Ever since I was old enough to squirt ketchup on my french fries at the diner, I have been a lover of "external sauces." Every chef's nightmare, I reach for the A-1 Spicy for my 32 oz ribeye steak. I wanted to get married in the condiments aisle at the grocery store, but my wife wouldn't have it.
So when we began Wingaddicts, the very concept of ordering wings with DRY RUB was puzzling to say the least. The first few times I felt obligated to disclose that I was most certainly "a wet rub" guy. Again, my wife didn't think that was humorous.
Well, I've evolved. I still won't order a dry rub wing if I need to choose it over a wet and saucy wing, but I'm absolutely open to both. In fact, in our "Wingaddicts Community" on Facebook this week somebody asked me what are the best dry rub wings in Connecticut. It took some thought, and inspired this blog. Understand that many wing joints use a dry rub as a "pre-game" before saucing wings traditionally. I'm not including those. I've uncovered 40 dry rub wings I want to tell you about so I've broken it down into two parts (so you don't get a tummy ache). As always you can click on the restaurant name for a link, or click on the photo to view the Wingaddicts YouTube episode where we ate these!
Enjoy Part One, and please tell us about your faves anywhere in the world:
I'm going to start off with the "Fire Place Wings" at The Fire Place in Southington. This wing is one of my all-time favorite dry rubs partially because it has a story. The rub has been a secret family recipe for generations and is called "Uncle Jim's." They use it on a lot of food there. We haven't derived all of its ingredients yet, but we have owner John Pucci strapped to a water board. You need to try this wing.
So I did a solo Wingaddicts episode at Pies & Pub in Middlebury during the covid lockdown. I ordered takeout and ate their Cinnamon Chiptole dry rub wings in the parking lot. In the hot afternoon sun and the haze of covid in the air, I was not of sound mind and body when I called these wings "an acquired taste." We went back for a full Wingaddicts episode and yes . . . this flavor (which needs no explanation) gets a full Wings up!
Another unique dry rub we ran into was at one of my favorite Italian restaurants in the state. Even as a full out Wingaddict, its difficult to order wings when I visit GG's Woodfired Pizza in Milford. But am I glad we did! EVERY wing flavor was off the chart and just take a look at the Sicilian Dry Rub wing! It has all of your favorite Italian spices and, of course, cooked to perfection. It's one of their most-popular wings.
Another place we visited during "Pizza Joint Wings" season, was Jerry's Pizza in Middletown. Another amazing pizza spot with an A-plus wing game, they rolled us out some Mojito Lime dry rub wings! The salt bumps up agains the mint of the mojito and the bitterness of the lime zest. Tangy, salty, savory, I think you can just taste them in the name!
An obscure spot (unless you live in Glastonbury, I guess) is the Tenth Hole Tavern at the Minnechaug nine-hole golf course. Forget about golf. Go there for wings. Many of their flavors encorporate a little dash of their secret house rub but their actual Tenth Hole Tavern Dry Rub is legit, straight up.
Another spot with it's own proprietary "house rub" is Redding Roadhouse. Chef Shawn has an excellent selection of gourmet wings on his menu and this House Dry Rub is no exception. Double Wings Up!
A dry rub wing that we've never seen on any other menu is the Irish Fairy Dust wing. And where should you consider trying such a wing, but at a classic Irish Pub. One of the VERY best Irish Pub's we've ever encountered is Inishmor Pub in Colchester. Plug it into your GPS and get over there! Everything about this place is special.
We see Old Bay spice used in a lot of recipes further down south, but every once and a while we came up on a CT restaurant that used it for a dry rub recipe (or even the bottled liquid version). Smokin' With Chris in Southington didn't bother messing around and mixing it with other things. They just rolled out the straight up Maryland Old Bay wing! And so yes, you can make this one at home too. But first go see how the pro's do it. Your life will never be the same. We promise!
Few restaurants give you more to think about when ordering wings, than Willimantic Brewing Company (Willibrew). So you can order your wings oil fried or grilled, fight to ignore the award winning tacos, and choose from a cool menu selection too. We did all those things and were impressed with all of it. And that included this unique Everything Bagel Parmesan wing. Money.
When you see dry rub flavors on restaurant menus, the most common are normally Cajun and Lemon Pepper. Some spots offer both a wet and dry version and some combine. Lemon Pepper is probably my favorite dry rub spice to order (at least to date), and so I wage "Lemon Pepper Wars" in my mind each time. Here are my three personal ALL-TIME favorite Lemon Pepper dry rub wings in no particular order.
OK, there's a particular order. The Lemon Pepper wings at Hard Hat Cafe are my favorite. There, I said it. I dream about them and wake up with a puddle of drool on my pillow case.
Before visiting Hard Hat, my favorite Lemon Pepper wing was from Cover Two Sports Cafe in Sandy Hook. The unique thing that set them apart was providing an actual lemon wedge that you could squeeze over the wings (like calamari). Another A-plus for these!
And before Cover Two, my favorite Lemon Pepper had been from Sliders. The problem with Sliders (if you want to call it a problem) is that they have over 30 flavors on the menu and so I'm never thinking about Lemon Pepper, or dry rubs, when I'm there.
Ok, let's cleanse our palates and get away from the citrus! The Signature BBQ Dry Rub at Bonefire Grille in Milford is THE most-popular wing at a restaurant that is in the Wingaddicts Top 20. That means, you need to go there and try it! The BBQ dry rub is held in place by a hot honey and this unique wing is one of our consensus all-time favorite dry rub wings!
Another house recipe that is Hall of Fame worthy is the House Signature Dry Rub at The Hub in Naugatuck and Ansonia. This is one of the absolute most perfect stand-alone dry rubs I've ever tried. The way they finish off the wings in the pizza oven adds a char that just seems to create a unique roasted wing flavor.
Do you want to give your taste buds a flavor safari? Try the Togarashi Brown Sugar wings at Blind Rhino in Black Rock and South Norwalk. These guys are simply wing virtuosos so everything they do is top notch. This one, though, won trophies all over the Northeast. Including the National Buffalo Wing Festival in New York.
Let's keep it sweet and talk about the Candied Bacon Sriracha wings at Dew Drop Inn. No other wing spot in the state has more flavors to choose from, so again I have a difficult time ordering dry rub wings when I visit. But . . . I visit a lot!
Keeping the rhythm of Five-Star wing spots with multiple flavors on the menu, lets travel to the CT shoreline to the legendary Hot Rod Cafe. Rod and Chef Carlos do everything right there, and this Garlic Pepper dry rub wing is super legit!
I might lose friends arguing for "franchise wings" but in the case of WingItOn its a hill I'm willing to die on. Full disclosure I am NOT an advocate of "take out wings" and much prefer a bar/restaurant atmosphere. But I'm willing to skip the cocktails and TV's if I can sit down and dine in here. You won't believe me until you try it, but if I blindfolded you and gave you wings from here you'd be a fan for life.
When spotting dry rubs on the menu, Mesquite usually runs a close third behind those Cajun and Lemon Peppers. There have been two Mesquite wings that have hit my favorites list over the last few years and the first one is from Four Dad's Pub in Granby (new location in Hartford). They are so passionate about their wings and wing flavors that it's hard for me to order a dry rub. But I go there hungry and get LOTS of flavors. This one made the team!
Garlic Parmesan is another popular wing flavor that comes in a dry rub version. We've seen it prepared different ways (mostly wet and buttery) and have probably ordered it at 50-60 restaurants. When you find a spot with an actual "chef" in the kitchen, the magic happens. And the magic ALWAYS happens at Black Rock Tavern in Thomaston. For now, just eat this one with your eyes!
Like I said, I didn't want to smother you with 40 wings in one shot so we'll be back next week with Part Two of Dry Rub Wings in "Under the Wingfluence!"
In the meantime, if you want to get directions or review any of these spots yourself, please feel free to download the world's first-and-only all inclusive chicken wing app! The download the new Wingaddicts Starter Wings app for FREE in your app store or by clicking this link!
Tommy Wyatt is co-founder of Wingaddicts and writes this weekly blog “Under the Wingfluence” for Wingaddicts.com.
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