"Each of the 46 flavors spanning the international scene, from Jamaica (Fire Jerk, Rum BBQ) to Italy (Parmesan, Tomato Basil Pesto), is a study in balance and contrast."

20080424-wings.jpgChicago's Wings Around the World is like the Baskin Robbins of Chicken Wings. When they opened in January of 2007, they had 34 flavors of wings. A year and a half later, another twelve have been added to honor their motto, "Flavors to Infinity". Abeng Stuart founded the spot and concocted the sauces with his mother Lorna Greene and his manager Andre Palmer.

What's crazy is that this isn't some spot where they throw chicken in the deep fryer and haphazardly toss the half soggy/half crunchy overcrowded fried chicken with a drippy Franks Red Hot Sauce and margarine glaze. Each of the 46 flavors spanning the international scene, from Jamaica (Fire Jerk, Rum BBQ) to Italy (Parmesan, Tomato Basil Pesto), is a study in balance and contrast. The selection is a thoughtful cornucopia of glazes and seasonings spiked with the right amount of heat, sour, and sweet. The chicken itself is uniformly crunchy if deep fried, or soft, pliant, and smoky if you get the wings grilled. Of course, on this stretch of 35th street lined with a Churches, Popeyes, KFC, and a local JJ Fish and Chicken chain, you gotta bring the goods if you want to survive more than a year.

Wings Around the World is one of those places you wish you'd planned for, but instead find yourself hankering for at 8 o'clock at night while watching a Sox or Cub's game, and you thank god you have TIVO so you can pause the action and make the trip for some game time snacks without missing a play. Since the spot has opened, I've driven 31 blocks and taken 20 minutes out of my day to make the trip more than a handful of times, usually late at night.

I haven't worked my way through all the flavors, but there are some favorites. Garlic Parmesan features a buttery shiny glaze with chunky sautéed bits of garlic and Parmesan crust. A bite of rum bbq feels like doing a tasty shot of intense dark sipping rum while chowing down on a good plate of sauce slathered ribs. The spicy buffalo have all of the red pepper tang you'd expect, but there's also a mouth puckering lemony zing that no other local Buffalo wing has. Masala wings feature a slow ginger and curry burn, while honey teriyaki makes for a nice sweet dessert wing, if you will, without being too cloying.

About the author: Michael Nagrant writes for Serious Eats from Chicago, where he also publishes Hungry magazine. Michael never met an organ meat he didn't like. He hopes to meet many more.

Wings Around the World

Address: 321 E 35th St, Chicago, IL 60616 (map)
Phone: 312-326-6930‎

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