We’re on the cusp of football season, and in Philly that means one thing: We can all get excited about the Eagles’ championship prospects because they haven’t had a chance to blow it yet!
OK, maybe it means two things, because no matter how Chip Kelly’s moves eventually play out, we now have an excellent excuse to gather with friends and devour absurd quantities of that ultimate gameday snack: Buffalo wings.
Once considered a throwaway fit only for soups and stocks, the wing is now among the most expensive chicken parts. Wings’ ascension to the top of the poultry charts is all thanks to someone (exactly who is up for debate) in the town of Buffalo, N.Y., who 50 years ago had the revelation that when doused in hot sauce, these naturally-grown kabobs make for fantastic finger food. The idea quickly caught on — it doesn’t hurt bars that the spicy coating makes patrons thirsty — and Americans now consume 1.25 billion wings on Super Bowl Sunday alone.
Across the country, you can find wings at any booze-serving establishment with TVs, and at plenty without — although at the latter, they’re often done up in fancy garb. In Philadelphia, you can get wings drizzled with black garlic and sesame, grilled on a rotisserie, tossed with green chiles and gorgonzola, or twice fried and dusted with exotic za’atar.
But classic Buffalo wings — soaked in finger-staining orange hot sauce and only properly served next to celery and blue cheese dressing — are the original, and in many minds, still the best.
Here, in alphabetical order, is a list* of where to find great ones in Philly. Go forth and chow down.
Best Buffalo wings in Philly
- The Blue Duck — Urban BYOB from chef Kristopher Serviss hidden in a Northeast strip mall
- Byrne’s Tavern — Four-decade-strong tavern off I-95 in Port Richmond
- Cavanaugh’s — Rittenhouse sports bar where the wings are almost worth the bro-heavy atmosphere
- City Tap House — Sister bars in UCity and Logan Square with giant craft beer draft lists
- Curran’s Irish Inn — Sports on the screens, live music on the patio and cheap PBR in Tacony
- East Coast Wings — Port Richmond outpost of a North Carolina chain with dozens of wing options, including the classic
- Irish Pub — Stereotypically classic Irish taverns in Rittenhouse and Wash West
- Iron Hill Chestnut Hill — Germantown Avenue brewpub where you can watch beer being made as you eat
- Jose Pistola’s — Center City beer mecca where classic wings bump fists with tacos and guac
- Kelliann’s Bar & Grill — Old school Irish pub on Spring Garden with a friendly, no-frills staff
- Locust Rendezvous — Rittenhouse dive with surprisingly good pub fare
- Local 44 — Super chill but absurdly well-stocked beer bar and bottle shop in West Philly
- London Grill — Fairmount tavern serving everything from bar snacks to haute cuisine
- Lucky 13 — Tiny East Passyunk pub where pretensions don’t fly
- McCrossen’s Tavern — Brick-walled, family-run bar and dining room near Fairmount
- McGillin’s Olde Ale House — Longest-serving bar in Philly in the center of Midtown Village
- McMenamin’s Tavern — Mt. Airy pub with good bar food that’s worth the trip
- Moriarty’s — Irish pub in Wash West with a crazy good tap list and list-topping wings
- National Mechanics — Hip bar with high ceilings and relaxed vibe in a historic Old City building
- Nick’s Old City — Sports bar on Second Street with creative food and cocktails
- North Third — Northern Liberties pioneer on a tucked away corner
- Rib Rack — Long-standing Northeast ‘cue shack that also specializes in wings
- Royal Tavern — Bella Vista tap house from the team behind Cantina and Khyber
- Taproom on 19th — Deep South Philly bar with elevated stoner food and craft beer
- Triangle Tavern — Chill revival of a throwback South Philly corner drinkery
- Sancho Pistola’s — Mexican theme doesn’t get in the way of classic wings at this Fishtown spot
- Santucci’s — Upside-down pizza specialist a block from the Italian Market
- Union Taphouse — Manayunk tavern with wide selection of craft beer
Great Buffalo wings outside the city
Some people, among them Foobooz founder Art Etchells, claim that the best wings are found outside the city limits. Have craving, will travel? Here are some suburban establishments intrepid wing fans recommend.
— Foobooz Philadelphia (@foobooz) September 4, 2015
- Barren Hill Tavern — Lafayette Hill brewpub in a historic hotel from the crew behind Devil’s Den
- Flanigan’s Boat House — Ocean-themed bottleshop and tavern in Conshohocken
- Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant — There are 10 other outposts of this local mini-chain in the areas surrounding Philly
- Jug Handle Inn — Decades-old pub in Cinnaminson, New Jersey
- PJ Whelihan’s — Sports bar mini-chain with placemat menus and a wide beer selection
- Whistler’s Inn — Another tavern in Cinnaminson, with a giant glassed-in patio
- Union Jacks Pub — Glenside craft beer haven with a classic bar menu
*Yes, you can get Buffalo wings delivered to you from just about any of the ubiquitous pizza/hoagie/deli storefronts scattered throughout the city and suburbs. But limp, soggy wings pose a serious danger to snacking enjoyment, so think long and hard about how much you’re willing to trade for the sake of convenience.