Carter Lawyer, 19, recently asked if I'd ever eaten hot wings at Ching's Hot Wings. He loves the place.
I remembered Nicholas Vergos, 18, whose grandfather, the late Charles Vergos, founded the Rendezvous, telling me about Ching's a couple of years ago. I called and asked him about the restaurant.
"Not only does Ching's have the best wings in Memphis and the best fries as well, they have the best hospitality," Vergos said.
The plate glass window on the front of the cozy restaurant on Getwell is covered with enlarged color photos of students and young athletes. Inside, framed jerseys and more photos of teenagers plastered the walls. Lawyer's photo was on the side of a napkin holder.
The restaurant, filled with a diverse collection of young people, was like the "malt shop" in the old movies, but it was hot wings, chicken tenders and fries at this hangout.
Lafayette Williams, who owns the business with his sisters Stacey Jackson and Veniece Bobo and his son, Joshua Williams, came up with the recipes for their hot wings, which include honey hot, honey gold, seasoned, lemon pepper, hot, extra hot, dry hot and suicide.
Ching's Wings caters to young people 15 to 22, Jackson said: "They have a place to go like Wally and Beaver Cleaver."
After moving from a truck on South Parkway to the Getwell location, the family decided that if they were going to make any money, they had to sell beer. The day before they were to get a beer permit, a youth minister from Christ United Methodist Church and 30 kids walked in the restaurant. Lafayette decided, "No beer."
"Where could they have gone if we had been serving beer?" Jackson said.
There's no drinking, smoking or profanity allowed at Ching's. "It's been like a safe house," Jackson said. "We treat all these children like our own."
Although people call Williams "Mr. Ching" and Jackson "Mrs. Ching," "Ching" actually is the nickname of their mother, Shirley "Ching" Wilson, who taught Williams how to cook.
Thirteen hot wings, 27 napkins, two sauce spots on my white shirt and one on my glasses lens later, I left Ching's Wings. I'll be back.
Ching's Hot Wings is at 1264 Getwell; (901) 743-5545.
-- Michael Donahue: (901) 529-2797; firstname.lastname@example.org