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Spiciest Dish In Columbus Series: Quaker Steak and Lube

Triple Atomic, the one sauce we’ve been scared of…

Held up as the be all end all of spicy wings for quite some time, we had to see if the Triple Atomic Wings held up to their molten name.

As a kid, the mother and father of the farm would take me on a yearly adventure to Sharon, Pennsylvania. There were three things that happened on those trips. We’d wander to Daffin’s Candies, see the Christmas lights at Kraynak’s, and we’d go to the OG Quaker Steak and Lube. I can still remember 10-year old Ron looking at the “inappropriate” photos on the bathroom walls, the cars hanging from the ceiling and the first exposure to spicy sauces for wings. In my head, Quaker Steak was the #1 wing spot, hands down. Who else could stack up to the enormous list of options, the cool green buckets of wings and the endless wing buffet?

The father of the farm eating a Triple Atomic wing. Always one to hide his pain, his face turned red, he started to sweat, and then his face went blank, surely burying the heat of the wing deep down. Six years later I tried one for myself and remember sitting with my tongue in blue cheese for a few minutes after. On our crusade for the spiciest dish in Columbus and our tolerance for sauces made with super hots, I wondered if these wings would still hold up. We headed off for their wing lunch buffet to test our meddle.

Quaker Steak and Lube has kept the same themes, sauces (although there are some new ones from time to time) and challenges. The “Eat the Heat” challenge puts you up against 6 of their hottest wings, the Triple Atomic. No time limit, no drink rules, just wings.

the triple atomic wings at quaker steak and lube

About to go nuclear…

With the wing buffet, you can get any wings you want and they’ll bring them out to you (excludes the Triple Atomic). To make sure they hurt the correct person, the Triple Atomic are brought out in a basket with tin foil. The lady of the farm took her obligatory whiff, recoiled initially, but went back for a second sniff. They smelled hot, but also a bit sweet.

I approached the first wing. A crowd had gathered and time slowed as I took the first bite. I was prepared to be destroyed. First bite, then second, third, just waiting for the heat to kick in. Three wings later, I was still waiting for the heat. The crowd that had gathered disappeared (twas only in my mind) and I looked down at the wings I’d finished. I’d been so scared of them going in and had held them to such a high expectation that I was disappointed they hadn’t hurt me more.

The sweetness is nice and the heat (we believe to be habaneros) is fine. Fine. After all these years of having Triple Atomic on a pedestal and I say they’re fine. A bit of brow sweat, a couple of sniffles, but overall pretty easy to take in. Triple Atomic is by far the spiciest sauce Quaker has to offer, but it is nowhere near the spiciest in Columbus.

finished triple atomic wings

…that was it?

The wings were a bit overcooked (probably from producing as many as they can during a buffet) and size is mid-range. We moved down the list with the Dusted Ghost Pepper (doable), Buckeye BBQ (nice smokey sweetness), Dusted Mango Habanero (so fruity!), Arizona Ranch (…), and Louisiana Lickers (our continued favorite at Quaker). No kick from any of them. I sat there questioning my childhood, my life, and wondering if all of my memories were lies. The lady of the farm pointed out that ultimately I had done this to myself from all of the reaper-based sauces we eat and it started to make more sense.

Quaker hasn’t changed their recipe for the Triple Atomic wings. Ever. They continue to roll it out as the hottest sauce, while other establishments are creating reaper and ghost-based wing sauces. For so long, the habanero was the hottest pepper. The Carolina Reaper didn’t gain prominence until 2013, so it makes sense that other sauces out there are spicier. In Columbus Triple Atomic doesn’t break our top 5 and sits below the Fire in the Hole wings from Winking Lizard, taking the #10 spot at the time of this writing.

While disappointing, we’ll still travel back from time to time for the sauces and the nostalgia, but for the true spicy seekers, outside of getting a T-shirt, you can probably skip this one. Wing sauces from Woody’s, Atlas Tavern and the Filling Station are all spicier and the wing quality is better.

triple atomic t-shirt

If you’re looking for all the wings you can eat, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a spot better than Quaker Steak and Lube, but for spiciness and wing quality, there are other options out there.

You can find Quaker Steak and Lube in Polaris at 8500 Lyra Drive Columbus, OH 43240.

Look below for more in our spiciest dish in Columbus series and hit us up if you have any suggestions that are not already on our list!

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