The New World of Chicken Wings
If we can all just admit that a) the Buffalo wing is the ultimate chicken wing (so meaty, so balanced, so simple with its fake butter, Frank’s RedHot and nothing else), and b) there are very few decent Buffalo wings in Philly, we can move on and start talking about alternate versions we do well. Here are six to start with.
The New Standard
Federal Donuts // Korean-style twice-fried wings, cut whole and served spiked with everything from chili-garlic glaze to buttermilk ranch powder to za’atar? These are wings for the discriminating glutton. Multiple locations.
The Reimagined Classic
Varga Bar // Okay, so there’s nothing at all classic about the complex pomegranate/bourbon/molasses/chili sauce, or the fact that the wings themselves are done confit-style in duck fat. But the house-made blue cheese and the fact that they come to the table looking like chicken wings prove that the cooks here have at least tasted the real thing once or twice. 941 Spruce Street, Midtown Village, 215-627-5200.
Cafe Soho // Twice-fried in the Korean style, then served with either a soy-garlic sauce or a wickedly hot, brick-red spicy sauce, these wings are a perfect introduction to the wonders of Korean-Japanese-Buffalonian fusion. Locations in Olney and Blue Bell.
Alla Spina // It used to be that you had to wait for these wings to come up on the specials menu, but no more. Now available every night, the wings are fairly standard; it’s the sauce (made from parmesan, butter, lemon juice and oregano) that sets them apart. 1410 Mount Vernon Street, Spring Garden, 215-600-0017.
The Jug Handle Inn // The closest thing you’re going to find to the best classic, Buffalo-style chicken wing. They’re big, they’re hot, they’re buttery, they’re sloppy, and they’re damn near perfect. 1018 Forklanding Road, Cinnaminson, 856-665-8696.
Cheu Noodle Bar // Nearly everything on the menu at Cheu is subject to replacement, but not these wings. They’re soaked in buttermilk, dusted in flour and cornstarch, fried, tossed in a black garlic soy sauce, then spruced up with fresh herbs and shishito peppers before hitting the counter in front of anyone who knows anything about the delicious things that can be done with a chicken. 255 South 10th Street, Washington Square West, 267-639-4136.
Originally published in the March, 2015 issue of Philadelphia magazine