Bad Boyz Bistro gained fame with its blazing hot wings, but more than that keeps the customers coming

BEDFORD – The walls of Bad Boyz Bistro are filled with the “bad boys” of sports, history, film, music and TV. The Terminator over here, James Bond over there, J.R. Ewing peeking over a diner’s shoulder … if they’ve impressed you with their catchphrases, celebrity antics, action scenes or coldblooded villainy, their likeness is probably hanging around Bad Boyz.

But it’s unlikely that any of the famous faces on the walls could stand up to the specialty that made Bad Boyz famous: The Hellraiser hot wing challenge.

“Our hot wing challenge, you have to eat 10 wings in 10 minutes with no drink, then you have to sit there for 10 minutes with no drink,” said Bryan Speck, the owner of Bad Boyz Bistro.

Describing the Hellraiser wing sauce – which begins with a base of the restaurant’s hottest menu sauce, “Wings from Hell” – Speck can’t resist smiling with (sadistic?) glee.

“They’re 7 million Scoville units [the Scoville scale is how scientists measure a pepper’s spiciness; a fresh jalapeno is between 2,000 and 3,500 on the scale],” he said. “There’s ghost chilies, which everyone knows. There’s the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion pepper and then several [capsaicin] extracts to get that heat. It’s twice as hot as pepper spray. That challenge was featured on the Food Network in April of 2011.”

That appearance, on the show “Outrageous Food,” saw Food Network personality Tom Pizzica learning how to make the wings from Speck, who indulges the show by laughing maniacally as he constructs the sauce. In the segment – which can still be viewed on the Food Network website by searching for “Hottest Hot Wings Ever” – Pizzica marvels at the ingredients included in the sauce, then tries one himself. He dubs it “unbelievable” and says, “There’s no way I could ever eat another one of those.”

One more thing: Since that segment aired, Speck has more than tripled the spiciness of the Hellraiser wings.

“We have a lot of people that come in to try the wings,” he said. “We have about a 30 percent success rate – 70 percent probably bow out on the first or second wing.”

Speck guessed that in the last three years, 150 people had tried the Hellraiser challenge.

The restaurant’s appearance on the Food Network is “a little claim to fame for Bedford County,” said Kellie Goodman-Shaffer, director of the Bedford County Chamber of Commerce. Goodman-Shaffer is a regular customer at Bad Boyz, which is located near her office.

“People love [the challenge],” she said. “When someone does do the challenge, it kind of spreads through town. Someone will come into the Chamber and say, ‘I was just at Bad Boyz and someone did the burger challenge.’ Or I’ll go into a Chamber meeting and they’ll announce, ‘Hey, did you hear someone actually succeeded in the challenge at Bad Boyz?’

“It’s a hot topic in the community when someone does it.”

But Speck didn’t start Bad Boyz Bistro just to take a blowtorch to the stomachs of wing lovers.

“I was a franchisee with Papa Johns and Quiznos,” the 42-year-old explained. “For years, I learned the restaurant business that way, but I always wanted to have my own concept. Ten years ago, it actually came into mind to do my own theme and I thought, ‘OK, what’s a great theme?’

“It seems like the media fixates on pop culture and we have famous people do things that make them ‘infamous.’ So that’s where this came from, whether it’s sports figures, politicians, actors, actresses – that’s how the ‘bad boys’ came about.”

In 2010, Speck bought the former K&M Restaurant – a Bedford landmark that had gone out of business – and opened Bad Boyz.

The menu Speck created for his new restaurant, which he described as “American cuisine,” is a mix of familiar favorites like a pulled pork sandwich or pasta in a vodka tomato sauce. The big difference is that each menu is named after “bad boys.” That pulled pork? Known as the Dirty Harry Pork BBQ. The pasta in vodka sauce is “The Belushi.”

“I came up with the menu through traveling throughout the United States and the world,” he said.A lot of the different menu items are from different restaurants. I thought [while visiting other restaurants], ‘Hey, this is a nice sandwich’ or ‘I like how they do the French Dip here.'”

With the menu’s whimsical names, it can be hard to understand just what the regulars are eating.

“The Italian Stallion is my favorite,” said customer Jim Gonsman of Bedford. “It’s like a steak sandwich. I just love that.”

Fellow diner Juli Dull proclaimed her love for the Steel Curtain – a steak or chicken salad.

But the menu’s big draw, Speck said, are its specialties.

“Burgers and wings. That’s what we’re known for,” he said. “We have southwest burgers, we have just regular American burgers, we have some that have pulled pork on them … we have pretty much the whole gamut of burgers and what you’d want to put on them.”

There is a burger challenge at the restaurant, called The Terminator, but not many people have attempted it.

“The burger challenge is basically all of our signature burgers into one burger and then you have two pounds of fries and one hour to eat it,” Speck said.

According to general manager Bobbi Weaverling, only one person has ever won the burger challenge.

The menu is always evolving, Weaverling said.

“We have one solid menu, and then we do an insert every so often where we put four or five appetizers, sandwiches, burgers, desserts on there,” she said. “Four or five months later, what stuck will be kept on the next one and we’ll add something different to replace what didn’t sell.”

The important thing, Speck said, is that people know what they’re getting when they sit down at Bad Boyz.

“I create the menu and set the standards,” he said. “Consistency is the most important thing, because you can have a chef out one day and someone slides in and takes over and it’s not the same product.”

Gonsman appreciates that part of the business.

“It’s a fun atmosphere [and] it’s quality food,” he said. “It’s consistent – it’s always the same and you know when you order what you’re going to get.”

Speck is planning a second location in Somerset, in a former Sheetz at 363 West Main St. He hopes to open that location this summer. But even as expansion comes, Bad Boyz remains an important part of downtown Bedford.

“People stop me on the street and ask me where they can eat lunch or dinner,” said Dull, the Main Street Manager for Downtown Bedford. “That’s one of the things I love about [Bad Boyz], that they’re open in the evenings. Not all of our downtown businesses are open in the evenings, so it used to be that no one would be on Juliana Street in the evenings.

“Now when you drive on Juliana Street at night it’s packed with people because they’re coming here. And we like to have people in our downtown district.”

Luckily, the restaurant’s national exposure has brought people in from all over. But there is one story that is Speck’s favorite.

“With the Food Network, I had four young customers drive from Buffalo, N.Y.,” he said. “They were watching the Food Network at 4 in the morning and saw our episode. They got in the car and drove the whole way here to do [the challenge]. That’s the best story I’ve heard about someone coming to try it.”

Speck laughed at the absurdity of the story, then added with a devilish twinkle in his eye.

“And they failed.”

Mirror Staff Writer Keith Frederick is at 946-7466.