Foodie News

The Austin restaurant invasion continues in Houston: But is it really good for anyone?

The Austin restaurant invasion continues in Houston: But is it good?

Pluckers Wing Bar chicken wings and french fries
Pluckers Wing Bar/Facebook
Pluckers Wing Bar in Grapevine with big screen TV
(File photo of Pluckers Wing Bar in Grapevine) Grapevine Chamber of Commerce/Google Plus
Pluckers Wing Bar neon sign at dusk
Pluckers Wing Bar chicken wings and french fries
Pluckers Wing Bar in Grapevine with big screen TV

Pluckers Wing Bar — a spot known to just about every student, frat boy and wing lover in Austin — is coming to Houston, having signed a lease for 1400 Shepherd. If you always loved the original Pluckers in Austin, you might think this is great.

But hold on. There are implications that come with turning an icon into a burgeoning franchise (cue the dramatic music). 

I completely understand the desire to make things big. To see your restaurant name on every corner — it's the American Dream.

Will the tradition of eating at Pluckers after a long night on Sixth Street seem less special now though? Uchi, Torchy's and now Pluckers . . .  how many Austin spots do we need clones of?

 Uchi, Torchy's and now Pluckers . . .  how many Austin spots do we need clones of?  

I was first introduced to Pluckers years ago by my cousin who was then a freshman at the University of Texas, staying in the Jester dorms. She would always have these coupons for free wings and appetizers. Since then, no matter what I do in Austin: Austin City Limits, South by Southwest, bar crawling on Sixth . . . I've made time for Pluckers.  

I always order the traditional bone-in wings with medium sauce and, even though I know they are too hot for my comfort, I get three hot sauce wings to see if I can hang (not even close). What makes Pluckers a best wings contender is simply quality. There is actually meat on these bones. The wings are not fried to oblivion or so saturated with sauce or breading that you can only focus on the soggy texture and hope the ranch or blue cheese will save you.

Also, Pluckers Wings are always served fresh and hot — this does wonders for the wing sauce.

Soon I won't have to drive to Austin to try their Dr. Pepper flavored wing sauce. I can just drive 10 minutes to the new Houston location. 

Pluckers has grown significantly since its 1995 debut. Two University of Texas students came up with the restaurant plan in their dorm room and right after graduating, they put it into action. (Read their rather funny stories). Pluckers now boasts 13 locations across Texas, including ones in Dallas, Arlington and San Marcos. The chain has also spread its wings to Louisiana, where it has two restaurants.  

This past Christmas, I visited the Arlington Pluckers. The service was great and the food was decent, but it just wasn't the same. I had a lunch special consisting of buffalo chicken fingers and fries, not the traditional wings I normally order. The overall excitement of enjoying a Pluckers hot wing was somewhat gone.
 
The architecture of many of the new Pluckers buildings could best be called very cookie cutter. They're not as warm and inviting — and they definitely lack the college hangout energy that makes Austin Pluckers memorable and fun.
 
Progress stops for no one — and it often comes with rewards. In 2012, USA Today named Pluckers one of the Top 10 wing bars in the country and ESPN dubbed it a Top 5 Sports Bar.

No doubt Pluckers will do very well in Houston. But it's doubtful anyone will consider it a magic spot.