12 Of The Best Chicken Wings In America

Crackly, crunchy, and crispy. These are some of our favorite wings in the country.
12 Of The Best Chicken Wings In America image

photo credit: Richard Casteel

Drums vs. flats is one of the great debates of our time, second only to over vs. under toilet paper placement. We’re not publicly picking sides on either topic at this time, but we can tell you where to get some of the best chicken wings in the US, no matter where you stand on the cuts. Some are smoky, some extra saucy, and some come only after a two-hour wait that, yes, is actually worth it.


THE WINGS


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Vietnamese

Downtown

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MIAMI

The wings at this fun Vietnamese spot in Miami are messy, crunchy, and so crispy, it’s hard to tell if you’re holding a flat or a drum. They'd be delicious naked, but the sticky fish sauce caramel adds a delightful punch of flavor and acts as an adhesive for the little bits of fried garlic. You’ll need to take a sink bath after you eat these, but luckily, the bathroom doubles as a mini karaoke club.


AUSTIN

The oak-smoked wings at this Austin BBQ spot get flash-fried and tossed in one of their signature sauces—either garlic parmesan, alabama white, buffalo, or honey BBQ. Crispy and smoky, these are classic sports bar-style wings with a Texas twang, alongside ranch for dipping and the requisite celery sticks.


HOUSTON

It’s fitting that some of the best wings in Houston come from a BBQ joint, and at Gatlin’s, chicken wings land on the trays about as often as the brisket or ribs. All the wings here taste like they’ve been smooched by the smoker out back, with crackly skin to show for it. We like to go with the classic wings tossed in the subtly sweet housemade BBQ sauce, or the ones coated in a sticky thai chili glaze.


CHICAGO

Crisp’s sweet and tangy Seoul Sassy sauce is our pick for the one seed in the March Madness sauce tournament we plan on holding sometime soon. It’s a big reason we love these jumbo Korean wings so much, along with the fact that they’re always juicy, fried to a perfect crisp, and five of them cost $13. They are unequivocally the best in Chicago.


SAN FRANCISCO

San Tung’s dry-fried chicken wings are San Francisco’s finest. They’re battered, deep-fried, and covered in a garlic, ginger, and red pepper sauce that’s the consistency of caramel. They don’t take reservations, so add your name to the small whiteboard outside and prepare for a sticky-messy good time that’s worth the hour or two wait. Right now, they’re closed until November 15th, but we’ll be there when they’re back lining up for these wings like everybody else.


photo credit: Nate Watters

SEATTLE

Vindicktive Wings is not a Seattle sports bar where you plan to come for the game and happen to order wings. It’s a sports bar where you plan to come for the wings and happen to catch the game. These wings have crisp potato chip-like skin that unlocks a vault of juicy meat, and come in flavors like buffalo, saucy lemon pepper, mango habanero, and salt and vinegar—all of which are excellent. Just don’t ask for ranch—Vindicktive is a blue-cheese-only zone, but once you taste it, you’ll be converted faster than you can say penicillium roqueforti.


SCARSDALE, NY

The best wings in New York State aren’t in Buffalo. They’re actually just a quick 40-minute ride from Manhattan at The Candlelight Inn, an unassuming dive bar in Scarsdale, New York. They serve legendary wings that are plump, meaty, and crisp. The standard sauce is the perfect combination of butter and Frank’s Red Hot, but the proper order is the hot teriyaki wings “extra wet, extra sloppy.” Candlelight is open until 2am, which makes it an all-time late-night establishment—just know it’s cash-only, they don’t take reservations, and if you go at prime time, be prepared to wait.


photo credit: Neha Talreja

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NEW YORK CITY

NYC’s neighbors to the north in Buffalo might not agree, but you can find amazing wings in the city. Just come to Blackbird’s, where you’ll find perfect wings, a jukebox, and Christmas lights year-round. The sauce-to-wing ratio is scientifically sound, and these babies retain that elusive, crispy, crunchy skin no matter how much tangy sauce they’re drenched in. Heat levels range from mild to “nuclear,” which, despite the dramatic name, is only a tad hotter than the rest.


LOS ANGELES

The superior wing category in LA will always be Korean fried chicken: crunchy, twice-fried, and pummeled with spicy soy-garlic glaze. Of all the greats, Kyochon is our desert island pick. The skin on their wings holds its craggy texture under the sop of sauce, and we also like that these are on the smaller side, so you can down a 10-piece order like you're a sea lion at feeding time. Conveniently, that's exactly how you'll eat them at 1am when you’re out in Koreatown.


WASHINGTON DC

Some people act like they’re better than you because they prefer dry-rub wings over ones that are saucy. If you can tolerate spending more than five minutes with these people, bring them to DCity Smokehouse. The smoked wings from this DC BBQ spot have a crispy skin seasoned with their signature blend that’s a little salty and a little sweet. But more importantly for your friend: the sauces come on the side. There’s a wildly good cilantro ranch, but we like their weird (and delicious) mix of Carolina BBQ and mumbo sauce the best.


ATLANTA

Atlanta didn’t invent the chicken wing, but hometown coops like J.R. Crickets and American Deli had a hand in perfecting it. The Local, a beloved dive bar serving plump wings and pitchers of PBR with equal abandon, isn't as widely known as those other spots, but their drums and flats are the best in the city. The baked pieces are slightly charred and tossed in buffalo jerk or a Korean/mild mix, both of which give lemon pepper some worthy competition.


PHILADELPHIA

Since 1978, Byrne’s Tavern has been the go-to place for bar food and a must for wing aficionados in Philly. The beloved tavern only serves one style of wings: classic buffalo. They’re meaty, tender, and the housemade sauce has a great kick without being dramatic. Rumor has it that they sell thousands on Super Bowl Sunday alone, but it’s crowded with locals every day of the year.

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