Tangy, meaty and messy — of all the late-night munchies, one stands above the rest. Hot wings are a snack that gives us a deep, primal satisfaction. This week I visited three of New Haven’s favorite casual dining destinations in search of the perfect wing experience.
Yorkside Pizza has been a favorite late-night meal stop for Yalies since its founding in 1969. Just try to find a table during Harvard-Yale weekend, and you’ll see how many students and alums return time and time again for delicious, salty treats. When I entered, a waitress greeted me warmly and then directed me to the front counter for carry-out service. My order was ready in 15 minutes, and I was on my way to the Berkeley common room to share my noshy delight. As late as it was and as hungry as I always am, I’m sad to report that I was a little disappointed. The wings were tired and uninspired, the breading a little soggy. The generous glaze of buffalo sauce covered the otherwise bland (if tender) meat, but not flavorfully. I definitely have a tongue for spicy food, but even for those who don’t, the sauce bordered on sweet. The very generous side of ranch dressing was my flavor savior, along with a refreshing celery stick or two between every wing.
This 24-hour joint is a fail-safe, late-night destination. I headed over at 12:30 a.m., and the place was hopping. OK, down to business: the wings. Few experiences excite my carnal desires more than having a big plate of wings set down in front of me. I picked up a wing, bit down and was again a little disappointed. I almost laughed at the irony of the situation: These wings were the antithesis of Yorkside’s. Where Yorkside had screwed up, A1 got it right, and vice versa. These wings were piping hot and delivered a very wholesome chicken flavor, but the chicken was fairly tough and the sauce almost nonexistent. It was as if they’d glazed them with just enough sauce to get them red but not to take on very much of the flavor. I thought I’d make these guys a little more exciting by dunking them in the generous bowl of creamy ranch dressing on the table. That next bite was one of the more unpleasant surprises of my culinary experience. Rather than ranch dressing, it was bleu cheese. The tangy, bitter, disgusting flavor overtook my mouth, enslaving my tongue. I was disheartened. What was I to do? Flavorless, tough wings without even any ranch for comfort? I was distraught.
BUFFALO WILD WINGS
Step aside, late night college eateries, and make way for the king of buffalo wings. Conveniently located just three blocks from Old Campus, BWW is a gem of a restaurant — a classy sports bar in every sense of the word. My buddy and I were lucky enough to take part in all-you-can-eat-wings night for just $10 per person (a deal only available at a few BWWs, including New Haven’s). For $10, you get 12 wings, with two different flavors, a serving of french fries and a cup of ranch. After that plate is done, you can keep asking for orders of six wings lathered in any of their 14 incredible varieties of sauce, accompanied by more ranch and more french fries every time. These wings were perfect. On the menu they list all 14 flavors from the tame “Sweet Barbecue” to the tongue-scorching “Blazin’.” Not only are they different levels of spice, but also different types of flavor. You get your common “Honey BBQ” and plain old “Hot,” as well as flavors like “Carribbean Jerk,” “Teriyaki” and “Mango Habanero.” My two very favorites were “Spicy Garlic” (just past halfway, tending spicy) and the second hottest: BWW’s signature “Wild.” The perfect blend of flavor and hotness, these wings put me in nirvana. Tender meat had my heart racing, while hot and crispy breading was masterfully infused with the perfect amount of sauce — moist, but not swimming. I highly recommend BWW as the uncontested champion of hot wings. Two thumbs way, way up.