While fabled Chicago wing institutions like Crisp regularly turn up next to the likes of Jake Melnick’s Corner Tap on lists like this one, and this one, and even this one, Chicago is a proud city of significant wing diversity. So, in the interest of celebrating that diversity, we put together this list of Chicago's best under-the-radar chicken wings, all of which aren't on any of the "best of" lists from Chicagoist, ChicagoTraveler, or Thrillist (that's us!).
A number of places smoke wings (err day) before crisping them up in the fryer, but this upscale take on Carolina low country cuisine is still the best we’ve had, with plump and juicy wings that retain the flavor of the smokehouse even after being fried and coated in a sweet glaze.
The "Little Hotties" chicken creations at this Pilsen joint will steal your heart and leave you wanting more. The daughter of the owners of Great Sea on Lawrence (also known for its wings), opened up her own place here a few years back, much to the delight of locals. Served lollipop-style and resulting in skin that's crispy while your hands stay clean, the wings come in different levels of heat with a sweet after-note.
One of Chicago's original Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, Hienie’s has been feeding a cult following ever since being featured on the cover of the original The Streets and San Man's Guide to Chicago Eats. Located on the Southeast Side, Hienie's doubles as both a fried shrimp shack and fried chicken shack -- get the bright orange sauce, a radioactive-looking sauce that’s so beloved (AND ADDICTIVE), it once hosted its own Facebook page.
There’s no posher drink-and-wings combo in town than following a night at the Aviary with a plate of wings across the street at this South American-inspired hotspot, which puts a Brazilian spin on Buffalo wings with a fiery piri-piri sauce coating and a big bowl of cooling blue cheese dip.
Hot dogs, burgers, and other Chicago-style favorites are served at this family-run spot (which has been a favorite of the people in the Lincoln Square and Ravenswood 'hoods since 1980), but the no-brainer, go-to order here is the chicken wings. Owned by the same family behind Crisp, Budacki's does wings a little differently: perfectly fried and doused in a marinade that mixes Asian spice with Buffalo sauce resulting in a tantalizing flavor combination.
"Karaage!" That's Japanese for an especially delicate form of flash frying. And although this is a Korean barbecue restaurant, it's staffed with Japanese owners and terrific Japanese fried chicken wings.
Ever smell sweet smoke in the air while riding down Chicago Ave in Ukrainian Village? Odds are it was coming from this popular Jamaican lounge, where chicken is smoked and grilled in back and never fails to please. Should you want to further explore the menu while still getting your jerk chicken fix, we suggest the grilled wings appetizer (fried works, too). They’re perfectly smoked with hints of allspice and just enough Scotch Bonnet pepper to have you break a sweat before you cool down with an ice-cold Ting.
This sunny, casual Korean spot in a Kedzie strip mall does wings with a crunchy skin, sort of like those ‘60s recipes for fried chicken with corn flake batter coated in a gooey, sticky-sweet Asian glaze. The texture is tops and it’s endearing to know that the staff doesn’t even pretend to make its own ranch dressing. Your order proudly comes with a bottle straight from Jewel.
A bright little Korean fast-food spot tucked away on Granville, it has two flavors of wings. But unless you have to have the heat, go for the soy-ginger, in which big crispy wings gain a lot from the multidimensional glaze they’re soaked in.
The place that took over the old Graham Elliot location specializes in upscale comfort food, so a snazzy plate of wings is a natural choice. Chef Joseph Heppe smokes them first, then fries and glazes them in a spicy, Asian-style sauce. The real breakthrough on the plate, though? The light, cooling cilantro-yogurt dipping sauce.
Greater Grand Crossing
These guys get the award for most ridiculous amount of original sauces offered. To help you better select your flavor, options are broken down by country and given a heat rating. Popular sauces include cheesy Buffalo, jerk, and garlic Parmesan, which comes laced with bits of potent garlic up and down each piece. Do 'em grilled or fried (or both!).
While this longtime Howard St favorite does offer a really nice rendition of classically fried chicken wings, here it's all about the signature offering, the "Oriental Chicken." Split wings are doused in a sweet citrus sauce with Korean flair, served in orders of eight to 100 (yes, 100), along with white rice that's heavily infused with the sauce. Fast food wings don't get much better.
Providing wings and a good beer list is job number one for lots of neighborhood bars. Okay. All neighborhood bars. But this Ukie Village tavern takes things one step further by not only doing classic Buffalo wings awfully well, but pushing the boundaries in the process. The recently introduced Asian wings feature a nice backyard-grill char under a not-too-sticky glaze.
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Titus Ruscitti is a contributing writer for Thrillist and the man behind Chicago Taco Tour. You can join him on his taco-specific travels throughout the cityscape there, or his general food ones on his blog, where he's single-handedly tackled close to 1,000 food stops. Follow him @chibbqking.
1. Carriage House1700 W Division St, Chicago
2. Take Me Out1502 W 18th St, Chicago
3. Hienie's Shrimp House10359 S Torrence Ave, Chicago
4. La Sirena Clandestina954 W Fulton Market, Chicago
5. Budacki's Drive In4739 N Damen Ave, Chicago
6. Chicago Kalbi Korean BBQ3752 W Lawrence Ave, Chicago
7. Mr. Brown's Lounge2301 W Chicago, Chicago
8. Cafe Orient 334829 N Kedzie Ave, Chicago
9. Dak1104 W Granville, Chicago
10. Oak + Char217 W Huron St, Chicago
11. Chicago Wingz Around the World557 E 75 St, Chicago
12. Zip'z Express Fast Food1635 W Howard St, Chicago
13. High Dive1938 W Chicago Ave, Chicago
Carriage House brings the internationally-tinged flavors of regional South Carolina to Wicker Park. A portion of the menu is dedicated to bold, interpretations of select traditional dishes, a broad collection of spirits, and family-inspired meals. This restaurant tempts you to stay for a long, Southern minute.
Take Me Out is a Chinese... well, take-out restaurant and wing palace that serves up some of the finest "hotties" (seriously, that's what they call their wings) in all of Chicago.
Hienie's not only serves up its own pretty-freaking-famous hot sauce in South Deering, but it's also got some of the best fried shrimp in the city.
La Sirena Clandestina in Fulton Market combines bright, coastal Brazilian fare with a dark, sexy atmosphere suitable for the date you’ve thus far struggled to impress. The chocolate-brown wooden tables are littered both with teeny glistening candles and cocktails, like the Bikini Weather (coconut, passion fruit, and tequila), which, by the way, are robust and beach party-worthy. As for food, the menu is a mix of small and large plates, unified by an emphasis on Brazilian meat and seafood tastes, like head-on prawns or ceviche. Share the tres leches for a sweet end to the evening.
Hot dogs, burgers, and other Chicago-style favorites are served at this family-run spot (which has been a favorite of the people in the Lincoln Square and Ravenswood 'hoods since 1980), but the no-brainer go-to order here is the chicken wings. Budacki’s does wings a little differently: perfectly fried and doused in a marinade that mixes Asian spice with Buffalo sauce resulting in a tantalizing flavor combination.
At this Chicago eatery, you can mix-and-match Japanese and Korean appetizers and entrees. The food is grilled right in front of you and what sets Chicago Kalbi apart from other KBBQ spots is its use of wood chips instead of gas on the tables. The delicious, smoky smell will invite you in from the street. Open seating or privacy rooms are available for groups.
Named for a Bob Marley tune, this subtly Rastafarian corner bar's decked out with reggae record covers and a jukebox spinning said tunes. The grub comes courtesy of a Jamaican chef serving up family recipe spicy mac and cheese, bone-in curried goat, and grilled wings with allspice and just enough Scotch Bonnet pepper.
Cafe Orient 33 is a neighborhood favorite. This informal, family-run Japanese-Korean spot in Albany Park is BYBO and offers some of the crispiest, most delicious wings in the city. The supremely flavorful sweet and spicy wings are a must, as is the Bibimbap. You’ll for sure get your dollar’s worth of taste. The place is warm and welcoming with high ceilings and soft yellow interior, and the family is very sweet.
Dak takes its name from the Korean word for “chicken,” a nod to its specialty: delicately crisped wings. Food is made to order, so it’s guaranteed to be fresh, and portion sizes are generous. Though it’s fast-foodish, Dak makes you feel right at home with wood and tile accents in a contemporary setting. Try the wings, wings and more wings. Indulge in as many mild or spicy sauces you can handle.
Staying true to its name, the space sports plenty of oak, as well as billowy light fixtures that look like plumes of smoke. Feast on ultra-flavorful "M.S.G." wings (trust us, it’s not what you think) and a smoky double-patty burger, or go big with a market price 32oz bone-in ribeye served with bone marrow and sauce Perigueux on a badass wooden board.
These guys get the award for most ridiculous amount of original sauces offered. To help you better select your flavor, options are broken down by country and given a heat rating. Popular sauces include cheesy buffalo, jerk, and garlic Parmesan that comes laced with bits of potent garlic up and down each piece. Do 'em grilled or fried (or both!).
This longtime Howard St favorite is all about its signature offering, the "Oriental Chicken." Split wings are doused in a sweet citrus sauce with Korean flair, served in orders of eight to 100 (yes, 100), along with white rice that gets heavily infused with the sauce. Fast food wings don't get much better.
Providing wings and a good beer list is job number one for lots of neighborhood bars. Okay... all neighborhood bars. But this Ukie Village tavern takes things one step further by not only doing classic buffalo wings awfully well, but pushing the boundaries in the process. The recently introduced Asian wings feature a nice backyard grill char under a not-too-sticky glaze.