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The beauty of chicken wings is the diversity that comes from restaurants willing to try new things, be it in spice rubs, sauces or cooking style.
There are dozens of places with solid wings that will leave you smiling, but here are some of the best and some of the most interesting, according to me.
You, of course, have your own go-to wings places, but if you haven’t given these a try, check them out and see what you think. You just might find a new favorite or two.
Plus: Bonus wings! This top 10 list, like the Marshall amps in "This is Spinal Tap," goes to 11.
2501 S. Superior St., (414) 483-6335
Some of my favorite wings, spicy and flavorful, come off the tiny grill behind the bar at Club Garibaldi in Bay View. In “normal” times, Wednesday is wings day, with special pricing, but also high demand. Still, sitting at the bar with a basket of these babies and a nice cold beer can’t be beat.
6300 W. Lincoln Ave., West Allis, (414) 430-0282
This West Allis corner bar fueled by classic rock and a love for the Grateful Dead serves up some of the most fiery and delectable wings in the area. Just don’t get too cocky because the hottest wings here might send you over the edge.
Leff's Lucky Town
7208 W. State St., Wauwatosa, (414) 258-9886
I generally say I’m not into hot foods but then I order the spicy gems here at Leff’s and I love them and can’t wait to come back for more.
6732 W. Fairview Ave., (414) 292-3969
Piquant but not overbearingly hot, these buttermilk brined, hickory smoked, battered wings are delectable and are coated with a sauce that's part Cajun, part Buffalo. Fat and juicy, an appetizer portion of these wings – especially with a side of cornbread – is most definitely a meal in itself.
McGinn's on Bluemound
5901 W. Bluemound Rd., (414) 475-7546
Try the sweet maple bourbon, classic buffalo or dry rubbed Jamaican jerk (the trio pictured at the top) – among many other flavors – on some big and meaty wings at this West Side staple. This place is my wings happy place, especially when there’s baseball on the televisions.
1932 E. Kenilworth Pl., (414) 226-5160
Try the double-fried Korean fried chicken wings, which are super crispy on the outside and tender and juicy underneath. The tangy sauce elevates the whole experience even more.
Milwaukee Brat House
1013 N. Old World 3rd St., (414) 273-8709
Choose from BBQ, hot BBQ, house buffalo, tiger sauce, garlic teriyaki or parmesan cayenne dry rub. The wings are wet, but not drenched, in a sauce that have a bit of tang, but aren’t too hot. The chicken is not only juicy but super, super meaty. At some places 10 scrawny wings won't do the trick, but here 10 is a pretty satisfying meal.
5921 W. Vliet St., (414) 885-2028
In a much different setting, Brian Felten of TomKen's also serves wings, with a variety of interesting sauces, including the JB3 with bourbon, brown sugar, jerk and Buffalo flavors; Not So Friendly Fried with Sriracha, pork lard and peppers; What the Fuzz with peaches, agave, tequila, ghost peppers and ginger; and the (five) alarming Jamaican Me Wings jerk spice with Trinidadian scorpion peppers. "My wings are a three-step process," says Felten. "They get charred outside with tender meat. My method causes the sauce to cook inside the meat, The wing is not wet with sauce." Also, ftw, Neighborhood Draft serves wings and waffles.
Points East Pub
1501 N. Jackson St., (414) 277-0122
The most consistently award-winning wings in town are at Points East on the lower East Side. These grilled gems (pictured at the top of this article) are piquantly spiced; not too hot, not too tepid.
Spitfires on State
5018 W. State St., (414) 777-5060
The sauce is what will keep you coming back to Spitfires, where if you want to try a new sauce each time, you’ll have to return nearly 30 times to try them all. The care they put into the names – like Devil's Balls, Peach Heat, Blueberry Barbecue and Hurt So Good – is a clue to the effort they put into the entire wings experience.
8001 W. Greenfield Ave., West Allis, (414) 258-9110
The home of West Allis’ best fried chicken also serves up some of the best (and biggest) wings in the area. There is a house selection of sauces always available, but TomKen’s also rotates in special sauces all the time, so each visit and each wings experience can be unique.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.