One of our favorite things about starting a new year at Wingaddicts, is setting new goals and looking back on how we did on our last batch.
In 2023 we started a crusade to better chronicle our journey toward eating 1,000 different chicken wing flavors (fairly certain that no living human has accomplished this feat to date). Frankly, the more flavors you eat the more difficult it becomes even to FIND new flavors in restaurant wing menus but with a little focus we were able to still have our biggest year yet.
An Instagram friend suggested that we release a list of the Top 10 flavors we experienced in 2023. We loved the idea! Well, until we looked at the list of over 170 we added to our list last year. So after much debate, we knocked the list to our Top 20. That’s twice as nice! So here’s a list of 20 of our favorite wings from 2023.
In almost every restaurant that serves chicken, we’re used to seeing entrees like chicken parmesan, chicken Milanese, chicken marsala, chicken piccata, chicken scarpariello (you get the drift), but we NEVER see those as chicken wing flavors? Why the hell not? Well this year we finally came upon the Scarpariello Wings at Hair of the Dog in Milford. And they were un-for-gettable.
Staying in line with that last little rant, we also got lucky in the same week when Groggy Frogg ran a special “Piccata” wing. That insane flavor you love with the capers was an instant classic in our book!
Char Sui Pig Wings & Smoked Alabama Dry
One of our favorite wings last year wasn’t even a chicken wing. Knuckleheads moved to a new location (it’s amazing) and we lost our minds when we ate their Char Sui Pig Wings. It’s hard to find words.OK, back to reality and the chicken wings we love. At Knuckleheads that same day we enjoyed a half-dozen amazing wings but one of our favorites (after the pig wings) was their in-house White Alabama Dry Rub.
Some of life’s best things happen by accident and that’s what happened at Jimmie’s Place when they printed their new menus last year. Somebody forgot the comma between Honey Cajun and Garlic Parm, so when a customer ordered Honey Cajun Garlic Parm, chef Chris Caruso did what any business owner would do. He created it. And it’s a house fav (and one of ours too).
Staying at Jimmie's on that fateful day we also got a chance to enjoy some Dill Pickle wings. I'm not a huge pickle guy . . . but I had to add this one to the list because my fellow Wingaddicts (Doni and Ryan) both went a little ga-ga for it. Let's be honest. It's unique as hell. And if pickles are your thing, you'll be all over this wing flavor. It works.
Not exactly a mistake, but certainly a one-off was the Jalapeno Jelly Gochujang wings we demolished at Monty’s Downtown.
We were featuring a new restaurant in the video but they didn’t have any flavors on the menu we hadn’t tried before. So Wingchef Ryan huddled with owner Vince Cappelletti and the chef and they fused Gochujang with Peanut Butter and Jalapeno Jelly. (Especially since I’m allergic to peanut butter). The result was insanity. Honestly, one of the very best wings we had all year. You’ll have to go off-menu for this one. Can't hurt to ask.
Another wing you can’t get from a menu, and frankly we’ve never seen anything quite like it at any other restaurant on this planet, was the Hot & Dirty Martini wings we had at Bevy Co (a new craft cocktail lounge) in our home town. Think martini. Think olives. Think creamy. Think spicy fried cherry peppers. Again they aren’t on the menu but don’t be surprised if they pop up on their special board from time to time.
When we celebrated our 600th wing flavor early in the year, we rolled up to visit our friend and master chef, Red Lanphear at Black Rock Tavern. As always, he invited us in and whipped up four or five off-menu flavors that he improvised just for us. All of them could have made this “Best in 2023 list” but we wanted to share the wealth. This Orange Gochujang Chili Gochugura wing was actually flavor #600 so we’ll go with this one!
Gorgonzola Cherry Pepper
At the very beginning of the year we stopped in to check out a new restaurant in Newtown called Station 25. To call this spot completely unique in the wing game is an understatement. For starters, they serve their wings breaded or naked. Second, they’re the biggest wings we’ve ever been served. But they're also some of the most-beautiful and most-delicious. I still have recurring dreams about the Gorgonzola Cherry Pepper wings there!
Just because the first thing we do at a restaurant is scan the menu for flavors we’ve never had before, doesn’t mean that we don’t ALWAYS go with traditional Buffalo. And one of THE best Buffalo wings we had last year was at Rabbit Hole Tavern in Old Saybrook. They scale their unique house-made hot sauce with movie ratings (G, PG, R, X and XXX). We started with “R” and it was incredible but it really just served to “put us in the mood.” So we went XXX and frankly it was one of our favorite Buffalo wings in 2023.
Keeping things hot, Sliders added a new flavor to its menu that was actually created by a customer. The Fire Pepper Parm wings got so popular so fast they became a top seller. And we understand completely. Again, one of the best all year long!
When searching unique flavors we know we can always turn to another Connecticut Hall of Fame spot, TK’s. With almost a hundred on their menu, they’re known for just mixing and fusing different flavors together and giving them a name. Hence, “Resurrection” which was a combination of Caribbean spice, tequila, and double cayenne. OK, might as well add in the “Four Horsemen” which was jerk, suicide, horseradish and cayenne. We need a cot there. Well, three.
We’ve had hundreds of iterations of Garlic Parm wings over the years, as you’d imagine. Restaurants use different types of parmesan, shaved or grated, wet or dry, creamy or buttery, smoked garlic, black garlic, and it's all so wonderful. Well, Salty Dog did a thing. Introducing Black Garlic Espresso Parmesan wings. Yep, chef thought to add Espresso. Thank you, sir!
Sometimes you just have to get a little crazy. That’s exactly what they did for a short time at WingitOn when they came out with a Lavaberry Pop Rocks promotion. We went back in and enjoyed a few excellent new flavors but how do you ever forget this one? Spicy Sriracha wings with watermelon and strawberry Pop Rocks candy. It was strangely amazing.
Sadly, many of our restaurant owner friends lost or sold their businesses in 2023. One such spot was Retro Pub & Grub in Derby where we had a most-wonderful visit which included six killer good wing flavors and some pretty insane pizza. We had to included them in this post because the Asian Blueberry BBQ wings were simply unforgettable. The Nashville Honey Hot Oil could easily make our year-end list as well. One of the best ever.
Garlic Ginger Wasabiyaki just makes me think about all-you-can-eat sushi. But whenever I’m at Ordinary Joe’s in Oakville CT, it’s more like all-you-can-eat wings. They have dozens of flavors there and are some of the absolute best wings in the state. So . . . we give you Garlic Ginger Wasabiyaki (drooling while typing).
Sometimes a wing flavor looks so familiar that you think you’ve eaten it a million times. That said, we’ve eaten 18 different wings that include “Cajun” in the hame, but somehow had never tried Creamy Cajun. We finally did at New West Cafe in New Haven. It’s one of their top sellers and was one of our faves all year!
Another fairly common sounding wing (sort of) is Mustard Horseradish. Again, there are so many ways to combine those two ingredients, but when we walked into a moonshine bar called The Hidden Still we were treated to solid gold. Oh, and their Reaper wings made me put vanilla ice cream in my eyes.
In the home stretch of 2023 we ate wing flavor number 699 and wanted to find a special place to eat #700. Not only does The Hub in Naugatuck have a unique wing special every single week, but they also were under new ownership. So the choice was simple and the landmark flavor was Raspberry Jalapeno Honey “Razmatazz.” Isn't that beatuful?!
Rounding out our list of the Top 20 favorite wings in 2023 we go from Razz to Tazz, courtesy of Groggy Frogg in Southington. "The Tasmanian" is a pickle brined combination of some crazy mustards, hot sauces and lemon pepper. It was on the special board originally, but looks to maaaaybe become permanent going forward. Please?
Yes, our Top 20 flavors last year all came from Connecticut restaurants. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find awesome and unique flavors everywhere else in the world. Just scan those menus when you sit down and live a little. Don’t just order your old favorite. Order two plates next time and try something new. Or three. Or four.
As Wingchef Ryan so famously says, “The wing is a blank canvas. The possibilities are endless.”
Wings up in 2024!! We’ve got some big surprises in store for you!
Tommy Wyatt is co-founder of Wingaddicts and author of “Under the Wingfluence." He can be reached directly by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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