March 31, 2018 // Connor Dziawura // East Valley Tribune 

A Valley staple for nearly 40 years, Native Grill & Wings – formerly Native New Yorker – is throwing it back to the classics, while also looking to the future.

Earlier this month, the popular wing chain started serving four former customer favorites as part of its limited-time Throwback Menu. The menu lasts through April 30.

Jalapeño Puffs a limited time offer as part of the Native Throwback Menu
Jalapeño Puffs a limited time offer as part of the Native Throwback Menu

“When we got rid of some items, we got a lot of feedback from guests – whether it be on social or through our app – saying they wanted these particular items back,” said Native PR & Marketing Coordinator Adriana Espinosa at an insider tasting event. “So, we decided to do a limited-time-offer menu with all of our throwback items from our old-school Native days.”

The Throwback Menu includes jalapeño puffs, curly fries, cheesy garlic bread and cheese and crackers, the latter of which is a surprise favorite. Formerly served at every table, the idea is simple – a plate of saltine crackers with a cheddar cheese spread.

One of the most requested items on the limited-time menu, though, is jalapeño puffs.

“Jalapeño puffs was something that our guests craved on a regular basis,” said Steve Snyder, the IT/systems manager. He is also the executive chef at company headquarters’ test kitchen in Chandler.

The item, as described by Snyder, is an eggroll wrapper stuffed with a sharp cheddar cheese spread and brined jalapeños. But be careful; while tasty, this item is sure to turn up the heat. Starting with a nice crunch, one bite quickly gives way to the item’s cheesy filling and spicy jalapeños. Though it doesn’t quite reach the levels of the infamous ghost pepper, a satisfying kick is present for the mild palate.

“Very simple, but that was the kind of food that Native was raised on,” Snyder added. “It was all simple food. People like it.”

Curly fries were restored for the Throwback Menu “because it’s one of those things that you got to have,” Snyder said. Though not as peppery as Native’s signature fries, the classic twist is a satisfying and essential appetizer. But there’s a reason Native boasts such tasty fries.

“One of the things that makes the fries always taste the best is we have a parmesan, garlic and asiago cheese especially made just for us based on our proprietary recipe,” Snyder said. “That’s why Native fries taste the way they do.”

Aside from limited-time items, however, Native boasts one other recent launch: Native Buffalo Fries. Though it also debuted this month, this one isn’t limited.

Sure to be a filling appetizer, the item starts with a base of the restaurant’s signature fries, then adds the similarly new Native sauce and a “healthy little dosage” of chicken strips, Snyder said. An extra side of the new Native sauce is also given. To top the plate off is a medium sauce (which has a minimal kick), though this can be substituted for a variety of heat levels. Boasting sauces and dry rubs, Native has over 20 kinds.

“It’s really cool to see the combinations,” Espinosa said.

One final addition to Native’s arsenal is its boneless wings, which are prepared in-house. The item was completely redesigned last year.

“We panko bread it ourselves, dredge it in buttermilk, so it’s an entirely different product than what we had served in the past,” Snyder said.

Unlike some breaded items, however, it’s not overtly dry. The breading is very light, while the flavor is strong – depending on your choice of sauce. One interesting choice is mango habanero. With one bite, the mango immediately becomes apparent. But that’s when it hits. The habanero is quite strong, boasting a decent kick that lingers. Not to say it’s a detractor, though, as individuals looking for a little bit of sweet – and a little bit of heat – may find satisfaction.

Founded in 1979 by two natives of Buffalo, New York, the restaurant began as a pizza shop before transitioning to wings. CEO Dan Chaon took over in 2010, and it rebranded from Native New Yorker to Native Grill & Wings in 2014.

“This is our brand, so we’re very proud of it,” Chaon enthused.

This article also appeared in the West Valley View.