10 great Bay Area chicken wings for NFL playoff Sunday

2 months ago Chico Enterprise-Record

No matter your NFL team allegiance, Americans can agree on one thing: You can’t watch a big game without chicken wings.

For all of you home-party hosts, this Sunday, the day of the NFL Conference Championships, is a trial food run for Super Sunday, Feb. 12. On that day, football fans are expected to devour more than 1.4 million wings, according to the folks at the National Chicken Council, who pay more attention to this number than to the point spread. Many fans will go with the traditional Buffalo wings (are you Team Ranch or Team Blue Cheese?) but there is a wide world of wings that extends far beyond western New York.

We’ve rounded up some irresistible Bay Area options — some saucy, some crunchy, some fiery, some sweet — in locations across the Bay, from Lafayette and San Ramon to Cupertino and Redwood City. Remember to order early; kickoff is noon for Sunday’s 49ers vs. Eagles game, followed at 3:30 by the Bengals and the Chiefs.

Did we miss your favorite wing? You’ll find a submission form at the bottom of this article.

The Honey Garlic Butter chicken wings at the Hidden Spot -- a spot hidden in a bar-- have become a cult favorite. (Linda Zavoral/Bay Area News Group)

THE HIDDEN HONEY WING: The Hidden Spot (South San Francisco, Emeryville)

Everybody loves being let in on a foodie secret. Here’s a good one: Folks around the Bay Area are sharing the discovery of the Honey Garlic Butter Wings at a pop-up, the Hidden Spot, tucked inside two Hometown Heroes sports bars, one on each side of the bay. The wings are breaded and fried, until they reach a nice level of crunchiness, then coated in a sauce that’s thick and sweet with just the right touch of garlic and sprinkled with sesame seeds. (Note to management: You know, that butter would also be great on freshly baked cornbread.) If you’re not into sweet, go for the Mild or Spicy Buffalo wings or the MVP ones with a spicy soy glaze.

Details: $10 for five wings (one sauce). Both bars are ages 21-and-up. 303 Grand Ave., South San Francisco, and 4000 Adeline St., Emeryville; www.hiddenspot.online The smoked dry-rubbed Memphis wings at Batch & Brine in Lafayette.

THE MEMPHIS WING: Batch & Brine (Lafayette)

Smoked chicken is so often a dry, stringy disaster. Not so with this casual-upscale restaurant’s Memphis wings, which are deeply smoky and running with delicious juices inside. You’ll smell the dry-rubbed wings the minute they hit the table – it’s like a campfire – then marvel at how the paper-thin crust retains the perfect balance of crispness and seasoning. Dipping is a sauce-lover’s dream with options from Calabrian-chili aioli to apricot mustard, but it’s hard to beat the default Alabama white with its creamy-vinegar heat. A bonus is they seem to peel the celery here to eliminate those annoying fibers.

Details: $16 for eight wings (one sauce). 3602 Mount Diablo Blvd., Lafayette; batchandbrine.com

THE INDIAN WING: Curry Pizza House (11 Bay Area locations including Palo Alto, Redwood City, Fremont, Dublin, San Ramon)

Curry Pizza House, like so many pizzerias, has embraced this part of the Super Bowl holy trinity. But instead of frying their wings, they marinate them in an Indian-spiced sauce, then bake them. That keeps the chicken skin soft and results in a tender, moist wing. They’re not the biggest wings around, but what they lack in size they make up in flavor. The achari wings (that’s a sauce made with pickling spices) and tandoori wings are savory and mild. But before you bite into the curry-sauced one, make sure you have a cold beverage and a dipping cup of ranch dressing at the ready. Traditional hot, barbecue and lemon-pepper wings are also on the menu. If there’s someone in the crowd who isn’t a wing purist, there are boneless tikka masala wings too.

Details: $14.99 for 10 wings (one sauce) or $29.99 for a sampler of 20 (four sauces, plus four ranch). Find locations and hours at www.currypizzahouse.com.

The Vietnamese wings at Pho Ha Noi restaurants in Cupertino and San Jose are coated in a sauce of savory nuoc cham and garic. (Linda Zavoral/Bay Area News Group)

THE VIETNAMESE WING: Pho Ha Noi (Cupertino, San Jose)

We’re dining at Pho Ha Noi’s Cupertino restaurant during the Vietnamese celebration of Tet, so customers at nearly every table are slurping noodles from large bowls of pho. Except us. We’re nibbling on chicken wings. During the Lunar New Year, long noodles represent longevity. And those wings? Maybe they’ll bring luck in the Super Bowl. These wings, from free-range chickens, are deep fried, then tossed in a sauce of garlic and nuoc cham. There’s extra sauce in the bottom of the platter so that we fish sauce lovers can dip some more. Refreshing slices of lightly pickled carrot and daikon come on the side.

Details: $11.50 for eight wings. 10100 S. De Anza Blvd., Cupertino, and 969 Story Road, San Jose;    www.phohanoicupertino.com

THE FIERY WING: Monster Wings (Concord)

This globe-trotting wing joint is slashed with black and yellow colors like caution tape, perhaps a warning about what’s on the menu. Mild-mannered diners might choose honey butter or bright-orange “snow cheese” from among 15 flavors of wings. But heat-seekers should try the signature “Monster,” with a blend of fiery chiles that makes your mouth feel primed for a backdraft. The “Ghostbuster” is a spicy but more flavorful option, sprinkled with brick-red ghost peppers that prickle the tongue like a good Buffalo wing. All told, it’s a great place to experiment with rubs and sauces and watch the game with buckets of beer, lumpia for snacking and more big-screen TVs than you can shake a drumette at.

Details: $12 for a five-wing combo served with fries or chips and a soda (one sauce). 2028 Salvio St., Concord; themonsterwings.com

THE HALAL WING: Halal Wings Plus (Fremont, San Francisco)

Like them spicy? If this restaurant in Fremont’s Irvington district runs out of the top-selling flavor for their meaty fried wings — that would be the absolutely incendiary mango habanero — you’ll find plenty of other hot numbers. The Cajun, original spicy and chile lime are also popular with heat-seekers, and even the innocuous-sounding honey garlic delivers a little kick. For mild options, try the garlic parmesan, the saucy bbq or the lemon pepper. The spicy lemon pepper sports both black pepper and crushed chile peppers. Oh, and you won’t be leaving with just wings once you catch a whiff of the decidedly not-chicken aroma outside. They’re now smoking brisket (halal, of course) on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Arrive early before they sell out.

Details: $9.99 for six wings (one sauce and one ranch), $12.99 for a combo with fries and soda. 40860 Fremont Blvd., Fremont, and 533 Jones St., San Francisco; https://halalwingsplus.com Twice-fried miso-glazed wings at Hopscotch in Oakland.

THE JAPANESE WING: Hopscotch (Oakland)

Chef Kyle Itani, whose Uptown Oakland restaurant group includes Itani Ramen and the new Yonsei Handrolls, adds a subtle-tasting Asian twist to his Double Down Chicken Wings – so-called because they’re fried twice, like French fries, once to blanch the meat and render the fat, and again to crisp up the skin. Instead of using the typical sauce mix of Frank’s RedHot and butter, he tosses the wings in less-acidic red miso, butter and gochujang. The result is similar to a Buffalo wing, but with riper notes of umami that keep you coming back for more. Accompaniments are simple but well-matched: shredded, raw cabbage like what comes with chicken katsu, and an intense blue-cheese dressing mellowed with fresh chervil and dill.

Details: $15 for eight wings (one sauce). 1915 San Pablo Ave., Oakland; hopscotchoakland.com Owner Pearl Yu with her Dry Fried Chicken Wings at Koong's Restaurant in Milpitas, Calif., on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)

THE DRY FRIED WING: Koong’s (Milpitas)

Pearl Yu, who has owned this restaurant specializing in Chinese and Korean-style Chinese dishes for 23 years, has always had her recipe for Dry Fried Chicken Wings on the menu. But in recent years, more and more customers have been discovering these beauties. They’re marinated in ginger, onion and wine, then deep-fried, then tossed with an addictive sauce that’s sweet and a little spicy and studded with Szechuan peppers, carrots and peas. (You can request spicier, if you like.) Although they look most impressive plated for restaurant dining, they’ll hold up well if you do takeout for the big game. But don’t high-five anyone — the “dry” in the title is a misnomer. These are sticky-good wings. Pass the napkins.

Details: $16.95 for eight wings. 103 N. Milpitas Blvd., Milpitas; www.koongschina.com Thai wings and crispy-fried chicken thighs at Southside Station in Berkeley.

THE THAI WING: Southside Station (Berkeley)

Walking into this bare bones-looking operation in the orbit of UC Berkeley, you’d never guess owner Louie Chaivisut is a Le Cordon Bleu grad who staged at Chez Panisse. He also ran a popular Thai-style fried-chicken popup at Cheese Board, and here shows similar fry mastery with jumbo wings that are super-plump and intriguingly complex. The chicken is first dry-marinated in garlic, onion, sugar and pepper, then lightly fried and dusted with a “zing powder” (chile, rice, lime) so flavorful, you hardly need the accompanying housemade sriracha mayo. It’s a testament to how well-prepared they are that if you get them to go on top of a side of garlic noodles, at home, the meat remains juicy and the batter cracks like glass candy.

Details: $12 for five wings (one sauce). 2504 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley; eatsouthsidestation.com Bonchon's wings and drumettes -- soy garlic flavor or spicy -- are served with pickled daikon radish. (Photo courtesy of Bonchon)

THE SOY GARLIC CLASSIC (Bonchon, 13 Bay Area locations, from Mountain View to San Mateo to Brentwood)

Why mess around with recipe development, when you’ve got a good thing going? For 20 years, this Korean wing juggernaut — 370 locations around the globe, including 114 in the United States — has offered one primary sauce, soy garlic, plus a spicy version. (There was a foray into the honey-crunch realm a few years ago, but that one isn’t on the menu these days.) It’s a good, dependable wing, if a bit salty from the soy sauce. That’s what beer is for. These wings are made to order, battered in flour and double-fried to achieve that crackling skin. All wings come with a side of cooling daikon or coleslaw.

Details: $16.55 for 10 wings; game-day deal of 50 wings for $65. Find locations at https://bonchon.com.

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