I have been a wing fan to a literally unhealthy degree since Wings Over Ithaca opened my senior year of college, causing me to gain 10 lbs. in one semester. I’m not sure there’s a single best place for wings in town, but there are several places that stand out in one way or another.
Best wing night:
The Haunt, 702 Willow Avenue
Throughout the week they have burgers and BBQ, and Wednesday is wing night at the Haunt on the Waterfront, where your wings can be smoked, fried, or boneless. $5 for six wings or $8 for ten wings from 5-10pm. In addition to the traditional hot, your choices include chipotle bourbon and the super-hot and flavorful zombie wings.
Wings Over Ithaca, 335 Pine Tree Road
Surprising probably no one, Wings Over Ithaca’s 24 flavors, including five iterations of hot sauce, a few dry rubs, and several gluten-free varieties, blow everyone else out of the water. But unlike the other places on our list, wings are practically all they do. Go boneless if you prefer tenders to dealing with the bones. [Note: Wings Over Ithaca closed in October 2016. The former GM hopes to reopen it as a new business.]
At Bandwagon Brewpub, you can always order spicy chicken tenders that come with their awesome homemade bleu cheese dressing, but on Tuesdays there’s an ever-changing variety of sauces available on real wings. Brown butter sesame sriracha? Yes please.
Honorable mention: Rogues’ Harbor.
Scale House Brewpub, 23 Cinema Drive
12 wings and two beers for $10.95
Scale House is known for value, and its wing deal is no different. These aren’t the biggest or crispiest wings in town, but the hot sauce is hot (too hot for me) and the beers are cold. Unlike the Haunt’s wing night special, this deal is available all the time. If you’re not into hot, you can have sweet or BBQ, too.
Best dry wings:
Red’s Place, 107 North Aurora Street
If I were a deer, I’d fall prey to a hunter in no time because I’d be drawn to a salt lick like a moth to a flame. And my affinity for salt is what draws me to the Thai Wings at Red’s Place. They’re super crispy and have a dry rub on them that’s finished with big grains of sea salt. Delicious!
Honorable mention: Wings Over Ithaca‘s West Texas Mesquite.
Best hot wings:
Sal’s Pizzeria, 220 South Fulton Street
The wings were meaty with just enough crackle to the skin, and the right amount of sauce — not too dry, and not too gloppy. The “hot” was nice and hot but not overpowering, with a pleasantly flavorful tang, and the cup of bleu cheese dressing plentiful.
Best specialty wings:
Ithaca Ale House, 111 North Aurora Street
Wing purists are happiest with a basket or plate of fried and sauced wings, but there’s nothing wrong with mixing things up once in a while. “Skillet Wings” are what happens when the Ale House fries and sauces their wings in their “garbage sauce,” then puts them in a cast iron skillet, smothers them with cheese, and runs them through the broiler. The regular wings here aren’t crisp enough and are overpriced, but this alternative is sometimes a special, and sometimes on the regular menu, and always fun.
Honorable mention: Baltimore-style wings at Northstar Public House.
Best vegetarian wings:
Luna Inspired Street Food, 310 Stewart Avenue.
If you’ve already accepted boneless wings in your life, tofu wings aren’t a stretch, right? The pineapple glazed tofu wings at Luna Inspired Street food are crispy outside and tender inside. They’re not just for vegetarians any more.
Honorable mention: Northstar Public House.