken

Nestling in at Mighty Chicken

What is wrong with this picture? Major league base- ball’s 1996 season opened March 31 in Seattle, the Chicago White Sox versus the Seattle Mariners.

For starters, since when did any baseball season open on March 31? In Seattle? Why didn’t this season open like it was supposed to—in Cincinnati, during the first week of April? Secondly, since when has the opening day been an opening night? Which brings us to the third error in this scenario. Whatever happened to fresh air? Since when can anybody throw out the first ball of the season under a dome? Aaargh.

Call me old-fashioned. Call me a stick-in-the mud. But I figure that opening day should mean opening day. The season should open with a 2 p.m. game in a real baseball city. And it should take place in an honest-to-God, grass-fielded, open-aired ballpark, not in a carpeted climate-controlled sports environment. My grandfather Alton is probably turning over in his grave.

The Nashville Sounds’ season gets under way at Greer Stadium Thursday, April 4, against Buffalo. Then, on Monday night, April 8, Mr. Wonderful’s softball team opens its 1996 season.

Around our house, however, softball season has been under way for weeks. The annual shopping trip for new cleats—which consumes Mr. Wonderful in very much the same way I am consumed by the hunt for dining room chairs—has already begun. Already, the yucky neophrene thigh sleeve and the coils of ace bandage wraps have reappeared. Piles of wadded-up sweat socks are accumulating in a corner of the bathroom floor. Half-empty bags of Big League chewing gum have been stashed away on top of the refrigerator, out of our children’s reach.

From now until August, I know that, on Monday and Tuesday nights, Mr. Wonderful will be unavailable, no matter what the occasion or the invitation. Once the weather warms up, I will pack up a bag containing mosquito repellant and a blanket, and the children and I will head out to Paragon Mills ballpark. We will head back home shortly after the beginning of the second game so that I can give the kids a good hosing down before bedtime. After the game, win or lose, Steve and his teammates will repair to Greenlands Pub, a little bar on Nolensville Road, where they swear they find the cheapest cold beer and the best chicken wings in Nashville. There, with Linda, the infinitely patient waitress, as their audience, they will relive their glorious antics.

Naturally, when I decided to investigate Mighty Chicken ’N Fixins, a little storefront operation that specializes in chicken wings, I invited the team along as my taste-testers. After an exhilarating Saturday-afternoon practice session, they jumped at the chance.

Mighty Chicken is located at 1305-B Jefferson St., where it shares a building with a clothing boutique. It stands between 13th and 14th Avenues, close to the Fisk University campus. First baseman Jonathan Stepp recalls that, when he was attending Fisk, he and his wife, a TSU student, would sometimes meet at the same location.

Mighty Chicken, which has been open for just over a year, is owned by Randall Fayne and his partners. Wings—in nine varieties—are the signature dish, but sandwiches, burgers and side dishes are also available.

The drill is simple: You place your order, and you pay in cash. When your chicken’s ready, it comes in a styrofoam box. Wings are accompanied by appropriate dipping sauces—ranch for the Cajun variety, bleu cheese for Buffalo wings, honey mustard for the country version, and so forth. When I arrived at Mighty Chicken, the team had already been there for about 15 minutes, and they had already polished off about three dozen wings of the Cajun and Buffalo varieties. All that was left were picked-clean bones and a pile of wadded-up, greasy napkins. The good news was the thumbs-up the team gave to Mighty Chicken’s wings, which they decreed to be in a league with Greenland’s version. The Cajun wings were pleasantly plump and sported a spicy kick. The Buffalo wings, drenched in sauce, were satisfyingly, but not painfully, incendiary. Both were meaty and fresh, definitely not your frozen-from-the-box, throw-them-in-the-deep-fryer, chain-restaurant appetizer wing thing. These were the real deal, and they scored big time with the team, in quality, quantity and price. You get eight wings for $3.25, 12 for $4.75,16 for $5.99, 24 for $9.25, and a whopping 50 for just $19.99.

The bad news was, when I went to the window to order more, I was informed that all the wings were gone. How could such a thing happen?

Luckily, some customer didn’t arrive to pick up his order, so we fell heir to a box of 24 country wings. They were crispy and tasty, but they didn’t hold up to the champion Cajun and Buffalo order.

Running short of wings, we were forced to sample the rest of Mighty Chicken’s menu. I ordered a whiting fish sandwich, with side orders of fries, onion rings and red beans and rice. The onion rings were a little mushy, but we ate them anyway.

Otherwise, the fish sandwich plate was a masterpiece of Southern regional cooking. There’s no fear of frying at Mighty Chicken. Two huge filets of white fish, cornmeal coated and deep-fried, were jutting out from between the two pieces of white bread. The fish was topped off with raw onion slices and lots of dill pickle; a handful of mustard packets came on the side. The french fries were the kind I adore—crispy, spicy curly-Q’s. Meanwhile, the fat red beans were stirred into a heaping mound of fabulous dirty rice, complete with sautéed onion, green pepper, celery, and chicken livers. I still think the whole thing needed a good dousing of Tabasco.

Later, I related the experience to my teensy-tiny friend Barbara, who practically started drooling. “I don’t eat like that very often, but when I do, I really want to get a good dose of it,” she said. My sentiments exactly.

The only drawback to the spicy-fat repertoire at Mighty Chicken is the lack of adult beverages. There’s no beer—just soft drinks. That—and the limited seating—may well explain the tremendous take-out business.

Call ahead and place your order. Or, better yet, place your order there and, while you’re waiting, walk one block down to the Old Negro League Sports Shop and have a chat with its owner, Larry Walker, a treasure trove of Negro baseball trivia and history. If that doesn’t get you in the mood for the season, nothing will.

Mighty Chicken is located at 1305-B Jefferson Street (327-8005). Open 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Mon.-Thurs.; until 3:30 a.m. Fri. and Sat. Closed Sunday. No credit cards.

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