If we hear the phrase "best chicken wings in Miami" one more time, we just might dunk our heads in a deep fryer to drown out the hyperbole. Every restaurant this side of Cuba that hawks drummettes, wings, or any other part of a fried bird claims to have the tastiest or hottest or freshest. But here's the real list.
5. Buffalo Wild Wings
11401 NW 12th St., Miami
With more than 680 restaurants nationwide, this chain has experience frying wings. But bigger doesn't necessarily mean better. Corey Allen, general manager of the BWW in Dolphin Mall, says the difference between his wings and the pretenders' is freshness. "Most everybody gets their wings delivered frozen. Then they are cooked in the morning, so when you order them, they have already been fried. But our wings are never frozen. We cook them fresh every day." BWW goes through about 100 cases a week, each holding more than 400 wings. Variety also separates them, he says. The place has 14 sauces and four seasonings. The honey barbecue is the most popular. The "blazing" sauce is the hottest.
20400 Old Cutler Rd., Cutler Bay
This neighborhood restaurant sells mostly seafood, but its chicken wings are the stuff of poultry legend. You can get them honey-blackened, grilled, fried, or naked. "Otis" handles the chicken wing cooking and says the secret to the taste is lengthy marinating (though he won't give up the recipe). "We let them marinate a couple of days," he says. "The longer the better." Rodbenders wings are also on the large side. "You get more meat on our wings. One of ours is like two of theirs" (whoever theirs may be). Asking Otis to choose his favorite, he says, is like asking him to pick his favorite child. But he does it anyway. He says on a scale of 1 to 5, honey-blackened and fried are 5, and the grilled and nakeds are 4.
6640 Collins Ave., Miami Beach
The reason why Muncheez in Miami Beach has the best wings in town, according to Jay Chin, is the restaurant adheres to the true chicken wing tradition started in Buffalo, New York. "We do them properly, according to the original recipe developed... somewhere in Buffalo." Jay says the wings are deep-fried for exactly 14 minutes, which hardens the skin and makes it crisp. Immediately afterward, when the pores of the skin are still open, sauce is poured on. Jay says Muncheez's wings are not par-cooked beforehand. Everything is made fresh. The sauces -- which range from "death" to "sweet chili" -- are basic, not vinegary like those at many other wing joints. "We do it as close as possible to the original recipe. That's the way it's supposed to be. We don't alter the process or give you some silly version with mangos."
2. Bulldog Barbecue
15400 Biscayne Blvd., North Miami
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Maybe the largest wings in town, the ones at Bulldog Barbecue in North Miami, are also the most painstakingly prepared. They're deep-rubbed in a secret blend of spices and smoked for 1 hour 15 minutes. Afterward, they're immediately cooled, deep-fried and doused in a piquant beurre blanc sauce. "The thing that makes them different is that they are smoked," says Jen, a manager. "They go from raw to cooked only in the smoker, and then we flash-fry them per order. We don't cook them in fryers. And that's what makes the meat fall right off the bone." Though they use a red-hot base for the sauce, they mix in parts of heavy cream butter, which reduces the sauce to the point where it's not so much spicy as tasty.
1. Sports Grill
10005 Sunset Dr., Kendall
Sports Grill on Sunset Drive might just be the biggest offender in the "best chicken wings in Miami" debate. They never fail to mention as much. But they can back up the boasting, says kitchen manager Jaime Anderson. "For starters, we have the freshest wings. We get them delivered four times a week. We deep-fry them in non-trans-fat oil to get them nice and crispy on the outside but keep them tender on the inside," he says. Afterward, they are bathed in Buffalo sauces, garlic, butter, and other seasonings. When they are ordered, Jaime says, they get thrown on the grill and rolled about while being sprayed with Worcestershire sauce for the final flavor kick. "They take on the smokiness of the grill," he says. Need more evidence? The numbers say it all. During one recent Super Bowl Sunday, Jaime says, they served 36,000 wings from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. That's 4,000 an hour, for you mathematically challenged.
Dishonorable mention: Hooters and Flanigan's. Don't get us wrong. Both of these locales know how to fry with the best, but the knuckleheads who work at some locations could use a little help with their contribution to the "we have the best wings" debate. When we called Hooters to get the secret to succulent wings, they promptly informed us that we'd have to talk to "corporate" about it. Let's see if we got this straight: Waitresses walking around with asses hanging out, OK. Talking about what makes your wings so good, taboo. And at Flanigan's, numerous phone calls to multiple locations resulted in the same standard reply: "All managers are in a meeting."