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Mystery Diner: Jexal's Wing-Zeria in McHenry does food right

New restaurants can be hit or miss.

It’s tough to get things exactly right immediately, which is why many open softly to make sure things are functioning correctly first.

It’s also not always easy to handle the crowds that come along with being the new place.

Jexal’s Wing-Zeria, however, is clearly handling it well.

The restaurant is set up with two main areas, the dining room where you enter and a bar area in the back. There were two of us and we got one of the tables in the bar area that’s just off Green Street in McHenry.

It’s a whole new structure and has the look and feel of it, part of a revival of Green Street that’s looking great. The building featured reclaimed wood and steel to give it a rustic feel.

I had driven past a few times and, on Wednesday night, the place was packed. But that didn’t prevent us from getting quick service.

I started off with the Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout, a specialty they have on tap for a very limited time that’s worth the trip on its own. The glass was $8 and they limit each customer to two.

They have a special $8.49 express lunch menu with a soup or salad and a choice of several sandwiches or five wings.

But we were there for dinner, so we could choose from the pizza menu, the wing menu or the regular menu.

Usually, I’m all for trying out the wings with heat. But I just wasn’t up for the challenge on Wednesday. So my fellow diner and I ordered five bone-in wings apiece ($6.50 each).

He chose the sweet and tangy while I had bourbon-flavored wings.

Wow, were they good. There was plenty of sauce and they’re the good wings for sure, with a ton of meat on the bone.

There are so many options, from breaded and non-breaded bone-in wings to thighs, pork ribs, boneless or strips with a bunch of flavor options in each of the five heat categories: Sweet, medium, dry, hot and crazy hot. They warn on the menu that crazy hot is actually crazy hot, at your risk, and they won’t give refunds if it’s more than you can handle.

You can add extra heat to any of the sauces, plus blue cheese, ranch, avocado ranch or red chili, along with celery, carrots or broccoli.

I hit up the main menu, as well.

There are 12 appetizers, from lettuce wraps ($8) to cheese curds ($9) to fried calamari ($11) to stuffed jalapeños ($8). There are six sandwiches, five pita wraps, five burgers, five flatbreads, three pastas and four salads.

I debated the pot roast sandwich ($10), which made my fellow diner say, “You eat some weird food,” but ultimately settled on the pollo loco ($10), which came open faced on a baguette with a chicken breast, melted pepper jack, roasted jalapeño and pico de gallo.

I paid the $2 for the sweet potato fries upgrade and it came with several pickle slices, as well.

I took my time and ended up with an awesome meal.

I was uncertain how to eat the sandwich at first, so I started with a knife and fork and finished by picking it up and folding it together.

I don’t really care that it was too hefty to hold from the start because it was darn good.

I’m sure I’ll be headed back to Jexal’s soon, probably before they run out of Bourbon County Stout.

• The Mystery Diner is an employee at the Northwest Herald. The diner’s identity is not revealed to restaurant staff before or during the meal. The Mystery Diner visits a restaurant and then reports on the experience. If the Mystery Diner cannot recommend the establishment, we will not publish a review.

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IF YOU GO

WHAT: Jexal’s Wing-Zeria

WHERE: 1260 N. Green St, McHenry

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Tuesday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Wednesday, 11 a.m. to midnight Thursday, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday-Saturday.

INFORMATION: Call 815-669-5000 or visit jexals.com

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