best of new york

The Absolute Best Chicken Wings in New York

At Buffalo’s Famous, the allegiance is clear. Photo: Melissa Hom

On Super Bowl Sunday or any day of the week, really there’s a spicy wing out there for everyone. Here are the absolute best chicken wings in New York.

The Absolute Best

1. Buffalo’s Famous at 773 Lounge’s Hot BBQ Wings
773 Coney Island Ave., nr. Cortelyou Rd., Ditmas Park; 718-462-9746

When you name your food business Buffalo’s Famous, it’s safe to assume you’re going to dabble in chicken wings. And so it is with Nickel City native John Marren, who first showcased his hometown specialties at a short-lived but spunky Prospect Park South snack bar, and now runs the kitchen of Ditmas Park sports bar 773 Lounge. And when you’re talking Buffalo wings, you’re really talking about sauce. For Marren’s standard Hot the building blocks are immutable and sacrosanct: Frank’s Red Hot, margarine, and a rotating blend of peppers, often Scotch bonnets or habaneros. But as with even the most traditional purveyor of drumettes and flats (or wingettes), as the butchered-wing parts are known, Marren offers a subtly gradated range of flavors and heat levels, the most compelling of which is the Hot BBQ, a vinegary and mustard-flecked concoction that for some may evoke South Carolina–style barbecue. What makes these wings exceptional is not just flavor, however, but texture: After being deep-fried to the ideal crunch and drenched in sauce, they’re charred on the grill and coated with a second slathering for a delectable burnt-sugar effect. —Matthew Sedacca

2. Madame Vo’s Madame Wings
212 E. 10th St., nr. Second Ave.; 917-261-2115

Photo: Melissa Hom

The Southeast Asian–style wings at this East Village Vietnamese restaurant were inspired by chef Jimmy Ly’s father’s version, which became a big hit at Super Bowl parties. A double-fry process transforms the skin into a thin, semi-crisp shell that seals in the fatty juices. After a dip in the fryer, the wingettes get hit a second time in the wok, yielding a smoky undercurrent and caramelizing the umami-bomb glaze of garlic, fish sauce, sugar, and sambal. A final flurry of cilantro and scallion is icing on the cake. —M.S.

3. Atomix’s Stuffed Chicken Wing
104 E. 30th St., nr. Park Ave. S.; no phone

Photo: Melissa Hom

Stuffing a chicken wing cannot be easy. People who build ships in bottles would probably make good chicken-wing stuffers. Another thing that can’t be easy: running a restaurant in New York, especially a super-soigné, ten-course Korean tasting-menu restaurant like Atomix in Murray Hill. Which must be why the Atomix kitchen rations the labor-intensive stuffed chicken wings they serve on the restaurant’s bar menu like nylon stockings during World War II. They used to limit these mouth-waterers to five orders per night, two wings per order. Now, it’s up — make that down? — to seven orders per night, one wing per order. The wings are partially deboned, lightly battered, seasoned with a slew of incendiary spices, stuffed with fried rice, then deep-fried to a golden crisp. Your wing comes sliced in rounds and fanned out across the plate like a chicken cordon bleu. One bite, and you wish you could get them by the bucket. —Rob Patronite and Robin Raisfeld

4. Mission Chinese Food’s Chongqing Chicken Wings
Multiple locations

Order Danny Bowien’s iconic wings at either the Lower East Side or East Williamsburg outpost of Mission Chinese and the waiter will warn you with a smile that they’re “really hot.” That, however, is an understatement. In addition to a dusting of a Doritos-like powder composed of pulverized black cardamom, mushroom powder, cumin, hot chiles, and lip-numbing Sichuan peppercorn, the wings come blanketed with a heap of whole dried chiles echoing traditional Chongqing-chicken recipes. The málà, or hot and numbing, effect gradually builds to a tantalizing, near-unbearable crescendo, but it’s a hurts-so-good kind of pain well worth enduring for the unique combination of sweet, spicy meat and scattered fried tripe. —M.S.

5. Dan and John’s Wings’ Hot Traditional Wings
131 First Ave., nr. 9th St.; 917-456-8808

Photo: Melissa Hom

Two Buffalo natives, childhood friends, move to the city in 2013 and guess what they discover? New York is a Buffalo-wing backwater. They can’t find a decent flat or drumette to save their lives. Not a single edible specimen. To prevent starvation, they do what they gotta do. They call home for the recipe and cook up some wings. They’re so good — crisp on the outside, juicy within, and as classically sauced as a piece of fish from Le Bernardin — that they sell them at Smorgasburg. Next thing you know they’ve got their own brick-and-mortar wingery in the East Village and one on the way in Murray Hill, not to mention a seasonal stand at Citi Field. As Buffalo tradition dictates, the wings are available in varying levels of heat and portion size. Order a bulk-rate 50-piece bucket and put the savings toward a new pacemaker. —R.P. & R.R.

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

Bar Goto’s wings are 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. —Hannah Goldfield

7. Waterfront Ale House’s Sam’s Famous Hot Wings
540 Second Ave., nr. 30th St.; 212-696-4104

Photo: Melissa Hom

Purists may raise an eyebrow over owner Sam Barbieri calling his wings “Buffalo-style,” but it’s still worth the trip to Kips Bay for these neon-red beauties, even if they sometimes arrive a little on the softer side of crisp. They’re coated in a mix of roasted sweet peppers, garlic butter, tomatoes, and a base of homemade 18-pepper hot sauce, often heavy on the chocolate habaneros. At Medium, these wings already pack plenty of tangy heat yet bloom with a bright berry-like note that pairs well with the house-made blue-cheese dip. —M.S.

8. Berber Street Food’s Calypso Jerk Wings
35 Carmine St., nr. Bedford St.; 646-870-0495

It’s a good thing Diana Tandia opted to serve foods of the African diaspora and not just the continent itself. Otherwise, the world wouldn’t have her Calypso Jerk Wings, inspired by a trip to Jamaica and, as she puts it, the notion of flavors “dancing in your mouth.” Said flavors emanate from a lush, dark, fruity sauce that Tandia uses as an overnight marinade, and then reduces to apply after the wings have been charred briefly on the grill and cooked through in the convection oven. Of its 16 ingredients, she will only divulge six: molasses, orange juice, Scotch bonnet pepper, five-spice, soy sauce, and a lot of fresh thyme. The menu says they come with mango salsa, but in winter, Tandia substitutes pineapple, finely diced and flecked with cayenne and cilantro. —R.P. & R.R.

9. Pelicana Chicken’s Crispy Pelicana Signature Flavor, Spice Level 2
Multiple locations

Photo: Melissa Hom

Since arriving stateside in 2014, this South Korean behemoth has been upending the KFC (Korean Fried Chicken) competition with its jumbo-sized wings and extra-crispy “crispy” option: a double coating of the signature rice-flour-and-ground-sunflower-seed mixture, which results in beautiful, quarter-inch–thick crusts. The lengthy list of sauces and toppings runs the gamut, from Honey Garlic and BBQ to Yellow or White Snowing Cheese, but the gochujang-ketchup–based “Pelicana Signature,” Spice Level 2, provides just enough heat while achieving a remarkable balance of savory and kettle-corn sweet. —M.S.

10. The Kettle Black’s Fitzpatrick’s Wings
Multiple locations

“Wings, burgers, and beer” is the motto of this sports bar with branches in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, and West Brighton, Staten Island, and the kitchen takes a worldly approach to the house specialty with choices that range from the pineapple-plum–glazed Luau to the parmesan-garlicky Grandpa Nunzio’s. But our surprise favorite proved to be the rust-colored, dry-rub–style “Fitzpatrick’s”: bold-flavored and crisp, the succulent dark meat enhanced but not overwhelmed by a dusting of Old Bay, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and cayenne that intermittently lights up the tongue like spicy Pop Rocks. Bonus: The less sauce (just a dab, so the spices stick), the less mess. —M.S.

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

At this modern Middle Eastern shawarma shack, 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. —H.G.

12. Fuku’s Wings With Sweet Jalapeño Dry Spice
Multiple locations

At chef-provocateur David Chang’s fast-casual fried-chicken mini-chain, $9 and change will get you just two pairs of fried drumettes and flats. Yet sheathed inside their craggy crusts, coated with a slow-burning jalapeño dry rub and clinging tight to the bones like ski gloves, is some of the juiciest dark meat you’ll ever enjoy at a restaurant inspired by Chick-fil-A. —M.S.

13. Blondies Sports’ Buffalo Chicken Wings
212 W. 79th St., nr. Amsterdam Ave.; 212-362-3311

Just as this Upper West Side holdout is the dictionary definition of sports bar, its classic Buffalo-style wings are paradigmatic, without frill or frippery. Which, of course, is sometimes just what you want, especially in a place whose most prominent decorative motif is the flat-screen TV. The heat level rises to Ouch!!, but Hot is plenty hot, nicely balanced with acid, and the wings themselves are mostly crunchy with only the occasional soft spot — essentially, prime sports-bar wings for whenever the craving strikes. —M.S.

14. Bonchon’s Half & Half Wings
Multiple locations

Bonchon does Korea’s national fried-chicken 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. —H.G.

15. 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. —H.G.

16. Dinosaur BBQ’s Jumbo BBQ Wings
Multiple locations

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. —H.G.

17. 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. —H.G.

18. Blue Smoke’s Smoked Chicken Wings
Multiple Locations

Chef Jean-Paul Bourgeois brines them for 24 hours, gives them a dry rub, smokes them over white oak, cools them down in the fridge, then fries and tosses them in an Alabama white sauce. All you have to do is pick them up with your fingers. —R.P. & R.R.

19. 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. —H.G.

20. Brindle Room’s Smoked Wings
277 E. 10th St., nr. Ave. A; 212-529-9702

In chicken-wing–eating circles, there are those who go for flats and those who swear by drumettes. The Flats don’t get the Drumettes and vice versa. The intact, unbutchered wings at Jeremy Spector’s Brindle Room could bring these folks together. They’re coated in a sweet-hot spice mix, smoked for two hours, deep-fried to order, and served whole, usually-discarded wing tip and all. Besides the fact that he is a chicken-wing conciliator, “I like the look and it’s a little more dramatic of a presentation,” says the chef. —R.P. & R.R.

21. 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. —H.G.

22. 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. —H.G.

The Absolute Best Chicken Wings in New York