It was a dark and stormy night when some hungry late-night revelers stopped in at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York. Unfortunately for them, it had been a busy day and the place was almost out of food... almost. The owner only had a few bits of chicken left; the wings and tiny drumsticks that no one ever ate. Fortunately for all of us, he fried them up, threw in some sauces, and created one of the most popular bar dishes in North America: the Buffalo chicken wing.
Since then, many restaurants have given the iconic dish their own unique twist, be it deep-fried, baked, or breaded, with special sauces and unexpected dips. Here are a few places in Toronto, among its thousands of bars and restaurants, that feature a slightly different spin on the popular chicken snack.
This restaurant can make the top 10 for so many lists that it has become a “go-to” for dining in Toronto. Add to that their special Manhattan capon wings and it makes this list as well. The sauces come in sweet, sour, and spicy, but ask for a side of Allen’s special blue cheese dip. The capon wings are quite a different taste, but be warned: some people become addicted and cannot go back to the basic chicken wing!
This Queen Street East restaurant features some of the best smoked barbeque in town. While many people come for the ribs, check out their $14 Deep South wings that are smoked, fried, and melded with the special Aft barbecue sauce. The eatery sits on the border between two of Toronto’s trendiest areas, Riverside and Leslieville, and is poised to make its culinary mark. Get there soon while you can still find a seat.
One of the busiest and most popular bars in Toronto, Betty’s has three sections and an outdoor patio, which are always filled with a wide range of regulars. Every table has at least one order of wings any time of day — the restaurant specializes in baskets of deep-fried wings — and the sauces are ranked by spiciness from mild to suicide, and available in BBQ or plain, with your choice of flavored dips to help take away the tangy sting.
Lisa Marie (Fidel Gastro)
This is one of the coolest restaurants along the trendy Queen West strips of cool bars, restaurants and cafes. The terrific Fidel Gastro food truck that travels throughout the city only enhances their advertising. Their claim to fame is that they serve turkey wings in two styles: hoisin with chili sauces and green onions, and more traditional Buffalo-style wings. The wings are of course meatier than a chicken wing, and tender turkey awaits you under the delicious coatings.
Momofuku Noodle Bar
You don’t have to be a sports bar to serve wings — the trendy, five-star dining Mecca of David Chang has created its own version called the Japanese chicken wing. The meat is smoked, coated in pork fat, grilled, and finished with garlic, sriracha, scallions, and pickled chili. They also serve a special “group meal” that includes two complete chickens — Southern and Korean style — with inventive wrappings, dips, and sauces.
Although the Paradise has made a past top 10 list with its billiards and jazz, the owner has developed his own special wings after cooking for decades along the Greektown area of Danforth. These wings aren’t fast food; Jimmy takes his time with every individual order so the wings are cooked properly, tossed in sauce, and served with a special blue cheese house dressing and plenty of veggies on the side. The hot wings will leave your taste buds tingling; best to order a draught to help cool them down.
Real Sports Bar
Like everything in this bar, the chicken wings are big. Big in size, big in portion; you can actually order a four-pound platter for $52. You may not notice the price tag, however, if you are sitting under the massive two-and-a-half story TV screen. This is the ultimate sports bar with seating for 1,000 all glued to the 199 flat screens. Oh yes, and those wings come in 14 flavors, including mild (“ankle skater”) to suicide (“drop the gloves”) with hoisin dressing, all-Canadian bacon maple mustard, or the house favorite: Thai sweet chili.
This restaurant has gained a faithful following and terrific reviews in the burgeoning trendy scene of Queen West nightlife. Their wings have a Filipino twist, fried in a special concoction of garlic, scallions, chili, and vinegar. The service is relaxed and friendly, just like the casual ambiance of the bar. Diners be warned: it’s best to book ahead for Sunday brunch or a weekend night.
The Dock Ellis
Located in the city’s Little Portugal area, the Dock Ellis is a hip sports bar with a most inventive menu. For example, the lowly chicken wing is jumbo-sized at this bar, and is brined, fried, and served dry. The seasonings and dips include a choice of scotch bonnets, ghost peppers, Waylon’s smoky BBQ, or a special house blue cheese. And despite its Portuguese neighbors, the menu features Southern fried ribs, rolls, and hush puppies.
The Old York Bar & Grill
The Old York Bar & Grill is a little unpretentious neighborhood pub on a quiet stretch of Niagara Street, and is usually only frequented by locals in the know, who always order the wings. Lots of them. They specialize in jerk-spiced chicken, deep fried but finished on the grill for those lovely burn marks, and served with a spicy yogurt dressing. If this isn’t your local joint, you may want to move to the neighborhood just to be closer to The Old York.