Wintry Buffalo, N.Y. understandably waits until August to mount its annual hot wing bash, but for eaters everywhere else, January is peak wing season. Between tonight’s BCS National Championship game and the Super Bowl on Feb. 2, Americans will eat millions of pounds of chicken wings. According to the National Chicken Council, if laid end-to-end, the number of wings consumed on Super Bowl Sunday would circle the Earth twice.
Charleston has plenty of dedicated wing joints to serve hungry football fans, including Buffalo Wild Wings, Wild Wings Café, Hubee D’s Wings, D.D. Pecker’s Wing Shack, Wingstop and Boo-Yah Wings. But it’s not just specialists who are enamored of the flavorful, affordable dark meat: Wings have a way of popping up everywhere. There are ritzy wings at Husk and The Grocery; saucy wings at Gullah Cuisine and charcoal-cooked wings at Pollo Loko.
I’ve lately started ordering unexpected wings in hopes of finding a preparation to rival the classic pub recipe of butter and hot sauce. Thus far, nothing’s beat Home Team’s slow-smoked, white-sauced version of the bar snack, but I’m still looking. Here, a few offbeat wings worth noting:
This Caribbean seafood joint serves half a dozen flavored wings, including teriyaki, lemon pepper and honey mustard, but plain fried wings are the most popular chicken parts on the menu. Island Seafood is distinguished by its fryer aptitude: While its wings could stand a hit of Caribbean seasoning, they’re meticulously and perfectly fried to a greaseless finish.
The wings at Crust are a miserable blur of vinegar, bitterness and dry meat: I gave up on my serving after one-and-a-half drumettes. But I’m including them here because they’re perhaps the prettiest wings I’ve ever encountered. Crust wins all of the appearance points.
So many ingredients in the standard Latin pantry seem ready-made for a wing recipe: I’m on a perpetual hunt for local wings slathered with mole or adobo sauce. But the Mexican restaurants I’ve visited around Charleston seem content to serve Buffalo-style wings. That’s an understandable inclination at El Dorado, an unassuming Mexican-American restaurant which serves terrifically meaty wings with a lovely, lingering heat.
Which other non-wing-oriented restaurants serve worthwhile wings? I’d love to hear about them.