“You used to say, ‘Live and let live.’”
Paul McCartney and Wings – “Live and Let Die”
Up until recently, I was a big aficionado of chicken wings. It was my favorite finger food. But technically, I preferred drumsticks over the wings. I found it easier to chew the meat from one bone rather than the two wing bones. And anyone that has ever seen me eat chicken wings are simultaneously impressed and repulsed by the fact that I leave no meat behind on the bones.
My appetite for this appetizer has been curbed by the advent of the boneless variety of chicken. Not only do you receive larger portions, but it is usually cheaper than their bone-in brethren. Not to mention that I now do care that the handi-wipes do not entirely remove the smell of buffalo/barbecue/teriyaki sauce from my fingers.
I suppose I am not alone in my exodus: there are many restaurants that do not serve chicken wings on their menus, but do provide boneless chicken, some under the guide of nuggets, or popcorn chicken. (Chicken tenders are a completely different item ; they are closer in size to a patty than a wing. The most surprising is that the majority of these examples are the fast-food franchises that specialize in chicken (e.g.: Chick-Fil-A, Popeye’s).
The other reason for the timing of this post is that sad realization that many restaurant chains are going out of business. The good news is that many restaurants rose in the rankings recently… the bad news is that you can’t find a Ranch 1 anywhere. So in honor ( or requiem) for my former favorite snack, I present the first (only) power rankings list.
The usual disclaimers: this list only lists national franchises – of course there are thousands of individual establishments that serve better wings – so of course the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY, the birthplace of the buffalo chicken wing, is not included. And I haven’t toured all 50 states, so any small chain in the Deep South, or Pacific Northwest that offers amazing wings is one I haven’t seen, heard of, nor visited.
But I am open for suggestions.
The I, Omnibus Chicken Wings Power Rankings – November, 2016 edition
- Buffalo Wild Wings – First, I have to give props to them for changing their marketing campaign. Now that they are trying to court soccer fans to their establishments, they realize that B-Dubs can not pretend that they can rig games – organized crime has been doing that for decades. Seriously though, BWW has the most meat for the buck.
- Papa John’s – First reason: the wings are baked, NOT fried. Second, they are almost as consistent as BWW providing more meat on their wings.
- Outback Steakhouse – The reason it is not higher is that there is something about the spices in their breading that is a bit… off. My local Outback has an unhealthy tendency to undercook the wings. They do not have flavor sauces (e.g. BBQ), just mild, medium, or hot.
- T.G.I.Fridays – Rated this high because their wings they sell in the frozen food supermarket aisle may be better than their in-restaurant counterparts. This doesn’t included the “endless ap” wings. Do not choose the “endless ap” version if they bring back that promotion – those wings suck and would last dead last on this list!
- Hooters – You will not get any drumsticks here. Their portions are just wings, and nothing but wings. They are breaded, fried, and then dipped in sauce. This is not much meat compared to the top four, but the size of the wings are larger than most.
- Pizzeria Uno’s – They used to be #1 on my list. They used to be baked, and you received decent quantity and quality – quite a rarity on any fast-food list! Sadly, as business declined, both quality and quantity dipped noticeably, especially the latter. I mean, an order of 4 wings is a kids’ menu option – not a bar appetizer.
- Pizza Hut – If your local franchise bakes their wings, then move them up a notch or two. But if they use a fryer, then keep ’em right here. It is hit or miss in regards of size. And, BTW, what the hell is this “Wing Street” nonsense? I’m going to open a chicken wing establishment next to “the Hut” and call it “Drumstick Blvd” just to run them out of business.
- Planet Wings – You get quantity, but not quality. Not much meat on any individual piece. They provide more flavors than any other franchise (even more than Baskin Robbins has ice cream flavors). YMMV, but I find most of them unappealing.
- KFC – only this low because they only sell wings during limited times. And I am assuming they will return someday. As of November, 2016, wings are not on their menu.
- Dominos – Very tiny wings. Almost as small as french fries, or clam strips. It’s too bad, since they are baked. Yet they pale in comparison to Papa John’s, where you get the same number for the same price.
- Applebee’s – This was also higher on my list once upon a time. Then they changed up their menu, and call it “double fried.” These are not Mexican beans – you don’t refry wings! Sure you are 99.999% sure you won’t get salmonella, but there is nothing beneath the sauce and breading. Their boneless wings are better and cheaper.
- McDonald’s – Only here as a warning. Mickey D’s did everything wrong. Let’s see… fried, check. Low quantity, check (either 3 or 5, vis a vis 8 or 10 like everyone else). Little meat to the bone, check. Worse than their boneless counterpart, double check! Maybe the price per wing was on par with everyone else (near $0.75 per wing), but why bother when their McNuggets are probably on the Value Menu? At least the McRib has some economic value (even if it has nearly zero nutritional value). Let’s hope they never bring it back to the menu.
4.5 any Chinese take-out place – This is included to establish a baseline for my list. But be warned – if you can smell the oil from a block away, then run, not walk away real fast. Just like Hooters, you will not get any drumsticks; it’s nothing but wings. The good news is that you will not taste any freezer burn – it is quite possible the chicken you’re eating was alive yesterday!