When a wings spot and a cannabis cafe combine forces, it’s a wing-wing situation.
The family-owned restaurant ATL Wings, based in Chandler, spread its wings and fried over the weekend as the company’s chicken gurus took over the Mint Cafe kitchen in Tempe.
Owned by Mint Cannabis, the cafe has teamed with other culinary staples of Phoenix in the past — Cheba Hut Toasted Subs and Ziggy’s Magic Pizza Shop — to dish up enticing edibles for stoners in the southeast Valley.
But its latest partnership with ATL Wings, which served THC-infused hot wings and heavenly honey biscuits on Friday and Saturday, did more than delight fried food fanatics. The pair of retailers donated a percentage of the proceeds to a local retired law enforcement officer, Jeff Perry, who is battling terminal cancer.
Perry is part of the Mesa chapter of the Shotgun Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club, a Maricopa County nonprofit for active and retired police officers, firefighters, members of the military, and other first responders.
When the poultry professionals discussed teaming up, Mint’s chief branding officer, Pablo Palomino, said, “Let’s wing it!”
Since 2017, Mint Cannabis has become a staple of community service, regularly appearing at the Guadalupe Car Show and sometimes handing out $1,000 checks to needy families in the neighborhood.
“We love partnering with local businesses because that’s how we get in front of people and show them who we are and what we’re all about,” Palomino said. “We love getting out in the community.”
Mint currently employs nearly 500 people. Its flagship store in Tempe features not only the nation’s first cannabis kitchen of its kind but also the first drive-thru in the Valley. It’s also the first and only dispensary in Arizona to be open 24 hours a day.
The cannabis culinarians donned green T-shirts adorned with cartoon chickens as they prepared ATL-style dry rub wings, lemon pepper dry rub wings, chef’s special red hot wings, and honey habanero BBQ wings. They also offered fried biscuits — crispy on the outside, flaky on the inside — sprinkled with a sweet dusting of powdered sugar and cinnamon and served with a syringe of savory THC-infused honey butter sauce.
“A lot of people know us for having the best wings in town, and a lot of people smoke weed,” said Mike Kirksey, who has owned and operated ATL Wings with his wife, Cianna, since 2012. “So they want to incorporate it and get some infused wings.”
A serving of hot wings contained 100 milligrams of THC, while each biscuit contained 10 milligrams. The wings were paired with the Mint Cafe’s proprietary line of infused hot sauces, Angry Errl, which is available in Mild Buffalo, Hot Buffalo, Chamoy, Louisiana’s Favorite, Dabatio, and Sriracha.
“This is a whole different market that we haven’t tapped into,” Cianna Kirksey said. “A lot of customers come in here who may have never heard of ATL Wings or never even tried it.”
Although recreational cannabis has been legal in Arizona since 2021, there is still a lot of misinformation about edibles, according to the owners of both businesses. It’s something they hope their partnership will combat.
“It’s really about getting out there and making sure people lose that stigma about what cannabis is,” Palomino said. “We’re out in the community so that people won’t feel so apprehensive about it.”
ATL Wings received some criticism about its decision to try cooking with cannabis, but for the most part, the feedback overwhelmingly supportive, the Kirkseys said.
“We’re weed smokers, so we don’t care,” Cianna Kirksey said. “We [were] expecting a great turnout.”
And it was a great turnout. Lines snaked through the lobby of the dispensary on Friday and out the front door as customers, including Glendale resident Diana Balderas, waited eagerly to sample the picante provisions.
“I didn’t even know that was a thing, to be honest,” Balderas said. “When I heard about them, I needed to try some. It’s not just gummies anymore, it’s real food. Everyone loves gummies, but to actually eat something, that’s really cool.”