Wild Goose's Bartending Photographer Captures 'Wing Night' Weirdness

By Mark Konkol on February 17, 2014 8:16am 

LINCOLN SQUARE — For the last three years or so, Liz Salas has been both bartender and wing-delivery waitress at Wild Goose, a Lincoln Square joint that offers award-winning wings — succulent chicken deep fried and soaked in a variety of the best sauces in Chicago for 20 cents a pop on Mondays.

"People love them some wings, especially when they're 20 cents," Salas says. "From about 5 o'clock until the kitchen closes there's usually a wait for tables. There's people eating wings in every possible nook and cranny."

During these wing-eating frenzies, wing carcasses sometimes wind up in some pretty entertaining places.

"The first time I noticed it was when one of the waitresses found a chewed up wing bone in her apron at the end of her shift," Salas said.

"Imagine fishing around in your apron looking for a pen and coming across something cold, wet and slimy that had had someone's mouth on it. Oh, she screamed. It was definitely traumatic. Let's just say she doesn't work Monday nights anymore."

And since that moment, Salas, an amateur photographer of significant skill, snapped photos of some of the funniest moments that Wing Night could muster.

She started to call her chicken-bone subjects "dead soldiers" after her first work of wing art — a portrait of a toy soldier pointing a rifle at a discarded, half-eaten wing a customer left behind at the bar — was posted on Instagram.

Since then, Salas has captured iconic images of wing bones dangling from napkins, cuddled together in the shape of a heart and the aftermath of a Wing Night disaster that earned waitress Katie Smaluk her nickname, "Blue Cheese Smalls."

"The place was packed, and I was carrying seven or eight caddies when Alex the barback came backing out of the kitchen, his arms filled with wings," Smaluke said. "We collided and I ended up covered with wings and sauce. It looked like I was wearing a blue cheese necklace. When Liz saw it she said,  ‘Wait, don't move,' and got her camera."

Moments like those make Wing Nights at the "Goose" memorable.

"I like to take pictures of things that inspire me. My dogs, Luna and Ruby. I like to take pictures of beer," she said, laughing to herself. "And those moments when things happen and I'm like, 'Oh. My. God. Why is no one seeing this?' "

Salas is gearing up for more silly wing moments as Chicago inches closer to "Wing Season" — the time of year when local bars compete at the 15th Annual Chicago's Best Wing Fest. This year, the event is on Sunday.

Wild Goose restaurateurs Andrew and Layna Van Ermen plan to unveil a wing soaked in a new "secret sauce" at the competition, a sauce they say is best described as "spicy pad thai."

Salas says the new flavor is sure to create the kind of buzz that provides Salas with plenty of photographic inspiration for her dead soldier collection on Instagram.

"On Wing Night," she says, "you never know when something ridiculously funny is going to happen. When it does, I'm ready."

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