WELLINGTON — When Visit Lorain County stopped at the Red Iron Bar and Grille and asked the owners if they wanted to be a participant in the countywide King of Wings contest, Kathi Sutton was thrilled.
After all, the Red Iron is tucked away in downtown Wellington, and if a person doesn’t know it’s there, they’re not likely to see it.
“I was really excited that we got invited,” Sutton said. “The day they invited us to be part of it, I said, “How awesome is that? We’re the only one in town that got invited. I kept saying that even if we didn’t get first place, we were asked to be in it, and that in itself was kind of an honor.”
During the competition, which ran from June 21 through July 1, the Red Iron competed with seven other wing spots across the county to determine which was King of the Wings.
On Wednesday, Visit Lorain County announced the winner of the competition: Red Iron Bar and Grille.
“It definitely brought some excitement,” Sutton said. “When I heard we’d won, I was jumping up and down.”
The competition was simple as each of the eight competitors offered a pound of “competition” wings for $7. The competition wings could only be one flavor. After a person purchased a pound of the wings, they were given a ballot to vote for their favorite.
The Red Iron offered its “Smitty” wings for the competition. The Smitty is a wing covered with the house-made Red Iron Sauce, which is a mild Buffalo sauce, mixed with garlic and parmesan cheese.
According to Visit Lorain County’s Interim Director Jennifer Kennedy, 495 ballots were cast during the 10-day contest and 838 pounds of wings were consumed across the county. The other competitors were the Avon Brewing Company, Brickyard Bar and Grill in Oberlin, Erie Burger Company in Avon Lake, Foundry Kitchen and Bar in Elyria, Just One More in Avon Lake, Mutt and Jeff’s in Lorain and Your Pit BBQ in Vermilion.
Sutton said people kept telling her how good the wings at Red Iron were but she still wasn’t sure they had a chance because the business is so small and might not get as many votes as some of the bigger competitors.
Sutton and her husband, Red, opened the Red Iron Bar and Grille at 137 W. Herrick Ave. in 2009 after Red retired as an ironworker after 41 years.
Red Sutton, whose given name is Michael, said people have known him as Red for his whole life due to his having red hair. Kathi Sutton had wanted a place of her own after managing different bars for 30 years.
When the Suttons were getting ready to open the restaurant, they couldn’t think of a name for the place.
“My email address was Red Iron, because of my name and my job, and our daughter suggested we use that for the name,” Red Sutton said.
After winning the King of Wings crown, the Suttons expect business to pick up some.
“I think it means we’re going to be busier, because we’ve already gotten more customers just from being in the challenge,” Kathi Sutton said. “We have people who tried the wings during it and they keep coming back. Now some of them are trying the other things on our menu, too.”