Chicken wings are more than late-night food that comes glossed in buffalo sauce. They’re an international, year-round obsession, and Philly’s kitchens represent the full global spectrum. So, what’s the best place to get your wing fix in Philly? Here are your best bets.
The salt-baked wings from recently shuttered Tasty Place are impossible to replace, but the Cantonese classic David’s Mai Lai Wah (1001 Race St.) has a similar version that should get you through a late-night Chinatown craving. Lately, though, I’m thinking more about the spicier Szechuan rendition, and the lip-numbing wings dusted with peppercorns and chilies at Mama Wong (268 Eagleview Blvd., Exton) are worth the drive. For those in the city, visit any location of the Mama Wong chef’s previous employer, Han Dynasty.
Black garlic wings at Cheu Fishtown (1416 Frankford Ave.): The Cantonese-style salt-and-pepper crust gets the hipster fusion upgrade of black garlic caramel with lime and sesame at this creative Fishtown noodle bar, as well as its original 10th Street outlet.
Malaysian wings at Sate Kampar (1837 E. Passyunk Ave.): Angelina Branca uses the same saté spice that she does for her famous skewers, but crusted on full blade-to-tip wings with their added dimension of bone-in savor, and with sambal for dipping.
Deep-fried/BBQ wings at Henri’s Hotts Barbeque (1003 E. Black Horse Pike, Hammonton, N.J.): People come for the excellent smoked meats at Doug Henri’s South Jersey roadhouse, but he also happens to make some of the best fried chicken anywhere. It’s even better in wing form, as those meaty flappers are served with a shimmer of his dark and tangy honey-kissed sauce. Note: Henri’s is closed for the season until March 31, so, if you’re in need of smoked chicken wings now, Mike’s BBQ (1711 S. 11th St.) or Sweet Lucy’s Smoke House (7500 State Rd.) are great alternatives.
Classic wings get an update at Ripplewood in Ardmore (29 E. Lancaster Ave.): Chef Biff Gottehrer confits the sage- and spice-cured wings to tenderness in a hot schmaltz bath then crisps and glazes them to finish in the funky spice of house-fermented fresno chile hot sauce.
Korean-fried chicken wings at Southgate (1801 Lombard St.): These supersized wings are a polished rendition of the “KFC” genre (other favorites include Café Soho and Andy’s Chicken), and this Korean gastropub has mastered the double-crust crackle, with juicy meat and a sauce so fragrant, you can smell its sesame and soy-sweet spice wafting halfway up 18th Street.
Old-school Buffalo-style wings at Moriarty’s Irish Pub and Restaurant (1116 Walnut St.): for those who crave the nose-tickling, neon-orange spice of traditional buffalo wings, this venerable Irish pub serves them plump, crisp, and punchy with Frank’s hot sauce heat.
Cambodian-stuffed wings at Sophie’s Kitchen (522 Washington Ave.): Cambodians have a special talent for giving their chicken wings extra intrigue — deboning, then stuffing them with chopped chicken, glass noodles, and wood ear mushrooms zapped with holy basil and a lemongrass spice paste called kroeung. The flavors are electric, and the wing’s new form is itself a revelation, the chicken transformed into its own char-kissed dumpling.