CHIGuide

The Best Chicken Wings In Chicago

From Korean lollipop chicken to crunchy jumbo wings doused in mild sauce, here are 19 of the best chicken wings in Chicago.
The Best Chicken Wings In Chicago  image

photo credit: Kim Kovacik

When you think about a great chicken wing, you imagine one that’s juicy, full of flavor, and has the perfect amount of crunch when you take a bite. Maybe the wing is so well-seasoned, there’s no need for anything else. But sometimes it’s paired with a sauce that’s so good it will make you want to flip the tables over.

Whatever kind of wing you’re in the mood for, you’ll find it on this list. From Korean lollipop wings to crunchy jumbo wings doused in mild sauce, here are 19 of our favorites around the city.


THE SPOTS

photo credit: Heffer BBQ

BBQ

Back of the Yards

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Like a skydiver and a functioning parachute, you’ve gotta hope beer and chicken wings go together nicely. So it’s great that they do at Heffer BBQ, the resident pop-up at Whiner Beer in Back Of The Yards. The wings are tender and crispy, and have a deep oaky flavor from the smoker. They’re plenty flavorful on their own, but when covered in both the sweet coffee or tangy mustard BBQ sauces, it’s apparent that this place takes their sauce game seriously, too.


photo credit: Kim Kovacik

As far as naked wings go, this busy corner bar in River West has some of the best. Aberdeen’s wings have a flavorful smoky char, putting them a tier above most spots before sauces are even thrown into the mix. But the crowning achievement of their culinary chemistry is—pause for dramatic effect—the Buffalo sauce. It’s the perfect balance of buttery and vinegary flavor, with a little sweetness to keep you from looking like the Warheads logo. Plus, they sell it in bottles, so you can always keep some in your bag in case of emergency.


Classic bar stools. Faded wooden slatted floors. An old pool table and dart board, miscellaneous sports memorabilia, and a giant fish decorate the space like a frat house curated by the Craigslist “For Free” section. On the surface, Toon’s looks just like another dive bar. But what sets this Lakeview spot apart is its perfectly fried wings. They have a nice balance of crispy skin and tender meat, and are the ideal canvas for the different sauces. Both the garlic parm and standard Buffalo are delicious, but the garlic Buffalo is the ideal marriage of the two—zesty, tangy, and with just enough heat.


This small counter-service spot in Uptown is at the center of a Venn diagram that you didn’t know existed: old-timey gangsters and chicken wings. And while we’re not entirely sure what Sopranos posters and pictures of Al Capone have to do with chicken wings, Badabing has some great ones. They’re marinated overnight in savory spices, ensuring that they’re loaded with flavor even without sauce. But despite already being embedded with flavor, you should still order these wings slathered in one of their 14 delicious sauces, like standard Buffalo, garlic parmesan, or their signature sweet and spicy Al Capone sauce.


This Albany Park Chinese restaurant has an extensive food menu, but they’re best known for their lollipop wings. And for good reason—they’re incredible, and what you should be getting every time you come here. Based on your heat preference, you can choose regular, extra, or no heat. But there are no wrong choices—whatever spice level you choose you can count on flavor that will explode in your mouth.


Bird’s Nest In Lakeview is another bar with sleeper-hit chicken wings. Each wing is meaty and juicy, and has wonderfully crunchy bits. Order them with the Bird's Nest hot sauce (which is perfectly peppery), and you have a perfect drinking snack.


You can’t have a “best chicken wing” list without Crisp. They are known for their Korean jumbo wings, and they are good. Located in Northhalsted (formally Boystown), Crisp is always busy. They have four flavors to choose from, and, because they’re all great, the decision is hard. That said, we always pick the sweet, Seoul Sassy sauce. Now say that 5 times fast.


Oiistar is one of the best ramen spots in Chicago. But divert your ramen-hungry eyes from the noodles and broth on the menu and order their fried garlic sambal chicken. These jumbo wings have a fantastic breading that’s so crispy, each bite can be heard over all the noodle slurping happening at this busy spot. Plus, it’s topped with a spicy, umami-packed sauce and almond pieces that add a hint of nuttiness. 


Broken Barrel’s massive patio and three indoor dining rooms are all equipped with their own bars and plenty of TVs—the ideal setup for catching a game. But even if you have zero interest in screaming profanities at a screen, the wings alone make it worth stopping by this Lincoln Park spot. They get an extra flavor from being smoked over oak logs before hitting the fryer, and come with all sorts of sauces ranging from a mild bourbon BBQ to the spicy ”sex panther” made with ghost peppers and habaneros. Make sure to get a few grilled wings, too—the extra char pairs perfectly with their tangy smoky chipotle sauce.


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Chicago does not play when it comes to jerk chicken. We have so many great spots that if a restaurant wants to compete, the chicken must be grilled to perfection, and have the right amount of spice. Soule’s jerk chicken wings pass every test. This soul food restaurant in North Lawndale serves Creole-inspired recipes that were passed down to the chef from her mother, and thankfully, now the delicious food is passed down to us.


Come to Jake Melnick’s in River North for the wings, and stay ... to eat more wings. They’re crispy and plump, with flavors like firecracker, Buffalo, and whiskey BBQ—which is made with whiskey and bacon. So, no explanation needed for why that last one happens to be our favorite.


Founded by Harold Pierce in 1950, Harold’s is one of the most famous fried chicken chains in Chicago. And with a crispy, beautiful brown coating drizzled with their famous mild sauce, Harold’s wings are a Chicago staple. Even Chance the Rapper had a Harold’s-themed cake for his birthday, and dropped a line about it in his song, “Everything’s Good.” While people have their “favorite” Harold’s to rave about (and their least favorite to complain about), there are enough locations around the city you can easily find a Harold’s to call your own.


If our experience snacking on Nine Bar’s mapo waffle fries and pork katsu sandwich has taught us anything, it’s that this speakeasy in Chinatown could give a Masterclass in how to fry things. Their General Jones wings are no exception. These come out piping hot, extra crispy, and with plenty of tender meat. And despite having a generous coating of a great tangy, sweet, and spicy sauce, these wings never get soggy.


Named for the chef’s grandmother, Cleo’s brings a Creole flair to Bronzeville. And this Southern restaurant has some of the best chicken wings in Chicago. Order the “sauced six”—a six-piece wing dinner that comes with three incredible sauces (mango habanero, sweet red chili, and spiced bourbon), two sides, and one of their famous gold corn muffins. You can also get the wings a la carte, but trust us, you shouldn’t. We do know the muffin man, and he is hanging out at Cleo’s.


We were floored after trying the wings at Output in West Town. We expected the typical, slightly boring wings you normally find at sports bars. Instead, every flavor was a knockout. In particular the savory lemon pepper, and the roasted garlic BBQ. They’re so flavorful that extra dipping sauces are unnecessary. In fact, don’t even finish reading this guide, get up and go there now.


This business has blessed the homes of Chicagoans with great smells and delicious food since 1963. Historically in competition with Harold’s, Uncle Remus has its own unique style. The chicken is double-coated with their seasoned batter, deep-fried to crunchy perfection, and then dressed with their sweet and tangy mild sauce.


The wings at Woodies are air-dried, slow-smoked, and double-fried. That careful preparation makes them very tasty, but it’s their long list of delicious sauces that earns them a place on this list. You’ll find flavors like cheesy garlic, Nashville hot, chimichurri, or Korean BBQ, and you can order them regular, grilled, or boneless. They are open for takeout, and outdoor or indoor dining.


Fifty/50 in Wicker Park is a fun bar with great food. The large space has three floors, two bars, and plenty of TVs. You can order their jumbo wings fried or applewood-smoked, and dressed in either spicy garlic, BBQ, honey orange teriyaki, or (our favorite) Buffalo. Four types of peppers are roasted for three months to make the perfect hot sauce, and it’s delicious.


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This staple has been around since 1982. The wings are tender, juicy, and fried a perfect golden brown every time. The recipe has never changed, so whenever you get a craving for JJs, just head on over and grab a “10piecewingwithsaltpepperlemonpeppermildsauce.” Yes, you have to order it just like that.


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