All dishes are made to order in the family-friendly restaurant.
Wings on Fire isn’t exactly your stereotypical wing spot.
You won’t find half a dozen 60-inch flat screens or vintage sports memorabilia plastered over the wallpaper. The usual thick wall of sound — consisting of frantic basketball announcers and classic rock jams — has been replaced by a quiet contemporary radio station.
And of course, the all-too-familiar sound of chicken wings crackling to perfection in a deep fryer.
Inside this newly opened Rita Ranch wing joint you’ll find a cozy interior with minimalist decor and a friendly atmosphere. Owner Chris Lee wouldn’t have it any other way.
Family-friendly dining hot spot
“When our customers come to us,” Lee said. “We serve them just like family.” It’s hard not to feel the emphasis on family even in the restaurant’s layout: two large, sturdy family-sized wooden tables sit centered in the dining area between two rows of glossy red, white, and blue colored booths (bear down!).
The interior decor is simplistic and straightforward, but not without intention — it feels like you’re joining a family for dinner rather than finding a local spot that’s airing the big game.
The employees, all members of Lee’ family, are polite and eager to greet patrons with a smile. (They’re also more than happy to share their favorite menu items with anyone who asks.)
Considering that every meal and side dish is made to order, the fryer-to-table time is relatively quick. (So hold off on chomping down on those jalapeno poppers until they have a moment to cool!)
With experience under their belts, they aren’t winging it
Lee is no stranger to the restaurant scene. He owned and operated another wing-based location in Los Angeles prior to taking his talents to the Sonoran Desert.
Wings on Fire opened in February 2019 and Lee and family have been enjoying the beginning of this new Rita Ranch chapter. “I really love the variety [of people that come here],” he said. “People of all ages young and old are able to come and enjoy our food; I think that’s really great.”
Simple menu offerings with stand-out favorites
The menu here is fairly par for the course, featuring classic wing flavors such as lemon pepper, teriyaki, honey mustard, BBQ, and of course, original Buffalo.
Their Buffalo sauce is the favorite flavor by far, and for good reason: it’s a savory powerhouse and an excellent introduction to their collection of sauces. It starts with a kick of spice, neither overwhelming nor monotone, then follows with a brief hint of sweetness as the heat subsides into a slow lingering burn that you’ll carry from wing to wing. It’s a flavor that capsaicin purists will relish without prevailing over those less spice inclined.
Another standout wing flavor here was their stellar chile lime. Their recipe places more weight on the citrusy tang of the lime rather than the burn of the chile to great effect.
The menu selection that truly makes this venue stand out from its wing contemporaries, is the inclusion of their fantastic Buffalo Shrimp. Available as either panko-fried or coconut, they’re available to order alongside any of the wing sauces and seasonings.
Your everyday restaurateur may hesitate to combine the toasted, mellow sweetness of a coconut shrimp with the aforementioned original wing sauce, but indulge the temptation — you won’t be sorry.
Each of these made-to-order shrimp is impressively sized and fried to excellent texture and taste. Even the popcorn shrimp, often considered the weaker sibling in the shrimp family line, is splashing (pardon the pun) with a crispy and delicate flavor, and in generously sized portions to boot.
Future plans (too soon?)
When asked about any immediate plans for the restaurant, Lee shrugged his shoulders. The Lee family is more than content to settle into their Southeast Tucson home while word of their rocking sauces and eclectic shrimp selection spreads through the suburbs (hopefully).
Lee will say that he’s recently been looking into obtaining a liquor license for the restaurant so that they can add a selection of beer options to their menu. Lee hopes to reunite the long lost lovers of beer and buffalo wings in his restaurant this summer.
Location and operating hours
Wings on Fire, located at 9040 E. Valencia Rd., Ste 100 (on the southwest corner of Valencia and Nexus), is open from 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Sunday.