Byron Guo was born in the FuJian province of China in 1973, and in 1981 his father came to America “to make a better life.” For fifteen years, his father scrimped and saved enough to bring his wife, son and daughter over to America, and in 1996, Byron started out his American life in Connecticut. He got his G.E.D, was still in that “language window” where it was easy to pick up English, and began to move toward the American dream of freedom in general, and free market opportunities in specific. As a teenager he began to work in a Chinese restaurant, learned the restaurant business from top to bottom, and then moved to Alabama to help a friend in Huntsville with his restaurant.
“I always had the dream of owning my own place,” he told me, so when Cotton John’s became available, he went for it. “I love Athens,” he said, “and Touchdown Wings is in a really good location.” Byron and his family actually live in Madison, but he is enjoying experiencing the “specialness” of Athens on a daily basis. In the few weeks that Touchdown Wings has been open, I have noticed that the place is busy, which is always a blessing to see. Additionally, I have eaten at Touchdown Wings several times, and I am one satisfied customer.
I asked Byron why I should come to Touchdown, seeing as there are wings places all over Athens- Limestone County. “We make our own sauces,” he told me, and by the way, there are 21 from which to choose. “You can sample a sauce before you order,” he added. He told me that “if you don’t like a sauce, we’ll find you one that you do like.” Some of the 21 sauces include all “hotness levels” of buffalo, as well as BBQ, lemon pepper, Asian fusion, teriyaki sesame, honey mustard, garlic parmesan, Cajun ranch, and more.
There are buffalo wings, buffalo shrimp, fresh tenders and catfish. Sandwiches include chicken, catfish and shrimp, and there are two Philly styles, the standard Philly cheese and chicken Philly. The fries are crispy, and other sides include pork egg rolls, chili, corn dogs and hush puppies. For dessert, you can pretend you are at a State Fair and get a funnel cake, fried cheese cake, or just regular cheese cake.
There are side salads and salad entrees, which include catfish salad, buffalo shrimp salad and grilled chicken salad, as well as a house salad.
Byron also told me that he makes sure his employees know that if there is anything that does not look just right about a plate, “they don’t serve it.” He stresses to them that they need to treat the customer the way they want to be treated, and in watching the staff, I sensed that they enjoy working there. He has eight employees, and both the staff and the clientele reflect the “melting pot” that is America at its finest fulfillment of the dreams of our Fathers.
I asked Byron how he came up with the name Touchdown Wings. Without a moment’s hesitation, he answered, “I am a huge football fan.” There are pennants from several universities all over the walls, as well as several TV screens showing sportscasts and Fox News. With regard to the passionate rivalry that exists in our state at the college football level, Byron admits he is a ‘bama fan, but was quick to point out that Auburn got equal billing. When I inquired as to his favorite NFL team, he fired back, “I grew up in New England, so it will always be the Patriots.” He is a NBA fan, too, and I enjoyed regaling him with tales of when the Sonics were “all that and a bag of chips,” although, admittedly that was many moons ago.
Byron is glad to be in America, glad to be sacrificing to give his own kids the kinds of opportunities that his parents gave him, and now his parents live with him and his family. His is an American success story worth celebrating, and Touchdown is a “wing-ery” worth patronizing. Byron and crew, welcome to Athens!
1124 US Hwy 72 E Athens, AL 35611 (Across from and east of Lowe’s)
Hours: Mon-Thur 10:30 am to 9:30 pm, Fri and Sat, 10:30 am to10 pm, Sun 11:00 am to 9:30 pm
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner