Lists: BBQ Wings 2014



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These Are A Few Of My Favorite Wings

With the start of the 2014 NFL season comes my now-annual list of my favorite smoked wings at fifteen different barbecue joints in New York and New England. In order to make this list, the wings have to be smoked, they have to be offered regularly and I had to have tried them within the last two years. In many of the cases, the smoked wings are the best thing at the restaurant and a quantum leap up from the remainder of the 'cue. Here goes:




15. Carnivores, Milford MA see my review of  this joint

These are super accessible in quantities of 4 and come with some interesting sauces and an unusual snap. Three words to end on: Bacon Buffalo Wings. Facebook


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14. Bluebird Barbecue, Burlington VT see my review of  this joint

Good size and strong chickeny flavor with lighty smoke made these smoked-then-fried wings the standout of a recent visit up north. In keeping with the Vermont theme, maple is a big part of the sauce, applied lightly to let the chicken shine through.


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13. Pit Stop Smokehouse, Westmoreland NH see my review of  this joint

This joint remains in the lower half of the list, but they're still very much in the converstation when the conversation turns to smoked wings. The racing-themed joint pumps out wings that are smoky (light most recently, more potent previously) and fairly simple otherwise, with chicken flavor a major component thanks to a light saucing that can barely be seen in this photo.


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12. Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, NYC see my review of  this joint & Stamford CT

These wings lag in the consistency department but have enough home run power on their best nights to offset their off ones. Flavor is in ample supply here, with some fairly traditional but still compelling sauces; rub applied before and after really lets these wings flap.


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11. Bear's Smokehouse, Windsor CT see my review of  this joint & Hartford CT
The most heavily rubbed wing in the list is one of many with a strong, chickeny flavor, and together they're a joy. With a little more moistness these would rank even higher. At the new outpost in Hartford, the sauces are ladled on hot, but applied sparingly to not overwhelm. If you buy a dozen on on Wednesday, you get another half dozen free.


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10. Blackstrap BBQ, Winthrop MA see my review of  this joint
The barbecue as a whole at Blackstrap has its ups and downs, but one of the surer things is the wings. Generally large and crisp, they're reliably robust flavorwise: heavy on smoke, heavier on rub (both before and after smoking) and tossed in a well executed Buffalo or barbecue sauce that screams loudly for attention without taking attention away from the chicken.


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9. Causeway, Boston MA
This newcomer to the Boston barbecue landscape features a former Blue Ribbon pitmaster and something Blue Ribbon doesn't have: wings. Served in flavors such as Korean, mustard and classic Buffalo, these wings arrive crisp outside, succulent inside and served atop a pool of sauce for optional dipping. Flavor comes more from the well crafted sauces than the smoke, but it is noticeable.


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8. Brutopia, Cranston RI

"Cranston's first and only brew pub" features a barbecue menu that includes smoked wings topped with one of five barbecue sauces made with beer. My go-to is Fire Starter, which brings light but escalating heat amid a fruity pepperiness that reminds me of peppadew and pepper jelly. These are big, crisp, fresh and juicy, and on Wednesday nights, they're 50 cents apiece.

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7. SoulFire, Allston MA see my review of  this joint
If you like your wings to pack just a little more sweet than heat, SoulFire's spicy honey wings are what you're looking for. These smoked-then-fried wings bear light smoke, crispy skin and a perfect coating of tangy accent. I don't order these as often as they warrant, because I'm so smitten with SoulFire's Southern fried wings that they're my defacto first course before diving into Boston's best ribs. You can try a few different flavors, including an experimental flavor of the night, at SoulFire's all-you-can-eat wings special every Monday.


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6. Hometown BBQ, Brooklyn NY see my review of  this joint

The darling of the New York barbecue scene is that for good reason: everything they do is solid and much of it is spectacular. The Asian style wings here straddle those superlatives, held to the former with a consistently undercrisped skin, but hinting at the latter with equally consistently juicy inner meat and intensely bold chickeny flavor that never gets lost in the herbs and heat.


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5. Mighty Quinn's Barbeque, NYC see my review of  this joint

It's no surprise that one of New York's best barbecue joints also has some of the city's best smoked wings. Here they're not traditional American, and that's fine by me. Asian ingredients dominate, with sesame seeds, ginger, cilantro and Sriracha all contributing to the intoxicating flavor. Spicy + smoky + crispy (usually) + tender + moist + herby = different + delicious. Pickled celery is a nice touch too.


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4. Big W's BBQ, Wingdale NY see my review of  this joint

The ballsiest entrant in the list packs unabashed heat, aggressive smoke—woody smoky, not sooty smoky—with probably the strongest "chickeny" flavor of any wing on the list. They also bring decent crispness, good tenderness and that hard-to-describe (unsweet) caramelly sticky quality that comes from smoke, not sugar. These are savory wings with lots of bump. I like heat but they may be a little too hot to order more than one round.


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3. Smokestack Urban Barbecue, Worcester MA see my review of  this joint
This is one of those heartwarming, come-from-behind success stories. My first impressions of the wings here—and the entire barbecue program—were hardly positive, let alone chart topping, but this central Mass joint kept working at it, adding smokers, changing techniques and even lowering prices along the way. The barbecue still has a way to go, but the wings are stellar. Whether Buffalo, Chipotle or Honey Habanero (my favorite), these wings bring multidimensional flavor from the intense saucing that's restrained enough to let the natural chicken flavor and unmistakable smokiness shine through. Though the fine-enough crispness sometimes needs just a tiny boost to hit perfection, the combination of chicken, rub, woody smoke and sauce is as reliable as it gets, and these wings feel fresh even at lunchtime. On Monday nights, they're half price.


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2. Binga's Stadium, Portland ME see my review of  this joint

Gotta say it again: maybe it isn't fair that last year's winner and this year's runner-up offers barbecue but was a wing joint first and is still a wing joint first and foremost (OK, maybe sports bar too), but these are outstanding wings. There are more flavors here than at just about any barbecue joint that does wings, and the wings can be had smoked-then-fried, breaded-then-fried or naked fried. Stick with the smoked, whose smokiness does vary depending on what topping you choose, but the size, crispness, tenderness and boldness of flavor are never in doubt. Whether sweet, hot, both or dry rubbed (Cajun, salt and vinegar), these wings satisfy every time. On Wednesdays, they're half price.


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1. Firefly's, Marlborough MA see my review of  this joint

Surprise, surprise. This a comeback story, as Firefly's wings made the original Wings List back in 2009 but dropped off more recent lists due to inconsistency. There's a renewed focus in the kitchen these days, as well as a second wing style that gives them two options: Firefly's Jumbo Wings (whole wings, smoked, grilled) and the newer Crazy Roo's Wings (individual pieces, smoked, deep fried). It's the newer one that's won me over. I'm enthralled by crispness, tenderness, juiciness, and Asian flavors with a molasses backdrop, applied with enough restraint to let the increased woody smokiness and the chicken itself shine through.


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Honorable Mention


There were numerous wing representatives that were in the running but just missed the cut. In some cases it was a matter of being edged out by an upstart; in other cases, a sup-par wings order or two took them out of contention. These near-misses include:


Bar Q , Stamford CT (not quite)

Bison County, Waltham MA (not quite)

BT's Smokehouse, Sturbridge MA (not quite)

Ducks Eatery, NYC (fell off the list) (no recent visit)

Elsemere BBQ, S. Portland ME (not quite)

Fink's Smokehouse, Dumont NJ (not quite)

G. Lee's Smokin' Q, Brooklyn NY (not quite)

Hilltop BBQ, Manchester CT (not quite)

Little Red Smokehouse, Carver MA (not quite)

People's Pint, Greenfield MA (fell off the list) (not quite)

Prohibition Pig, Waterbury VT (not quite, no longer smoked)

Q Restaurant, Port Chester NY (not quite)

Scratch Kitchen, Salem MA (fell off the list) (not quite)

Smoke Joint, Brooklyn NY (not quite)

South Shore BBQ, Patchogue NY (not quite)

Swingbellys, Long Beach NY (not quite)

Taino Smokehouse, Middletown CT (fell off the list) (not quite)

Virgil's, NYC (not quite)



Wished I'd Tried


If time, money, gasoline, calories and wifely consent were all in unlimited supply, I would have visited them all by now, but here are the wings I most regretted not being able to get to:


Billy Joe's Ribworks, Newburgh NY

Bridge View Tavern, Sleepy Hollow NY

Brother Jimmy's, NYC

Brothers BBQ, New Windsor NY

D&A Smokehouse, Scarsdale NY

Hot Suppa, Portland ME

Max's Memphis BBQ, Red Hook NY

Route 7 Grill, Great Barrington MA

Walrus + Carpenter, Bridgeport CT

Whistling pig Smokehouse, Bangor ME

Wing N It, Bristol RI (attempted this weekend, found them closed)

Yellow Rose BBQ, Willimantic CT (though not a regular offering)






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