Most Chicken Wings Are Trash

Illustration for article titled Most Chicken Wings Are Trash
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If you are a chicken wing connoisseur—which I consider myself to be—you undoubtedly know the best wing spots in your city like you know your own face. You know the hours they’re open, the number of rubs and sauces available on their menus, the days they have specials, whether they provide free ranch and/or blue cheese, the size and racial demographic of the clientele, and even perhaps the name(s) of the servers and fry cooks. If it’s one of those spots where you know the stale stench of the spot will stick on your clothes, you might even have wing-spot-specific outfits.

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You likely also have this knowledge about the best wings spots in other cities you’ve visited. And then even the one-off spots—the random hotel lobby-adjacent restaurants, airport kiosks, and gas stations that surprised you with sublime wings.

Possessing so much detail about a favorite place to get a favorite food is not uncommon. I can also tell you, in Pittsburgh, who has the best burger (Kaya or Meat & Potatoes), the best Caesar salad (Simmie’s), the best sushi (Wholey’s), the best pancakes (The Square Cafe), and the best salmon (Roxanne’s Catering). The level of specificity with the best wing spots, however, is singular. Because if you’re into wings, once you find a great wing spot, you savor it. Protect it. Invite people to it. And not because of some altruistic wing socialism. You just want credit for introducing them to it. (“Fam, I had no idea the wings here were fire” they’ll say, while you sit there all silent and arrogant and satisfied like Marlo Stanfield.)

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And this happens because most chicken wing spots are bad. There are, by my count, over 170 billion restaurants you can buy chicken wings from in the United States. Many of them—like Wing Stop and Buffalo Wild Wings—specifically specialize in chicken wings. Yet the only way I’d choose either of those places to quench a wing craving again is if I was drunk enough to forget what happened the first (and last) time I did. And most chicken wing spots are bad because most chicken wings are bad. And most chicken wings are bad because most places that carry and sell chicken wings don’t give enough fucks about them to make them good. And so you’re left with wings that are too soggy or too soft or undercooked or overcooked or made from unseasoned and/or uncleaned chickens. Because of the unique dynamic of the chicken wing’s construction and the chicken wing preparation process, they tend to exist on opposite ends of the taste spectrum. Either they’re fucking amazing, or they make you want to fight the cook. And most chicken wings are fight wings.

Unfortunately, people who give a shit about wings—how they taste, how they crunch, how they spark, how they sing—are slaves to the whims of the feckless jackals who’ll mindlessly scarf 20 flaccid scraps of wing-like-substance at Dave & Buster between rounds of skee-ball. And since those feckless jackals are most people, what incentive do most chicken wing spots have to make an effort?

In summary, great chicken wings are great, most chicken wings are bad, and I’m done writing!

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)

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DISCUSSION

ionithus
Mr Boomman

I’ll be honest... I have NEVER had any garbage chicken wings. Nope, I’ll take that back. One day, I had SOME beer. I wanted to make some spicy wings. Instead of the traditional hot sauce and butter, I thought I’d be creative and add this other spice. So I put in some crushed red peppers I use for my African stir fry. I FUCKED THAT SHIT UP. Everybody in our home was pissed. My daughter was 8 at the time and wanted to try it. I told her to take a nibble. She gave me the most disgusting look and said, “Daddy’s trying to kill us.”

Moral of the story??? Stick to what you know.