This upcoming super bowl American’s will consume 1.2 billion chicken wings on that day! So it’s really no secret that here in North America we go pretty crazy over these finger-licking little snacks. But where can you find the best wings?
This quest has been on my mind for a while now so time to commit and get this thing started.
To find who has the best chicken wings in Victoria
A long list of restaurants, pubs, and bars to try, three friends, three types of wings at each establishment, and probably a renewed gym membership to boot.
To maintain a standard we will order three pounds of wings in total. One pound of hot, one pound of salt and pepper (because this is the ultimate ‘naked wing’, no hiding behind a slathering of sauce), and finally the wild card, a type that we will select based on the server’s recommendation.
Wings will be judged based on juiciness, meatiness, tenderness, and overall flavour.
This will take some months to get through a number of different establishments so keep posted to see where we’ll be checking out next. At the same time we’ll also be trying out various recipe’s in search of the best chicken wings that can be made at home.
Current best: Smith’s (updated Nov ’15)
Moon Under Water (3/5)
Moon Under Water is a great little brewery/pub/restaurant in the most unassuming location just off Bay St. It’s a popular spot, especially on Wednesday wing night when finding a table can be a task.
Cooking Method: Lightly breaded and fried
Price: On Wednesdays $5/lb or regularly $10/lb
Flavours ordered: Salt and Pepper, Blue Cheese Hot (they didn’t have regular hot so this was the next best thing), Honey Garlic Beer (server’s recommendation)
Meatiness: Lacking in the meat department
Juicyness: They weren’t dry by any means but they weren’t super juicy either.
Salt and pepper: We all voted this as our least favorite of the three. It lacked seasoning and we eventually ended up dunking them in some left over beef gravy we had to give it flavour.
Blue cheese hot: These were our most favorite of the three. There were actual chunks of blue cheese in the sauce which is different from some other places. These were by no means hot at all though, I wouldn’t even say they were tangy.
Honey garlic beer: These were okay. To me the sauce lacked punch. I would have liked if the flavours were a little more pronounced and a little bolder.
Overall: The wings, because they’re breaded, are very crispy and they even remain crispy after they are sauced which is nice. I also appreciate that they don’t drown their wings in sauce. Overall I think these wings are average. Not great but by no means bad.
Fifteen Fifty’s (1550) (3.5/5)
1550’s is a popular Victoria pub style restaurant that’s been around for as long as I can remember and tonight was my first time checking it out. Wednesday night is their wing night and it was packed. Showed up there at around 5:30 and already there was a line for tables.
Cooking Method: Lightly breaded and fried. Say they use “1550’s secret sauces”
Price: On Wednesdays 0.50¢ per wing so that’s $5.00 for 10 wings (about ½ lb)
Flavours ordered: Pepper, 3 alarm hot, and bleu moon/blue cheese hot (the server’s recommendation)
Meatiness: The drumettes were nice and meaty but the wings were quite scrawny.
Juicyness: Some of the wings and drumettes were dry and chewy while others were more moist and juicy.
Pepper: The pepper flavour, even though there was a lot on the wings, wasn’t very prevalent and salt was a bit lacking. Because the wings were inconsistent some of the wings were very juicy while others were more dry.
3 Alarm Hot: There was nothing ‘secret’ about this sauce just a mixture of Frank’s hot sauce and chilli flakes. Even when we asked our server for a sample of the hotter 5 alarm wing she offered us a bottle of Franks to add to our wings and said it would be the same thing.
Bleu Moon: One of us deemed these as the favorite of the night. It had a great balanced flavour. Mild blue cheese taste and a bit of tang too.
Overall: The wings were average. They were inconsistent with regards to meatiness and tenderness. As the wings sat in sauce the breading became quite soggy and a bit unpleasant (except the pepper wings). Also a little disappointed that they call their sauces “secret sauces” which to me implies made from scratch, perhaps some of the sauces are but certainly not the hot. Won’t be back here soon for the wings but I’d be willing to check out some other items on their menu.
Darcy’s is a popular downtown restaurant/bar that has a great waterfront location right on Warf St. I personally know Darcy’s as a late night hangout, but lately I’ve heard from so many people comment that their food is really good!
Cooking Method: Doesn’t seem breaded to me just fried.
Price: $12.50 regular price. This gets you about 12-14 wings.
Flavours ordered: Rock Salt and Fresh Cracked Pepper, Serrano & Garlic and Ponzu
Meatiness: Decently meaty wings and drumettes.
Juicyness: Really moist wings and drumettes. A few here and there were a bit on the dry side but overall the wings were juicy and tender.
Rock Salt and Fresh Cracked Pepper: These were my favorite out of the three flavours. Without the sauce the wings were crispy and the meat was moist and juicy. The wings were perfectly seasoned with salt too.
Serrano & Garlic: This sauce was more of a thick chili paste type consistency. The sauce had a little heat to it but I wished it packed more punch considering it was advertised as ‘HOT’ (waiting for heat that knocks me over one day). It was a really flavourful sauce with a bold garlic taste.
Ponzu: These wings weren’t saucy but more on the dry seasoned sided. Even though Ponzu isn’t a common wing flavor the umami and citrusy flavors worked really well here. This was our second favorite flavor.
Overall: I was really happy with the wings here and the friend that I was with agreed that these were some really delicious wings. The meat was tender and juicy and the sauces had a great flavour to them but if you like breaded then these might not be the ones for you. All the sauces were very flavorful but I did love the plain and simple salt and pepper wings the best. Oh and they give you a finger bowl with your wings. It’s surprising how many other places don’t think of doing this!
McRae’s Bistro (3.5/5)
McRae’s is a popular neighbourhood pub with a cozy cabin inspired interior. They offer pretty standard pub fare at a reasonable price. Monday night is wing night where wings are offered at half off.
Cooking Method: Fried, no breading. They offer a grilled type too, but I didn’t have a chance to try it.
Price: On Mondays $5 or regularly $10 for about 10 wings
Flavours ordered: Five-Alarm hot, Blue Moon, and Thai sweet chili (I didn’t actually order the sweet chili but I was given it by mistake so technically I had a chance to try a few before they corrected the mistake and brought us the Five-Alarm Hot)
Meatiness: A decent amount of meat on the wings
Juicyness: Both the Thai Chili and the Blue Moon were quite moist and tender but the Five-Alarm was disappointing, they were dry and very chewy.
Thai Sweet Chili: The sauce was okay. A little on the sweet side and not bold at all in flavour.
Blue moon: This sauce was alright. My friend orders this kind regularly at McRae’s and she commented that the sauce wasn’t as good as previous times and that the blue cheese flavour was lacking.
Five-Alarm Hot: Yet again another mild hot wing. I’ve still yet to find a true hot wing that really packs some flavour and heat. I could have used some more sauce on these wings, they were a too dry for my liking.
Overall: The wings were just okay. The first two kinds were well prepared they were moist and not overcooked. Unfortunately the plate of Five-Alarm hot was dry and chewy and the heat factor didn’t live up to it’s name. I feel that I should mention though that the service was really bad. Out server did a good job of attending to the two tables to the immediate left and right of us but ignored the fact that our water glasses were empty and we ended up waiting a long time at the end of our meal for her to check in on us. She never did check in and after about 20 minutes of waiting we had to call her over to ask her for our bill. I’ve never been blown away by the wings here so I thought I’d give them another chance. My opinion is still the same.
The Local Kitchen (3.5/5)
Despite it’s location in the heart of Victoria’s “tourist trap street” The Local Kitchen lives up to it’s name and really is a popular spot for Vic locals. The prices may be a little higher than some places but the food is consistently good and the view from their patio is one of the best.
Cooking Method: Fried. They’re extra crispy so I’m not sure if they coat them in corn starch or not, but no breading on these wings.
Price: $13/lb. During the winter they have wing night specials on Mondays, but not during the summer months.
Flavours ordered: Sweet Chili, Blue Moon, Hot
Meatiness: The wings and drumettes were both pretty small in size compared to some places.
Juicyness: The meat was really tender, juicy, and fall off the bone. Each wing was perfectly cooked.
Sweet Chili: The sweetness was a little too prominent for my liking making the sauce a bit one dimensional. I would have liked a little more bite to it or a bit more of a bold flavour.
Blue Moon: The flavour was nothing special or unique just another generic blue moon sauce. The ‘hot’ nor the blue cheese flavours were very prominent and I found myself getting tired of the richness of the sauce after a few wings.
Hot: Just like every other wing joint these wings were not hot at all just the regular ol’ Franks flavour of not-so-hot sauce.
Overall: I’ll admit that these were some of the best cooked I’ve had so far. However, the bland and dare I say boring sauces ruined these wings for me. This was my second visit here for wings but now that I’ve tried some more flavours I don’t think I’ll be back any time soon again for wings.
Heckler’s is part basement pub part weekend comedy club and very well may be THE wing place in Victoria thanks to their 50 flavours on offer on Wednesdays.
Cooking Method: Breaded and fried. On Wednesday wing night they have 50 flavours on offer. On all other nights they just have a handful of popular flavours.
Price: On Wednesdays 0.40¢ per wing so that’s $4.00 for 10 wings (about ½ lb)
Flavours ordered: Eff Off Hott, Parmesan and Garlic (our dry option), and chipotle
Meatiness: Neither the drumettes nor the wings were particularly meaty.
Juicyness: The saucy wings, the chipotle, were the most moist. Overall however some of the wings were juicy and moist while others were fairly dry.
Eff off Hot: These aren’t as hot as they used to be or maybe my heat tolerance has gone up over the years. This level of heat is the level I feel all hot wings should be nice and hot but not intolerable. A really nice spice that makes you pause in conversation for just a moment. It has a similar flavour profile as the generic Frank’s hot wing but with an extra kick to it that builds and builds with every wing you eat. Because the wings are breaded the breading unfortunately absorbs all the sauce (but not in a good way).
Parmesan and Garlic: These were pretty good and a nice twist to the original pepper dry wing. This seasoning had a prominent butter flavour to it. Possibly the main component in the sauce? Neither the parmesan nor the garlic were prominent flavours. The parmesan tasted quite artificial and was likely the KRAFT brand stuff out of a shaker bottle.
Chipotle: The chipotle was my favorite. Immediately there was a strong smoky flavour that made this sauce really unique followed by a light sweetness. The wings weren’t over sauced either which was good.
Overall: The wings were average, and the only thing that makes them unique are the wide range of interesting flavours as well as the cheap price. I don’t love breaded wings so I’m a little biased against these to begin with. After about 12 wings I was in a food coma because they were so filling! I would come back again just for the variety but the overall quality of the wings could use a lot of work but I guess for $4.00 for a plate of 10 wings you can’t complain.
Yates Street Tap House (3.5/5)
Yates Street Tap House is a large vibrant pub in the heart of downtown Victoria. They have a wide selection of beer and are well known for their beer towers. I gathered up four more friends and we headed down for their half price appetizers.
Cooking Method: Fried but without any breading and they have 7 flavours to choose from.
Price: Regular $14 but between 3pm-6pm on weekdays they have them (and all other appies) for 50% off regular price. On Sundays too they have a pint and pound special. About 8 wings in an order.
Flavours ordered: We ordered one of each of the seven flavours actually but I’ll comment here on the signature hot, the salt and pepper, and the sweet chili.
Meatiness: These wings were really meaty! I had about 6 and I was so full.
Juicyness: The wings overall were fairly moist. A few were a little on the dryer side but overall they were good, not amazing.
Signature Hot Sauce: This is their house made habanero based hot sauce and I was told by the server that these packed some heat. My friend Dennis and I were excited, finally a really hot wing! Unfortunately we were let down. They barely had any kick at all and overall lacked flavour. It didn’t have as much of a vinegar base to it like other hot wings usually do which might appeal to some people but for me I needed more kick.
Salt and Pepper: We all agreed that these were decent salt and pepper wings. Once again nothing amazing but they were good. The meat wasn’t too dry and they were tender. The pepper flavour wasn’t obvious though.
Sweet Chili: Even though the flavour was pretty generic these were reluctantly our favorite out of all 7 flavours. This one had the most flavour out of all of them and a tiny bit of tang to it too.
Overall: The wings themselves were good and I was impressed they had such meaty wings. All 5 of us walked away feeling pretty full after eating about 6-10 wings each. Unfortunately all the sauces just fell short for us. They were fairly runny and didn’t stick to the wings and overall they all lacked flavour. The hot really wasn’t hot at all either. The ranch and blue cheese dipping sauces we ordered were runny too so they too didn’t really stick to the wings. We did like that they gave you little hand towels which expanded in the finger bowl of water. Really great idea! These wings were okay, not bad but not great. I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to try them again.
Smith’s is a popular pub in Downtown Victoria. It’s dark lighting and um “well worn” interior gives the place character and an old English Pub feel.
Cooking Method: Fried with a light breading.
Price: Regular $14 but before 8pm on Thursday they offer appys for half price.
Flavours ordered: We ordered six flavours in total but I’ll comment here on the sambal-chili, smoked salt and ginger BBQ.
Meatiness: These were really meaty wings!
Juicyness: The wings and drumettes were really moist. They weren’t dry at all. So tender!
Sambal-Chili: This flavor lacked kick and didn’t have the bold punch of flavor I was hoping for. There wasn’t any prominent flavor here just a mild chili taste but otherwise quite bland.
Smoked Salt: These wings were amazing and one of my favorites solely because the meat was so juicy and tender and the coating was perfectly crispy. One of my friend’s didn’t enjoy it as much but I’ll admit I’m a sucker for that crunch. The smoked salt flavor was subtle but well balanced because any more salt and it would have been over seasoned.
Ginger BBQ: This flavor was the favorite amongst us all. The sauce was sweet yet tangy and the kick from the ginger was subtle yet noticeable. The sauce was just a bit too much on the sweet side for me but regardless very tasty. These wings were also well coated without drowning in sauce.
Overall: The wings here are amongst the best in Victoria. The meat was really tender and moist and the light breading meant they were crispy whether dry or sauced. Some of the wing flavors are a little untraditional such as curry coated and sriracha-feta which is a welcomed change. I should take a moment though to say how much we loved the sriracha-feta wings. They were so tangy with just the right amount of heat and the big chunks of feta definitely won me over. Anyways overall great wings and for half price on Thursdays they’re a really great deal. Good job Smiths!