In our passionate quest for Connecticut’s best wings, we occasionally find ourselves drooling outside of a barbecue joint. When most people think of barbecue they think of ribs, brisket, pulled pork, baked beans, corn bread, cole slaw, and half chickens. Wings, are almost always just a little menu afterthought.
But be advised, smoked wings are completely different than the traditional deep-fried oil wings that we all know and love. So even if you’re going to the BBQ joint for BBQ, grab an order of wings and see what happens.
My love for BBQ joint wings started at Virgil’s Real BBQ in Times Square, in NYC. They serve the whole wings, only one flavor, one style. And, frankly, one order of wings can be classified as a full meal there. Sadly, Virgil’s has been shut down since we started Wingaddicts so we haven’t been over there for an episode yet.
There are really four major BBQ “style” classifications in the US. We have Texas, Carolina, Memphis, and Kansas City.
Carolina BBQ is probably this country’s oldest form, and consists primarily of slow-roasted pork. Pulled and shredded pork, shoulders and butts, and pork ribs are most popular and traditionally the meat is rubbed with a spice mixture before smoking and then mopped with some type of vinegar-based marinade during smoking. There are different variations of Carolina BBQ, including the Eastern-style that uses “every part of the hog but the squeel” and uses no tomatoes in its sauce recipes, but instead more of a mayonnaise and vinegar base. Meanwhile the Lexington or Piedmont-style uses a ketchup and vinegar base. Both styles normally use a hickory or oak wood.
Carolina sauces are normally think and tangy with subtle sweetness. They use very little sugar which results in a more sour and tangy flavor. There’s also a South Carolina-style which tends to be a little spicier.
One CT spot where we discovered Carolina BBQ is Reid’s BBQ in Derby. While we were drawn towards everything on the menu, we managed to control ourselves and just ate every wing flavor on the menu including Jerk, Carolina BBQ, Smoked Habanero, Traditional Buffalo, and Honey BBQ. They were fall-off-the-bone juicy and every single flavor was bomb. And owner, Kevin Reid is a legit Carolina enthusiast who takes extreme pride in his work.
Texas BBQ has four or five similar styles but the most popular is the South Texas “barbacoa” started by the Mexicans. Texas BBQ focuses mostly on beef which is smoked in BBQ pit trailers or underground (usually over white oak) for up to 20 hours. After that, the meat is then left to rest, marinating in its own juices for optimal tenderness and flavor.
Hindsight BBQ in Waterbury is a spot we visited recently that was crazy good. There we enjoyed their Alabama BBQ wings, Honey Buffalo, House BBQ, and House “Sticky” wings. All were absolutely amazing.
HooDoo Brown’s in Ridgefield / Danbury is probably the most-popular BBQ spot in the entire state. They’re another Texas BBQ style and do killer business with beef brisket and prime rib. But right in the corner of the menu are their two wing flavors; Smoked Buffalo and Citrus Bourbon Teriyaki. While I shot this episode solo at the very beginning of Wingaddicts, I rated these wings (back when we rated wings) a perfect 21 of 21. It’s time to go back with the other fellas!
Smokin’ With Chris is an excellent BBQ spot in Southington that smoked outside all day and delivers that juicy Texas BBQ. Strangely though, SWC doesn’t smoke its wings. So, even though we loved their Buffalo, Bourbon BBQ, and Maryland Old Bay wings they were cooked in the traditional deep fried method.
Kansas City BBQ
Kansas City BBQ is dominated by tomato and molasses-based sauces and known for its wider variety of meats. KC-style puts everything in that smoker including beef, pork, chicken, sausage, and even lamb. The technique is to dry rub, smoke, and then serve fresh with thick and sweet table sauces on the side. KC is most-known for its burnt ends.
Beachland Smoke in West Hartford may be classified as a KC-style (or a hybrid of sorts). They have every meat you could want on their menu and their amazing smoked wings allowed you to choose from their Buffalo, House BBQ, Texas, Bourbon, Kansas City, or Carolina Mustard. So we had them all. This was one of our favorite wing spots in the entire state.
We pounded some wings over at Big Franks in Watertown, which uses mostly the KC style of BBQ. They have everything you can imagine on that menu and we made short work of the Teriyaki, Sweet Chili, Buffalo, Hot BBQ, and Garlic Parm wings there. And brisket for desert with a tangy Carolina BBQ sauce.
While it doesn’t pretend to be a BBQ joint, we had to include Scooter’s Bar and Grill in New Milford because of the excellent smoked wings they serve. It’s just a little smoker out back, but these guys nailed the BBQ smoked wings. We loved their House BBQ, Slow Death, Shmokin, and Sweet Heat wings. Worth a visit for sure!
Memphis BBQ targets mostly dry rubs made from garlic, paprika, chili pepper, cumin, and other (often secret) spices. They’re known for flavorful slabs of dry ribs cooked with a super-slow smoke over a hickory fire, resulting in fall-off-the-bone tenderness. Because of the lack of wet sauces, Memphis BBQ is the least messy to eat. Pulled pork is a main staple of Memphis BBQ and they love to use that pulled pork on everything from sandwiches to salads to pizza.
I may be off base on this one because we visited Que Whiskey Kitchen in Southington immediately following an episode we shot at another restaurant. I was beyond full. Que is a solid BBQ spot which (I think) uses the Memphis-style. Wingchef Ryan may need to correct me on this one. My reasoning is that the two flavors of wings on their menu were both dry rubs, were tender and delicious, and required no wet naps. Just a regular nap. The Smoked Togarashi was legit!
Clearly we haven’t hit ALL the BBQ joints in Connecticut yet. Still on our list is a re-visit to HooDoo Brown’s, The Stand in Branford, Uncle Willy’s in Middlebury, Thomas Smokey Pit Stop in Manchester, The Cue in Danbury, Taino in Middletown, and Bear BBQ in Hartford. If there’s another we need to know about, please be sure to let us know in the “Wingaddicts Community” Facebook group.
Until then, Smoked Wings up!