On November 11, Ace Eat Served debuted yet another project geared towards to-go and delivery orders. Wing Alley follows the restaurant’s summer ghost kitchen — a poke bowl lunch concept by the name of Happy Go Lucky — with a straightforward menu made up almost entirely of the eponymous item. For anyone who has tried Ace’s signature Tiger Wings, the expanded program continues in the same laudable vein — each new sauce and rub incorporating flavors from across Asia. Without ever being too tightly pigeonholed by regional constrictions, the seasoning is generally robust, veering more in favor of complexity than any attempt at overwhelming heat.
Customers can select from four wet and three dry options, with a limited menu of sides, non-alcoholic beverages and boa donuts rounding out the deliberately succinct list. Ace’s standard offerings are still available, with Wing Alley sharing hours and adding lunch — opening extra early on Sunday, at 10:30 a.m., specifically to grace the football crowd with superior snack fare.
Even before chef Thach Tran assumed the reigns in August 2017, wings had been an integral part of not only Ace’s day-to-day menu, but the subject of the spot’s celebrated annual bash Wings and Whiskey. For the uptown hangout — known for spending the better part of the last decade cleverly reimagining the cuisines of China, Japan and Korea — wings are the backbone, a cultural undercurrent that, along with ping pong, has helped to make Ace iconic. And while Wing Alley has yet to be presented amidst the liveliness of a summer function, each dish clearly comes from folks for whom wings have always been a lifestyle.
Plates are available in eight ($11.99), 16 ($22.99) and 24-pieces ($29.99) — with an additional choice of sauce tacked on with each increment. Varied party platters are encouraged. The Tiger Wings — with a sweet and salty lemongrass chili sauce — and the Naked Wings have always been an important part of Ace’s menu, as the Angry Chicken — doused in gochujang chili — helped to create the fertile ground that bore Wing Alley with its recent and well-received addition to the principle selections.
Of the new options, the Lucky Dragon — with sweet Thai chili, garlic aioli and sesame seeds — may be the Tiger’s most menacing contender, entering the ring with proper moist towelette-inducing sloppiness. The Night Owl — with preserved lemon and pepper house seasoning mix, parmesan and chives — has endeared itself as the staff’s favorite, the cheese imparting delicate umami to punctuate the bright citrus. All the wings are thrice-fried, the unmistakable crisp beautifully cutting through even the most sauce-drenched bites. Fried brussels ($10) — with togarashi, sesame seeds and lime aioli — pickled cucumbers ($4.50) and kimchi ($4.50) comprise the modest sides. Each one is delicious, but wings are the point.
The choices are obviously the result of meticulous curation, each vying to uphold the lofty standard set by the Tiger. Even so, Tran says guests can expect some variation down the line. “We are always testing out new flavors and weekly specials will be coming up soon when we find the next winning flavor of wings,” mused the chef.
As with all things to come out of this year, Wing Alley’s future is uncertain. Though Tran says based on its initial success, it appears that the concept won’t be vanishing anytime soon.
Wing Alley is located in Ace Eat Serve at 501 East 17th Ave, Denver. It is open for takeout and delivery Wednesday – Friday from 11:30 – 9 p.m., Saturday from 11:30 a.m. – 9:45 p.m., and Sunday 10:30 a.m. – 9 p.m.
All photography by Alden Bonecutter.