Family owned and operated since 1984, Joseph Walsh and Elizabeth O’Dea (now Walsh) opened Wings Plus on January 2nd, 1984. At the time, Joe was a bar manager and Liz a waitress. With a little help and a lot of luck they were able to open their own restaurant , Wings Plus.
Joe was sure that chicken wings were going to be the next big thing in food trends. His future wife Liz was sure where Joe went good times followed. They were then married later that year in August. The newlyweds worked hard from the get go. In those early days, Joe cooked while Liz waited tables. In the midst of it all the couple also began building a family. They had two children, Thomas and Chelsea Walsh, born 3 years apart.
When they had their kids, Joe focused on running the restaurant while Liz then transitioned into a stay-at-home mom. Sadly, Joe passed away in 2007 and Liz stepped back in to shoulder the business herself. In 2012 Chelsea graduated college and joined the business, helping her mom run the restaurant. Thomas joined in 2017. While it can be challenging for some to work with family, Chelsea affirmed that “We really work best together”.
Over the years they have had many family members working with them as managers, cooks, drivers and waitresses. This currently includes Eileen Wencil and Dan O’Dea, who are Liz’s sister and brother. Eileen and Dan both serve as full time managers to the restaurant. Maggie Wencil, daughter of Eileen Wencil, currently works as a waitress.
With a large base of customers from all around, Wings Plus has daily and weekly regulars who just can’t stay away. Some came in as children and now come in with their children.
With high ratings on Yelp, Google, and Facebook, lots of tourists stop by to taste their wings too. “Our favorite are the customers who are in from out of town and always make a special trip to Wings Plus when they are in the Oakland Park and Fort Lauderdale area”, Thomas Walsh noted. Customers have been known to come in straight from the airport, suitcases and all ! “We know the food is delicious, but we also think the home-y familiar ambience and experience draws people back”, Chelsea Walsh stated.
People regularly drive from North and South Florida. From sandwiches, salads, burgers, soups and more, customers have a variety of options to choose from. Aside from wings, some of the popular menu items are cheeseburgers, steak and cheese, the classic curly fries and mozzarella sticks. Don’t forget the homemade bleu cheese, which is always a big hit to go with your order, crafted with a specific secret recipe and made by one cook so it remains consistent.
If you are looking for some recommendations, below are some of the owners favorite items:
Menu Item: Bacon Cheeseburger | Sauce: Cajun/Medium
Menu Item: Buffalo Chicken Sandwich | Sauce: Key West/Garlic
Menu Item: 5 Piece with Fries Special ALL FLATS | Sauce: Hot/Honey/Garlic
Sherri Peck started working at Wings Plus 25 years ago on January 25th, 1995 as a waitress. She was born in Philadelphia but raised here in Oakland Park. She started out as a customer, then applied for a job and has enjoyed working for the restaurant ever since. The owners, staff, and even some regular customers became an extended family for her, which played a huge part in her loyalty to the restaurant. “I always enjoy seeing the kids grow up and then their kids and so on of both customers and staff”, Peck expressed.
Due to COVID-19, many small businesses have faced challenges in remaining open, Wings Plus is no exception. Their main concern was to monitor staff health. Being a small business with a small staff, if a group of employees was to test positive it could result in a full closure of the business.
They already had a strong pickup and delivery business when they had to close the dining room and this helped them stay afloat during the quarantine. Longtime customers continued to pick food up to go and were generous in tipping the staff. As other restaurants began to open their dining rooms and they did not and sales started to decline. The tips dropped substantially for the staff. Seeing sales dip was tough but manageable for the business. It was harder for the staff who were used to making a large chunk of their income from tips. “We were afraid to start to lose staff and customers to restaurants that had their dining rooms open”, Chelsea stated.
The owners and staff also missed having the customers inside. “The sound of a full dining room can send a smile straight to my face”, said Chelsea. “We love hearing families laugh and tell stories and make memories at Wings Plus just as we have”, Thomas explained. This coupled with a necessity to re-open before the businesses suffered even greater losses led them to decide to open with safety procedures in place. They did that by having just 8 of their 17 tables available in order to socially distance patrons.
As a result Wings Plus plans to continue to supply delicious food and a safe and fun atmosphere for families to dine in and take out.
You can follow them on Instagram @wingsplus_fortlauderdale and support by dining in, picking up, or delivery!
Albert W. Pulver was born and raised in Oakland Park. He graduated from Northeast High School in 2019, holding many different offices, including BCASC Vice President, Class President all four years, and many other different titles. Very involved in local government, Albert was the first high school student to attend the Oakland Park LGA in 2018 and also has served on the Oakland Park School Advisory Board.
In 2020, Albert moved to Wilton Manors but insists that his heart lies in Oakland Park. Albert currently works for Broward County Parks & Recreation at Topeekeegee Yugnee (T.Y.) Park in Hollywood, FL, Part-Time at Wings Plus in Oakland Park, and does Logo, Web, & Social Media design on the side.
Albert enjoys his free time (when available), spending time with his American Bully puppy, family, and playing Bingo at the American Legion Post 222!