During one weekend last month, Americans gnawed their way through 1.25 billion chicken wings.
According to the National Chicken Council, Americans ate 20 million more wings during the 2014 Super Bowl weekend than they did during last year’s. They ate enough wings to stretch from the Seattle Seahawks’ stadium to MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. (home of Super Bowl XLVIII) — 30 times.
And now, with March Madness upon us, we all have wings on the brain again.
Americans love wings. There is a special, visceral pleasure in tearing succulent, fried meat off a chicken bone with one’s teeth. Add spicy, vinegary sauce to the equation, and the experience becomes transcendent.
There are important questions at stake here: drummettes or flats? Hot sauce or something else? Floppy or crispy raw fries? Blue cheese or ranch?
And it just so happens that this is an important year for the chicken wing: It’s been exactly 50 years since the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, N.Y., first started frying wings, tossing them in hot sauce and serving them to bar patrons with celery and blue cheese. (While there are some competing stories, the Anchor Bar is generally considered the true home of the buffalo wing.)
And it’s been about 36 years since buffalo wings showed up in the Midlands, when Leo Roche opened Leo’s Wings in Lugoff.
So, we decided to take a look at the wing. We brought back former food reviewer and raconteur Tad Trencherman to school us on all things wingy.
Where to Get Wings
Plenty of bars and restaurants around these parts offer wings; this isn’t a comprehensive listing, but it covers some of the key wing joints in the Midlands.
2 Fat 2 Fly Stuffed Chicken Wings
Mobile food truck, 622-6063 twitter.com/2fat2flywings
Wings stuffed with things like macaroni and cheese or jambalaya, then fried crispy. Fun and delicious.
620 Harden St., 254-3354
Sometimes, Bar None chef Josh Bumgarner smokes some wings. And they’re amazing.
Buffalo Wild Wings
Garners Ferry/Southeast: 4500 Devine St., 738-8090
Harbison/Irmo: 1000 Bower Parkway, 407-3431
Lexington: 5570 Sunset Blvd., 957-2999
Northeast: 10056 Two Notch Rd., 865-5222
Wings with 16 signature sauces; sports; beer. Note: Boneless wings are available, but are not wings.
Carolina Wings & Rib House
Blythewood: 240 Blythewood Rd., 714-0181
Lexington: 2000 Clemson Rd., 419-0022
South Carolina-grown chain offering 20 different wing sauces.
Northeast: 2000-18 Clemson Road, 419-0022
Wednesday is Wing Night at this sports bar.
West Columbia/Cayce: 920 Axtell Dr. (Parkland Plaza), 791-4486
A great, basic, juicy wing and a great vibe. The house hot sauce is a tasty tomato-based concoction — but not everyone’s cup of tea, so if you’re looking for buffalo wings, you’ll want to ask for the Cajun sauce instead.
Harbison/Irmo: 5195 Fernandina Rd., 407-9464
Northeast: 7711 Two Notch Rd., 419-3456
If you want your wings served by ladies in bright orange short-shorts, Hooters is your best bet. But the wings are actually pretty good.
Kelly’s Deli & Pub
The Vista: 1001 Washington St., 254-4464
A neighborhood bar with grilled jerk wings.
Shandon/Rosewood: 2910 Rosewood Dr., 955-7408
Gastropub with smoked wings on the menu and lots of fancy beers.
Northeast: 698 Highway 1 South, Lugoff; 438-9229
The Midlands’ first wing joint. Although it’s under new ownership, the recipes are the same. Nice small, crispy wings; ashtrays on the tables.
Five Points/Shandon: 2307 Devine St., 256-2207
Beloved by hot wing fans, Publick House also offers several non-hot wing flavors, including honey mustard, teriyaki, barbecue, pterodactyl, garlic butter and buttery barbecue. But seriously, try the hot wings. Now.
Quaker Steak and Lube
Northeast: 941 Spears Creek Ct., 563-5501
At Quaker Steak, you can do the Atomic Wing Challenge — and the Triple Atomic Wing Challenge. Free Times’ Tug Baker and Eva Moore did both. What, are you scared? Lots of other wing flavors for the less idiotic.
TLC Sports Bar and Grill
936 S. Stadium Rd., 251-3087
Right next to the stadium, TLC serves wings on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
WG’s Chicken Wings
St. Andrews/Dutch Square: 736 St. Andrews Rd., 772-1489
Several flavors of wings, including dry-seasoned flavors. A favorite of many long-time Columbians.
Wild Hare Sports Café
Harbison/Irmo: 5122 Old Bush River Rd., 213-1000
Vista: 902 Gervais St., 929-0374
If you like big wings, Wild Hare has them, with 18 flavors of sauce.
Wild Wing Café
Irmo/Harbison/Dutch Fork: 1150 Bower Pkwy., 749-9464
Northeast: 480 Town Center Place, 865-3365
The Vista: 729 Lady St., 252-9464
A boisterous vibe and damn good wings.
Downtown: 132 Assembly St., 933-9464
Sometimes you want to eat your wings in the comfort of your own home, or bring some wings to a party, so you get takeout from Wing Zone.
Wings & Ale
St. Andrews/Dutch Square: 125-C Outlet Pointe Blvd., 750-1700
Family atmosphere and a classic wing lineup, including Attempted Suicide and Suicide flavors.
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A Healthy Happy Hour
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