When chicken wings hit the deep fryer, something magical happens. What was once a flabby, borderline useless part of the chicken that was most commonly used for stock suddenly becomes a crispy, juicy snack. Drench the wings in a combination of hot sauce and butter, and they become one of the most delicious foods known to man, and the perfect companion to a football game and a cold beer.
Nowadays, entire chain restaurants are built around the wing, and restaurants pride themselves on offering a wide variety of sauces, even (groan) pumpkin spice and "Rainbow Unicorn." But we're not setting out to honor the most creative, wild, or inventive sauces; we're out to honor the finest examples of the true Buffalo-style wing. And while you might argue that they're all the same (just deep-fried wings tossed in sauce, right?), that couldn't be further from the truth. A perfect Buffalo wing is one that's crisp and not soggy in the least, completely coated in sauce but not bogged down by it, fresh from the fryer, crispy on the outside (with no flabby skin) while remaining juicy on the inside, and the sauce needs to have the right balance of spice to butter without being overly greasy. It's actually a lot harder than it appears to make a perfect Buffalo wing, but the bars and restaurants we're honoring today have got it down to a science. iStockPhoto
#25 BuffaLouie's (Bloomington, Indiana)
Located a stone's throw from Indiana University's campus since opening in 1987, Buffalouie's is perpetually packed, and if anyone knows good wings, it's college students. Wings are available in 17 homemade sauces, but stick with the straight-ahead Buffalo sauce: perfectly balanced, crispy, juicy, and so easily washed down with a beer.
#24 Wogies (New York, New York)
In a town known for great wings, the ones at Wogies have risen above the pack. This classic sports bar serves classically delicious wings with no frills - they're crunchy, spicy, perfectly sauced, and addictive. The heat level is spot-on, and there's simply not much else you can want in a sports bar. Wogies
#23 Flanigan's (Various Florida Locations)
A light dusting of cornstarch before they hit the deep fryer is the secret to the success of the big, meaty wings at this South Florida institution, which has more than 20 locations in the region. Whether you order them mild or hot, you'll want to keep coming back for more.
#22 Wingers (Multiple Locations)
Utah-based mini-chain Wingers, which also has locations in Idaho, Oregon, and Nevada, brews its own craft beer, keeps the classic rock pumping, and turns out some of the best wings you'll find anywhere. Their wings here are usually battered before they're fried, but can be ordered with no batter if that's what you prefer. Their sauces are so addictive that they bottle their own, and you can buy your wings by the bucket. Wingers
#21 Addy's Bar and Grill (Omaha, Nebraska)
Should you find yourself in Omaha, some of the best wings around will be found at Addy's. The secret to their success is a trip to the grill after saucing, resulting in a caramelized exterior and a nice, smoky flavor. Big, juicy, and still retaining their crispiness, these wings are impossible not to fall in love with at first bite. omnavore.omaha.com
#20 Daddy-O (New York, New York)
Popular West Village bar Daddy-O is run by Rochester native Phil Casaceli, and he takes his wings very seriously. A little red wine vinegar, honey, and tomato sauce makes its way into the hot sauce-butter blend, and the concoction is a perfect accompaniment to the crisp fried wings. If you're in New York and love wings, you owe it to yourself to try these. Yelp/ Dana C.
#19 Bird's Nest (Chicago, Illinois)
Plump, juicy, and flavorful, the wings at Bird's Nest are also some of the largest you'll find. Paired with some killer blue cheese dip, these wings really hit all the right notes. Yelp/ Justin S
#18 Buffalo Joe's (Evanston, Illinois)
Super-crispy, crunchy, and perfectly sized, the wings at Buffalo Joe's come drenched in a stellar wing sauce, available in plenty of heat levels. Don't miss out on the waffle cheese fries! flickr/ whitperson
#17 East Coast Wings & Grill (Multiple Locations)
With nearly 40 locations nationwide, North Carolina-based East Coast knows how to make a good wing. There are 60 flavors and seven heat levels on offer, but the true test is the classic Buffalo-style, and they nail it: they've even taken the title of Best Traditional Hot Wing at the Carolina Wing Festival.
East Coast Wings & Grill
#16 Three Dollar Café (Atlanta, Georgia)
Three Dollar Café has 11 locations in the Atlanta area, all the better for those who want to be as close as possible to world-class wings. Nothing short of legendary, these wings come in orders from 10 to 50, and are big, meaty, and perfectly crispy. The atmosphere, with plenty of TVs and lots of great beer, makes for a world-class wing-eating experience. Three Dollar Café
#15 Jake Melnick's Corner Tap (Chicago, Illinois)
The wings at Jake Melnick's are pretty much flawless, evenly fried, perfectly sauced, and handled with care. Big, meaty, and juicy, they'll make a wing lover out of those who swear they're not a fan. It's hard to put your finger exactly on what makes these wings so perfect, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a finer wing in the Windy City.
#14 Pluckers Wing Bar (Multiple Locations)
With more than 20 locations throughout Texas (and three in Louisiana), the folks behind Pluckers must be doing something right. And they are: they've never compromised quality, using only high-quality chicken wings and making their sauces, including their blue cheese sauce made with real blue cheese, from scratch. Pluckers Wing Bar
#13 Wingnuts (Costa Mesa, California)
The wings at Wingnuts start off with a 24-hour marinade before heading to the deep fryer. Going through about 3,000 pounds of wings per week, this restaurant offers wings in a ton of flavors, but you can't go wrong with the straight-up Buffalo. Packing just enough of a spicy punch and loads of flavor from the marinade, they're absolutely to die for (and you'll feel like you want to after sampling the "Seek Shelter" heat level). A trip to Wingnuts doesn't result in just awesome wings, it's also always a really fun time. Wingnuts
#12 Dirty Birds (San Diego, California)
Wings that are big, meaty, crispy on the outside, and juicy on the inside, and more than 20 house-made varieties of sauces to choose from? You can't go wrong at Dirty Birds, a fun, lively, beachy sports bar, but start out with the Classic Buffalo to get a sense of how pitch-perfect these are. To see their fryer skills, you can also order them "Naked," with no sauce at all. Don't miss out on the homemade blue cheese dip, though (you can also order your wings coated in half wing sauce, half blue cheese dip). Dirty Birds
#11 Bonnie's Grill (Brooklyn, New York)
Located in the heart of Park Slope, Brooklyn's Restaurant Row, the diminutive Bonnie's, run by two guys from Buffalo, N.Y., is mostly taken up by a long counter from which you can watch your never-frozen wings fry to order, then get a toss in house-made Buffalo sauces of varying intensity. No Caribbean jerk sauce here, just a near-flawless, Buffalo-style wing sauce. They're served steaming hot with just the right amount of sauce and are best washed down with one of their rotating craft beers or a cheap can of Genesee - there's no better way to while away a lazy afternoon.
#10 Gabriel's Gate (Buffalo, New York)
For all the attention Anchor Bar gets, Gabriel's Gate, housed in a building dating back to 1864, certainly gives it a run for its money. The wings served at Gabriel's are bigger than you'll usually find, and are fried and sauced to perfection. flickr/ Linden Tea, queenkv
#9 Gritty's (Three Maine Locations)
Gritty's (formerly Gritty McDuff's, and no relation to the Philly mascot), The first brewpub to open in Maine since Prohibition, also happens to serve some of the best wings you'll find anywhere. They're available in a handful of sauces and dry rubs - but these guys know that you don't need to rely on crazy sauces to let the wings shine. If you're lucky you might be able to join their "Mug Club" and hang your personal mug on the wall, but it's a lot easier to just dig into a plate of stellar wings and down one of their own line of beers. There are locations in Portland, Freeport, and Auburn.
#8 Legend Larry's (Multiple Wisconsin Locations)
The winner of several awards at the National Buffalo Wing Festival, Legend Larry's is certainly legendary in its native Wisconsin, where it has four locations. The big, juicy, wings are guaranteed to be hot out of the fryer, and are best washed down with their stellar selection of craft beers.
#7 The Bazaar by José Andrés (Multiple Locations)
The most upscale, wildly experimental restaurant on this list also serves some of the country's most mind-blowingly delicious wings. At his Bazaar (which las locations in Beverly Hills, Las Vegas, and Miami), José Andrés first confits his wings (slow-cooking them in chicken fat) before deboning them, dredging them in flour, pan-frying them, then dunking them in his own interpretation of Buffalo sauce. He's even got the accompaniments covered: each wing is topped with blue cheese cream and compressed diced celery. The Bazaar by José Andrés
#6 Jimmie Kramer's Peanut Bar (Reading, Pennsylvania)
There are no frills to the wings at Reading institution Peanut Bar, where guests have been littering the floor with peanut shells since the 1930s. Great care is given to the wings here (just like all the other items on the sprawling menu), which have won countless awards. They also offer them in a garlic-herb sauce, but you'll want to stick to the classic: big, meaty, crispy wings, perfectly sauced, made with high-quality chicken. Not much not to love here. Foursquare/ Brian F
#5 Nine-Eleven Tavern (Buffalo, New York)
There's something magical about the Buffalo sauce that douses the wings at longtime Buffalo favorite Nine-Eleven Tavern, but it'll have to remain a mystery - it's a closely-held secret. The wings themselves are consistently perfectly crisp on the outside and juicy on the inside, and they're artfully arranged on the platter into a glorious ring of deliciousness. You can buy a bottle of that legendary wing sauce on your way out and try to replicate them at home, but these wings deserve to be enjoyed in their natural setting, which also happens to be a pretty amazing dive bar. Yelp/ Richard M.
#4 Delaney's Hole in the Wall (North Conway, New Hampshire)
Crispy and tossed in a perfectly balanced sauce, the wings at Delaney's are consistently rated among New England's best, and were voted New Hampshire's best by New Hampshire Magazine in 2008. Conveniently located near the slopes, they're a perfect après-ski snack.
#3 Anchor Bar (Buffalo, New York)
Anchor Bar is the place that started it all, and many would argue that they've been often imitated, never duplicated. The wings are consistently juicy, crispy, spicy, and served to teeming hordes of hungry masses, and those who make a pilgrimage here never leave unsatisfied (especially after knocking back a few tap Genesee Cream Ales). Yelp/ Shaun H.
#2 J. Timothy's Taverne (Plainville, Connecticut)
Located in a building that's well more than 200 years old, J. Timothy's serves a full menu, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a table that doesn't have a pile of chicken bones on it. Constantly rated the best in the state, J. Timothy's serves more than 200 tons of wings per year, and invented what's called the "Dirt Style" wing, where they get a dose of sauce both before and after they head into the deep fryer. Usually a recipe for an acrid, burnt-tasting wing, these guys have mastered the art form and the result is a depth of flavor that just doesn't exist elsewhere.
#1 Duff's Famous Wings (Multiple New York Locations)
With six locations in upstate New York, Duff's cements the region's claim to fame as the home of the best wings in the country. Not only did they beat Anchor Bar on Man vs. Food, but Barack Obama himself paid the Depew location a visit. There's some sort of magic in their sauce, which is unbelievably flavorful, and even after a dousing the wings stay crispier than you'll find just about anywhere else, while staying juicy and tender on the inside. Upstate New York, we're officially jealous of your amazing wings, one of the state's most iconic foods.
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