Best wings photo
(Duffy's wings by Evy Mages)

Best wings

Fritz Hahn, Justin Rude and Going Out Guide readers  |  Updated 10/23/2012

When we asked readers in August to help us find the best wings in the Washington area, they nominated dozens of bars and restaurants with wings in a multitude of preparations. Beyond traditional sauce-covered Buffalo wings, the recommendations we received through e-mails extolled the virtues of smoked wings, roasted wings, fried wings dry-rubbed with Old Bay, Korean-style wings and even vegan barbecue wings.

Here are a few of the most persuasive responses. Whether you're craving a spicy zing or a rich, smoky flavor, there's a great set of wings out there for you.

 

Birch & Barley and ChurchKey

Washington, DC

Simplicity is the key to ChurchKey's wings, which we rate as the best buffalo-style wings in D.C. Loaded with meat, the wings are prepared in house, so they give a sharp crackle when you take a bite. But the key is the tangy, fiery sauce, which consists of two ingredients: Frank's Anchor Bar Wing Sauce for heat, and plenty of butter, for richness and balance. The only question is which of the bar's 555 beers you'll choose to pair with them.

 

Bonchon

Fairfax, VA

Korean fried chicken, including wings, differs from the American style. We'll let Buffalo native Donald Kim, now of the District, explain how they're done at BonChon, a South Korean-based fried chicken chain with four area locations. "They double-fry the chicken to ensure maximum crispness, [and] then they literally brush the sauce on, forming a symbiotic relationship with the skin." That sauce, he says, "uses Korean fermented pepper paste, fiery yet flavorful, [and] the fermentation [adds] a dusky funk much like you'd get from dry-aging a rib-eye. The result is deliciously moist meat encased in a perfectly rendered and sauced skin with a flavor more complex than anything you'd find even in Buffalo."

 

Boundary Stone

Washington, DC

"Honey Hot Wings" sound like the kind of sticky-sweet wings you would find at a chain restaurant, but Boundary Stone regular Callie Wright of the District urges you to look beyond the name. "The wings are spicy, not sweet," she reports, and the flavor is in perfect balance: "Just the right amount of spicy that burns your upper lip but doesn't make your eyes water." Dip them in the creamy house-made blue cheese sauce, she recommends. And "finally, the bone is left in, as it should be," she says. "Boneless wings are chicken nuggets for adults."

The best time to go - and the time you're most likely to find a seat at the popular Bloomingdale bar - is from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, when the wings are half-price.

 

Buffalo Wing Factory

+ Multiple Locations

The local Buffalo Wing Factory franchise is best known as the home of the Flatliner, an eating challenge with wings so spicy you need to sign a medical release before ordering them. (Finish 10 in a row and you get a T-shirt and your picture on the wall.) Flatliners may pack too much heat for most people, so try the wings in the two levels below that. The Torrid Zone and 911 wings remain flavorful even though they're sweat-inducingly spicy. There are 30 flavors to choose from, including peppery Parmesan, sweet flamin' jerk and spicy garlic butter.

 

Duffy's Irish Restaurant and Pub

Washington, DC

Andy Duffy serves some of the area's best wings at his eponymous Irish pub. This isn't a secret: The unassuming watering hole's wings have topped Washington City Paper's readers' poll for four years running. Readers repeatedly praise the Chesapeake wings, which are dry rubbed with Old Bay and charbroiled, but Jason Whiteside of Reston says that the whole menu is fantastic. "Duffy's peanut-oil fried wings appear on the plate with noticeably tight, crispy deep golden skin," he says. "They are not over-sauced as so many others are. Rather, they rest drizzled in enough hot sauce to allow the eater the ability to 'sauce' them on their own. . . . The skin holds its crunchy texture even under the hot sauce, which makes the first wing just as delicious as the 12th."

 

First Down Sports Bar and Grill

Arlington, VA

When a restaurant offers 40 flavors of wings, as this Ballston sports bar does, it can be tough to choose a winner. "My three favorites are the standard hot wings, the spicy garlic wings and the teriyaki madness wings," writes Scott Fallon of Alexandria. "The Old Bay wings are excellent, too." First Down provides a natural place to hang out during football season, but there are better times to go. "I prefer to eat wings in moderation, but I am definitely guilty of going bulk" when there are special deals, Fallon admits. On Mondays, wings cost 49 cents each, and during the all-you-can-eat wing night on Wednesdays, you pay $14.99 for unlimited wings from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. But gluttony isn't what keeps Fallon coming back. "The wings are meaty and tasty, and the bartenders and servers are all super friendly."

 

Mandu

+ Multiple Locations

As at Bonchon, Korean-style wings are the attraction here, and the sticky wings at Mandu are among the best we've had. The coating on the uniformly plump wings includes pureed Asian pear, tangy vinegar and enough spice that you should check your glass's water level before ordering. In contrast to the fiery fried chicken, the interior of the K Street Mandu is a cucumber cool mint-green that feels cool and unpretentious at the same time. The wings are only available on the bar men, so make sure you are sitting in the right place when you go to try them.

 

Metro City Wing House

Temple Hills, MD

There are 14 flavors of wings at Metro City Wing House in Temple Hills, and Scott Howard has tried them all. "I prefer Hot and Jerk," says the Clinton resident. "The wings are always cooked fresh-to-order, never undercooked, seasoned to perfection, always hot and they are just the right size: not too big, meaty or breaded too heavily." Owner Ricky Johnson, a native of Buffalo, is serious about his wings and his football, as you can guess from the Buffalo Bills logo on the restaurant's exterior. The bar has flatscreen televisions showing college and NFL games on Saturday and Sunday.

 

Quarry House Tavern

Silver Spring, MD

Silver Spring's favorite dive bar is known for its live music, beer selection, tater tots and dangerously low restroom ceilings, but it's also a great destination for wing lovers. "I stick with the medium wings at Quarry House. I believe the sauce is the perfect combination of hot sauce flavor and spice, and it will leave you tingly and teared up," says Dupont Circle resident Jon Novak. "But my favorite reason to order the medium wings at Quarry House is this: I've tried to order the hottest wings, and on every occasion, the server will look me up and down, analyzing my true grit and value as a spice consumer, perhaps sniffing for the Sriracha content in my blood, and then very firmly and calmly, with a knowing smile on their face, will say one word to me: 'No.' They have let me order it on the side, though. They were not wrong."

 

Shelly's Back Room

Washington, DC

This restaurant's Web site urged customers to campaign, and backers came out of the woodwork in support of the Campfire wings. The trouble wasn't really necessary, because these wings speak for themselves. Roasted rather than fried, the wings bear a char from their time in the oven and lend a slight smokiness to their light, sweet marinade. They are served with a dish of house-made honey dijon mustard. The wings aren't the only thing at Shelly's with a hint of smoke: A long lunch at this cigar-friendly restaurant will leave your clothes smelling like they've spent some time around a campfire themselves. A campfire in Havana, that is.

 

Smoke and Barrel

Washington, DC

Though Smoke and Barrel's focus is house-smoked barbecue ribs and pork, the Adams Morgan restaurant is "yummy for veggie wings" says reader Karin Anderson. The vegan seitan wings are smoked over a wood fire, just like the regular chicken wings, and served with a dry house rub, the house barbecue sauce, or tossed with a spicy chipotle honey butter.

 

Wingo's

Washington, DC

Tammy Mitchell of the District suggests that this small Georgetown restaurant lives up to its name. "When you open up a box of garlic Parmesan wings from Wingo's, there is no mistaking what is in front of you. You can smell the garlic, and you can see the Parmesan," Mitchell says. "Why would you put blue cheese or ranch on something so perfect?"

 

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