Fast Food With Wings

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Welcome to Fast Food with Wings, a blog for discussion of the quick-service restaurant industry. We are dedicated to bringing you the latest news and insights about what’s happening in our industry. We’ll be updating this blog regularly with everything from breaking news to our thoughts on the latest trends and innovations to interviews with some of the most influential people in the fast-food business.

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Fast Food With Wings

Wings are the ultimate comfort food. They’re a step above greasy fast food but just as craveable and indulgent. And fortunately for those of us in the US, there’s no shortage of restaurants that serve them. From boneless and traditional to dry rubs and sauces, you can find wings that satisfy pretty much any craving. The hardest part may be deciding where to order them from, which is where my expertise comes into play. I’ve tried wings from all over and have selected the absolute best wings and top flavors for you to drool over. Enjoy!

Shigs ‘N Pit

Shigs n pit best wings
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Available flavors: Shigs Dry Rub, House BBQ, Hot BBQ, Spicy Buffalo, Alabama White, Carolina Mustard, Korean BBQ

Top Choice: Shigs Dry Rub

Shigs ‘N Pit  isn’t your typical wing joint. This franchise specializes in ribs and pulled pork, but they’ve basically mastered wings, too. These traditional chicken wings are dry-rubbed & slow smoked, creating that classic BBQ flavor. There’s a handful of flavorful seasonings to choose from. Regardless of which flavor you go for, you can’t go wrong with any one of their country-style sides, from Southern Green Beans to Corn Spoonbread.

BJ’s

BJ's wings
Photo by pengrin™ under the license CC BY-NC 2.0
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Available flavors: EXXXXtra Hot Buffalo, Garlic Parmesan, Nashville Hot Sauce, Lemon Pepper Sesame Dry Rub, Hot and Spicy Buffalo, BJ’s Peppered BBQ, Cherry Chipotle Glaze, Sriracha Dry Rub, BJ’s Handcrafted Rootbeer Glaze

Top Choice: BJ’s Original Wings

BJ’s is never the first place people thing of when they’re wanting wings, but let me tell you – they are bomb. Somehow, this chain restaurant has mastered the upscale bar food scene with some of the best wings, pizza, and of course, beer. When it comes to wings, you can order bone-in or boneless with any of their nine flavors. They also have a couple specialty wings, including:

  • Bacon Jammin’ Wings – Bone-in wings with BJ’s Peppered BBQ sauce and bacon onion jam
  • BJ’s Original Wings – Bone-in wings topped with with Hot and Spicy Buffalo sauce and ranch

Wingstop

Wingstop
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Available flavors: Lemon pepper, Original Hot, Hickory Smoked BBQ, Atomic, Mango Habanero, Cajun, Spicy Korean, Louisiana Rub, Mild, Garlic Parmesan, Hawaiian

Top Choice: Louisiana Rub

Wingstop has a ridiculously loyal following… understandably so. They serve some of the best wings in the industry, and best of all – they don’t taste like they just came out of the freezer and were popped in the microwave. (I’m not naming any names, but you know the taste I’m talking about.) Instead, they taste fresh and have a bold flavor, no matter which sauce you choose. Wingstop serves classic wings, boneless wings, or crispy tenders. I’m not typically a traditional wings kind of gal, but I’ll eat Wingstop’s any day.

Pizza Hut Wingstreet

Pizza Hut Wings
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Available flavors: Honey BBQ, Garlic Parmesan, Buffalo Burnin’ Hot, Hawaiian Teriyaki, Spicy Garlic, Cajun Style

Top Choice: Honey BBQ

There’s something about the pizza and wings combo that complements a Saturday night (or really any night) so well. The pizza delivery industry has a reputation of serving subpar wings (don’t @ me), but Pizza Hut is an anomaly. Wingstreet offers traditional and boneless wings that taste just as good – if not better – than the big boys in the industry like B-Dubs and Wings Etc. The best part? The wings are fried to a perfect crisp and have white meat all the way through. No sogginess or chewiness.

Buffalo Wild Wings

Buffalo Wild Wings Happy Hour
Photo by navarrd under the license CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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Top Choice: Lemon Pepper sauce

Available flavors: Salt & Vinegar seasoning, Lemon Pepper Seasoning, Sweet BBQ, Teriyaki, Lemon Pepper, Mild, Pizza, Parmesan Garlic, Smoky Adobo, Honey BBQ, Medium, Chipotle BBQ Seasoning, Spicy Garlic, Orange Chicken, Asian Zing, Caribbean Jerk, Buffalo seasoning, Jammin Jalepeno, Thai Curry, Nashville Hot, Original Buffalo, Hot, Mango Habanero, Wild, Desert Heat Seasoning, and Blazin Carolina Reaper

Buffalo Wild Wings takes the cake for the biggest selection of dry rubs and sauces. This chicken chain is wildly popular for not only its wings, but its cocktails and beer selection, as well. Just like most places, you can choose between traditional or boneless wings, but Buffalo Wild Wings takes it one step ahead with their new vegetarian cauliflower wings. You can order them with any of their bizillion sauces and dry rubs, and they’re not half bad for a meat replacement. B-dubs has also added tons of new flavors lately like Lemon pepper sauce, Blazin Carolina Reaper, and orange chicken.

Bdubs can be a bit pricy compared to other fast food wing chains, but you can always get a good deal if you visit on Tuesdays for traditional wings or Thursday for boneless wings.

Wings Etc.

Wings etc best wings
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Available flavors: “WALL” (Habanero), Wango (Habanero), Atomic (Buffalo), TNT (Buffalo), Hot (Buffalo), Blazin’ Asian, Tweener (Buffalo), Asian Kick! (Sweet Hot Asian), Hot Barbie (Spicy BBQ), Hot-Honey-Garlic, Spicy Hot Honey (Hot Honey Mustard), Medium (Buffalo), Major Jerk (Spicy Caribbean), Say it Ain’t Tso, Jerkin’ Barbie (Caribbean BBQ), Sweet Chili Cha-Cha, Mild (Buffalo), BBQ Sauce, Mahalo-Que, Teriyaki, Honey Mustard, Gar-Licky-Parm

Top Choice: Jerkin’ Barbie (Caribbean BBQ)

Wings Etc. is pretty comparable to Buffalo Wild Wings in my opinion. The dining area has a similar vibe – dark and a little dingy, so perfect for watching games and shouting above the obnoxiously loud TVs just so you can ask your friend to pass the salt. They’ve got a massive list of flavors which is equally fun as it is stressful. I’d give is an 8/10 – you really can’t go wrong with this place.

KFC

KFC Honey BBQ Wings
KFC Honey BBQ Wings. Photo by Rust Bucket under License CC 2.0
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Available flavors: Honey BBQ, Buffalo, Nashville Hot

Top Choice: Nashville Hot

KFC has perfected the art of fast food fried chicken over the years, but how do their wings measure up? Kentucky Fried Wings were just added to the menu in 2019 during the peak of football season. Just like their other famous dishes, the restaurant boasts that the wings are crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. They’re a great option if you’re craving wings but don’t want to visit a sit-down restaurant like B-dubs or Applebee’s. They’re super salty and flavorful – just what you’d expect out of a solid chicken wing.

Applebee’s

Applebee's Wings
Photo by Dale Chumbley under the license CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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Available flavors: Classic Hot Buffalo sauce, Honey BBQ sauce, Sweet Asian Chile sauce

Top Choice: Classic Hot Buffalo sauce

I’ll have to say, I probably wouldn’t order Applebee’s boneless wings as my main dish, but I love chowing down on them when they come in the Classic Combo platter with Spinach and Artichoke Dip, a Chicken Quesadilla and Mozzarella Sticks. They’re not the best wings on this list (hence why I can’t eat 10 of them like I can at B-dubs), but they are a decent option if you’re in the mood for cheap bar food.

Chain Restaurants’ Chicken Wings 

I order chicken wings pretty much every time I set foot in a sports bar. They’re just so delicious, and as someone who absolutely loves condiments, I love trying new dipping sauces in addition to my tried-and-true favorites like ranch. Chicken wings are an American staple, so it’s no surprise that they appear on the menus of many chain restaurants and there are even some chains dedicated solely to wings.

Of course, not all chicken wings are created equal, and there’s nothing more disappointing than ordering this fabulous dish only to receive subpar—or, in some cases, downright bad—wings. I sampled wings from five chain restaurants to see how they stacked up. Here’s how they rank, listed from worst to best solely on taste.

Chili’s

chilis wings plated with ranch and celery
Courtesy of Chilis
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I don’t often eat at chain restaurants, but Chili’s is an exception. Whenever I had a bad day as a teenager, my mom knew we needed to make a pit stop there on the way home so I could get my comfort food, a Quesadilla Explosion Salad. But until this taste test, I’d never sampled the chain’s wings. As much as it pains me to put Chili’s last on any list, it’s the hard truth. Although the chicken was tender, it had very little taste.

When I tasted a wing without sauce, it was pretty flavorless and when I added the buffalo sauce, all I could taste was the sauce. As much as I love condiments, they’re meant to complement food, not overpower its taste. (I love buffalo sauce, but there’s a reason I don’t eat it by the spoonful.) I still love Chili’s, but for appetizers, I’d recommend sticking with queso and guacamole. Wings clearly aren’t Chili’s area of expertise.

TGI Friday’s

Traditional wings from TGI Fridays
TGI Fridays/Facebook
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Because TGI Friday’s specializes in casual American fare, I had high hopes for these wings. Unfortunately, they were a disappointment. The texture was really tough, which is never a good thing, and they tasted dry. The wings were still plenty hot when I arrived at home and dug in, but the dry, almost stale taste made me wonder if they’d been sitting out and then popped in a microwave before I picked up my order.

The buffalo sauce was decent, but the ranch was much too thin and just not the right texture for a wing sauce. Overall, the texture was the biggest problem with every aspect of this dish.

Buffalo Wild Wings

buffalo wild wings
Buffalo Wild Wings / Facebook
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I’d eaten at Buffalo Wild Wings a few times, and I remembered thinking the wings were pretty good but not incredible. When I ate the wings for this ranking, I reached the same conclusion. I’d rate both the texture and flavor as somewhere between “good” and “very good,” and I was enamored with the wide array of sauce options. I usually stick with ranch and buffalo, but Buffalo Wild Wings has a lot of fun, tasty options like sweet BBQ, teriyaki, smoky adobo, and mango habanero.

If I were to order wings to serve to guests, I’d probably pick Buffalo Wild Wings. The wings are solid, and there’s a sauce to suit every palate.

Applebee’s

bone in wings from applebees
Courtesy of Applebees
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I wavered between whether Applebee’s or Buffalo Wild Wings should get the silver medal because I enjoyed both my orders equally. But when it comes to the quality of the wings themselves, Applebee’s has the edge. When I tried them without sauce, they were flavorful and juicy. Plus, they’re just the right amount of crispy which makes them even more enjoyable. I opted for a blue cheese sauce, which complemented the wings perfectly. As much as I love Buffalo Wild Wings’ array of sauces, Applebee’s wings have superior flavor and texture.

RELATED: These are the easy, at-home recipes that help you lose weight.1

Wingstop

wingstop wings
Wingstop/ Facebook
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I’d heard great things about Wingstop, and it certainly lived up to the hype. The major thing that set these wings apart from the others I tried is that the chicken tasted really fresh, which is probably why they win hands-down in the flavor department. They’re also tender on the inside and crispy on the outside, so the texture was on point, too.

The other thing I really liked about Wingstop is that the wings felt a bit lighter (and definitely less greasy) than the others I tried. So, even though I was quite generous with the ranch sauce, I didn’t feel overly stuffed or have a fast-food hangover after eating about eight wings in one sitting. You can’t go wrong with wings from this chain!

If you’re looking for local wings, check out The Best Chicken Wings in Every State.

Week of Wings III – Day 7 – Fast Food Wings Roundup

Here’s our take on Popeye’s Spicy WingsKFC’s Dry Hot Wings (both breaded and fried, no sauce), and Pizza Hut’s and Domino’s versions of hot wings (both of which are baked then tossed in sauce).

fast food wings roundup collage
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This is our final post for our Week of Wings 3. If you haven’t made any wings, or want someone else to do the cooking for you, we’ve tried several of the fast food wings available in our area, and hopefully yours, to help you find the best choice to satisfy your hot wing craving without all the messy and time-consuming work…or the smell of grease and the messy cleanup that you’ll have to deal with. (Disregard if you’re a hardcore griller and don’t mind standing in the snow for 30-45 minutes tending to the grill, or you have a killer exhaust system in your kitchen, which we do NOT have, sadly).

Texture & Appearance:

popeyes dry wings
Popeye’s wings are big and crispy
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Popeye’s Spicy Wings are whole wings, tips and all, for $1 each when you buy 10. Breaded and fried, they have a unique flaky coating that is crunchy, tender, and golden brown with no visual evidence of heat. The meat is nice and moist inside. Served dry, these are a standard on their menu, and will not be going away. (You can ask for tubs of their Firecracker Sauce, but it gives little heat and is basically a sweet chili sauce thinned with honey. I’d pass on it.) These are good-sized wings – the biggest of all the wings reviewed here (and well worth the money IMHO).Rated 4.5 out of 5 Stars

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– 4.5 stars

kfc wings dry crispy
KFC dry hot wings are crispy
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KFC Hot Wings, the No Sauce variety (may only be available for a limited time..we’ll see). Crispy as well, though not as crunchy as Popeye’s, and a little blonder. The meat looks moist as well, but I see a lot of red on the bone. Note: the wings are not whole, but flaps and drummies, so when you buy the 10 wing box, you’ll really get 5 whole wings, cut up, without the tips. No guarantee that you will get an even amount of both. At 50 cents each, they compare price-wise to the whole Popeye’s wings at $1 each but these are much smaller.Rated 3.5 out of 5 Stars

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– 3.5 stars

pizza hut wings wet and dry
Pizza Hut wings wet on left and dry on right
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Pizza Hut WingStreet Wings – Baked, no breading, very red, and very dry unless you get the “wet” version, which is the same wing but with sauce poured on after baking. These are cut up drummies and flats, so no whole wings here. By the time we got them, all of the sauce was in the bottom of the pan, which made it look like they put the sauce in the foil pan first, then added the baked wings. Very red and powdery looking.Rated 1 out of 5 Stars

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– 1 star

dominos hot wings
Domino’s hot wings
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Domino’s Chicken Wings – Baked, and advertised as extra crispy, we ordered the Hot Wings and the Mango Habanero Wings. (Our local franchise did not have the Fire Wings, which we really wanted to try. If you have, please let us know how they are). These look like a naked fried wing, so they’re probably pre-cooked before getting to the store, but any “crispiness” is lost when the sauce is added. They’re very dark and pretty though, and thankfully don’t possess the over-the-top coloring of the Pizza Hut wings. The Hot version has the typical orange cayenne wing sauce look, and the Mango Habanero has a dark orange fruity glaze with bits of red habanero pepper.Rated 3 out of 5 Stars

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– 3 stars

Taste:

popeyes hot chicken wing closeup
Popeye’s brings the crispy and flavor in a big wing
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Popeye’s – Great fried chicken flavor with a kick. Eating to the bone showed a clean white bone, demonstrating that these were thoroughly cooked, and not dry – very moist in fact! There is heat in the meat and in the breading. If you’re a fan of non-greasy fried chicken with good down-home flavor and crunch, but you like a little burn, this is the fast-food wing for you. Big, meaty, tender spicy whole wings that won’t disappoint.Rated 5 out of 5 Stars

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– 5 stars

KFC hot wings closeup
KFC hot wings bring the crispy too in separate pieces
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KFC Dry Hot Wings, no sauce – these wings are far superior to either the “traditional” KFC pressure-fried chicken, which always seemed to be tacky and sticky to me, or their crispy chicken, which was still always very greasy. I think this is the best product KFC has put out in a long time. There is a different seasoning present, as I detect a hint of garlic and/or onion powder. I was a little put off by the color of the bone, which was slightly red and shows me (as a former farm girl) that these wings came from a very young, immature bird. Tasted side by side with Popeye’s wings, the taste is a little off-putting, but overall a good flavor.Rated 3.5 out of 5 Stars

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– 3.5 stars

pizza hut wet and dry wings
Pizza Hut wet and dry wings
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Pizza Hut Hot Wings – not much to say but… SALTY! I could only eat 2 pieces, one drummie and one flat. First impression is a cayenne wing, but the salt overpowered anything I could say about the flavor. Very dry, even with the extra sauce, which in itself is incredibly salty.Rated 1 out of 5 Stars

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dominos hot chicken wings in foil in box
Domino’s hot wings in foil and box
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Domino’s Hot Wings have the traditional cayenne pepper wing sauce flavor. The sauce, tasted by itself from the bottom of the box, has a slightly bitter taste, but not offensive. Slightly rubbery but cooked through.Rated 2 out of 5 Stars

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– 2 stars

dominos mango wings
Domino’s mango habanero wings
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Domino’s Mango Habanero Wings are very good if you make sure to get an extra tub of the sauce, as more sauce makes these better and brings out not just the orange juice and mango, but the heat of the Habanero and jalapeno peppers. Definitely very sweet though, and the heat builds as you eat them (yea!).

Heat Level:

Popeye’s scores a solid Heat Level 3. Not hot enough for a lot of Chileheads, but the heat stays in the mouth and back of the throat for a good long time. I detect heat in the meat and in the breading, so you’re not just getting it on the outside. A great choice for the entire crowd without hurting anyone. These are definitely best eaten warm so the heat gets to work a little.

Pizza Hut Hot Wings. It’s hard to judge the heat on these, as the incredible amount of salt burned more than the heat of either the powder on the wings or the added hot wing sauce. If you tossed the wings in salt, added Texas Pete or Frank’s Hot Wing Sauce, salted butter, and more salt,and then dried them too long, that’s what you’d get from these wings. It may be that the local store had cooked down the sauce too long, or that they got an incredibly salty batch, but the salt level of these wings would not give you the opportunity to truly judge the heat level before the salt totally destroyed your taste buds. The overall effect gives these a burn level of 3.0, but it’s not a good heat. Salt

Domino’s. Probably the most “classic” of both taste and mild heat levels of the bunch, the sauced hot wings from Domino’s are the second favorite of the bunch. The cayenne pepper sauce gives a heat level

Label/Graphics:

Just for fun, let’s look at the packaging. Sometimes it matters.

Popeyes Chicken plain box
Popeye’s box is plain and pretty much orange and white – 2 stars
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kfc plain box
KFC’s box has lots of cool quotes and statements – 3 stars
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pizza hut wings in foil tub
Pizza Hut’s wings come in a foil tub inside a Pizza Hut box – ½ star
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dominos wings in foil in breadstick box
Domino’s wings are laid in foil in their sandwich/breadstick box – 1 star
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Overall Rating and Final Impressions:

KFC’s wings are good, so if they’re the only choice in your neighborhood, you really can’t go wrong with them for your tailgate party, though I thought the flavor was not as clean as Popeye’s and I wasn’t comfortable with the fact that the bones had a very red color to them. I would give them a pretty respectable

Pizza Hut dry and wet Hot Wings were very disappointing. If salt is a concern in your diet (and if it isn’t now, it will be) then these are not the wings for you. Love the pizza, but NOT the wings… Minus 2 stars.

We know there are other many other sources for hot wings that you can find at fast food places that we didn’t try, mainly because they aren’t local to us: CheckersChick-fil-A, and others, not including the myriad of wing restaurant chains around the country, like Buffalo Wild Wings and Wing Tyme.

Feel free to chime in with YOUR local favorites, and add to the conversation for the benefit of our readers. We look forward to your comments and input! And thanks for joining us for Week of Wings 3!

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