The Absolute Best Chicken Wings in New York

The secret to Pok Pok’s superlative wings: fish sauce, and lots of it. Photo: Melissa Hom

You may, as many people do, associate wings with football, and fair enough — they’re one of the all-time most satisfying finger foods, easy to snack on while keeping your eyes glued to a screen. ’Tis the season, so we’ve rounded up the very best wings New York has to offer, but make no mistake: You don’t need an excuse to eat them, and in fact, these are so good they may distract you from the game.

The Absolute Best

1. Pok Pok NY’s Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings
117 Columbia St., at Kane St., Columbia Waterfront District; 718-923-9322

Pok Pok’s wings are not only the best in New York — they’re also a pretty much perfect food, and sad was the day when the tiny Manhattan wings-centric outpost of the bicoastal Thai chainlet closed. They’ve got it all: a spectrum of textures and intense umami flavors, plus just the right amount of heat if you opt for the spicy version and if you believe that spicy should be just shy of painful. Based on a recipe from a Vietnamese chef (named Ike, of course) at the restaurant’s original Portland location, they get marinated whole in fish sauce and sugar, then dusted in rice flour and tempura mix, then deep fried, then tossed in a caramelized glaze of more fish sauce, roasted chile paste if you’ve asked for it, and crispy bits of garlic. Their salty-sweet-tangy skin is somehow both crunchy and saturated, giving way to optimally moist meat. And they come with a bright, refreshing side of “Vietnamese table salad”: pickled carrots and daikon, cucumber spears, and a bough of fresh herbs.

2. Bar Goto’s Miso Wings
245 Eldridge St,. nr. E. Houston St.; 212-475-4411

Photo: Melissa Hom

This Lower East Side Japanese cocktail bar nips at Pok Pok’s heels when it comes to wings. They’re much saucier, smothered in a thick mash of miso, garlic, soy sauce, chile, and ginger, and only medium-spicy, but they’re fried to a truly ethereal shattery crackle, a platonic texture you might find yourself hoping for every time you ever order wings again. Plus they come in an elegant tower — butchered differently than your average wing, with the wing tips serving as a third category in addition to extra meaty drumettes and wingettes — scattered with black sesame seeds and scallions.

3. Samesa’s Za’atar Wings
495 Lorimer St., nr. Powers St., Williamsburg; 718-599-1154

Photo: Melissa Hom

Though chicken figures prominently in most of the world’s cuisines, chicken wings are most often associated with Asian and American food. In Williamsburg, the Sussman brothers, who cut their teeth at Mile End and Roberta’s, are taking them Middle Eastern at their new modern shawarma shack, Samesa. The wings get dry-rubbed in salt and the sumac-sesame spice mix known as za’atar, then smoked, then fried til crispy in a light dredging of rice flour, then coated in more za’atar. They’re zingy and unexpected, served with a clever and tangy labneh-ranch dip, plus sticks of celery and heirloom carrot.

4. Bonchon’s Half & Half Wings
Multiple locations

Photo: Melissa Hom

Korean fried chicken is a special category of fried chicken, and wings, which cook more evenly than other parts of the bird, are perhaps the best representation of the technique. There’s a reason that Bonchon is often described as a “wing restaurant” though they serve many other things: They do the national tradition proud, frying to order the meaty little morsels not just once but twice to achieve an impossibly thin-skinned crispness. As a bonus, they allow indecisive diners to have their sauce and eat it, too: opting for the “half-and-half” gets you a mix of wings glazed in tangy soy-and-garlic and wings glazed in the slow-burn, hot-pepper alternative — plus a side of cool pickled radish.

5. Old Town Bar and Restaurant’s Buffalo Wings
45 E. 18th St., nr. Park Ave. S.; 212-529-6732

If you’re going to eat classic buffalo wings, you ought to put yourself in the hands of some experts — the recipe is so simple that it’s easy to totally phone it in and find yourself gnawing on gristly meat soaked in too much hot sauce and grease. (There’s a reason some bars sell wings for 20 cents a pop, and it’s the same reason you don’t want to eat them.) Old Town doesn’t cut corners, and the wings are straightforward, classic, and satisfying, bearing the optimal mix of butter and hot sauce.

6. Dinosaur BBQ’s Jumbo BBQ Wings
Multiple locations

Photo: Melissa Hom

You can do much better for all-around barbecue in New York City than Dinosaur (which hails from Syracuse, of all places), but they really do have great wings, cooked on a hot grill until their fatty skin is perfectly rendered and the meat is tender, then crisped and glazed (in sauces ranging from mild Honey BBQ to extra-spicy Devil’s Duel, with Wango Tango in the middle) directly above the coals. And because they’re not fried, they have less potential to get soggy, making them a realistic game-day takeout option.

Honorable Mentions

Blue Ribbon Brasserie’s Chicken Wings
97 Sullivan St., nr. Spring St.; 212-274-0404

The wings themselves are nothing revolutionary, on the plain side though perfectly cooked, but the accoutrements bump these up a level: a dollop of sour cream mixed with blue cheese, instead of the usual over-blended glop; a ramekin of hot sauce; celery sticks; and best of all, a mini Sterno-powered grill, for giving the meat an extra char.

Bonnie’s Grill’s Buffalo Wings
278 Fifth Ave., nr. 1st St., Park Slope; 718-369-9527

Another faithful, well-executed, tangy-hot-buttery classic, this time from people who truly have no excuse not to nail it, given that they’re Buffalo natives.

Daddy O’s Buffalo Wings
44 Bedford St., at Leroy St.; 212-414-8884

Daddy O’s buffalo sauce doesn’t taste traditional, exactly, but it’s surprisingly complex, leaving you with an intense, almost Parmesan-like flavor lingering pleasantly on your tongue. Plus it comes with cucumber slices rather than celery sticks, a simple but refreshing twist.

Debasaki’s Gyoza Wings
33-67 Farrington St., Flushing; 718-886-6878

Are they wings or are they dumplings? Do boneless wings even count as wings? Either way, these are delicious, if somewhat disorienting, stuffed with kimchee and cheese or crabmeat, then deep fried, of course.

Emily’s Nguyen Hot Wings
919 Fulton St., nr. Waverly Ave., Clinton Hill; 347-844-9588

A pizza place this good has no business making such excellent wings, too (not to mention one of the most-buzzed-about burgers in town) but the Emily crew is unstoppable. These are great, coated in a gochujang-based glaze and grated pecorino, and served with homemade ranch and thin slices of radish.

Hometown Bar-B-Que’s Vietnamese Hot Wings
454 Van Brunt St., at Reed St., Red Hook; 347-294-4644

You might not expect a place so beef-focused to do poultry all that well, but Hometown’s smoked turkey might be the most underrated thing on the menu, and the hot wings pack a punch, too. They get both smoked and fried, then tossed in a sriracha-soy-lime-butter sauce and scattered with sesame seeds and scallions.

Mighty Quinn Barbeque’s Chicken Wings
Multiple locations

Mighty Quinn’s method is similar to Hometown’s, to similarly delicious ends: smoked and fried, with a salt-and-pepper dry rub plus a sticky glaze of chile, honey, garlic, and lime, then sesame seeds and scallions.

The Absolute Best Chicken Wings in New York