Word On The Wing

Eddie Eagle's Grill Has Landed

By Rebecca Cook

FOR THE LONGEST time I thought the bright mustard-yellow and tangerine-trimmed building on East Broadway Boulevard specialized in barbecue grills. I guess I just saw the word "grill" emblazoned on the storefront marquee and leaped to my own conclusions.

It wasn't until an A-frame, hand-painted sign appeared along the street one day, announcing "the best chicken wings in town," that I entertained the notion that Eddie Eagle's was something other than an ordinary retail enterprise.

Chow I wandered inside, expecting a small café specializing in all the usual grill items: burgers, Reuben sandwiches, French fries and, of course, the tell-tale wings.

Once again, my conjecture was seriously flawed.

Eddie Eagle's is, first and foremost, an honest-to-God trading post. People bring in their crafts, wares and jewelry, rent space and sell their goods on consignment. The assortment, while not huge, reflects the entire spectrum of Southwest kitsch we've come to know and love over the years--turquoise and silver jewelry, Mexican tile, Kokopelli figures galore and Western wrought-iron work.

But, if you meander towards the back, you'll find a stark white counter where orders are being taken for the "grill" portion of the business, a sideline added just 18 months ago.

What may seem an odd juxtaposition of endeavors makes perfect sense to owner and manager Eddie Quillman, who grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, where his family operated a corner drug store.

"You're probably too young to remember the five-and-dimes," Quillman says. "Our store was the kind of place where you could come in, pick up a few personal items, get your prescription filled at the drug store in back and then sit down at the soda fountain and get something to eat. The idea of having a store that does many different things doesn't seem strange to me at all."

In addition, Quillman likes the energy that a restaurant engenders, especially during the afternoon lunch hour when workers are scrambling to quell their appetites and get back on the job within the course of an hour. The temptation to linger is not a problem at Eddie Eagle's, as the only tables available are in the patio section of the store. This is fine with Quillman, but diners less accustomed to the limelight may feel ambivalent about their stuffed faces being part of the display.

Although by no means fancy--nowhere in Eddie's will you find a "nouvelle" reference--the grill does a fine job of feeding the masses with innovations on some of the classic grill standbys.

Burgers can be as mundane or as extraordinary as you'd like them, but whatever your choice, they'll be a solid quarter- to half-pound of quality ground beef sandwiched between an airy Viro Italian Bakery Kaiser roll.

Specials are offered daily and always include at least one "charburger" variation. Quillman says the most popular of these is the Catalina, which includes cheese, tomatoes, onions, lettuce and thick slices of fresh-roasted green chile. Other favorites include the country charburger (with sautéed ham, onions and tomatoes), and the nostalgic onion burger (with a bundle of deep, dark grilled onions heaped on top).

If you discover a personal favorite among the specials, you don't necessarily have to wait: If all the ingredients are available, it's yours for the asking, on special or not.

Quillman may originally hail from the Midwest, but it would appear his taste buds are thoroughly Southwestern, with many menu items including the spark of our most hallowed vegetable, the chile. Perhaps due to his Italian heritage, he frequently folds pickled pepperoncinis into his sandwiches, with predictably incendiary results. If spicy just isn't your thing, be sure to ask for a mercury reading on the item you're ordering. Otherwise, you may be surprised.

This was, unfortunately, the case with Eddie Eagle's "cheezy joe," a variation on cheese steak that left my poor mother gasping something unintelligible about needing water. Made with lots of thinly shaved, rare roast beef, a blend of chopped onions, tomatoes and onions, an abundance of melted mozzarella and the fiery pepperoncinis, this sandwich would obviously be a smashing success for those with a predilection for combustible comestibles.

My own raves are reserved for the featured chicken sandwiches, which consist of a sizable wedge of moist, skinless chicken breast topped with a variety of ingredients. I heartily recommend the sautéed mushrooms and melted Swiss cheese, which made a filling lunch when combined with a side of potato salad and a large soft drink. (Sandwiches and burgers always include a choice of green salad, French fries or potato salad, and a drink. If it's one of the specials, a five-spot covers the whole deal.)

The notorious wings come in two renditions: the traditional thin, hot-sauce Buffalo wings, and Eddie's own version served with a thick, sweet-hot garlic tomato sauce. Possibly because they're more familiar, I preferred the Buffalo wings, which can be ordered either mildly hot or scorching. The tamer version is plenty zippy, satisfyingly tasty and messy--especially with a side of ranch dressing. I wouldn't rule out the other style on my next visit, but I'll leave the catalytic "barn burners" for braver palates.

Eddie Eagle's offers limited delivery to businesses between Alvernon Way and Wilmot Road, and from Pima to 22nd streets. For all others, carry out is the order of the day--unless you're in the market for patio furniture and would like to try it out before buying. A few breakfast items are available early in the day, most notably biscuits with gravy, which is a perennial favorite.

There's much at Eddie Eagle's that leaves you scratching your head in wonder, but overall, you gotta love it. Where else can you find trinkets ideal for office gift exchanges, a new pair of earrings, and lunch all in one neighborhood spot?

Eddie Eagle's Grill, in the Screaming Eagle Trading Post. 4500 E. Broadway. 795-0000. Open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Closed Sunday. No liquor. V, MC, checks. Menu items: $3.74-$6.79. TW

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