I took my visit to Candlelight Inn last week and turned it into a story and a little video for the Super Bowl. As I mentioned in the other post, owner John “J” Tracy plans of serving 70,000 to 80,000 wings on Sunday alone, and he’s opening an entire building next door dedicated to take-out.
Best of Small Bites: Chicken Wings.
Best of Hudson Valley MetroMix Chicken Wings.
Where to Watch the Game — And Eat Great Wings, Too
And Speaking of Wings …
Candlelight Inn to Expand; Adding Entire Building Just for Takeout.
Heading to the Candlelight Inn in Scarsdale…
Here’s a link to the story, but, because those links expire, after the jump, the print story on Candlelight.
The chicken wings at the Candlelight Inn in Greenburgh are so tempting, a vegetarian friend broke down on Monday and ate a dozen of them.
They’re so popular, owner John (“everyone calls me ‘J’ ”) Tracy ordered 16,000 pounds of them this week — that’s 160,000 wings — to cover the orders he’ll need through Sunday’s Super Bowl game.
And they’re so spicy — at least if you order the hottest on the menu — that a couple of guys once said they were causing “a meltdown” in their mouths, and nicknamed the sauce Chernobyl.
Wings and the Super Bowl go hand in hand, and there are few places in the Lower Hudson Valley better known for wings than Candlelight.
Tracy expects to serve 70,000 to 80,000 wings on Sunday alone, when the Indianapolis Colts meet the New Orleans Saints in Super Bowl XLIV.
So what better weekend for Tracy to announce he’s expanding? Takeout is 60 percent of his business, and keeps customers at the dining room tables waiting for their orders, and customers waiting for those tables crowded in the bar. He’s adding an entire building right next door to accommodate the to-go orders. There will also be a prep kitchen. He hopes it will open in May.
“It’s been in the works for about five years,” says Tracy. “At least from the planning stage.” He wants the building to resemble a 100-year-old home, just like the restaurant across the driveway. There will be two porches, one in front that’s wheelchair-accessible and one in back.
You can enter from either side, and you’ll place your order at the counter, which will stretch from one side of the building to the other.
The Candlelight Inn in Scarsdale opened on Jan. 17, 1955. Tracy’s father, John Joseph Tracy Sr., lived in the building in his 20s.
“Then he married my mother, and she said, ‘I’m not living above a bar!’ ” laughs Tracy.
The building was built in 1892, says Tracy, and started out as a grocery store.
It turned into a restaurant sometime in the 1920s, and went under various names and served various styles of food. At one point, it was a steakhouse. Tracy has an old business card from when it was called The Night Spot. It was called the Candlelight Inn when Tracy Sr. bought it, and he kept the name.
Today, the restaurant is synonymous with wings, but it didn’t start that way. Back in the 1960s and ‘70s, the Candlelight was famous for its roast beef on rye and fries.
“My mother used to cook them at home,” says Tracy. “And Friday nights she’d pile us all in the car and we’d come in through the back door carrying the roast beefs.” The sandwiches are still on the menu.
The wings came about 1983 or 1984, he says. And they almost didn’t make it onto the menu.
A guy in the kitchen fried a batch and Tracy tasted them.
“Bleech,” he laughs. “They were awful!” He wouldn’t serve them.
Not long after, Tracy was visiting Lou Bellantoni, a good friend in Florida, and June, Lou’s wife, served wings for dinner. Tracy was apprehensive, but not wanting to be disrespectful, he tried them. They were delicious.
He asked June about her recipe and set about tweaking and developing it for his menu.
His secret? Always fresh — never frozen — wings. If the restaurant is super-busy, he’ll double fry them (but not very long in advance) so he can get the orders to the tables faster. Otherwise, they’re cooked just once. No spice rub. No secret ingredient. Just wings, into the fryer, then tossed with sauce.
The wings are crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. The meat is fall-off-the-bone tender. And here, the wings are served still attached, rather than separated into a drumstick and a wing. They sell so many orders, it’s just easier for the cooks to count them that way.
There are six sauces to choose among: mild, hot, extra hot, barbecue, teriyaki and Chernobyl. Hot is really medium; if you like it spicy, get extra hot. The barbecue is a little too ketchup-y and sweet for me; but the teriyaki has a nice flavor. Also popular is teriyaki mixed with hot.
The “Chernobyl” name came around the time of the nuclear disaster in the Soviet Union. Tracy gave a couple of guys at the bar a screaming-hot batch of wings. One of them kept saying, “My mouth is melting! It’s a meltdown!” and the other said: “It’s another Chernobyl!” (Today the Chernobyl sauce is kept in its own separate plastic blue bottle in the kitchen so there’ll be no mistaking it.)
On Sunday, Tracy expects to serve between 7,000 and 8,000 pounds of those wings for the Super Bowl. Normally, they’re cooked to order, but he’ll start cooking today to keep up with the demand.
“There are endless stories about this place,” says Tracy. “And our customers help us make our business what it is. We listen to what the customers want.”
“My mother used to say, ‘Feed and tend to people like they’re family,’ ” he says. “And luckily , we always feed our family well.”
And now, with the expansion, he’ll feed them faster, too.