The Best Wings We've Seen On Diners, Drive-Ins And Dives

Once upon a time, food TV was a little, shall we say, elitist in nature, or so it seemed to many viewers. Sure, it was cool watching Julia Child throw together the perfect coq au vin, but if we were sitting at home dining off coq au frozen nuggets instead, it didn't seem too relatable. (No disrespect intended, Julia, we'll always love you!) Then came the merger of food and travel TV, which was fun, but it was also a bit grating to watch some globe-trotting gourmet gallivanting all over the world and eating food we could only envy. (The exception, of course, being Andrew Zimmern, since he ate stuff few of us would have dared to try even if it were being dished up at the drive-thru down the street.)

At long last, though, both food and travel shows took on more of a democratic aspect with hosts like Adam Richman and Guy Fieri hitting the road to cruise the highways and byways of the U.S. in search of the kinds of foods we can all enjoy (and afford): big ol' juicy burgers, sky-high sammiches, and, best of all, everyone's favorite Super Bowl snack, chicken wings! Who knew there was such a wide, wonderful world o'wings out there? Guy Fieri, that's who! He's traveled from the Jersey Shore to the beaches of Waikiki –- and many, many points in between – in pursuit of the perfect wing. Gathered below are a few of the highlights from his ongoing journey.

10th Avenue Burrito: Adobo Wings

Strange but true: you can find some of the best wings on the planet at a Jersey Shore strip-mall restaurant specializing in burritos. According to Food Network, 10thAvenue Burrito in Belmar, New Jersey is just a 90-minute drive from NYC (though Guy Fieri admitted he made it in 45), but it's apparently worth the trip. In fact, one person commenting on the YouTube video of the 2011 "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" episode that featured this restaurant enthuses "Man would I eat there right now! And I'm in Los Angeles, that's how good this guy cooks."

The first thing Fieri tried was the pork mole platter, something he described as "awesome" and said he "could eat all day long." What really blew him away, however, were the wings tossed with a homemade (well, restaurant-made) adobo sauce. This sauce, which Fieri helped to make, starts with a base of tomatoes, vinegar, and dried chipotles, then adds garlic, onions, bay leaves, oregano, and a few more unexpected ingredients: cinnamon, cloves, oranges, and pineapple. It also gets a touch of sweetness from the crystallized Mexican sugar known as piloncillo. The wings are grilled, tossed in the adobo sauce, and served with a side of avocado ranch. Fieri's verdict? "Out of bounds ... right heat, right spice ... mm mm mm mm!"

Alkaline: Asian Sticky Wings

Alkaline is a restaurant in Norfolk, Virginia that offers what they describe as "non-traditional Asian-inspired dishes" and Food Network calls some pretty next-level street food. Alkaline's menu offers up funky favorites like tater tot okonomiyaki and nachos topped with a Filipino pork blood stew called dinuguan as well as family-style platters and noodle-based dishes. Guy Fieri couldn't get enough of the oh-so-flavorful oxtail ramen, but he was all over the Asian sticky wings, as well.

Lucky for us, Alkaline was happy to share the recipe with Food Network so those of us who can't get to Norfolk can find out what the fuss is all about. For starters, these jumbo wings are dipped in a light, togarashi-spiked batter and then double-fried for extra crunch. The sticky wing sauce is made from ketchup, mayo, soy sauce, Worcestershire, chili sauce, and chili oil, and the wings are brushed with (as opposed to dipped in) the sauce in order to retain their just-fried crispiness. As a final touch, they're finished off with a sprinkling of fried garlic, snipped chives, and sesame seeds for a dish Alkaline's Facebook page admits is super-messy but pretty doggone delicious.

Beer Belly: BBQ Volcano Chipotle Wings

If you're going to name your Los Angeles restaurant Beer Belly and call one of your menu items BBQ Volcano Chipotle Wings, well, you pretty much have to expect that Guy Fieri will be dropping by to check them out sooner or later. Of course, this is exactly what happened on one memorable episode of "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" (via Food Network). Fieri watched as the saucier prepared his signature wing sauce, then promptly tucked into a plate of sauce-up wings. His initial reaction was "Wow, yeah, those are hot!" After a few bites, though, he admitted they were "not overly spicy" and said he could detect a hint of sweetness in there, too.

Sadly, L.A. Eater informs us that the Koreatown eatery where Fieri enjoyed those volcanic wings closed down in 2019. They did, however, share their sauce recipe with Food Network -– enough for 40 pounds of wings. The ingredients are too numerous to list them all but include chipotles (of course), ketchup, cider vinegar, Worcestershire, Louisiana-style hot sauce, cayenne pepper, sriracha, red pepper flakes, Tabasco sauce, mustard, and liquid smoke. Oh yes, and a little brown sugar, so Fieri was right about the sweet that underlies the heat. Unfortunately, the recipe for the blue cheese dressing was not included. According to the video, though, it's made from aioli, sour cream, rice wine vinegar, lemon juice, and blue cheese crumbles, and Fieri describes it as "ridiculous." (In a good way, of course!)

Blue-Eyed Crab Caribbean Grill and Rum Bar: Banana Garlic Chicken Wings

One of the more unusual types of wing Guy Fieri has encountered in his cross-country odyssey are the banana-garlic ones from the Blue-Eyed Crab Caribbean Grill and Rum Bar in Plymouth, Massachusetts. While Fieri sampled the restaurant's lobster and lump crab creole, the real standout dish he discovered there — and one that the menu to this day touts as having been featured on Triple-D — consists of spicy chicken wings served in a garlicky banana sauce (or perhaps a banana-y garlic sauce). According to Food Network, Fieri described these wings as "a calypso band meets Metallica."

The Blue-Eyed Crab has also been kind enough to share the recipe for their signature wings with Food Network, but it's kind of complex so you'll need some time if you want to try this at home. The wings are first marinated in orange juice, soy sauce, and spices including ginger, cinnamon, and star anise, then they are oven-roasted until they are crisp. The sauce includes not only bananas but banana liqueur, plus garlic, of course, with other flavors including orange, maple syrup, and chili sauce. Even the dipping sauce and side dish carry out the tropical theme: the former is made from pineapple juice and sour cream, while the latter consists of fried plantains in place of the more standard fries or celery sticks.

Carolina Kitchen & Barbeque: Smoked Chicken Wing Nachos

What comes to mind when you hear the words "smoked chicken wing nachos?" You'd probably expect the chicken to be piled atop a mound of tortilla chips, cheese, and other nacho-y kinds of stuff, but that's not the way they do it at the Carolina Kitchen & Barbeque in Sparks, Nevada. Instead, they produce what Guy Fieri calls "one of the most unique dishes I've seen on Triple-D" (via YouTube): the smoked chicken wings actually take the place of the tortilla chips and they themselves serve as the base of these insanely delicious (and keto-friendly!) nachos.

Even if you can't get to Sparks, you can still try these at home if you're willing to do your own smoking -– or you could always start with an order of smoked wings from a takeout BBQ joint should you be blessed with one nearby. According to the recipe Carolina Kitchen shared with Food Network, they make their nachos by coating their house-smoked wings (recipe included) with melted cheddar, crumbled bacon, diced tomatoes, green onions, ranch dressing, and sour cream. Over the top scrumptiousness, with hardly a carb in sight!

Ducks Eatery: Hickory Smoked Wings with Jerk Sauce and Lime

A few years ago, Guy Fieri paid a visit to the East Village's trendy Ducks Eatery, a place that kind of stretches the whole concept of diners, drive-ins, and dives since it is (or was) none of the above. Still, they served up a mean smoked wing, which they proceeded to improve upon with the addition of house-made jerk sauce. The resulting wings were something Fieri called "really flavorful, big, unique."

As our use of the past tense might indicate, Ducks Eatery is no more. New York Eater indicates that the restaurant was yet another one of the many, many businesses unable to weather the pandemic. They did, however, leave Food Network their wing recipe for posterity. It's a 2-parter, as these jumbo wings (served whole) are first marinated in a mixture of fish sauce, soy sauce, lime juice, vinegar, and a laundry list of spices and seasonings, including lemongrass, star anise, and curry powder, before being smoked. Once they are done cooking, the wings are brushed with a sauce made from more lime juice, fish sauce, and curry powder.

OB Noodle House: Spicy Garlic Wings

One of Guy Fieri's favorites among the numerous wings he's tried are the ones made by San Diego's OB Noodle House. The Noodle House bills itself as an Asian fusion restaurant, and the menu runs to Vietnamese dishes like pho and spring rolls, along with Japanese-inspired teriyaki dishes and Hong Kong-style chow fun. No trip to the restaurant would be complete, however, without an order of their on-the-way-to-becoming-legendary spicy garlic wings. The wings take a full day or more to soak in a marinade that not only makes them crazy flavorful but turns them a fiery red. Fieri, however, didn't find them to be as incendiary as their hue might imply: "A little bit of heat, not too much," was his verdict after taking that first bite (via YouTube). Explosive they may not be, but Fieri nevertheless pronounced the garlic wings to be "the bomb."

Although the restaurant hasn't shared their recipe for spicy garlic wings they did do the typical on-camera walkthrough of the wing-making process. From this, we can see that the marinade includes ginger, garlic, lemongrass, onions, Thai chiles, habaneros, peanut butter, and hoisin sauce. The marinated wings are deep-fried, then wok-fried with more garlic, chiles, white pepper, sugar, and green onions before being served on a bed of green lettuce for a Christmas-y contrast.

Oohhs and Aahhs: Spicy Buffalo Wings

While over-the-top wing preparations are not only fun to eat but also make for entertaining TV viewing, sometimes you just can't beat a classic fried chicken wing with a basic buffalo sauce. This is exactly what Guy Fieri found when he paid a visit to the aptly-named Oohhs and Aahhs Soul Food Restaurant in the heart of Washington, DC's U Street Corridor (birthplace of Duke Ellington and DC's answer to Harlem, as per Destination DC). Food Network relates that Fieri enjoyed the Cajun-spiced shrimp and grits, but he was also pretty partial to the crispy fried chicken wings.

Apparently, Oohhs and Aahhs owners learned how to fry a mean chicken wing (as well as other parts) from their grannies, and the wings (and other parts) can stand on their own as the delicious fried chicken they are. They do, however, come with your choice of four different sauces: BBQ, lemon pepper, teriyaki, and buffalo. The last of these was Fieri's pick, and it was a choice he had no cause to regret.

Opal Thai Food: Thai Hot Wings

Guy Fieri discovered some of the most authentic Thai food around at Opal Thai, a restaurant on Honolulu's North Shore run by Bangkok-born Chef Opel (via Food Network). He gobbled down several delicious dishes including pad thai and the lesser-known pork larb (a preparation that is common to both Thai and Laotian cooking), but his favorite item on the menu was the garlic-glazed hot wings.

The Food Network video of the wings' preparation shows that they're first fried naked, no breading, batter, or seasonings, then tossed in a hot wok with a sauce made from garlic, chile paste, and rice wine. As a crowning touch, the plate of wings gets a garnish of deep-fried basil. Fieri's first reaction, upon biting into the wings, was "Holy moley! That's the most garlic I've had on anything." He does note, though, that the garlic, since it's been cooked so nicely, blends well with the rest of the flavors. This allows you to taste the entire "spicy/sweet/salty" spectrum rather than having the wings be overwhelmingly harsh and garlicky.

Scully's Tavern: Scampi Wings

When Guy Fieri visited Scully's Tavern, a strip-mall Miami sports bar, he was probably expecting a typical menu of bar foods. Instead, he was amazed to find such out-of-the-ordinary fare as potato chip-crusted mahi-mahi and Belgian-style escargot. (Yes, escargot are snails, and Food Network says they were one of the most popular items on Scully's menu). Yet another surprise for Fieri, and a very pleasant one at that, was chicken wings cooked scampi-style.

The way Scully's cooked their wings was pretty unique in and of itself. The wings were first fried, then tossed with sauce, then grilled, then tossed with sauce again, then grilled one more time (via YouTube). While Scully's did offer a buffalo-style wing, even the buffalo sauce was made with plenty of garlic. The scampi wings, however, were dressed with nothing more than garlic, butter, and parmesan. Fieri joked that eating such non-standard non-spicy wings was "sacrilege," but the first bite changed his mind. "The kicker," he said, "was the caramelized garlic," and called them "legit food ... legit, legit." Sadly, Scully's Tavern is no more, as the Miami Herald reports that they closed after the owner passed away.

Señor Sisig: Adobo-Glazed Buffalo Wings

Lucky San Franciscans! They have access to their very own Filipino fusion food truck. Guy Fieri, of course, had to pay this a visit, though it's technically not one of his 3 Ds. Still, the food Señor Sisig serves up is definitely his cup of bubble tea (or ube horchata). Food Network says Fieri's a fan of the sour pork sisig tacos, but he was perplexed (enjoyably so) by the adobo-glazed buffalo wings. "I can't figure out the flavor," was his first reaction (via Food Network), although he ultimately decided the wings were "not too sweet, not too spicy, not Asian, not Mexican, just ... Señor Sisig."

It seems as if the wings aren't always available on the Señor Sisig menu –- not to mention, San Francisco is a bit of a trip for many of us. Señor Sisig, however, was obliging enough to supply Food Network with their recipe. The wings are first marinated in soy sauce, spices, and sugar cane vinegar, and then baked, fried, and tossed in that mysterious adobo glaze. So what's in Señor Sisig's secret sauce? The secret's out: the complex flavor mixture includes more soy sauce and vinegar as well as ketchup, honey, Worcestershire, garlic, and chipotles.

Smitty's Wings & Things: Damn Hot Wings

In 2016 Guy Fieri took a trip to Stockton, California to visit a restaurant called Smitty's Wings and Things that specializes in you-know-what (since it's right there in the name). Smitty himself is former NFL player Steve Smith, and Stockton happens to be his wife's hometown (via Visit Stockton). While Smitty's menu offers a dozen different types of wing sauces ranging from plain to tropical mango chipotle habanero to Thai-inspired sweet and sour, Fieri went with a classic: Damn Hot.

As per Food Network, the Damn Hot wings are first coated in paprika-spiced flour, then fried and sauced. As to the Damn Hot sauce itself, this is made from a mixture of cayenne, chipotles, and green chiles, Fieri calls the finished dish a "good old-fashioned funky, crunchy wing," which is something we can never get enough of. Smitty's also has good news for vegans in the Stockton area! They are now offering plant-based "wings" in addition to the chicken kind.

Smokey D's BBQ: Smoked Wings

While Des Moines, Iowa may not rank up there with Kansas City, St. Louis, or Memphis among the world's barbecue capitals, when it comes to chicken wings they can hold their own with anyone. That's because Des Moines is home to Smokey D's BBQ, a restaurant that wins award after award. Sure, their brisket and ribs are as mouth-watering as smoked meats tend to be, but Food Network says the real menu standout (besides an amazing apple dumpling dessert) is the wings.

When Guy Fieri paid Smokey D's a visit, he learned that Smokey D's wings are deep-fried after their smoking, something that makes them doubly delicious (via Food Network). He tried the Asian-glazed wings and described them as "dynamite ... great spice, nice balance, subtle, not overdone." The Asian glaze is one of 3 different sauces Smokey D's offers, the other 2 being bbq and buffalo. They are also happy to serve their wings straight up for the smoked meat purist, as a truly epic wing can stand on its own sauce-free.

Thai Mee Up: Stuffed Wings

We all love a good pun-named Thai restaurant, but there's far more to Thai Mee Up than the name alone. Guy Fieri couldn't hold back on the superlatives when he tried the offerings at this food truck in Kahului, Hawaii. He called it " a freight train to Flavortown" and described the boneless pork ribs by saying "On a scale of 1 to 100, that's a 101." Another dish Fieri went into raptures about was the stuffed chicken wings, something he called "out of bounds." Unfortunately, these wings no longer appear to be featured on Thai Mee Up's menu, although the pork ribs are still available. If you're wondering what they were like, Food Network describes them as having been stuffed with a mixture of rice noodles and vegetables and topped with plum sauce. 

While Thai Mee Up hasn't made their stuffed wing recipe public, it seems these may have been similar to a traditional Hmong dish. According to a recipe from C. Hawj Creations, the tricky part with making stuffed wings is de-boning the wing itself, but this gives you room for the goodies that go inside. In addition to rice noodles and veggies, their recipe uses ground pork for a double meat delight and tops the wings with sweet chili garlic sauce in place of the plum sauce favored by Thai Mee Up.