I was hesitant to put this under the category of "Restaurant Wings" since it barely qualifies for either, but for lack of a better description, I’ll put it there for now.  I am thinking of putting a "take out" category however.

Anyway… on the way back from Baltimore, we stopped at a highway rest stop for an upscale dining experience at Chez McDonald’s.  I got the Chicken Selects with their buffalo wing sauce.  I have to admit that these things are surprisingly good. 

The chicken strips are crispy and not greasy at all and the chicken inside is actually white chicken meat, not the processed chicken meal that goes into chicken nuggets.  They have a pleasantly salty and peppery bite by themselves, but when dipped in the buffalo wing sauce, they are quite good! 

The sauce is of the creamy variety, with a thick viscosity that clings nicely to the chicken.  We are probably better off not knowing how they get it to be like that. The heat is good, with a vinegary pepper sauce after bite.

RATING: A surprising 3.5 out of 5

Rock Bottom Brewery – Boston

Before going to see Spamalot in Boston this week, we headed to the Rock Bottom Brewery for dinner (perhaps I should have called this the "beer n’ wings" blog).  Naturally, we had to try the buffalo wings.

A solid performance from the folks at Rock Bottom, but nothing special.  The wings weren’t particularly meaty or crispy, but weren’t bad either. While the buffalo sauce was good, it wasn’t anything special; not that spicy, no different flavors, not particular rich or creamy.  In fact, it was a little on the salty side, which probably works well for selling beer, but unimpressed this wing aficionado.

RATING: 2.5 out of 5 stars

The Wharf Rat – Baltimore, MD

During a spontaneous trip to Baltimore to see the Red Sox play the Orioles, we had dinner at The Wharf Rat, located right near Camden Yards.  A British pub-inspired eatery, they served some good food and good beer – many of which are served hand-pumped at the traditional 55 degree temperature.

Of course, like any self-respecting brewpub they had wings on the menu, but with your choice of four flavors: buffalo, jerk, BBQ, or Old Bay.  Since we were in Baltimore, home of Old Bay seasoning, we figured we would go with that. 

The good news is that the wings were perfectly cooked – crispy, moist and delicious.  The bad news is that their Old Bay style wings simply involves sprinkling Old Bay over the cooked wings.  Underwhelming at best, and not really either hot OR saucy to be honest.

Now, if they had been baked or grilled with Old Bay, that might be different: the flavor would penetrate the wings more and as it toasted the Old Bay spices, a whole new flavor would arise.  Or even if they put Old Bay in a buttery hot sauce.  But just sprinkling it on wings just didn’t add enough flavor.

RATING: 2 out of 5 stars

Brown Sugar Cafe – Boston

This was a bit of a stretch: going to Brown Sugar Cafe, a Thai restaurant and they had "stuffed wings" on the menu described as "

Golden fried boneless chicken wings with stuffing of seasoned minced chicken, vegetables and Thai herbs. Served with House Sweet Chili Sauce."

I figured that they were fried and served with a hot and sweet sauce, so why not try them?  That turned out to be a slight misjudgment on my part.  The rest of the food there was great – I had roast duck curry which was very good and Meghan had crispy pad thai which made me whish I had gotten the pad thai (I have had several bad pad thais over the last few years and has kinda turned me off after loving it the first few times I had it).  The wings, were, simply, a disappointment.

They were fried and golden, but not crispy – I’m not sure how they did it, because they looked great; they just were fatty and tough.  Also the "boneless" description was pushing it, as I pulled a few pieces of gristle out of my mouth while eating them.  Lastly, the stuffing didn’t have much flavor – really didn’t add anything to the dish.

The only redeeming thing was the chili sauce which was a pleasantly hot bright red sauce that was also very sweet.  I kept the sauce on hand for my main course, it was so good. 

RATING: 1 out of 5 stars

Hard Rock Cafe – Chicago

While on a long weekend excursion with friends to Chicago recently, we tried the Wings Around the World, described as "A dozen chicken wings tossed in three different world-class sauces: a spicy Moroccan sauce, an Asian-sesame sauce and our classic wing sauce."

The wings themselves were perfectly cooked – crispy and well done, with plenty of juiciness left.  The three sauces were all well received by myself and my two dining companions, though I felt the Asian-sesame sauce was lacking, compared to other Asian-style wing sauces I have had.  Not a lot of "pop" to it. Photo_040106_013

The classic wing sauce was quite good – a standard delicious buffalo wing sauce.  I asked for a side of the "heavy metal" wing sauce, a hotter version, and one that turned out to have better flavor.  If you want your wings hotter, spicier, and more flavorful, I highly suggest getting the heavy metal sauce.  It has some nice smoked pepper flavors to, as well as other savory aromatics.

The Moroccan sauce was the highlight of the three though.  Totally different from your expected wing sauces, it carried curry overtones that gave it a depth of flavor not found in most fiery sauces. And since the heat and spice didn’t come from the usual pepper sources, it had a delayed, lingering burn that hit you further back in your mouth and on your tongue than the usual tongue-tip and lip searing that happens with traditional hot sauces.  It made for a pleasant experience and a sauce that I love to try barbecuing with!

RATING: 3.5 out of 5 stars overall (5 out of 5 for Moroccan, 2.5 for the Asian, 3 for the traditional sauced wings, and 4 for the heavy metal sauce)

I also had the Cajun chicken sandwich which was quite good, though was helped along with the left over heavy metal sauce.  Nicely grilled with Cajun spices and served with a Cajun-mustard-mayonnaise sauce.

RATING: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Boston Beer Works

This was the third time that I had the "Honey Hot wings" at Boston Beer Works.  They are not wings – though you can get them as such – but delicious little of chunks of white chicken meat lightly battered, fried and then tossed with their very original glaze.

The chicken pieces themselves represent what I think may be the perfect boneless wings. All-white meat, in whole pieces, not a ground processed meat, in a light batter that I would say involves cornstarch and/or egg whites. It is not unlike tempura.

The sauce is an Asian-influenced concoction with tons of flavor but relatively light on the heat.  If you’re looking for a serious burning taste, this isn’t your top choice, but there is just enough spice to keep it interesting.  What it lacks in heat it makes up for in flavor: the sauce has flavors of soy, honey, and a slight hint of Chinese five spice.  It is served with plenty of celery and a great chunky blue cheese dressing. 

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

On a related "spicy chicken" note – for my entree at Boston Beer Works I went for their "Up State New Yorker Chicken Sandwich," a thinly veiled reference to Buffalo. Unlike most buffalo chicken sandwiches, Beer Works’ sandwich starts off with a whole chicken breast pounded thin and grilled. Considering the thinness of the chicken, I applaud the chefs for not over-cooking the meat.
The chicken is then served with their traditional buffalo wing sauce and crumbled blue cheese. The buffalo sauce really isn’t that traditional: there is definitely some chipotle or other smoked pepper sauce in there since it had a distinct smokey flavor.  Nice amount of heat and flavor – I’ll have to try the wings in that sometime if I can pull myself away from the Honey Hot variety!

My only complaint about the sauce is that there simply wasn’t enough of it for my taste. The pungency of the blue cheese – which was obviously of a good quality – overwhelmed both the flavor and the spiciness of the sauce.  This was quickly remedied however, by a request for more sauce and all was well.

RATING: 3 out of 5 stars (with the potential for being 4 or even 5 if they had served it with more sauce)

Piccadilly Pub Asian Wings

Piccadilly Pub has a new appetizer on its menu, an Asian-style wing with sesame and soy flavors. The wings themselves are cooked very well – no worries of under-done wings here!  In fact, they are in danger of OVER cooking them, if they were fried for any longer. However, the wings were still juicy and tender, with a super crispy skin – quite possibly the crispiest I have ever had. 

The sauce is a flavorful, if not  original, combination of soy, sesame, garlic, and what I think was a hint of sherry. The flavors are carried in a sweet sticky glaze that sticks nicely to the wings.

RATING: 4 out of 5 stars

Joff’s Barckyard Grill

Inspired by the newly functioning, I decided to have wings for lunch today, from Joff’s Backyard Grill, just down the street from the office.

I have eaten there a few times and they make great burgers, chili and wings.  I haven’t had the wings since right after they opened though and glad to report that not only are they as good as they originally were, but they are actually even BETTER.

Instead of a deep-fried wing, I went with their Fire Roasted Chicken wings which has Joff’s own dry rub on the chicken and then grilled. They are full of flavor, and the wings would be good enough just on their own, without any additional sauce. Kudos to Joff’s for not only having a good dry rub for their wings, but also cooking them to perfection.  Plenty of grilled flavor and not undercooked; wings are notoriously difficult to cook on the grill without having them come out either underdone or burnt.  These were tender and juicy, with skin that was nicely charred and brown from the grilling, which meant they weren’t fatty or rubbery. Photo_03

I chose their "hot" sauce – they offer mild, medium, hot and suicide.  The hot was just right for me – they had a nice bite to them that stung your lips and tongue in just the way they should, without making you wince in pain.  What is especially nice is that the sauce is flavorful – not just hot – and picks up a lot of the grilled flavor from the wings.

All together, it makes for some of the better wings I’ve had.  Not a classic buffalo wing, but very very good anyway.  They come highly recommended and would love to know what the "honey garlic" flavor is like.  Their blue cheese dressing, which costs extra with the order, is also very good – nice and chunky with plenty of other flavors to cool the palate.

RATING: 4.5 out of 5 stars