Top 5 FoCo hot wings to ignite your taste buds

Scott Powell

Chicken wings. Where would we be without them? Probably a couple of spots lower in the ranking of the world’s most obese countries. But what fun is life when it isn’t fueled by saturated fat and hydrogenated oil?

Next to bald eagles and apple pie, nothing screams “USA!” more than a sizzling hot basket of hot wings. If you’re looking for a place to satisfy a crispy capon craving, here are some spots around town to check out.

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Hottest: Music City Hot Chicken

When I say that Music City’s chicken is the “hottest” selection on the list, this isn’t because the wings are particularly spicier than the rest. As far as the temperature itself is concerned, Music City’s wings are about average, but this isn’t to say they’re weak.

I don’t mean average like plain white toast and Bob Saget are average, but rather the way that Little Bear’s porridge is average: average in the “just right” sense. But while the heat that radiates onto the taste buds might be average, it’s this heat that warms the eyes that has earned these guys their title.

These chicken wings are straight up sexy. Big, dark, meaty and shimmering with oily shine, they’re like the poultry equivalent of a Mr. Universe pageant. They’re also remarkably tasty. This is thanks to their being coated in a brown sugar-based rub, which, unlike traditional sauces, forms a crunchy, bubbly, smoky-sweet exterior when the wings are cooked.

This crusty, maple-y outer shell keeps the flavors of the wings contained in the meat itself since juices aren’t easily able to penetrate the shell and escape during the frying process.

Additionally, coating these wings in a wet sauce allows for the flavors to more fully imbue themselves into the actual meat. Whereas most wings are simply made by brushing the sauce on after frying, Music City’s coating cooks in tandem with the meat. It is not a separate entity from the wing. The two are a single, contained, compact unit, thus maximizing the punch of flavor offered in every bite.

These chicken wings are straight up sexy. Big, dark, meaty and shimmering with oily shine, they’re like the poultry equivalent of a Mr. Universe pageant.”

Juiciest: Krazy Karl’s

Hot wings are the Harry Lime of Krazy Karl’s — the pizza joint’s unassuming supporting character, resting slyly and cheekily in the bottom left-hand corner of the menu, waiting with no sense of urgency or desperation for someone to come across them and maybe order a basket. Then they make their grand entrance and steal the show.

These wings are most certainly the plumpest and fullest of the bunch, with a nice, tender, bouncy texture to boot. They’re like edible stress balls but with a bit more salt and grease.

While their skin is a bit on the softer side — not as crispy or crunchy as Music City or Jim’s Wings — their flimsiness isn’t a deterrent. Rather, this elasticity gives the wings’ meaty juices room to expand while staying contained in the skin, rather than being squeezed out by a rigid crust.

Additionally, Krazy Karl’s has the only wings in town (so far as I know or can tell) with a spicy Thai peanut sauce option, which, in accordance with the laws of food criticism, automatically gives them a two-place boost in the rankings. 

While their skin is a bit on the softer side — not as crispy or crunchy as Music City or Jim’s Wings — their flimsiness isn’t a deterrent.”

Crispiest: Jim’s Wings

There’s nothing worse than a soggy hot wing, except for a soggy Teddy Graham. Or Nazis. Or being bitten by a rogue rhinoceros while on a visit to the San Diego Zoo. But enough about my family vacation.

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Crunch is a crucial and often underappreciated aspect of any chicken wing experience. After all, wings are fried for a reason — unless, of course, you’re a health-conscious communist who prefers baked chicken wings to the real, authentic, hardworking, grease-grizzled American kind, in which case it doesn’t really matter what you think of hot wings anyway because you have to keep all the chickens on your Oregonian commune alive in order to ensure they keep laying eggs to feed your pinko compatriots, and thus you aren’t granted the luxury us capitalists have to kill them for their delicious deep-fry-able meat. I digress.

For those of us who don’t want ISIS to take over the world, it is important that our hot wings have crunch, and Jim’s Wings soars above the competition in this area. These spicy boys not only have crunch, but pop as well.

Their skin is cooked enough that it’s crispy but not so dense that your canines have to put in extra effort to penetrate it. Instead, the crusty outer layer is light, thin and bubbly, speckled with pockets of delicious hot grease that trickle onto your tongue every once in a while, imbuing your chewing with an extra bit of savoriness.

It is important that our hot wings have crunch, and Jim’s wings soar above the competition in this area. These spicy boys not only have crunch, but pop as well.”

Puffiest: Dae Gee Korean BBQ

Is it a sin to go to a Korean barbecue joint and not eat an entire cow’s worth of steak? Yes, it is. But this is a post-Milton world we’re living in, so what harm is an occasional act of deviance now and then? (Just don’t make a habit of it. There’s a special layer of hell reserved for repeat offenders of this most sacred law, where tortured souls are forced to spend all of eternity endlessly searing a delectable-looking steak that they are not allowed to eat.)

However, if you’re feeling particularly heretical, the garlic soy sauce wings at Dae Gee are worth the few Hail Marys you may have to utter in penance for your wrongdoing.

What sets these wings apart is the fact that they are battered rather than breaded, giving their crust a depth and lightness not to be found in their American counterparts. The deep-fried outer layer is just as crucial an element as the juicy, meaty interior, varying the textures and flavors present in every bite and making for a dynamic eating experience. 

If you’re feeling particularly heretical, the garlic soy sauce wings at Dae Gee are worth the few Hail Marys you may have to utter in penance for your wrongdoing.

Zestiest: Wing Shack

If hot wings were Broadway starlets, Wing Shack wings would be Judy Garland. And not just because they’re so good you’d think they were filled with crack. The flavor of these babies is nothing short of explosive.

Every bite is like a Broadway medley performed specially for your taste buds — complete with lights, scenery, glittering costumes and makeup. It’s loud, it’s exciting and it’s a bit overwhelming at first, but in time, the excess of this aggressive mix of tang, spice and savoriness becomes so much for your brain to handle that it ceases trying to make any sense of it and simply floats into an airy state of flavor-phoria.

The severity of this kind of food nirvana varies from flavor to flavor. If you want to really buzz out, the lemon pepper, jalapeño ranch and garlic hot options are your best bet.

However, if you’re the kind of middling weenie who prefers your chicken wings to be more like a light jazz concert than a show-stopping musical revue, the barbecue and Cajun sauces offer an equally satisfying, though not quite as bombastic, serenade for your saliva.

It’s loud, it’s exciting and it’s a bit overwhelming at first, but in time, the excess of this aggressive mix of tang, spice and savoriness becomes so much for your brain to handle that it ceases trying to make any sense of it.”

Scotty Powell can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @scottysseus.