PW's Guide to Wings

By Tim McGinnis
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 9 | Posted Dec. 2, 2009

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Wings from Kong.

Photo by Michael Persico

A valuable sociological tool to understanding the collective psyche of a city is the observation and evaluation of its festivals and celebrations. In Pamplona, the running of the bulls is a manifestation of the importance of masculinity in Spanish culture. In New Orleans, Mardi Gras puts on display the city’s underlying Catholic culture of binge and repent then binge again. And here, in our fair metropolis, we gather once a year to cheer on obese gladiators sucking back hot sauce and butter-soaked fried chicken wings. While the Wing Bowl isn’t going anywhere, the winds of change may be blowing. Philly chefs have begun to raise the lowly wing to fine dining status and proving that quality, at least sometimes, does trump quantity. 

B    Buffalo style
O    Bone out
$    Expensive
L    Large portion
G    Go back for seconds

If You’re From the Streets
Contrary to what you might think, Chef Michael O’Halloran was inspired by the dai pai dong street food of his wife’s native Hong Kong and not a movie about an overgrown ape when he conceptualized Kong (702 N. Second St. 215.922.5664). His tender, sweet-and-sour, garlic chili-glazed wings are brined with szechaun peppercorns and ginger, slow cooked in duck fat, fried to order and tossed in a honey soy chili glaze to make them a king among wings. G

If You Want Dessert
We could eat the smoked chicken wings at Supper (928 South St. 215.592.8180) for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Brined, smoked, fried to order and tossed in a birch beer glaze, these Pennsylvania Dutch-inspired appetizers are served on a creamy buttermilk dressing. Eaten all together, it tastes like wings dipped in a root beer float. These are, hands down, the best wings in the city. $ G

If You’re a Champion
The national dish of Peru is roasted guinea pig, but thankfully Jose Garces didn’t feel the need to make his Peruvian-inspired restaurant Chifa (707 Chestnut St. 215.925.5555) overly traditional. It doesn’t take an Iron Chef to realize that boneless sous vide cooked chicken wings stuffed with mushrooms, carrots, and garlic then flash-fried and glazed with soy sauce, fish sauce, lime, lemongrass, chili oil and sprinkled with sesame seeds are way better than rodent nuggets. O $ G

If You’re a Stand Up Guy

Alberto Vargas’ pin-up girl paintings helped many of our soldiers stand at attention during World War II. The beer bar named for him—Varga Bar, (941 Spruce St. 215.627.5200)—deserves a salute of their own for their fall-off-the-bone duck confit chicken wings tossed in a pomegranate molasses-bourbon-chili sauce. G

If You’re a Sinner
Let yourself give in to the temptation of Devil’s Alley’s (1907 Chestnut St. 215.751.0707) sinfully tender chicken wings rubbed with spices including cinnamon and brown sugar then smoked overnight and grilled to order. These passions of the poultry are truly something to raise some hell over.  L G

If You Prefer Tradition
Like the city of Buffalo, the Port Fishington (yes, that is a made-up name) neighborhood is full of folks of Eastern European decent so it’s fitting that the Memphis Taproom (2331. E. Cumberland St. 215.425.4460) is serving up traditional Buffalo-style chicken wings with just a bit of a twist. The all-drumstick batch of fried happiness that we had were first brined in pilsner to insure moist meat then tossed in a flavorful and not overly spiced hot sauce. B L G  

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Comments 1 - 9 of 9
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1. Anonymous said... on Dec 2, 2009 at 12:10PM

“How about Monk's Spanish Flies?? Habanero glazed hotness!”

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2. Redseapedestrian said... on Dec 2, 2009 at 06:15PM

“I would blow a homeless man for an order of Memphis Taproom's wings! Actually, hold the wings!”

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3. Felicia said... on Dec 2, 2009 at 07:34PM

“Good round-up! I didn't even know most of these places had wings at all. Perhaps I should branch out from my Byrne's Tavern loyalty..... I don't suppose any of these spots have Byrne's $2.25 Bud Lites?”

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4. Anonymous said... on Dec 3, 2009 at 07:11PM

“I have been trying to find the best wing delivery spot (I live in Queen Village) because my wing craving normally hits me either hungover or watching sports on a Sunday, or after a long day of work when getting back in the car is not an option.. who's got my answer?”

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5. Anonymous said... on Dec 8, 2009 at 12:00PM

“Have had the wings at Devil's Alley. Pretty good.”

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6. Ryllis said... on Dec 15, 2009 at 12:43PM

“I would certainly add The South Philly Tap Room's wings onto this list. Perhaps under the category of "If your from the streets....of Philly". There's nothing more simple and succulent than a good fried wing. And nothing represents the Philly streets wing culture as a nice and juicy, sauce-free fried wing. I believe they serve a drumstick batch as well, but the key is their batter, and the last touch of seassalt. Combine that with it's greens counterpart, and you have just experienced "the streets" ha!

Also, people swear by McMenamin's wings in Mt. Airy....They are also pretty decent.”

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7. Anonymous said... on Jan 14, 2010 at 11:10AM

“Pub and Kitchen's Honey Whiskey Wings are delicious”

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8. ryan said... on Feb 24, 2010 at 02:58PM

“Memphis Taproom really does have the best wings in the city! oh, and I $%^& hate blue cheese!!! But the blue cheese at the Taproom has to be one of the best things there is to dip a wing in. I became a Vegetarian in October 2009....and this is the one thing that I still crave daily.”

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9. Anonymous said... on Dec 5, 2014 at 06:19PM

“Federal Donuts serves great whole wings, but they're not on the menu, just ask. Get the spicy chili glaze for hot.”


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