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Standing Room Only: House of Wings

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[Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]

House of Wings

2447 North Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60614 (map); 773-929-9421
The Short Order: Crispy little wings bathed in a seductive sweet, spicy sauce.
Want Fries with That? No fries needed, though you will get some shrink-wrapped celery.
Seats? A few small tables are crowded in the space, but most people get things to go.

Stands love to display completely unproven and unknowable claims on their storefronts, especially ones declaring that they serve the "best" version of such and such food in the city/state/world. Confidence is one thing, but boasting of such a dubious nature never usually pans out. As you enter House of Wings in Lincoln Park, you'll pass under a sign proclaiming "Best Buffalo Wings in Town," and though debatable, for once the restaurant might not be far off.

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When Roger and I gorged ourselves on wings earlier this year, House of Wings managed to tie with Bird's Nest for a very respectable second place. (Jake Melnick's barely eked out the win.)

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Unlike most joints slinging the fried food, here the buffalo wings ($6.25, for 12) are small, crispy, and bathed in a seductive spicy, sweet sauce, which is a genuine pleasure to lick off your stained fingers.

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This is all in a restaurant that serves no alcohol and can only fit about ten people at anyone time. So don't come here planning to watch the game, or to spend much time here at all. But if all you want is a chicken wing experience straight with no chasers, House of Wings is the place.

That said, wings only make up only a tiny part of the menu, and I couldn't wait to get back to see if anything else was equally good.

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The short answer is no. Nothing I tried was bad, but none of the items even came close to the glory of those wings. That's especially true of the hot dog ($2.25), where a skinless sausage is served on a slightly stale bun. The toppings were fine, but with a certain beloved hot dog stand right up the street, skipping this one is an easy choice.

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I did develop a strange respect for the Philly cheesesteak ($5.95), a mammoth meat-filled sandwich, topped with freshly sautéed mushrooms and green peppers, and tied together with cheese. It's good, especially with some extra hot sauce, but to completely enjoy it, you'll have to block any and all thoughts of the newly opened Monti's in Lincoln Square, which cares about its Philly in a way no other place in town even comes close to. See what I did. I thought about it. Moving on.

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But I still walked out of House of Wings without a tinge of disappointment. How could I after scoring such fantastic little wings? I mean, this place isn't called House of Wings for nothing. Stick to the script. Pick up a big stack of napkins, unwrap the shrink-wrapped cylinder of celery, uncover the cup of blue cheese sauce, and get back to polishing off some of the best wings around.


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