Although this was another stop on Man vs. Food‘s Pittsburgh episode, Quaker Steak & Lube is actually a chain with several dozen locations mostly in east Pennsylvania and Ohio. Its name is a pun on the Quaker State oil company, and the restaurant’s locations are modeled after 1970’s gas stations, full of license plates and muscle car memorabilia. Truly a unique model, Quaker Steak & Lube is known best for its flashy interiors and its variety of wings. They proudly display their “Best Wings U.S.A.” slogan throughout the dining room, a testament to the many awards the wings have won over the years.
Quaker Steak & Lube offers a lunchtime buffet for $8.99, which I highly recommend. Though only a few types of wings and side dishes are represented, it certainly gives you the chance to try out a bunch of the offerings and see what you like. The day I stopped in, the buffet offerings included salad, vegetables, mashed potatoes, and grilled boneless wings.
- Thai ‘R Cracker: One of the mid-level wings, sweet Thai chili and garlic, the sauce comes on thick and sweet. Good for the slight heat.
- Parmesan Pepper: One of the most neutral flavors, a little bit of salty cheese, a little bit of pepper. A nice easy and crunchy wing.
- Louisiana Lickers: A very gradual heat, with a hot cajun garlic barbecue mix. This one is pretty mild and very pleasantly warm.
- Golden Garlic: One of the warmest flavor before it gets uncomfortable, but still with that nice, zesty garlic sauce.
- Buckeye BBQ: One of the hot flavors, with a hot-sweet flavor that punches you at once. The first wing doesn’t overwhelm you, but the third or forth, watch it!
The Hot wings were very spicy. At 3,000 Scoville heat units (A measurement of how much water is needed to neutralize a spice,) they were just slightly above my comfort range, but nowhere near the 500,000 Scoville units of the new “Triple Atomic” wings, they chain’s newest top offer. Golden Garlic had a very strong flavor, and the Arizona Ranch, despite its name was deliciously creamy. The Dry Rub Ranch wings are a newer offering, as one of several such wings Quaker Steak is experimenting with, and I found them absolutely delicious. Without sauce but still bursting with flavor, each was crunchy and very refreshing.
Quaker Steak’s wings were top quality, but the other items on the menu just fell short. Cole slaw was bland and tasteless. Mashed potatoes had a good texture but were also bland. I tried some of the (grilled) boneless wings which are served with pita. Despite the delicious Louisiana Licker sauce they weren’t all that great. Everything that wasn’t a chicken wing just didn’t stand out. While I can acknowledge most people come here knowing the wings are where it’s at, I would caution against assuming alternatives are just as good for people who aren’t in the mood for them.
Quaker Steak & Lube has a flashy atmosphere, great service and memorable wings, but I’m afraid the side dishes fall sadly short. Come here for all your chicken wing binges, but make everyone you go with plans to binge on wings, too.
- Come here if you like spicy wings, they’re a definite strength of Quaker Steak & Lube.
- If possible, try the lunch buffet for a first visit; it will give you a chance to pick some things you might like.
- If you’ve got bold friends, consider the Atomic Wing Challenge; six wings with Atomic sauce, as seen on Man vs. Food‘s Pittsburgh episode.