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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Will You Go Out With Me?: Wings Over Plattsburgh

Posted By on Wed, May 13, 2015 at 9:00 AM

click to enlarge Ryan outside of Dry Dock Lounge - ANGELA ARSENAULT
  • Angela Arsenault
  • Ryan outside of Dry Dock Lounge

After a long, frozen winter spent mostly apart (Ryan's band was on tour), Ryan and I wanted to do something extra special for our first date back in the “One Awesome Date a Month” saddle. Our last date was three months ago and between whipping donuts in our car on the frozen lake and eating tasty cider donuts afterwards, it was pretty epic. Thinking there might be a connection between the lake, eating delicious things and having a really fun date, we looked to replicate the combination.

What we came up with is sort of genius. If you happen to be a massive buffalo chicken wing enthusiast who’s seen the spectacular documentary “The Great Chicken Wing Hunt” (like my husband), then it’s date-plan gold.

One of the very first things I learned about my husband was that he had an affinity for buffalo wings unmatched by anyone I’d encountered before. While in college at Tufts, he and a group of similarly obsessed friends attended weekly wing nights at Worldly Wings in Medford. When they graduated, the folks at Worldly Wings bestowed upon the group one canary yellow, mesh jersey (perhaps symbolizing that they were clearly on Team Worldly Wings for life?) which has since been passed around this group of friends like a pair of traveling pants.

So anyway, back to the movie. In it, a motley crew of characters travels around the “wing belt” looking for the best buffalo wings in America and (spoiler alert) one of the places they choose — Dry Dock Lounge — is just on the other side of Lake Champlain in Plattsburgh. Knowing that we could actually get there in under 90 minutes was like a gift to my wing-loving husband. When I agreed to make the pilgrimage as part of our date it was like a party.

We drove to the Grand Isle ferry dock on a ridiculously gorgeous Tuesday morning. As soon as we entered the line-up of cars, trucks and motorcycles all waiting for this giant hunk of iron to carry us across the water, we both felt transported. There’s just something about water, about boats maybe, that makes it feel like you could be almost anywhere. The dry-witted ferry ticket guy quipped that we were only traveling 1.7 miles, but that didn’t matter. We were on a journey together.

After boarding the vessel, we got out of our car and went up a set of stairs to sit on a bench and enjoy the views. As the breeze mussed our hair and sent a chill down my back, I was reminded of a trip Ryan and I took to Scotland a lifetime ago. I huddled next to my husband for shelter from the wind and felt a hint of, what do they call it…? Romance.

The scenery that greeted us along the drive into Plattsburgh from the ferry dock was not particularly romantic, but it was exotic in its own way. A cluster of abandoned lakeside motels to make the imagination run wild, a 1950's diner touting its “Red Hots” on a sign from the same era, and finally, the Dry Dock Restaurant and Lounge, in all of its dive bar glory.

As we approached our Mecca-for-the-day I must admit I felt slightly intimidated. You can’t really see into the windows, which isn’t very inviting, and there seemed to be nobody else there.

“I don’t know about this place, babe,” I said.

“That’s why we should go in,” Ryan replied.

Of course, as soon as we opened the door we were greeted by the happiest bartender this side of Lake Champlain.

“Hiiiii, guys! Come on in! Ya here for lunch? What can I getcha?” she said.

We ordered two beers, a soup of the day, a grilled chicken sandwich and one order of medium buffalo wings. The beers were cold, the soup needed a little salt, the sandwich was saved by the garlic butter and the wings — oh, those wings.

I don’t generally love the wing-eating experience. The little appendages are often over-spiced for my wimpy palate and it’s an awful lot of work for not a lot of meat. But these wings were different. They were big, first of all, and perfectly spiced. It wasn’t just the typical Frank’s hot sauce and butter combo, there was pepper on these wings. And it made all the difference.

Ryan, clearly the established expert, described the wings as “super solid,” which is actually high praise given his level of wing snobbery.

click to enlarge Polished-off wings - ANGELA ARSENAULT
  • Angela Arsenault
  • Polished-off wings

The Dry Dock itself is just what you’d expect: dingy carpet, a couple of televisions, scent of a hundred-year-old bar; in short, charming. And surprisingly perfect for an awesome date.

We left the Dry Dock feeling like we’d completed a mission. Since we had a little time before we needed to get back to the ferry, Ryan capitulated to a quick stop at another mecca — the one they call “Target.” It was a surgical strike, just long enough for me to make sure this Target actually exists, that it isn’t like the post-apocalyptic Target where we used to live in Brooklyn, and to know that I can actually get to it whenever I want. (Don’t judge. I find this comforting.)

With checkmarks in both of our “Things that make a trip to Plattsburgh complete” column, we returned home victorious. And the best part: we laughed at ourselves and our slightly bizarre “needs” the whole time. If you can both just go with it and let your quirks be your guide when planning a date, then sense of humor wins and will not steer you wrong. 

Lake Champlain Ferries has frequent departures between Grand Isle and Plattsburgh. Click here for a schedule. 

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