#1: Jake Melnicks Corner Tap
Skin Crispness: (3.5/5) Some were exceptionally crisp, while others had splotches of soggy skin. Still, overall these were pretty good.
Juiciness: (4.5/5) The over-sized wings were incredibly juicy and succulent. It was hard to find any fault here.
Sauce flavor: (4/5) A little mild, but the sauce was flavorful and evenly applied.
Portion size: (4/5) 8 wings, $9.95 ($1.24/piece). A little more expensive than most, but few were as big and meaty as these.
Overall Satisfaction: (8.5/10) Melnick's puts a lot of care into its wings, and it shows.
Total Score: (24.5/30)
#2 (Tie): Bird's Nest
Skin Crispness: (3.5/5) Flats could have been better, but the drumettes were very crisp.
Juiciness: (4/5) Both flats and drumettes were plump and flavorful.
Sauce flavor: (4/5) Mild, but very flavourful. There was also a faint sweetness that really won us over.
Portion size: (4.5/5) 10 wings, $7 ($.70). The price-per-wing is exceptional, especially considering that these are jumbo-sized.
Overall Satisfaction: (8/10) It's hard to call these anything other than incredibly solid, scoring high marks in every category. Even the celery and blue cheese were good.
Total Score: (24/30)
#2 (Tie): House of Wings
Skin Crispness: (3.5/5) Wingettes were awesome, but the drumettes could have been crisper.
Juiciness: (4/5) Who knew such tiny wings could pack such a punch? Each wing was remarkably juicy.
Sauce flavor: (4/5) The sauce really stood out here. Once again, it wasn't overly spicy, instead showcasing a lot of depth and just hint of sweetness.
Portion size: (4.5/5) 12 wings, $5.45 ($.45/piece) Sure, the wings are tiny, but they are still an absolute bargain.
Overall Satisfaction: (8/10) It's hard to call these traditional, but there is no denying how tasty they are. The celery and blue cheese aren't exactly top quality, but these are some awesome little wings.
Total Score: (24/30)
House of Wing, 2447 North Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60614 (map); 773-929-9421
#4: Toons Bar & Grill
Skin Crispiness: (4/5) Exceptional balance of crunch and juiciness.
Juiciness: (4/5) Very juicy. A pleasing depth and detectable smokiness to the meat here.
Sauce Flavor: (3.5/5) The sauce's moderate heat pops but doesn't linger long. It's nicely pungent and slightly buttery.
Portion Size: (3/5) 6 wings, $6.50 ($1.08/piece). Toons is surprisingly pricey at more than a buck a wing for a small order. But in terms of meat on the bone, these wings are squarely on the better side of average.
Overall Satisfaction: (8/10) These wings qualify as delicious. The blue cheese was chunky and tangy. And what's more, Toons serves superior celery; the thick crunchy stalks have a bright sweetness that calls out "fresh."
Total Score: (22.5/30)
#5: Hawkeye's Bar & Grill
Skin Crispness: (4/5) The wings have a phenomenal crunch and even stay crunchy for some time.
Juiciness: (3/5) Flats were good, but the drumettes were a touch dry.
Sauce flavor: (3.5/5) Totally solid hot sauce and butter combo. Nothing out of the ordinary, but definitely hits the marks.
Portion size: (4/5) 10 wings, $8.95 ($.89/piece) These were some decent sized specimens for the price.
Overall Satisfaction: (7.5/10) Hawkeye's is exactly the kind of place you'd want to eat wings. The blue cheese doesn't quite work, but the carrots and celery are fresh.
Total Score: (22/30)
#6: Bull & Bear
Skin Crispiness: (4/5) These wings sport a nice, crunchy texture. Near-perfectly cooked.
Juiciness: (3.5/5) Very good. The meat recalls the flavor and juiciness of barbecued chicken—just a touch smoky and really robust.
Sauce Flavor: (3/5) A respectable sauce. Strong, round heat, but definitely too vinegary.
Portion Size: (2.5/5) 9 wings, $12 ($1.33/piece). The pieces themselves are large (Bull & Bear boasts on its menu that its wings are from organic chickens), but only nine wings arrived on the plate when the portion size had been quoted as 10. Easily the least value for the price of any plate of wings we tried.
Overall Satisfaction: (8/10) These are really enjoyable wings, mostly due to the crisp skin and robust, flavorful meat beneath. You get both ranch and blue cheese dressing on the side, plus a sizable portion of celery, carrots and radishes. And because the chicken is organic, you can almost convince yourself that you're eating healthy.
#7: Five Star Bar
Skin Crispness: (3.5/5) Evenly crisp, and they stay that way for a decent amount of time.
Juiciness: (3/5) Moderately juicy, though the wingettes could have been better.
Sauce flavor: (3.5/5) Nicely done. Very flavorful without being too buttery, which is hard to get right.
Portion size: (3.5/5) 8 wings, $8 ($1/piece). These are a good value for what you get.
Overall Satisfaction: (7/10) Crisp veggies. Chunky blue cheese. Great bar.
Total Score: (20.5/30)
#8: Wild Goose Bar
Skin Crispness: (2.5/5) Kind of disappointing. We visited at lunch, and it felt like the fryer might not have been hot enough. Some pieces featured soft skin.
Juiciness: (4/5) They might not have been crisp, but they were exceptionally juicy.
Sauce flavor: (3/5) The sauce was spicy for being labeled as mild. These probably didn't have enough butter.
Portion size: (3.5/5) 10 wings, $6.99 ($.69/piece). Nice price point for the size of the wings.
Overall Satisfaction: (7/10) Very good bar wings, and each order included both blue cheese and ranch.
Total Score: (20/30)
#9: Mahoney's Pub & Grille
Skin Crispness: (3/5) The flats were great, but the drumettes could have been better.
Juiciness: (3/5) Once again, the flats were better than the drumettes.
Sauce flavor: (3.5/5) Very balanced. The sauce had a good heat with just enough vinegar tang.
Portion size: (3/5) 10 wings, $9 ($.90/piece). Good sized wings made this a real value.
Overall Satisfaction: (7/10) In a word: solid. We'd be happy to eat these wings anytime.
Total Score: (19.5/30)
#10: Buffalo Joe's
Skin Crispiness: (3.5/5) Very good crispiness, with a satisfying crunch. The skin holds up well to the sauce.
Juiciness: (3/5) While moderately juicy, Joe's chicken meat is pretty gristly overall. This doesn't appear to be high-quality chicken.
Sauce Flavor: (3/5) The flavor profile of this sauce is very unusual, but in mostly an interesting way. It has a mild heat and a sweetness that, to us, seems to recall Chinese orange sauce. No doubt there's a dose of corn starch mixed in to achieve its gooey thickness.
Portion Size: (2.5/5) 12 wings, $6.49 ($.54/piece) While these wings are among the smallest we encountered, you still get a big meal for your money when you factor in price.
Overall Satisfaction: (7/10) The crispiness and intriguing sauce are impressive. While you only get celery, it is crunchy and fresh. But points docked for only serving ranch dressing.
Total: 19 points
#11 (Tie): Timothy O'Toole's
Skin Crispiness: (4/5) Nice and crisp skin, maybe these wings' best feature.
Juiciness: (2.5/5) A little lacking. The meat is pretty stringy and dry overall—just not very robust. Flavor-wise the meat is overshadowed by the sauce.
Sauce Flavor: (2.5/5) Thin and runny, without much depth. There's a strong vinegar taste, somewhat balanced out by moderate heat.
Portion Size: (3/5) 10 wings, $8.49 ($.85/piece) Not very much meat on these bones.
Overall Satisfaction: (6.5/10) The blue cheese dressing is bland, but thick, crunchy stalks of carrot and celery accompany the wings. You could say these wings are crisp to a fault; the skin is taut and crunchy, but it's at the expense of the juiciness of the chicken inside.
Total: 18.5 points
#11 (Tie): Lucky's Sandwich Co.
Skin Crispness: (3/5) Each wing was reasonably crisp.
Juiciness: (3/5) None were exceptionally juicy, but they weren't remotely dry either.
Sauce flavor: (2.5/5) A little too vinegary, but mostly balanced and straightforward.
Portion size: (3.5/5) 10 wings, $7 ($.70/piece) Neither huge or too small, these were still a good value.
Overall Satisfaction: (6.5/10) There's nothing wrong about these wings at all, but it seems like a waste when the sandwiches are so much better.
Total Score: (18.5/30)
#13: McGee's Tavern & Grille
Skin Crispiness: (2.5/5) Sadly, the wings at McGee's are seldom crisp. The skin is a little leathery and mushy at the same time.
Juiciness: (2.5/5) Just okay. Several wings were overcooked and dry.
Sauce Flavor: (3/5) Peppery! Not only is it thick and savory, the sauce has a distinct, and rather good, black-pepper flavor. That said, the sauce exhibits little balance—mostly heat and no vinegary kick.
Portion Size: (3.5/5) 12 wings, $7.95 ($.66/piece). Lots of wings to a portion, but most are pretty scrawny.
Overall Satisfaction: (6.5/10) The blue cheese dressing had one giant clump of cheese in it. Not cool. There was a sizable portion of carrots and celery, however. But, c'mon, no wet nap?
Total: 18 points
#14: Mother Hubbard's
Skin Crispiness: (2.5/5) Most pieces' skin is tough and overly thick, while others are satisfyingly crispy. But overall this is a very "skinny" wing.
Juiciness: (2.5/5) Not especially juicy.
Sauce Flavor: (3.5/5) Nice vinegary zip and good heat. It's tasty and not overly buttery.
Portion Size: (3/5) 6 full wings (or 12 pieces), $8.95 ($.75/piece) Mother Hubbard's is one of the few establishments on our list that serve the entire chicken wing intact, with all three major parts still as one. For all the stuff in this basket, these wings turn out to be a bit skimpy. There's just so much bone and inedible joints and whatnot to contend with. You end up eating a lot of chicken, but much more skin than meat.
Overall Satisfaction: (5.5/10) Presenting a whole wing seems like a means to skimp. There's just so much waste, and eating them can be cumbersome, messy...the word medieval comes to mind. The blue cheese is chunky and flavorful, but the carrots and celery are, again, pretty skimpy.
#15: Wings Around the World
Skin Crispness: (3.5/5) The crackly little wings featured a decent amount of crunch in each bite.
Juiciness: (3/5) For small wings, these were fairly juicy.
Sauce flavor: (1/5) Unfortunately, it was really hard to taste much because of the sauce. The hot sauce-to-butter ratio was way off, resulting wings that were absolutely drenched in butter.
Portion size: (3.5/5) 10 wings, $6.99 ($.69). Though small, the wings are very well priced.
Overall Satisfaction: (5.5/10) Wings Around the World features dozens and dozens of different sauces. Kind of seems wrong to go with Buffalo sauce here.
Total Score: (16.5/30)
#16 (Tie): Crisp
Skin Crispiness: (2.5/5) Although the wings are crisp—the place lives up to its name—the sheer amount of sauce, which is rather greasy, overtakes the crispiness and makes these wings hard to enjoy. The skin itself has a tortured, mottled look—perhaps a sign of over-frying.
Juiciness: (2/5) It's hard to determine how juicy the chicken is, what with all the sauce everywhere, but they turn out to be fairly moist and tender once you find an un-sauced morsel.
Sauce Flavor: (2.5/5) points. These wings are overdressed and the sauce is thinned unpleasantly with oil. No wonder the sauce is everywhere. Flavor-wise, the sauce is lacking balance, although it is nice and punchy thanks to a strong hit of vinegar. The flavor of butter seems absent; Crisp may be using oil in its Buffalo sauce instead.
Portion Size: (3/5) Crisp loses points for serving a fully intact wing. What a pain to break down! Wings are messy enough. But overall, the wings at Crisp are meaty and, all told, the price is roughly average for the amount of food you get.
Overall Satisfaction: (6/10) Pluses: nice crisp, size and meatiness; decently flavored sauce, albeit oily; tasty blue cheese dressing. Minuses: awfully hard and overly messy to eat.
Total: 16 points
#16 (Tie): Dick's Last Resort
Skin Crispiness: (2/5) Pretty chewy, almost tough to bite.
Juiciness: (3/5) Decent. There are more dry wings than moist.
Sauce Flavor: (3/5) Good heat, but not all that much bite or butter.
Portion Size: (2.5/5) 8 wings, $8.99 ($1.12/piece) Sad and scrawny. Where's the meat? For this price per wing, you should get more.
Overall Satisfaction: (5.5/10) For being "made daily in-house," the blue cheese is surprisingly flat and plain-tasting. You get a few stalks of celery, but eh.
Skin Crispness: (3/5) They start off shockingly crisp, but don't hold up well.
Juiciness: (2/5) The small wings might have had a good crust (for a while), but they were also overcooked and dry.
Sauce flavor: (2.5/5) Kind of spicy with a nice vinegar hit, but there wasn't much depth.
Portion size: (3/5) 10 wings, $6.39 ($.63/piece). Ten is great for the price, but the wings were very small.
Overall Satisfaction: (5/10) Not much to appreciate here. Plus, the multitude of flat-screen TVs couldn't hide the fast food atmosphere.
Total Score: (15.5/30)
Skin Crispiness: (2/5) Turns out at Hooters, the default Buffalo wing is the restaurant's breaded rendition, which breaks our rules for what constitutes a proper example of the cuisine. After sending back a breaded order, we finally got Hooters' "naked" wings. Well, the level of crispness plummeted without the crutch of a heavy coating of flour.
Juiciness: (3/5) The meat was pretty juicy, but that could have had something to do with the copious amounts of butter in the Buffalo sauce.
Sauce Flavor: (2/5) Hooters' mild sauce is essentially butter with only a hint of heat and no vinegar punch whatsoever. It's bland.
Portion Size: (2/5) 6 wings, $5.19 ($.87/piece) Once you get these suckers "naked," it's clear that Hooters' wings are scrawny.
Overall Satisfaction: (5/10) Dressing and celery cost extra. Really?