With football season back in full force, let's cut right to the chase and address what this time of year is really all about: wings. Chicago is filled with superb wings for finger-licking fun on game days or just because. Here are some of the best.
Crisp (2904 N. Broadway Street, Chicago)
Nothing against the city of Buffalo, New York, but some of the very best wings in Chicago have an Asian accent. The sticky-spicy-sweet version at Crisp (pictured above), ideally shellacked in hoisin-y Seoul Sassy sauce, is the stuff of chicken wing dreams. Larger than many diminutive wings, these guys are quite hefty and satisfying, though disturbingly easy to consume en masse. Crisp also has boneless wings for those in need of a nugget-like fix.
Take Me Out (1502 W. 18th Street, Chicago)
Let's eat hotties! So goes the slogan at another standout Asian-inflected wing joint, Take Me Out. This vibrant Pilsen storefront specializes in lollipop-style chicken wings, aka wings that are pushed up the bone resulting in plump morsels with a built-in handle. They're sort of like popcorn chicken, with more of that tender, happy medium between spicy and sweet, each sticky bite filled with nourishing poultry pleasure. Get them with a side of purple rice if you're really feeling saucy.
Mott St (1401 N. Ashland Avenue, Chicago)
It's not every chicken wing that derives inspiration from everything bagels. But the aptly dubbed everything wings at Mott St do just that, adopting that familiar formula of sesame, poppy, onion and garlic in a seamless and addictive bite. These succulent morsels are crispy and potent, served with a side of tzatziki to temper the heat from soy, dried chilies and jaggery.
Old Town Social (455 W. North Avenue, Chicago)
The award for plumpest, most savorous wings goes to Old Town Social, where bulbous duck wings sub in for typical chicken. Here, the meaty appetizers come glazed in fiery harissa, with a merciful side of cucumber-mint raita to moderate the football-fueled masochism.
Jake Melnick's Corner Tap (41 E. Superior Street, Chicago)
Chicken wings are religion at Jake Melnick's Corner Tap, an enduring bar in River North revered for its vivacious and pungent interpretations of classic American bar fare. One of the keystones of the menu is the chicken wing selection, wherein a multitude of fearsomely hot wings take center stage alongside the lush beer list. Options include traditional Buffalo wings, super hot wings with roasted habanero, Poncho's wings with garlic and cayenne, firecracker wings with sweet Thai chilies and sriracha, and XXX wings, chicken so hot it should come with a spotter, studded with habanero, ghost pepper and scorpion chilies.
Yusho (2853 N. Kedzie Avenue, Chicago)
Some of the most offbeat wings in Chicago can be found skewered at Yusho, Avondale's quintessential Japanese restaurant known for its yakitori. Here, chicken wings get the yakitori treatment speared on small sticks ideal for sharing as a starter. The meltingly tender wings are accented with bonito salt, lime, and Thai chilies, making for a zesty and well-balanced bite.
Photos: Crisp, Old Town Social, Jake Melnick's Corner Tap