America’s 12 Wildest Wings (Slideshow)
12) Dick’s, Jacksonville, Fla.: Margarita Ranch
If you happen to find yourself in Jacksonville with a hankering for wings, get yourself over to Dick’s, stat. The mini-chain offers 30 varieties of wings, including Flying Fajita, Jamaican Jerk, Parmesan Peppercorn, and Ragin Cajun, but the wildest one of all just might be the Margarita Ranch, which tosses the wings with a homemade jalapeno lime hot sauce, ranch dressing, Cajun seasoning, and lime pepper. They’re tangy, spicy, sweet, and—hey, what do you know?—will leave you in the mood for a margarita.
11) Mott Street, Chicago: Everything Wings
This hopping new restaurant from a former chef at Chicago’s acclaimed Ruxbin is kicking wings out of the park with its Asian night market-inspired menu. Their ‘Everything Wings’ are double-fried beauties, glazed with soy and dried chilis before being tossed with sesame and poppy seeds and fried shallots. It hits notes that those who like everything bagels will be familiar with, while kicking it up several notches of deliciousness.
10) Hill Country Barbecue, New York, N.Y.: Smoked Wings
Offered only as a special on Wednesday nights, these wings are worth seeking out, for one reason: smoke. Just like a perfectly fried wing, a perfectly smoked wing can leave you groaning with joy. The wings are rubbed with Hill Country’s signature spice blend, then smoked low and slow until the meat is falling off the bone. Take our word for it: these are wings you’re not likely to soon forget.
9) Chick-a-Biddy, Atlanta, Ga.: Thai Chili and Peanuts
There’s something about taking traditional Thai flavors and infusing them into chicken wings that just works, and at the always-creative Chick-a-Biddy in Atlanta, they’ve got it down pat. Their Thai chili and peanuts wings are sweet, spicy and salty, and hit all the right notes. You can also spring for two other super-creative and delicious options, spicy green Tabasco and wood-grilled Piri-Piri. Either way, you’ll be impressed.
8) St. Louis Wing Company, St. Louis, Mo.: Coconut Curry
Coconut curry is usually served in a big, comforting bowl, but at the St. Louis Wing Company chef Bobby Tessler has taken the popular comfort food and introduced it to the noble wing. He starts with coconut milk and adds a secret blend of Middle Eastern and Asian spices, and the resulting wing is sweet, spicy, and spot-on. They may make you want a bowl of actual curry, but they’ll most likely just make you want to order another dozen.
7) Eagles’ Nest Rockin’ Country Bar, Chesapeake, VA: Peanut Butter and Jelly
Fans of wild wings were saddened when the Crazy Wing Cantina in Chesapeake closed down recently, but thankfully their famous wings, in all their crazy styles, just moved to a nearby bar called Eagles’ Nest. The wildest offering of all? Peanut butter and jelly wings, which are just what they sound like: peanut butter and grape jelly are mixed together, crispy deep-fried wings are tossed in, and that’s it. Amazingly, the combination works: the creamy peanut butter melts and combines with the sweet jelly, and it’s a sticky, crispy treat that will have you considering adding chicken fingers to your next peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
6) SmokeEaters, San Jose, Calif.: Hellfire Wingers
We could do a whole slideshow on just super-spicy wings, but the ones at SmokeEaters really stand out from the pack. These wings are marinated in hot sauce, fried, then topped with about every spicy substance known to man, including a concentrate known as ‘Devil’s Blood.’ They’re so outrageously spicy that even a quick sniff will set you on a coughing fit. You’d be hard-pressed to get through just one (try to avoid getting the sauce all over your face), but if you can plow through a dozen you get your photo on the wall. You need to have a seriously high heat tolerance to get through these; even Man v. Food’s Adam Richman barely choked them down!
5) Talde, Brooklyn, N.Y.: Kung Pao Chicken Wings
At his eponymous Brooklyn restaurant, chef Dale Talde is crafting some outrageously delicious mashups of classic Americana with his ancestral Asian cuisine. One of the menu’s standouts are his now-famous kung pao chicken wings, which he prepares by tossing the wings in a rice flour batter, deep-frying them, tossing them in a sweet-and-spicy Kung Pao-inspired sauce, topping them with diced peanuts, cilantro, and scallions, and serving them alongside a buttermilk ranch sauce.
4) Distilled, New York, N.Y.: Distilled Wings
At this TriBeCa hotspot, Nick Iovacchini and Momofuku alum Shane Lyons are frying up some of the best, wildest wings you’ll find in New York. They’re dredged in a mixture of beer and various types of alcohol and starches, fried, frozen, fried again, then lacquered in a thick, sweet and savory sauce inspired by Gochujang, a Korean red chili sauce. You won’t even need the blue cheese sauce on the side, which is made with Point Reyes blue and also happens to be outrageously delicious.
3) Calypso Wings, Atlanta, Ga.: Pa’Zing
A Pa’Zing might sound like Pizza Hut’s newest limited-time-offering, but we doubt the chain would ever venture into this territory: Atlanta caterer Calypso Wings rolled these out last summer, and they instantly won the internet: wings are breaded and fried, then topped with marinara sauce, melted mozzarella, pepperoni, and sliced cherry tomatoes. Why didn’t we think of this before?
2) NOLA, New Orleans, La.: Miss Hay’s Stuffed Chicken Wings
A Vietnamese cook prepared these wings for Emeril Lagasse in 2000, and he enjoyed them so much that he added them to the menu at his restaurant NOLA and hasn’t taken them off since. First, they’re stuffed with ground pork, chopped shrimp, cilantro, celery, mushrooms, onions, and fish sauce. Then they’re baked, fried in peanut oil, and served with homemade hoisin sauce and jalapeños.
1) Pok Pok, Brooklyn, N.Y. and Portland, Ore.: Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings
These things are so good that Pok Pok chef/ owner Andy Ricker opened a (now closed) restaurant in New York that served only them. Today they’re available at the Pok Pok locations in Brooklyn and Portland as well as Ricker’s Brooklyn bar Whiskey Soda Lounge, and are one of the most popular items on the menu. These wings, addictive and inspired by ones eaten at a roadside shack in Vietnam, started it all, and helped raise Ricker and his restaurant to national prominence. To make them, Ricker marinates wings in a fish sauce-garlic mixture, twice-fries them, then tops them with more garlic and fish sauce. They hit all the right sweet, spicy, salty, and tangy notes, and before you know it you’ll have ordered a second round.