Local chefs share St. Louis' best chicken wings
Chicken wings – those staples of Super Bowl parties and bar menus everywhere – stir up passion and debate like few other foods. The general consensus seems to be that our fascination began in the early 1960s at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York, when a mistaken delivery begat the fried bites served with blue cheese and celery sticks known as Buffalo wings.
This provided a fertile base for flavorful experimentation, and local chefs have come up with myriad permutations, from the super simple, dry-rubbed smoked wings at Frankly on Cherokee to the Thai-influenced larb wings at The Bao to the ultra-fried Trashed Wings at Billy G’s Kirkwood. We touched base with area culinarians to see which versions they favor when the wing craving comes.
Multiple locations, sybergs.com
Local photographer Corey Woodruff has shot his share of food pics and tried more than his share of wings. For him, Syberg’s consistently comes out on top. This local chain has had plenty of practice perfecting its game, serving up signature wings since 1980. There are eight sauces available, but the main object of Woodruff’s affection is Syberg’s Original Famous Sauce – which you can also buy in bottles.
“I think it’s a mustard base,” Woodruff said. “Buffalo and barbecue have been done, but this is really interesting. It’s creamy and tangy and completely different.”
2. O! Wing Plus
10094 Page Ave., Overland, 314.395.0181, owingplus.com
According to Guerrilla Street Foodco-owner Joel Crespo, this Overland wing shop is a true hidden gem, featuring Asian flavors along with traditional tastes like Buffalo. Crespo said the batter on the O’s Original wing is reminiscent of Korean fried chicken with a caramelized, almost creme brulee texture. “They have a great crunch and flavor with a good balance of heat and sweet.”
Crespo’s favorites of the nine varieties available are the Thai chili lime and the Hot Mama. There’s also an ultra-flammable version called Beast Mode, though Crespo confessed, “I couldn’t get past the first one.”
3. Milo’s Bocce Garden
5201 Wilson Ave., St. Louis, 314.776.0468, milosboccegarden.com
Who would’ve thought a place on The Hill with a menu full of Italian favorites would gain a rep for top-notch wings? “My family all lives on The Hill, so I go there often,” said Rebecca Schaaf, bartender at Reeds American Table. During one trip, she discovered Milo’s grilled wings (fried are also available), which quickly became a staple. Schaaf said the secret is simple: The wings are grilled, tossed in house-made hot sauce and then put back on the grill to lock in the flavor.
4. St. Louis Wing Co.
9816 Manchester Road, Rock Hill, 314.962.9464, stlwingco.com
When the subject of wings comes up, a lot of area chefs put St. Louis Wing Co. at the top of their lists. “You know when you walk in the door everything is made from scratch,” said Big Baby Q chef-owner Ben Welch. No bulk sauces or mystery meat in chef-owner Bobby Tessler’s kitchen.
The wings are available regular or boneless with a panoply of flavor options from Ridiculous Ranch to Red Hot Riplets, one of Welch’s go-tos. “Bobby is the OG Red Hot Riplets guy.” Welch is also partial to the zesty dry version, which he said highlights the meat without overshadowing it.
5. Town Square Pub N Grub
7843 Highway N, Dardenne Prairie, 636.625.4800, townsquarepubn-grub.com
Grace Meat & Three chef-owner Rick Lewis is known for whipping up some fine wings himself, and he’s pretty specific about his preferences. “I like wings fried to heck, almost overcooked,” Lewis said, which makes them extra crispy and tender. When he’s not making his own, he likes the wings served at Town Square – particularly the sweet and spicy dry rub version.
6. The Hive
609 N. New Ballas Road, Creve Coeur, 314.569.1769, thehivestlouis.com
“It’s the closest you can get to a South City tavern in the ’burbs,” said Nudo Housecook Wil Pelly about this Creve Coeur institution. The traditional, straight-ahead wings are available in regular hot, barbecue, naked, dirty (fried, sauced and then baked) versions. “They’re classic hot wings, fried and tossed, with no pretensions, nothing fancy,” Pelly said. “They take you back home.”
7. The Brass Rail
4601 Highway K, O’Fallon, Missouri, 636.329.1349, brassrail1.com
The Brass Rail stands out in a sea of cookie-cutter chains, and wings are one of the menu standouts, according to Austin Hamblin, chef-owner of The Muddled Pig Gastropub in Maplewood. “It’s a good, solid neighborhood place that does things from scratch,” Hamblin said.
There are eight different wing sauces to choose from, and all come served over fries for the ultimate game-day (or any day) combination. Hamblin, who leans toward the traditional Buffalo sauce, said the fries soak up all the wing flavors, becoming piquant and tasty, almost a dish unto itself.
Matt Sorrell is staff writer at Sauce Magazine.
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