AMHERST -- I had to make my way over to the Pioneer Valley on Tuesday night for a meeting in Northampton and a trip to Hunt's Photo & Video in Hadley to pick up some black-and-white photo supplies (a new interest of mine).
Then it hit me like a 747: I could have dinner at The Hangar.
I text-messaged some friends about joining me, and my friend Jenn texted back a "Hell yeah," followed by the statement, "I have seriously been craving Hangar for months."
If you're a meat-eater who attended the University of Massachusetts at Amherst at some point during the past 14 years, then, as with Jenn, the mere mention of "The Hangar" may have you salivating like one of Pavlov's dogs.
Less than two miles from Hunt's and just over an hour's drive from Pittsfield, The Hangar is a pub and grille best known for its generously portioned fare at college student-friendly prices, with a lively, casual, sports-themed atmosphere and a rotating selection of craft beer on draft and nitro.
The Hangar also operates a delivery service, Wings Over Amherst, also known as Wings, which is part of a national chain.
Does it have wings? Boy, does it ever. That's also where the aeronautical "hangar" theme comes in.
The menu lists both traditional cut and boneless hand-battered wings, "not that processed frozen junk."
They come with 18 different sauces and dry rubs, from "Bar-B-Que" to "Mustang Ranch" to "Jamaican Jerk." Buffalo-style hot wings come in
The boneless wings are sold by weight and traditional wings can be ordered by servings of seven to 120 wings.
Each platter has a signature name. For example, an order of seven traditional-cut wings is called a "Paper Airplane." Order "The Zeppelin," and you'll get more than six pounds of boneless wings.
In addition to wings, the eatery also serves sandwiches, burgers, wraps, salads, ribs and sides like onion rings and fries.
It was around 6 p.m. when Jenn and I arrived, and the place was full, with a short line waiting. It turns out we just missed their Monday and Tuesday special: All-you-can-eat wings (a selection of three flavors) for $6.
It was of no consequence to us. We were ready to pay whatever to eat our fill. Prices start at $6.49 for small wing plates up to $69.99 for a wing feast. Beer runs around $5 a pint, cheaper for commercial domestics. The Hangar also has a full bar and cocktail menu.
Normally, if you see an empty table, you can seat yourself. When we double-checked with a waitress, she pointed out a small corner booth by the front window which was out of our entry way view, so we headed there.
The waitstaff is really on point with service. They're super quick, friendly and efficient with clearing tables, no matter how busy they are. To me, this has been so since a Hangar wing first hit my lips in 2004.
The high-top booth was perfect for two. The restaurant also offers large high-tops as well as tables and a bar area that seats about a dozen patrons.
Low lights, sports memorabilia and model aircraft suspended from the ceiling add to the atmosphere.
I counted six suspended, flat-screen televisions around the restaurant. Most were showing the Bruins vs. Capitals game, but one in my sight was showing the Celtics vs. 76ers game.
As a Boston hockey fan, my heart beat proudly when the entire restaurant cheered as right wing Shawn Thornton barreled down on Washington's defenseman John Erskine, after Erskine threw the first punches.
The crowd included college kids, a group of women seemingly out for a ladies' night, couples of all kinds, a few families and some blue-collar guys near the bar, which was filled with a jovial din.
Our waitress promptly asked for our drink order. Tuesday's beer menu listed 24 drafts and 12 bottles to choose from, including a gluten-free option. Most beers were available in 16-ounce or 20-ounce options.
Jenn ordered the Breckenridge Vanilla Porter and I tried the Dark Horse Tres Blueberry Stout. Both were good, smooth and full-bodied.
We're both big fans of The Hangar's boneless wings, so we ordered the "727 Skymaster" platter, more than a pound and a half of wings, which we chose to portion in three flavors: chipotle citrus barbeque, honey mustard and garlic Parmesan.
We also ordered "The Crop Duster," a large bowl of salad with iceberg lettuce, red onion, cucumber, tomato, chopped hard boiled egg and real cooked bacon, to share.
Our order came out in prompt succession, as we requested. First drinks, then salad, then wings, which also come with celery sticks and a thick, creamy blue-cheese dressing.
It all hit the spot, just as we hoped, and we both left The Hangar relaxed with full bellies and each with a box of leftovers. Not too shabby for what rounded out to be $22 per person which included our 20 percent tip.
As we got into the car, Jenn thanked me for the invite. "The Hangar is good for the soul," she said.
I couldn't agree more.
To reach Jenn Smith:
or (413) 496-6239
On Twitter: @JennSmith_Ink