MILFORD — What began as the result of an appetizer emergency has flourished into Joey D’s Wingz ’n Thingz, an on-the-go business that offers chicken wings and ribs that can be enjoyed at breweries and other events throughout MetroWest or from the comfort of your home.
In late 2019 and early 2020, Joey Dalton committed to writing up a detailed business plan for a chicken wing food truck.
“My son and I love to go to food truck festivals, but we don’t like to wait half an hour to place our order,” he said.
To cut down on prep time, Dalton realized he could put fully cooked wings in vacuum-sealed bags, and reheat them sous vide — a French cooking technique for which food is placed in a hot water bath at precise temperatures. For at-home orders, the website reads: “If you can boil a pot of water, you can enjoy Joey D’s wings & ribs.”
“If we did that, then all we had to do is heat it up, and if we had it ready to go, that means we could serve it instantly, and there would be no lines, no waiting,” Dalton said.
In February 2020, with funding in hand, he was in contact with a food truck company in Delaware to build him a truck for his business — and then COVID-19 happened. The state shut down, the world ground to a halt and Dalton put his food truck order on hold.
“We figured, well, that’s it for now,” he said. “We’re going to put it on hold for a while — but the funniest thing happened. The people who had tried the wings started to call and say, ‘Joey, can we just buy some wings from you?’”
Dalton began working in kitchens at age 14. Now 50, among his career highlights is making food for Frank Sinatra and the Moody Blues at Tanglewood. For years, Dalton has also been making wings for poker games and parties, and they’ve always been popular.
The original wing recipe has been tweaked slightly since Dalton came up with it in the 1990s. He was working as first cook in a kitchen handling daily meals and catering.
“For some reason, one day, we were just behind the eight ball,” Dalton recalled. They didn’t have enough hors d’oeuvres. So Dalton threw together a batch of chicken wings — and they were a hit.
That day in the kitchen was high stress, he said. But because Dalton and the other chef “just did not have our act together that morning, the Joey D’s chicken wing was born that day,” he said.
For preparing the wings, Dalton uses a proprietary technique he won’t share — the only secret he revealed is that the wings are not deep fried.
Dalton, along with his wife and son, run the business — everything from recipe development to promotion and serving at events.
“I love it because I have an amazing team in my family,” he said. “I couldn’t do it without them. They are the most incredible, loving, supportive team.”
Dalton’s current favorite flavor is called “Not Quite Buffalo,” served with a blue cheese dressing. The spicy wing recipe took a full year to develop, as they take customer requests for new flavors very seriously, he said.
Dalton said the business won’t release a new flavor until it’s perfect.
The most recent concoction is a blueberry tequila wing that has been selling out since it was first offered.
“When we were at a place in Clinton this past weekend, some guy came up to us and he says, ‘Do you have anything like a honey chipotle?’” Dalton said. “I said to my wife, ‘Not yet — looks like we have our next challenge.”
First big break
The first time Joey D’s served at a brewery, it did so from a tent. During the pandemic, at breweries, food had to be offered with beer; a friend of Dalton suggested he reach out to a brewery in Milford.
“CraftRoots Brewery — Maureen and Robin (Fabry) gave us our first break,” Dalton said. “They wanted us to succeed as much as we want to succeed, and they’re just genuinely amazing people.”
Someone who enjoyed the wings at CraftRoots asked Dalton to serve at another brewery; the business grew organically from there, he said.
And by this summer, they’ll have that long-envisioned truck.