We’ve been waiting patiently since Wings Over Ithaca closed abruptly last fall, after the franchise owner was charged with 26 counts of tax evasion, and the east hill eatery is finally opening in its new home!
“We’ll be opening next week,” says Dan Leyva, who comes from Ithaca Hummus and is one of four partners, all Cornell alums. There’s one inspection remaining in the kitchen before they can open.
Update: Wings Over Ithaca will open its new Collegetown location at 11am on Friday, March 24th.
Former Wings Over Ithaca general manager Mitchell Blinn told us in January, “We were able to keep our management group together, and we have some ideas to make this Wings Over Ithaca much better than before.” Despite having the same name, the business has no connection to the local franchise that closed last fall. It’s a brand new company with a new Wings Over franchise agreement.
Blinn and his team are opening their new location at 121 Dryden Road in Collegetown. The vacant storefront was a Smokers Choice outlet for a couple of years, but it’s best known to locals as the home of the Greek House, a family restaurant that offered diner fare, fresh pizza, and Greek specialties for decades until it closed in late June 2006.
“Dine-in won’t be as much of our business” as it was in East Hill Plaza, Blinn tells us, though there will certainly be room for people to come in and enjoy a meal. “We’re going to focus more on take-out and delivery,” which were already the strong suit for the Wings Over franchise.
That focus should also mean there’s plenty of room for both Wings Over Ithaca and Jack’s Collegetown Grill, right across the street. Jack’s also has a heavily take-out and delivery-focused business, and while Jack’s owner Kevin Sullivan told us in the fall that they’ve been “doing boneless and bone-in in high volume at Jack’s,” their menu is much broader than that. Blinn and Sullivan are friends, and Blinn says, “Our businesses will be mutually beneficial. More places to eat. More people will come to the area.” That has turned out to be true on Downtown Ithaca’s Restaurant Row, where seeming competitors do very well side by side.
You can still dine in, though, and Blinn points out that paying a buck for an hour of parking in the Dryden Road parking ramp right across the street is even cheaper than paying a delivery fee, never mind tipping your driver.
“I have great memories of Collegetown,” says Blinn, who used to come to work with his father at the old Egan’s Shur-Save, a College Avenue supermarket that closed about thirty years ago. “I’m ready to make some [memories] of my own.”
Like its predecessors in Albany, Storrs, and other areas, this locally franchised wingery, which opened at East Hill Plaza almost 15 years ago, focused on serving and delivering hot, fresh, meaty chicken wings, as well as hand-battered “boneless wings,” or chicken tenders. Their 24 flavors, including five iterations of hot sauce, a few dry rubs, and several gluten-free varieties, blew everyone else’s offerings out of the water.
“One of our advantages is that our wings stay crispy even when they’re delivered,” rather than getting soggy the instant they head out the door, says Blinn. He says that’s because they steam the wings after they’re coated with corn starch, and before frying them.
If you had an old stand-by sauce, Blinn suggests branching out when the new wingery opens. “Get a couple of flavors and let them blend, like honey mustard and Jet Fuel,” one of the five levels of hot, Buffalo-style sauce.
The menu at Wings Over Ithaca also included chicken wraps, burgers, and unexpectedly great fall-off-the-bone BBQ ribs. Just about the whole menu has transferred to the new location, though they won’t have the cooler of single-serving wine and beer bottles for now.
Crews have added a completely new kitchen, with all new equipment, to the Dryden Road building — it had been entirely cleared out from its past incarnations — and the restaurant will be ready to start serving wings and chicken tenders again by the end of March.
Where else can you get wings, until Wings Over Ithaca returns?
Once they’re open, you can find Wings Over Ithaca at 121 Dryden Road between College Avenue and Eddy Street, at wingsoverithaca.com, and at 607-319-4664.