Dining Out: WING BOWL is February 5, 2010-get ready at these wing stops!

Dec 16, 2009

By Patty-Pat Kozlowski

Chickenwings1What came first? The chicken or the chicken wing? Right now it doesn’t matter as nationwide chicken prices are going cock-a-doodle coo coo with chicken wings actually costing more than boneless chicken breasts.
Chicken wings were once regarded as scrap and stock ingredient in the chicken biz until, and that depends on what story you believe, chicken wings were “discovered” after being deep fried and covered in hot sauce up at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York when owners Theresa and Frank Belissamo tried to throw a late night snack together for their son and his friends at the bar.
The epitome of bar food was born and there isn’t a bar and grill worth its draft taps that does not carry Buffalo Wings, Hot Wings or Chicken Wings on their menu. The wing became so popular that national pizza chains such as Pizza Hut and Domino’s compete for wing customers.

And let us not forget that Philadelphia is the home of Wing Bowl, a pre-Super Bowl mother of all tailgate parties that showcase the world of competitive eating of chicken wings that to date, packs thousands of spectators into the Wachovia Center (surpassing 76ers and Flyers attendances) to watch wing carnivores chow down on chicken wings. Last year, at Wing Bowl XVII, 23 year old Jonathan “Super” Squibb of Winslow Township, NJ swallowed 203 chicken wings to earn the Wing Bowl King title.

But with chicken wings now, according to the Department of Agriculture, carrying a price of about 25 cents more per pound than the chicken breast, you have many places offering “boneless wings” on their menu, which is strips of chicken breasts, fried and hot sauced just like their bony brothers-only cheaper and less messier.
Even with the spike in prices, these wing places still are kings in the business, making no bones about it.


Frank Byrne’s keeps it simple in his Port Richmond Tavern, the first watering hole to welcome you as you exit I-95 into the close knit Polish/Italian/Irish riverward off of the Allegheny Avenue exit. A huge wall mural proclaiming Byrne’s Tavern as the place for crabs, Wings and Other Things, Frank Byrne, you learn is a proud North Catholic guy, a proud puller of Guinness and Smithwick’s and he started with a longshoreman menu (his business was feeding the guys on the marine terminal docks since it is called Port Richmond) and there is no reason to change that. So you’ll find cold ham, turkey, roast beef and kielbasa sandwiches as well as Bobby Chez crabcakes. And then there are the wings and logs. Don’t expect a crispy wing, he pressure cooks his wings to fall off the bone tender and has 25% off nights on Mondays. Logs are deep fried potato wedges served with sour cream and melted cheese. Just celebrating his 30th anniversary, www.byrnestavern.net located at 3301 Richmond Street, Phila, PA 19134, 215-423-3444


Who supplied the chicken wings for the Wing Bowl before P.J. Whelihan’s Pub got the nod for Wing Bowl 16 & 17? The same place that Philly comedian Bill Cosby likes to get his ribs and chicken as well as the jarred BBQ sauces. The Rib Ranch at Castor Avenue and Venango Streets also in Port Richmond tucked away in a strip mall behind a Taco Bell and KFC has been cranking out BBQ for over two decades and in the past has supplied the approximately 7,000 wings for Wing Bowl. Although it is not called the Wing Ranch and ribs are their business, the Rib Ranch lassoes in on their Buffalo wings with a tangy yet biting sauce and their wings to go bags are foil rimmed oven bags that firework the wing sauce aroma up into your nostrils when you rip open the bag and singe your nose hairs. 2401 E. Venango Street, 215-533-RIBS, www.myribranch.net


When a recipe involves two brothers fist-fighting in mom’s kitchen, it has to be good. And after a tiny corner bar in Mayfair named Chickie’s and Pete’s exploded into being named Great American Sports Bars and the only sports bar named in a Zagat rating, the story came out that owner Pete Ciarocchi and his brother Tom beat the stuffing out of one another in the kitchen one night fighting over how to make Momma Henrietta’s marinara sauce. We hate to think of the injuries that took place when they perfected the hot wings but Chickie’s Wings are a top seller on the menu of what is now an 8 chain restaurant dynasty with kiosks at Citizen’s Bank Park, Lincoln Financial field, the Philadelphia Airport and if Pete could swing it, The Moon. Three stand alone places in Philly including the original at 4010 Robbins Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19136, 215-338-3060 or become part of Pete’s planet at www.chickiesandpetes.com and take his advice “It’s a lot more fun to eat in a bar, than to drink in a restaurant.”


It’s where the tourists, conventioneers and those unlucky enough to serve on Jury Duty grab their lunch: The Reading Terminal Market. And on Wednesdays-Saturdays they can grab one of the crispiest, tastiest, tangiest chicken wings dosed in sauce at Dienner’s Bar-B-Q, part if the Amish foods showcase at the east side of the market located at 12th and Arch Streets. Dienner’s doesn’t deep fry his chicken wings, he roasts them so that the skins turn a dark crackly, crunchy biteful and you’ll see a long line of wing lovers getting a half dozen for lunch with extra sauce to feed their craving. 215-925-8755


With a name like Pudgy, how could you not make kick ass wings? Even though Jerry Curran is the boss at Curran’s Irish Inn, 6900 State Road, Phila, PA, www.curransirishinn.com it’s Pudgy who runs the show in the kitchen and cranks out big bite wings that are legendary. Eagles games on Sunday bring in the crowds for football but also the 35 cent Pudgy Wings Special with flavors of cajun, garlic, bbq in hot, medium and mild. You’ll never get rinky dinky wing dings here, Curran’s is known for serving the biggest and meatiest wings around. Pudgy has the awards to back up his take-out wing operation at 215-331-8628.

And across the bridge, these wings joints are worth maxing out your EZ Pass:


Psst. How did the bald eagle lost his feathers? He ate the Bald Eagle hot wings at The Jughandle Inn, 1018 S. Fork Landing Road in Cinnaminson, New Jersey 08077. Boasting that hot wings were originated in Buffalo, NY but perfected here, Garden Staters burn up web reviews and blogs agreeing that The Jughandle isn’t just a traffic trick to make Pennsy drivers worse-it’s the place for a kick ass jukebox and fore head sweating wings. Diners are warned to have patience; their wings are made to order at this watering hole on Route 73. Call for take-out, 1-856-665-WING.


Just down the road, (and we’re sure past another tricky jughandle) you’ll smell The Whistler’s Inn before you find it at 901 Route 130 South in Cinnaminson, NJ because this place has its own smokehouse outback. Also know for their ribs, Whistler’s Inn wings are half price on Wednesday Nights 8 pm-closing. (856) 786-RIBS or check out their website at www.whistlersinnnj.com Don’t know if the name has anything to do with the fact of after munching on the wings, you do your best impression of, Lauren Bacall’s character in the classic flick, To Have and Have Not when she says to Bogie “You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow.”


You might not get cell phone service, but you’ll sure as hell get helluva good chicken wings at the Pic-a-lilli Inn in Shamong, New Jersey. Its worth getting lost in the Pinelands and taking a ride through Medford Lakes to find this historical bar and award winning wing place. Locals call it The Pic and also know you get a full, uncut buffalo wing and leg as well as buffalo ears, tails, shrimp, scallops and O’s (onion rings) at this family dining room that proclaims itself the King of Wings. In the 1970’s, the most regular customer, (ala Norm!) was a goat named Billy who was always at the bar. It’s worth finding The Pic at 866 Route 206 in Shamong, 1-609-268-2066, www.picalilli.com

But out of all these wing places, everybody has their own personal favorites and not since the shouting matches of “Taste Great!” and “Less Filling!” will there be any agreement of who has the best Chicken Wings-with or without the bones.

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