Once typecast as nothing more than barroom fare worthy only of ranch dressing and a few lonely stalks of celery, the diminutive but full-flavored chicken wing has officially gone gourmet. Coated with nuanced sauces and prepared with fine-dining care, this is finger food anyone can love. Here’s an all-star roster of the best in town, including a duck option that positively soars.
It takes time—and a sous vide machine—to come up with wings this good. Joe Doren seals his duck wings ($9) in a bag filled with a mustard-cherry broth and slowly cooks them until they’re the color of a rich coq au vin. He then dredges them in flour, fries them, and pairs them with a one-two shot of buttermilk vinaigrette and cherry mostarda, which sticks to each wing like port-flavored jam. Somewhere, you can be assured, a plate of duck confit is blushing.
2723 N. Clark St., 773-868-4888, thepeasantry.com
Save yourself a few napkins. Crisp’s wings ($8.95), the creation of owners Douglas Funke and Jae Lee, are a surprisingly greaseless affair. They’re fried twice—blistered first in a pressure fryer, then in vegetable oil—yielding a crunch that rivals the crispiest of kettle-cooked potato chips. Put away an order of five brushed with Seoul Sassy, the house soy-ginger-garlic sauce, and you’ll never look at a boring old teriyaki wing the same way again.
2940 N. Broadway, 773-697-7610, crisponline.com
OWEN & ENGINE
European-style hot wings? That’s downright sacrilegious. But Bo Fowler has earned herself special dispensation by tossing in every high-end European condiment she can find. She dresses up her Amish wings ($10) with Spanish sherry vinegar and red chili pepper powder, searing them al mattone–style (Italian for “with a brick”). Paired with a chive crème fraîche, these are sophisticated hot wings, spicy finesse instead of outright fire.
2700 N. Western Ave., 773-235-2930, owenandengine.com
To dip or not to dip, that’s the question. Kristine Subido marinates her wings ($7.95 a pound) in an adobo-style potion and then fries them to a honeyed crisp. They are delectable straight up but also come with the best dip in town: a reinterpretation of the classic Filipino lechón sauce, which is so rich it’s often reserved for roasting whole pigs. Let the luau begin.
4416 N. Clark St., 773-907-9900, peckingorderchicago.com
At most places, boneless wings are glorified chicken nuggets. But Matthias Merges debones his wings and pipes in a mixture of thigh meat, shallots, black garlic, and togarashi, stuffing each nibble as if it were a tiny Cornish hen. The results—caramelized on a bincho grill and topped with bonito sea salt, lime, and Thai chilies—are all crunchy skin and tangy Japanese spice, a deconstructed wing done right ($6).
2853 N. Kedzie Ave., 773-904-8558, yusho-chicago.com