Wangs of desire
Two years in, TNT Wangs has built a faithful following in the Brady District
“Nobody’s gonna know who you’re talking about if you write Nancy.”
That’s Nancy Williams speaking, head honcho at TNT Wangs, the food truck typically parked outside Cain’s Ballroom or Soundpony and the Yeti. Odds are, if you’ve spent any time browsing the menu on the TNT trailer, bought into their cult-like social media following, or hung around and chatted while you wait for your food, you probably know her as “Sis.”
Most of the time, TNT Wangs operates as a family affair with Sis leading the charge alongside her son Marcus Williams and her brother Keenan Lane. But Mr. Thomas, the owner and social media operator, is never far behind. Without him, there wouldn’t be a TNT Wangs—not because he started it, but because he demanded it.
“We sat around one Father’s Day and I cooked this chicken for all the guys,” Williams explained. “They loved it, just wanted more and more each day. So I’m like, ‘this is gonna cost you guys. I can’t keep feeding you guys for free!’”
The TNT Wangs name wouldn’t come along until months later, but the obsession was instant. Friends and family stopped by to try the chicken, word got around, and demand for Williams’ cayenne and honey-drizzled chicken grew. Deliveries were made, events were catered, people showed up at Williams’ door looking for the supposed holy grail of fried chicken. That’s when Mr. Thomas offered up the trailer.
The cayenne and honey chicken is TNT’s signature dish, but they also fry up tilapia, catfish, shrimp, seasoned okra, cheese fries, and other so-bad-but-so-good foods.
“I’m not gonna lie to you …everything is good. Now, everything may not be healthy,” Williams said with a laugh, “but everything is good.”
TNT’s residency outside the Soundpony has done wonders for the truck’s exposure, and has fostered a symbiotic relationship between the two businesses over the past two years.
“We’re a big family—TNT and Soundpony together,” Williams said. “We do it together. Our relationship is great. We were just doing events before we posted up here, and when we first came down, we just fell in love. I’m kind of Pony-struck.”
Last month, they celebrated two years of TNT with an anniversary party and hip-hop showcase at Soundpony, complete with entertainment from some of the Tulsa scene’s biggest names, like Earl Hazard. The party was a blowout, and the TNT crew donated all of the event’s proceeds to St. Francis Children’s Hospital, a spot they often visit as a team.
“They love us there,” Williams continued. “We’re the loudest group. It puts smiles on their faces, and their parents thank us because when they do get visits, it’s kind of like a pity party. Then we come in like ... Let’s turn up. Let’s get moving. Let’s get some smiles.”
Right now, Williams juggles TNT as a side project among other family ventures, but if she had her way, she’d go all in for a full-time operation. A perfect world for Williams would have TNT Wangs trucks in every state, an even bigger fan-base (it currently boasts high-profile fans such as Waka Flocka, Scarface, and Tory Lanez in its army of supporters), and plenty of time to develop new menu items. Curry chicken and Mexican Corn are both in the works, and Williams says she never shies away from requests. If it sticks, the idea’s originator might even get added to the TNT Menu Squad.
The TNT Menu Squad is a namesake honor bestowed only on TNT’s most loyal fans. Early supporters of the wing truck were commemorated with personalized dishes a few years back, and the trend stuck. Today customers can maw down on dishes like the SpaceGrrrl, cheese fries with cayenne pepper named for Soundpony bartender Amy Pullen, Trak bread, a family recipe for Indian fry bread named for TNT enthusiast Chris ‘Trak’ Williams, and The Threezy, a fried chicken and fish combo named for Deandre Starks, Williams’ late friend and a longtime TNT supporter.
“When we were starting up, he was one of the guys that kept wanting it, so we just felt the need to give back and keep his name alive.”
As sentimental as Williams is, she’s anything but soft. Running the Wang operation often requires seven-day workweeks, powered by as little as three hours of sleep on weekends. She keeps her focus squarely on the customers and making sure they have a great experience, and is careful not to let drunk and demanding late-night patrons ruin the experience.
As she explains it, good food takes some time, and after four hours of barhopping in the Brady, that’s longer than most think they should have to wait for their fourth meal. The truck team often ends up playing both cook and babysitter to some customers, but Williams said it comes with the territory.
“It seems like alcohol makes you very, very hungry.”
Catch TNT Wangs in the Brady District on weekends, at events around town, and after shows at the Venue Shrine. Those in a rush should call ahead, or step outside to order food before tabbing out—especially on weekends.
For more from Megan, read her article on the exhibition of Nickolas Muray's portraits of Frida Kahlo at Gilcrease.