The Alchemist – Waterbury, VT

An extremely popular watering hole, The Alchemist is a brew pub that offers up delicious locally sourced food to go along with its amazing hand-crafted beers.  It is a favorite after-work spot of the locals and on a Friday night in the winter when you have end-of-the-week workers congregating along side the incoming weekend skiers, things can get pretty crowded.  Even during the week, it is surprisingly busy for a restaurant in the relatively quiet little town of Waterbury.

Since I work across the street from it, I’ve had the opportunity to sample much of its beer and several of its menu items.  However, until last night, I had never had their wings (I know – shame on me).

I have been missing out.

The wings come from Misty Knoll Farm, a local chicken farm, so they are super fresh, flavorful and juicy. They come in two styles: spicy dry rub or buffalo style.  I haven’t had the buffalo style, opting for the dry rub.  Next time I’ll go for the buffalo style, but they will be hard pressed to top the dry rubbed version.

The dish arrives with the wings arranged around a small container of blue cheese dressing and covered
with a light sprinkling of crumbled mild blue cheese.  As the plate is placed in front of you, the aroma of paprika and spices mixing with the richness of
the blue cheese wafts into your nostrils. The wings are cooked just right, with light, crispy skin that holds the rub perfectly.  The flavor of the rub is a perfect balance of heat, sweet and savory.  Unlike some other dry rub wings, these don’t lose all their flavoring as you eat them, and it doesn’t overpower the taste of the chicken.  I can say that these are easily some of the best “dry-style” wings I have ever had anywhere.

It is right down the street from The Reservoir, which means that Waterbury, Vermont has two locations that start to make it a wing-lover’s destination.

The Reservoir – Waterbury, VT

The Reservoir in Waterbury, VT used to be called Waterbury Wings, so they have a strong wing heritage.  When they changed their name, they also changed their menu to offer a wider selection of food, but it is still a good 'ol pub type of place, with the usual Vermont spin: tons of craft brews and use of local food. 

There are nine different styles of wings offered, mostly consisting of varying levels of heat intensity, along with a Teriyaki style, Chipotle, Honey BBQ, Spicy Honey BBQ and a spicy horseradish.  All of them are available either "crispy" (fried) or grilled.  They also have frequent specials for additional wing flavors.

Their crispy style are quite good, but I have a preference for the grilled option, which come out nicely blackened and flavorful with a nice light rub.  Straight up buffalo style ("hot") is quite good.  The horseradish is interesting, as it is kind of a wet rub style with fresh horseradish, which isn't as hot as you might think.  However, my two favorites are the Teriyaki style, especially served with the grilled wings, and one that they only offer as a special: Southwestern style.  The Teriyaki are served with a thick sweet and tangy glaze that has plenty of garlic and Chinese five spice flavor in it.  They are a mess to eat, but well worth it.  The Southwestern style come highly recommend if it is available – it is a wonderful combination of savory spices, heat and a little sweetness that just sings when paired with the grilled wings.  It would make even Bobby Flay proud!  

My only sticking point with the wings here is that their crispy style wings sometimes come out a little tough – the flavor is great and they are nice and juicy, but the meat itself is a little tough.  Perhaps they are cooked at too high of a temp or just a bit too long. It is a minor quibble, but one that I feel is worth mentioning.  My solution is to go for the grilled version!  Overall, a great place for wings and if you're also into great beer, terrific burgers and fantastic french fries (they might be laced with crack, they are so addictive), then it is well worth a stop for a wing fanatic.

RATING: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Big Tony’s – Providence, RI

Wings from a pizza place are always a crap shoot.  It is never their expertise, and since you usually get take-out from a pizza joint, there is plenty of opportunity for the wings to get soggy and gross. We got take-out from Tony's while at the house of friends' and they said the wings were pretty good, and we decided to try them.

Tony's solution to avoiding the soggy wing issue?  Embrace it.  The wings arrived practically swimming in sauce.  There was no hope of these wings being crispy, but the skin wasn't tough or rubbery either – basically, the whole skin/meat part just slid right off the bone. 

The sauce was fairly spicy, with a sweet undertone that helped to mellow out the heat and add depth of flavor.  Not unlike Tony's in general, I would say that the wings are worth getting if you're nearby, but not worth going out of your way for.

RATING: 3 out of 5 stars

Texas Land & Cattle – Arlington, TX

These wings were an unexpected surprise in an otherwise fairly generic "pseudo-Western" steak house chain along the lines of Longhorn or Lone Star.  The rest of food was good, but the wings wereaboe average. 

They have a pleasant smoky flavor and are clearly actually smoked using, you know, real wood and stuff.  THe skin is tender and somewhat crispy for smoked wings, and the sauce is spicy, balanced with some nice sweet BBQ flavor.  The only two issues is that the wings a bit puny, and the sauce is salty.  However, I would have them again if I found myself at the restaurant in the future.

RATING: 3 out of 5 stars

United BBQ – Providence, RI

United BBQ is a small little restaurant on the East Side of Providence that does mainly take out – they have only a few tables and some bar stools that allow you to eat on a ledge looking out the window.  However, they do some authentic barebcue, as evidenced by the visible smoker and the penetrating smell of real wood being burned. 

For wings, they offer two variations: one with a traditional buffalo style suace and one with with their spicy BBQ sauce.  Both have wings that have been smoked, not fried.

Whenever you have smoked wings, they run the chance of being fatty and/or having tough skin.  In fact, I've had some pretty gross barebcued chicken wings.  However, United does a good job with theirs, cooking them until the fat is rendered out, and keeping the skin fairly tender.  It isn't crispy like a fried wing of course, but it also has more flavor, thanks to the smoke and rub. 

I tried the spicy BBQ variety, since I know what buffalo wing sauce tastes like.  The sauce lives up to its name – it is a very sweet, but nicely spiced sauce.  It won't blow you away with heat – if you're a chile or pepper-head, this may not be your choice – but it does have a lot of flavor and it is two staged, with the sweetness hitting you up front, but the heat coming in after and lingering for a bit.

Overall, these are some really good wings.  Not the best barbecued or grilled I've ever had, but maybe they would be better with the buffalo style sauce.   I wouldn't object to trying them!

RATING: 3 out of 5 stars

Anchor Bar – Buffalo, NY (Update)

I previously reviewed the Anchor Bar, but a short business trip gave me the opportunity to revisit this mecca of buffalo wings.  I stand by my original rating, though I will expand upon it based on a few more years of wing experience.  I think the key to the success of the Anchor Bar's wings is that they are fresh – nearly all wings are frozen now, and the Anchor Bar's wings have the juiciest, tastiest chicken meat I've ever had at any restaurant.  The skin is perfectly crispy but the meat retains all of its natural juices.  I guess when you fry millions of wings a year, you get really, really good at it and you have the supplier pull to get super-fresh chicken wings.

A new item on the Anchor Bar's menu is Buffalo Chicken Soup.  The best way to describe it is to think of a New England Clam Chowder with chicken and buffalo flavors instead of clams, bacon and potato.  It is very, very thick and creamy – perhaps almost too much so; it borders on gelatinous.  It could also use just a bit more heat in my opinion.  It is a very intersting concept with some potential I think.

Barley’s Smokehouse – Columbus, OH

Needing a welcome respite on a three-day marathon business trip, I chose Barley's for some good beer and food.  The beer was indeed good, and the food was good overall, though the ribs were a bit dissapointing (see full review here on  The highlight of the visit, however, were actually the wings. 

Billed as their "famous grilled wings" I simply had to get them and chose to go with their buffalo sauce.  The wings were delicious – lightly seasoned and then grilled enough to get some flavorfull char, with all of them being juicy, tender and surprisingly crispy.

But a well-cooked wing is only half the battle, right?  The sauce is the other half, and it is here where these wings really stand out.  At first taste, I was worried that it was going to be another round of sweet BBQ sauce being passed off as wing sauce.  Then I tasted the garlic… then the heat hit me.  It is a late heat that allows the other flavors to come through and when the heat does come, it is just the right amount.  The heavy hand with the garlic in the sauce (visible pieces int he sauce I believe), was a nice touch.  It was an intersting and flavorful sauce and would love to get my hands on the recipe!

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars!!

Bones Grille – Lansdale, PA

I had been to Bones Grille once before and wanted to try their smoked chicken wings, but couldn't that last time.  This time I didn't have to worry about messing my shirt up before a meeting, so I went for them.

The description on the menu says they are "appled brined chicken wings, dry rubbed and slow cooked in the bones hickory pit."  I couldn't pick out any particular apple flavor in the meat, but it was tender and juicy.  The wings were plump and good size and well cooked.  When I first looked at them, I was afraid that there couldn't be any crispiness to them at all, but there was.  My biggest issue with the wings is that they were slathered in a sauce that was nearly all sweet and no heat, and for a "smoked" wing, there was really no smoke flavor to speak of.

Overall, it was just kind of lackluster, but not bad. 

RATING: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Bar Louie – Foxboro, MA

It took us over a month to pull it off, but my friends and I finally got together to have our annual Christmas dinner and exchange Christmas presents on January 12.  Since we were coming from all over, the new Patriot Place shopping center provided a convenient central point for us to convene.  Bar Louie also seemed like a logical choice for dinner, since it offered a wide array of option and not too expensive.

Bar Louie features an eclectic American-style cuisine menu, filled with comfort foods that have been infused with a few regional and international flairs.  The decor is classic American sports bar meets classic American steakhouse with a little TGIF and Applebees middle America thrown in.  We started with a few appetizers, including "Buffalo Calamari" and Szechwan-style chicken wings.

First the calamari – yes, I know it isn't chicken wings, but it is deep fried and slathered in hot sauce, so I'll just keep it brief: it was quite good, with tender small pieces of calamari in a crispy batter tossed in a spicy buffalo sauce.  Pretty straight forward, with a heat that was good but not overpowering.

The Szechwan wings were sneaky – they arrived the table looking like innocent soy-glazed fried wings, and as you're eating them, they have a pleasant heat and lots of flavor, including everything you would expect from a Szechwan flavor wing: soy, ginger, etc.  However, the heat builds.  It is a "late heat" that doesn't fully hit you until after you finish the wing and sit there contentedly, as you slowly realize that the slight heat is turning into a stronger burn.  It makes for an interesting and flavorful wing.  Being a chain-type place, the wings are standard size and are well-cooked. 

RATING: 4 out of 5 stars