BLOOMINGTON - I was a little surprised when my dentist recommended Mugsy's Pub for a bite to eat, followed by a quick second from my dental hygienist.
Didn't seem like their type of place. But then, on further thought, I realized that I didn't know anything about Mugsy's, a bar at 1310 N. Main St., across from Illinois Wesleyan University. Turns out the food is good enough that people have it delivered.
Funny how we judge based on ignorance. It's also funny that you can miss something good as it sits almost at your doorstep - in my case, 0.2 miles from my front porch.
My dentist said he loves the burgers, called Muggers. My hygienist endorsed the wings.
I drove right over and scanned the menu. At the top right was a claim: "The most awesome wings in town…"
So I decided to sink my newly cleaned teeth into Mugsy's wings. Mugsy's has spent an unordinary amount of time developing its wing business, I assume, as there are 12 flavors - and the claim.
Three flavors evoke the fires of hell: "volcanic," "extreme" and "insane."
I passed on the WMDs. I wanted Mugsy's to show me its people can cook, and it did. My small order (10 pieces, $7) was divided into half lemon-pepper and half chipotle.
First, though, the Arnold Palmer arrived. The barkeep had nicely blended lemonade and iced tea. Usually, for my taste, bartenders are too heavy-handed with the lemonade.
Next came a side salad.
It wouldn't make the cover of a Williams-Sonoma cookbook. But it was more than a lump of lettuce, and it served its purpose of balancing the meal.
The salad was a mix of cabbage and iceberg lettuce, with croutons and carrots. It was served with a homemade blue cheese dressing, which is thinner than most. The cheese was dispersed in small chunks rather than large lumps.
The wings arrived before salad was eaten - not a negative during lunch, in my view.
The lemon-pepper had a delightful balance, which means the recipe has a reasonably light touch with the pepper so as to not overpower the lemon.
The chipotle's smokiness was a nice change-up from the more predictable cayenne. The heat of the chipotle pepper had a delayed reaction. It didn't seem to have full impact until the third wing.
The bill was $12.45, plus tip, and I was back at my office within an hour.
Phil Boulds opened Mugsy's nearly 21 years ago. Additions in recent years have included building expansion, parking and a patio. Boulds also owns Coconut Louie's.
The interior at Mugsy's has a horseshoe bar in the middle and wall-to-wall posters and signs. Darts are big here. Ample TV coverage enables good game-watching.
Mugsy is a fictional character who often is drawn running with a gigantic beer. The Internet site, www.mugsyspub.com, includes an online store with T-shirts.
You can smoke
Smoking is allowed on the patio.
What's odd, given the location, is that this isn't an Illinois Wesleyan hangout. Boulds estimates that 15 percent or less of his business comes from college students. This always has been a townies' pub, primarily driven by blue collar but with white collar, too, plus that smattering of university crowd, he told me.
More on menu
All the appetizers are fried, but the pub also has a lineup of salads and sandwiches. Burgers are made by hand with an 85-15 beef (meat-to-fat content) and charbroiled.
They keep it simple. Miller Lite and Bud are the only two brands on tap, which not coincidentally means Mugsy's buys one each from the major distributors in town.
Mugsy's Pub: 1310 N. Main St., Bloomington, across from Illinois Wesleyan on the stretch between downtown Bloomington and Illinois State University.
Hours: Opens at 11 a.m. daily, except Sunday when it opens at noon. The grill closes at midnight; the bar stays open until 1 a.m. (2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday).
Delivery charge: $2.75 pays for delivery to all but the far outskirts of the Twin Cities. No alcohol deliveries.