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, where to get your wing fix in the area? Here are your best bets.
Best salt-baked wings
The salt-baked wings from shuttered Tasty Place are impossible to replace, but the Cantonese classic David’s Mai Lai Wah 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 are worth the drive. For those in the city, visit any location of the Mama Wong chef’s previous employer, Han Dynasty.
Best black garlic wings
The Cantonese-style salt-and-pepper crust gets the hipster fusion upgrade of black garlic caramel with lime and sesame at creative Fishtown noodle bar Cheu Fishtown.
Best deep-fried and BBQ wings
People come to Henri’s Hotts Barbeque 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. One thing to note: Henri’s closes for the winter, and opens for 2022 on Feb. 18. Mike’s BBQ or Sweet Lucy’s Smoke House are great alternatives.
Best classic wings
These wings get an update at Ripplewood in Ardmore: 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.
Best Korean-fried chicken wings
The supersized wings at Southgate 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.
Andy’s Chicken: 📍 2001 Memphis St, 2108 South St., and 709 West Ave., Jenkintown, 📞 215-291-0700 (Memphis St.), 215-515-3553 (South St.), 215-935-6074 (Jenkintown) 📷 @andys_chicken, 🚗 Caviar, DoorDash, Grubhub, Uber Eats
Best buffalo wings
Old-school buffalo-style wings at Moriarty’s Irish Pub and Restaurant: 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.
Best Cambodian stuffed wings
Try them at Sophie’s Kitchen. 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.
Best Vietnamese wings
There’s a long tradition of great chicken wings in Philly’s Vietnamese restaurants, from “Pop’s wings” glazed in a bubbling hot caramelized soy at Le Viet to trendsetting new Gabriella’s Vietnam, where the full-joint flappers are crisped and sauced in one of three choices, including zesty soy garlic or mung bean. But sauces, though, aren’t required. In fact, there was none served with the wings at Cafe Nhan; chef and co-owner Andrew Dinh Vo gets all the flavor he needs from a fish sauce brine and a well-seasoned, micro-thin crust that crackles with spice when taking a bite.
Best Jamaican wings
Southwest Philly’s Kingston 11 is known for giving its food a deep island savor, from its sublime oxtails and curry goat to zest greens. Its chicken wings are no exception. They’re served two ways here — marinated in jerk spice overnight, then deeply smoked the next day and glazed with the restaurant’s signature tangy sauce (honey jerk sticky-style), or deep fried into crispy wing dings with the spice-infused batter that Kingston 11 uses for its famous jerk fried chicken. Get them both!
Kingston 11: 📍 6405 Woodland Ave., 📞 215-596-0216, 📷 @kingston11_philly