When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out, let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened — an occasion to sample a few items and satisfy curiosities (both yours and ours).
Restaurant: Jupiter Rings Wings & More
Location: 4700 North 12th Street, #122
Open: A month
Eats: Wings, American dishes, and vegan options
Price: $5 to $25
Hours: 1 to 9 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday; 1 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, closed Sunday and Monday
Last month, we told you about Jason Higgins’ journey to opening Jupiter Rings Wings & More. It involved a mountaintop eureka moment, demoing buffalo sauce at the gym, “and more.”
Jupiter Rings opened May 15, the day stay-at-home orders in Arizona were lifted. But when approaching the heavily vegetated entry to this new Phoenix restaurant, nestled in a charming, two-story complex at 12th Street and Highland Avenue, you feel like you’re still at home. Or, at least, somebody’s home. Ivy grows thick, the sun is banished, and the staff greets you with a "Peace and love” when you enter.
The dining room is narrow and modern. The crew is young and busy, and Higgins is likely around somewhere But on this day, we were picking up food — in and out.
Full disclosure: I live more than 12 miles away from Jupiter Rings and had to deliver a vegan buffalo chicken sandwich order to someone before I could start on my wings. (I don't recommend traveling in a compact car with wings that smell this good, during rush hour, on an empty stomach.)
The wings are smallish, so spring for 15 if you’re normally satisfied with 10 larger wings. However, their petite size means the flavor permeates the entire piece, from the crunchy curls of coating to the closest-to-the-bone meat. I usually ask for extra-crispy wings just to get a crunch, but that customization is not necessary here.
The Cajun seasoning is a strong dry rub, leagues above a sprinkle of Tony Chachere's Original Creole Seasoning. The Hennessy flavor was also intriguing, but is again a strong, savory dry rub. If you were hoping for a sweeter, barbecue-style sauce, just stick with barbecue.
You can add ranch or blue cheese on these wings. Don’t. It quiets the intensity of the rub. I couldn’t wait to get through my ranch-coated bite just to continue eating the wing without the dipping sauce.
Looking back, we should have ordered wings with the Jupiter Rings Buffalo Sauce — the product that started it all. But flavors like Cajun and Hennessy, even lemon pepper and mango habanero, were too enticing. Next time.
The only victims of my travel time were the fries. Jupiter Rings has some fun with the fries section of the menu, mixing and matching tots, shoestring, and sweet potato fries with toppings like pizza, carne asada, a loaded baked potato arrangement, and cheesy garlic shrimp. I went with chili cheese waffle fries. The poor takeout order had congealed cheese and slightly less hot chili. But a quick reheat did the trick. We can only imagine (and hope to soon find out) how good these can be fresh, in the restaurant.
The vegan buffalo chicken sandwich, found on the “And More” section, is $5. I didn't try it, but I'm told the bun has a slight sweetness and pillowy texture somewhat reminiscent of Portuguese sweet bread. Jupiter Rings also offers a vegan naked chicken sandwich, as well as vegan treats, including vegan cookies from the Goodyear-based Belle Sweets Bakery.
The only disappointment was that Jupiter was out of the vegan wings this day. But that's not a total letdown. It's just another excuse to return soon.