These Are A Few Of My Favorite Wings
With the start of the 2015 NFL season comes my now-annual list of favorite smoked wings, this time at thirteen 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.
Remember, this is called a Favorite list, not a Best list, for two reasons: 1) unless I try 'em all, I'm not in a position to say best; and 2) every palate is different. You'll quickly get an idea, though, of what appeals to my palate: whether sweet or savory, what I look for most in a wing is contrast (both in flavor and texture), fragrant smoke and strong chicken flavor prevailing regardless of the additions.
13. Causeway, Boston MA
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. www.causewayboston.com
12. Big W's BBQ, Wingdale NY
These savory wings with lots of bump pack the strongest smoke-heat-chicken troika in the bunch. A recent batch lost some of the crispness and just-out-of-the-smoker freshness, dropping Big W's a few rungs, but with so much flavor they're still very much on the list. www.bigwsbbq.com
11. Binga's Stadium, Portland ME
The top finisher two years ago and the runner-up last year took a bit of a backslide this year with some drops in crispness and moistness, but hopefully that's only temporary. This barbecue joint that's even more of a wing joint is also one of the better sports bars in New England, with TVs both on the walls and in the booths for your football enjoyment. 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 rarely in doubt. www.bingasstadium.com
10. Blue Smoke, NYC
Years ago, my server at Blue Smoke told me their chipotle wings were fried, not smoked, so I took her word for it, assumed the smokiness came from the sauce and left them off past lists. But the wings are indeed smoked, and that smoke is made more noticeable by a controversial reworking in recent months. Gone is the chipotle, replaced by a new Alabama white sauce that leaves the crisp skins intact and achieves my favorite attribute: contrast. There's a magic here similar to what happens between Buffalo sauce and bleu cheese dressing, and it makes these wings surprisingly addictive. www.bluesmoke.com
9. Carnivores, Milford MA
The thing that'll draw you to here is the Bacon Buffalo wings, but that cured pork inclusion—both bacon bits and bacony liquid—is neither a gimmick nor a crutch. These wings bring size (jumbo), smoke (light, but noticeable), crust (heavy, but not burnt), a juicy interior and a unique snap. Still super accessible in quantities of 4 and 8, and with other flavors beside bacon, Carnivores' wings are an easy add-on or focus unto themselves. Most importantly, they've gotten better over time. Facebook
8. Hoodoo Brown Barbecue, Ridgefield CT