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2018 Power Rankings: Atlanta Wing Joints

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The bye week brings you the most controversial post in the history of FTRS

Darius knows
FX’s Atlanta

With Georgia Tech deciding to take another season off of competitive football, and it also being the bye week, it’s time to cover some truly important things in the name of journalism.

Listen, I know what you’re thinking... You’re already mad at this list that you haven’t even read yet. It’s understandable and even commendable. As an Atlantan for presumably the current or some past portion of your life, you probably have strong opinions about wings... whether that’s your preferred flavor, preparation and seasoning, or location to acquire them from.

In the Slack room we use to run this blog, nothing brings out stronger opinions and emotions from all of the writers than when we talk about wings, especially from people who don’t live in the A anymore and can’t get satisfactory wings where they reside. Can you imagine that life? You ever tried to get lemon pepper wings in New York? They look at you like you’re an alien.

Why would anyone ever live in New York.

Wings are Atlanta’s national dish. They’re versatile, affordable, and you can avail yourself of every conceivable flavor and preparation, often within walking distance if you’re a city resident.

My credentials to make this list and present it as fact are as follows

  • I’m a life-long Atlanta resident. That’s 30 years of wing connoisseurship in our great city.
  • Wings are probably my favorite food. They are consumed at minimum weekly.
  • There’s basically no breaded wings on this list, with one exception. I also lean away from any sort of “buffalo” flavors when ranking these. Those are utilitarian and all taste the same.
  • Eating and drinking out in our fine city is probably my favorite pastime. I have eaten all of the wings listed below. I will hear no dissent. I’m sorry your opinions are wrong.

One other note before we proceed: boneless wings are just chicken nuggets for adults. They’re not wings. Nothing of the sort exists in the world. If you’re on a get-to-know-you date at a casual restaurant, and the man or woman you’re with orders boneless wings, it’s a red flag. They’re ordering off of the kids menu. I know, the truth hurts.

So, without further ado, may I humbly present to you the FTRS Blog Atlanta Wing Joint Power Rankings. We will countdown from 10.

10. Taco Mac - Various Locations

I’m convinced the only reason people think Taco Mac has great wings is because of nostalgia. They’re fine at best. They have locations everywhere in the metro area, and if you’re from here, or spent any of your upbringing here, there’s a good chance Taco mac was your first chicken wing experience.

Remove your rose-colored glasses and what you’re left with is a serviceable, but average chicken wing that will take no less than 45 minutes to appear in front of you after you order, and then it will probably take you another 30 minutes to get your check.

This is Atlanta - you can do better.

9. American Deli - Various Locations

American Deli makes this list for being the best mix of quality and accessibility. You can get consistently above-average wings of about any flavor, usually in a convenient location. Did I mention a lot of the AD’s have drive thru’s? Get you some wings to go and don’t look back.

Just be prepared for your car to smell like American Deli for days afterwards.. It’s a feature, not a bug.

8. Hudson Grille - Various Locations

Hudson Grille’s wings are what Taco Mac’s wish they were. Served in a timely manner in a (better) sports bar setting. While Hudson has consistently strong buffalo-style wings, don’t sleep on their lemon pepper either.

They’re fried, they’re greasy, and you’re not going to feel great about yourself when you leave and there’s an empty basket or two in front of you. It’s really everything you want in a sports bar chicken wing.

7. BeetleCat - Inman Park

So far on this list, we have been talking about wings of all flavors and general experiences at wing-centric restaurants. Now we’re going to start to narrow. I know you’re suspicious, especially if you know this place... it’s a seafood restaurant, after all, right?

You would be right, but you don’t want to miss the wings at BeetleCat. They’re twice-fried, seasoned with chili sauce, and then served with a buttermilk sesame dressing for dipping. They’ve got a delicious, slow-burn heat to them that will catch up to you pretty quick if you’re not paying attention.

BeetleCat’s glorious wings

So next time you’re walking on the Beltline Eastside Trail, stop off at Inman Park. Have a seat at their basement “den” bar, and have a wing snack. Trust me, you want these.

6. Anh’s Kitchen - Midtown

If you’re a midtown resident, or ever in the area, Anh’s is a place that is not to be missed. It’s a Vietnamese spot on Peachtree St that has every sort of wonderful banh mi, pho, and clay pot dishes your heart desires. They have a couple chicken wing options for you, but here we’re only going to cover one.

Their sticky fish sauce wings are perfect. They’re coated in fish sauce, chili garlic, and rice vinegar. They’re all things wonderful and a much more delicious, complex flavor than anything proceeded by the word “buffalo.” They will also warm you up on a cold day. You need these in your life.

On a semi-related note, I was traveling in Hong Kong about this time last year, and we sat down at a brewery / restaurant for a casual dinner. They had wings as an appetizer, and that’s not something I’ve ever declined in my life, so of course we ordered those. When they arrived, I grabbed them out of the bowl and proceeded to eat them with gusto, like the ignorant American that I am. I’m half-way through this endeavor, with sauce certainly on my face somewhere and covering my fingers, when I realize the native people are so deft with chopsticks, that they’re picking up the corners of wings with them and meticulously eating them in a much more graceful manner than me. Now, I don’t know what level you’re at, chopstick skill-wise, but eating wings with them is not something I foresee myself ever being able to do. I shrugged and proceeded with my messy-American eating habits.

Anyway, go to Anh’s and order some wings and eat them with your hands. Let me know what you think.

5. The Cheetah, Magic City (lol I’m not linking to those)

I have to confess that I’ve never had food from either of these establishments. I think know this makes me a bad Atlantan. I just know from many, many reputable sources that the wings at these places are not to be missed. And honestly, it makes a lot of sense. It’s almost certainly the wee hours of the morning when you’re there, and nothing sounds more appealing to soak up the booze circulating your system than some delicious fried wings.

So save some of your cash for food, if you still have any at this point in the evening, when your endeavors have led you to grace the threshold of either of these fine demonstrations of southern culture.

4. Fox Bros BBQ - Inman Park / Cabbagetown
Why should you go to one of Atlanta’s most famous and popular barbecue restaurants and get wings, you may ask? Because Fox Bros ain’t playing. These things are smoked to perfection. There’s no batter or fried things going on here. Do you want to pick your flavor? Tough luck, they only come served in the house sauce, because it’s the perfect compliment to the slow-cooked smokiness. Also, these things are huge.

Look at God.

There’s not a graceful way to eat these. You’re going to make a mess. You’re going to look and feel like a fat and happy idiot after eating these things with sauce up and down your face. Embrace it. Get a side of tots smothered in brunswick stew and melted cheese and roll yourself down Dekalb Ave in the general direction of your home.

If, somehow, you still have room after this endeavor to Fox Bros, they also offer the most superior dessert on the planet for a southern man or woman: homemade banana pudding.

3. J.R. Crickets - Old Fourth Ward

There’s a reason it’s called “the original” and there’s a reason it was such a prominent part of Season 1 of the FX series Atlanta. J.R. Cricket’s does the classic chicken wing better than anyone. It’s quick, cheap, delicious, open late, and conveniently located at North Ave and Juniper for all of your late night needs.

If you want a mild, flavorful wing. They got you. If you want to light yourself on fire to cleanse your body of anything you may consumed on a weekend out in Atlanta, they got you covered. Do you need some of the best, classic lemon pepper wings in the city? Their’s are so good that they were featured in a Golden Globe-winning TV series and had to add “lemon pepper wet” to their menu after that’s what the characters received on the show, and folks kept rolling in and ordering it.

Perhaps no place is a better cross section of Atlanta than J.R. Crickets. You will see all manner of age, race, and income level roll into this fine establishment in order to get their fix. Nothing brings Atlantans together like wings, and perhaps nowhere is better at doing so than J.R. Crickets on North Ave. It’s a staple, and the city would cease to function without it.

2. Heirloom Market - Smyrna / Vinings

This place is ITP by about 30 yards, but it still counts. Heirloom Market is arguably Atlanta’s best and most widely renowned barbecue establishment. If you’re watching travel or food shows that are set in the city, they’re probably going to wind up here, and with good reason.

It’s Korean-style barbecue done to perfection. There’s not a thing on their menu you should miss, including sides. I can’t stump for this place enough. The brisket is perfect. The ribs are perfect. Their kimchi-topped pulled pork sandwich is perfect. But let’s talk about the wings.

Heirloom Market, for your viewing pleasure

Now I know we’ve had smoked wings on the list before, but these are the best of the bbq-style and I will hear no arguments to the contrary. I don’t even know what they’re seasoned with beyond Korean-style spices that are both sweet and spicy and satisfy every taste bud in your mouth. They’re sticky and topped with sesame and served with a side of house-made pickles. How in the world can you beat that?

No matter where in the metro area you live, Heirloom is worth the trip. Just plan to take-out or eat at your car as this place is tiny and the only place to dine-in is a standing room-only patio. It’s also attached to a liquor store, and it’s not uncommon to see people eating and drinking on their tailgates in the parking lot.

1. The Local - Old Fourth Ward (The Local is so awesome it doesn’t have a website)

The Local is the wing king of Atlanta, and I will hear no opinions to the contrary. Trifle with me about other establishments that made this list and those that didn’t in the comments, that’s fine, but there is no denying that the best wings are served on Ponce in a dingy dive bar across from the ritzy Ponce City Market.

The Local’s wings are smoked and then flash fried. It’s the best of both worlds. If you like the smokiness of the bbq wings, they’ve got you covered. If you like the crispiness of fried, well that’s there too, friend.

In addition to the wide array of house-made sauces they offer if you’re into the wet variety, this place is also home to the best lemon-pepper wings in the city, bar none. The dry rub is perfect. You can trust me on this. Lemon-pepper is my favorite wing flavor, and no one does it better... probably on the planet.

Everything is served in a basket, as God intended. Grab a couple of also unhealthy friends, get you a side of fries, and order every flavor on the menu. Try and find one that isn’t perfect. They’ll also mix sauces for you, if you’re feeling adventurous.

If you can find a place that has better wings than The Local, I’ll give you a dollar. This is the church of chicken wings.

So, what’s everyone doing for lunch?