Wings take flight with focus on freshness

After spending all day moving to Austin from Arizona, Bill and Julieta Scroggs searched online for a place to eat dinner.

Under a listing for "best chicken" in Austin, Julieta said she discovered Pluckers Wing Bar. The Scroggses were not disappointed with the made-from-scratch sauces, fresh wings and flavorful appetizers.

"They're awesome," Bill said of his wings, topped with a spicy mandarin sauce. "You get these little hints of flavor, of barbecue, and you get that Buffalo sauce flavor."

Julieta said she was impressed that even her daughter Romi's chicken tenders were made with real chicken.

This attention to quality food with fresh ingredients is what Pluckers founders Mark Greenberg and Dave Paul said they value most, right up there with customer satisfaction.

"We started with food first," said co-owner Sean Greenberg, Mark Greenberg's younger brother. "We wanted to make really good chicken wings and fries. We always use fresh ingredients, meat, sauces made from scratch."

Mark Greenberg and Paul opened the first Pluckers in 1996 near The University of Texas, from which they had just graduated. Initially, Pluckers offered delivery and takeout only, but as the chicken wing concept caught on, the pair wanted to expand.

"Eventually, the only way for us to do better was to grow," said Sean, who joined his brother and Paul as an owner while he was in law school.

Pluckers now has 13 locations, including the North Austin restaurant at 9070 Research Blvd., which opened in 2003 and was the third location. That restaurant recently underwent a renovation and expansion when Pluckers took over 1,600 additional square feet after Adobe Pueblo furniture store closed next door. The owners added a larger bar that serves more local craft beer, including brews from Real Ale and Independence Brewing Co.

"Northwest Austin is a strong market," Sean said. "It was an underutilized site, and it made sense to expand."

The North Austin location was the first to receive a bar and plasma TVs, which Sean said had just come out when the restaurant underwent its first renovation in 2004. He said that is when the restaurant's concept morphed into what it is today, from a takeout and delivery joint to sit-down service with a sleek metal bar and wood flooring. Sean said they wanted to distance Pluckers from being labeled as fast food.

As to where the trio is headed next, Sean said they are targeting Houston and San Antonio. The only two franchised locations are in Baton Rouge, La., and those are owned by one of Mark and Sean's cousins. Sean said they do not intend to establish any more franchised locations.

"We could have a lot more stores, but we are so focused on the product we give to the people," he said. "In order to do that right, it means doing it slower. We're not growing for the sake of growing."

The concept

The idea to start a wing joint came out of a late-night dorm room conversation about the lack of eateries in Austin that cater to night owls besides pizza and Chinese food. Co-owner Dave Paul hails from Atlanta, where wing restaurants are in abundance.

Initially, four men were involved in the planning of Pluckers Wing Bar, but only Paul and Mark Greenberg saw the concept to fruition.

Mark's younger brother, Sean, joined the team and said they were one of the first to bring wings to Texas.

"It really was that organic," Sean said. "In business, anything worthwhile starts from solving a problem."

Pluckers Wing Bar, 9070 Research Blvd., Ste. 201-C, 533-9464,