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(09/08/13)

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Wings

With the start of the 2013 NFL season kcomes my bi-annual list of my favorite smoked wings at a baker's dozen different barbecue joints in New York and New England. In order to make this list, the wings have to be smoked, they have to be offered regularly and I had to have tried them within the last two years. Here goes:

 

 

 

13. Ducks Eatery, NYC see my review of  this joint

Yes, that wood plank the wings are served on looks like a ping pong paddle, and that's intentional: the chef is a former ping pong pro and a previous incarnation of the restaurant was located within a ping pong club. The crisp, tender, aggressively rubbed unsauced wings also get a squeeze of lime that give them a refreshing brightness that contrasts the significant smoke. I like that these aren't representative of any one style but have elements of the billed jerk among the expected Southern and Asian flavors. www.duckseatery.com

 

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13. Taino Smokehouse, Middletown CT
There's a deep roster of wings here. So far I've only tried the Cajun dry rubbed ones, which packed a lot of flavor onto those crispy skins without obscuring the meat within. A good contrast between the crunchy exterior and juicy interior, with smoke that never tries too hard but constantly lets you know it's there. More exploration is inevitable en route to Taino's looming PigTrip review. www.tainosmokehouse.com

 

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11. Scratch Kitchen, Salem MA see my review of  this joint

This downtown Salem sandwich shop with smoked fare held the #1 slot last time and slipped a few notches more recently with some fall-off in the moistness and smokiness departments, but these are still some of the best wings in the region. Although lighter now, smoke is still there and nicely contrasted by the thin coating of a sweet and tart glaze. And don't forget the bacon, available as a side as well as in a sandwich. www.scratchkitchensalem.com

 

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10. Pit Stop Smokehouse, Westmoreland NH see my review of  this joint

This is another joint that dropped a few slots from last time, but they're still very much in the converstation when the conversation turns to smoked wings. The racing-themed joint pumps out wings that are smoky (light most recently, more potent previously) and fairly simple otherwise, with chicken flavor a major component thanks to a light saucing that can barely be seen in this photo. www.pitstopsmokehouse.com

 

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9. SoulFire, Allston MA see my review of  this joint
If you like your wings to pack just a little more sweet than heat, SoulFire's spicy honey wings are what you're looking for. These smoked-then-fried wings bear light smoke, crispy skin and a perfect coating of tangy accent. I don't order these as often as they warrant, because I'm so smitten with SoulFire's Southern fried wings that they're my defacto first course before diving into Boston's best ribs. You can try a few different flavors, including an experimental flavor of the night, at SoulFire's all-you-can-eat wings special every Monday. www.soulfirebbq.com

 

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8. Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, NYC see my review of  this joint and Stamford CT

These wings made my first list and just missed my second, but they're back on again thanks to some very impressive showings at the Stamford CT outpost. Although undoubtedly smoked every time, my earlier tastings in NYC had always had more of a grilled profile. More recent encounters at Stamford brought out the wonderful woodiness from the smoke that pushed them back on. Flavor is in ample supply here, with some fairly traditional but still compelling sauces; rub applied before and after really lets these wings flap. www.dinosaurbarbque.com

 

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7. Blackstrap BBQ, Winthrop MA see my review of  this joint
The barbecue as a whole at Blackstrap has its ups and downs, but the one sure thing is the wings. Generally large and crisp, they're reliably robust flavorwise: heavy on smoke, heavier on rub (both before and after smoking) and tossed in a well executed Buffalo or barbecue sauce that screams loudly for attention without taking attention away from the chicken. www.blackstrapbbq.com

 

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6. Mighty Quinn's Barbeque, NYC see my review of  this joint

It's no surprise that New York's best barbecue joint also has some of the city's best smoked wings. Here they're not traditional American, and that's fine by me. Asian ingredients dominate, with sesame seeds, ginger, cilantro and Sriracha all contributing to the intoxicating flavor. Spicy + smoky + crispy (usually) + tender + moist + herby = different + delicious. Pickled celery is a nice touch too. www.mightyquinnsbbq.com

 

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5. The People's Pint, Greenfied MA see my review of  this joint

Known by many as a beer destination, this western Mass joint should also be among your destination for smoked wings. How do I know that? Because these wings have something for everyone: good crispness, a thick coating barbecue sauce, plenty of bumpy rub, a pantrywide assortment of spices and seeds poking visibly through the sauce and a good combination of tanginess and escalating heat. Smoke is admittedly light, but it's in there and recognizable. Not surprisingly, these are good beer-drinking wings. www.thepeoplespint.com

 

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4. Big W's BBQ, Wingdale NY see my review of  this joint

It's fitting that a joint in Wingdale makes good wings, but they make good everything. As for the wings, they're very smoky—woody smoky, not sooty smoky—with probably the strongest "chickeny" flavor and most heat of any wing on the list. They also bring decent crispness, good tenderness and that hard-to-describe (unsweet) caramelly sticky quality that comes from smoke, not sugar. These are savory wings with lots of bump on them crusts. I like heat but they may be a little too hot to order more than one round. www.bigwsbbq.com

 

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3. Wildwood, NYC see my review of  this joint
The jerk wings here might be a little small and they might be a little pricey, but they're smoked and they're spectacular. Liberally rubbed with both dry and fresh ingredients, they're not necessarily dead-on Jamaican, but who cares? They're over-the-top flavorful, smoky, very crisp, skin-burstingly juicy and mind-burstingly delicious. How delicious? They taste like bacon, maybe even better. Sadly, now closed. www.wildwoodbbq.com

 

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2. Smokestack Urban Barbecue, Worcester MA see my review of  this joint
This is one of those heartwarming, come-from-behind success stories. My first impressions of the wings here—and the entire barbecue program—were hardly positive, let alone chart topping, but this central Mass joint kept working at it, adding smokers, changing techniques and even lowering prices along the way. The barbecue still has a way to go, but the wings are stellar. Whether Buffalo, Chipotle or Habanero Honey (my favorite), these wings bring multidimensional flavor from the intense saucing that's restrained enough to let the natural chicken flavor and unmistakable smokiness shine through. Though the fine-enough crispness sometimes needs just a tiny boost to hit perfection, the combination of chicken, rub, woody smoke and sauce is as reliable as it gets, and these wings feel fresh even at lunchtime. On Monday nights, they're half price.

www.bbqstack.com

 

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1. Binga's Stadium, Portland ME see my review of  this joint

OK, so maybe it isn't fair that the winner is a barbecue joint that was a wing joint first and is still a wing joint first and foremost (OK, maybe sports bar too), but these are outstanding wings. There are more flavors here than at just about any barbecue joint that does wings, and the wings can be had smoked-then-fried, breaded-then-fried or naked fried. Stick with the smoked, whose smokiness does vary depending on what topping you choose, but the size, crispness, tenderness and boldness of flavor are never in doubt. Whether sweet, hot, both or dry rubbed (Cajun, salt and vinegar), these wings satisfy every time. On Wednesdays, they're half price. www.bingasstadium.com

 

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Honorable Mention

 

There were numerous wing representatives that were in the running but just missed the cut. In some cases it was a matter of being edged out by an upstart; in other cases, a sup-par wings order or two took them out of contention. These near-misses include:

 

Bar Q , Stamford CT (not quite)

Bear's Smokehouse, Windsor CT (not quite)

Bison County, Waltham MA (fell off the list) (not quite)

BT's Smokehouse, Sturbridge MA (not quite)

Cider House BBQ, Waterbury VT (not quite)

Chili Head, W. Bridgewater MA (fell off the list) (not quite)

Fink's Smokehouse, Dumont NJ (not quite)

Firefly's, Marlboro MA (not quite)

Harley's Smokeshack, NYC (changed their wing lineup)

Hilltop BBQ, Manchester CT (not quite)

Little Red Smokehouse, Carver MA (fell off the list) (not quite)

Mrs Jones, Dorchester MA (fell off the list) (not quite)

Prohibition Pig, Waterbury VT (not quite)

Smoke Joint, Brooklyn NY (not quite)

Swingbellys, Long Beach NY (fell off the list)(Hurricane Sandy prevented a visit)

Virgil's, NYC (fell off the list) (not quite)

 

 

Wished I'd Tried

 

If time, money, gasoline, calories and wifely consent were all in unlimited supply, I would have visited them all by now, but here are the wings I most regretted not being able to get to:

 

Bluebird BBQ, Burlington VT

Bridge View Tavern, Sleepy Hollow NY

Brother Jimmy's, NYC

Pride and Joy BBQ, NYC (if they'd ever open)

Q Restaurant, Port Chester NY

Route 7 Grill, Great Barrington MA

Swingbellys, Long Beach NY

Walrus + Carpenter, Bridgeport CT

Yellow Rose BBQ, Willimantic CT

 

 

 

 

 

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