The Charlie Horse – West Bridgewater, MA

During an impromptu lunch date with Meghan at the Charlie Horse, I decided to have an appetizer of their buffalo wings for lunch.  The waitress assured me that there were plenty of wings in there, and she wasn’t kidding – as an appetizer, there were definitely enough wings for two people, possibly three. 

The wings are pretty traditional – fried and tossed in sauce.  However, they are executed perfectly – a big mound of well-cooked wings arrived, coated in sauce, but not so much that it turned the crispy skin soggy.  The wings were thoroughly cooked, making it easy to pull the meat off the bone and insuring all the skin fat was cooked out. 

The sauce itself is pleasantly hot – if you like it really spicy, their "hot" won’t be hot enough for you, but it still gives a comfortable spiciness that makes them very edible.  They were served with a nice complement of excellent blue cheese dressing and carrot and celery sticks. 

The wings are a little small, but I don’t downgrade them for it, since there were plenty of them and resulted in some perfectly cooked wings.

RATING: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Bison County – Waltham, MA

A recent trip to Bison County BBQ naturally involved trying an order of their Spicy South Carolina Jumbo Chicken Wings.  I went with just the spicy rather than the "crazily hot" since the waitress said that that version was made with nearly straight habanero chile.  I love spicy food, but I like to be able to taste the meat and enjoy the food too.

The wings are indeed "jumbo" – not only are they large and meaty, but they are full wing sections, with the wing and drummets still connected, unusual for restaurant wings.  There aren’t many in a platter, but there’s plenty of meat to go around.  The wings are smoked and grilled with a spicy rub on them – a deceptively spicy rub.  I was the first to dig into the wings and realized rather quickly that these were pretty spicy.  Others didn’t believe me for the first half-minute or so after biting into them, but then quickly agreed.  The "South Carolina" part of the wings is simply that it comes with a vinegar-y mustard-y dipping sauce, a combination of the vinegar and mustard-based BBQ sauces found in the Carolinas.

It made for a great accompaniment to the wings, which did taste great, with a nice char-grilled and smokey flavor.  However, while they were definitely fully cooked, they weren’t cooked to the point where the fat of the skin and wings had completely rendered out, so they were a little greasy.  The sauce and the spices made up for it though. 

As a quick aside, the main course barbecue itself was good, but not great.  The first sparerib I had was fantastic. The others had clearly been sitting around for a little bit waiting for a customer to order them.  The brisket was OK, but sliced very very thin, meaning it was a little dried out and not that tender.  But this is about wings, not BBQ, so I’ll give these:

RATING: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Gritty McDuff’s – Portland, ME

Following the disappointing attempt at wings in Lowell the day before, I was determined to get some good wings during a quick overnight trip to Portland, Maine.  Once we got into Portland, we stopped at Gritty McDuff’s for a beer and a snack, which of course turned out to be wings.

Specifically, we tried their "Gritty Wings" which, in retrospect, isn’t the most appetizing name.  I was really just hoping for a well-executed batch of traditional buffalo wings, but was pleasantly surprised.  Rather than your straightforward Frank’s Red Hot and margarine sauce, Gritty McDuff’s sauce has a bounty of flavors which makes the wings delicious AND spicy. 

As Meghan and I ate them, we picked apart some of the flavors – what we believed was either honey or molasses and what I believe is definitely some cumin.  With the addition of some unusual flavors, the sauce tasted fresh, not bottled or manufactured.

The wings themselves were perfectly cooked and served with some great blue cheese dressing.  These wings are real winners and I would love to get my hands on the sauce recipe, since it is one of the best I’ve ever tasted.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars!!!!

The Brewery Exchange – Lowell, MA

I recently took my parents out to a concert in Lowell, MA and had dinner before at The Brewery Exchange.  Their menu had hot wings, advertised as being with their "own spicy honey glaze."  Intrigued, we tried some.

The wings themselves were somewhat mediocre – obviously a pre-made breaded frozen style wing, the breading was soggy from the sauce by the time they got to us.  They should put the sauce on the size if the wings are going to be breaded.  In addition, the chicken was cooked perfectly white, but the bone itself felt a little cold still, so they must have gone from freezer to fryer.

The sauce was good – definitely some underlying sweetness from honey, but overall, nothign special, and a little dissapointed with the wings themselves.

RATING: 2 out 5 stars