Most of us who work in the food blogging world have a few embarrassing blind spots (taste bud blind spots?) when it comes to certain types of cuisines or dishes. It could be that there simply hasn't been enough time to check out a new restaurant, an all-too-common occurrence in the expansive melting pot that is Los Angeles. But sometimes the reason is that, no matter how hard you've tried and however many chances you've given a certain dish, it just doesn't agree with your own palate. Nature vs. nurture is a good debate to have regarding the origins of such flavor hate, but it's also kind of besides the point -- sometimes you just don't like eating certain foods.
This is me and hot wings.
For whatever reason, while I enjoy chicken of all sorts and types, the spicy vinegary flavor of hot wings disagrees with my tongue. I'm not proud of this, but it is the reality of my life. But even so, even with my own lack of love for the ubiquitous sports bar delicacy, when this news regarding the McDonald's entry into the hot wing market drifted past my Google Reader feed, I felt upset. Surely whatever sludge the golden arches are going to coerce into the mouths of the masses is not going to be considered "worthwhile." While the fast food giant has only, thus far, unpacked their special spicy sauce in the Atlanta and Chicago markets, if they perform well there they'll eventually find their way out to the west coast. And before that terrifying reality sets in, I enlisted the help of a handful of hot wing aficionados to assist in a ranking of the best hot wings in the L.A. area.
While you might consider "hot wings" to be an American sports bar specialty, some of the best wings are found neither in American establishments nor places that broadcast the big game. For example, there's high-class Japanese joint Sakura House down in Marina Del Rey, which offers wings in BBQ and spicy varieties.
13362 W Washington Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90066
Ye Rustic Inn
More in the "traditional" hot wing category is the Ye Rustic, the best dive in Los Feliz. Their self-described "world famous buffalo wings" come in three reasonably-priced varieties: six pieces for six bucks, a dozen for $9.50, and the whopper of an 18-piece for $14. With each serving you get the traditional carrot and celery sticks to cool down your fiery mouth, along with blue cheese and ranch dipping sauces. Throw a few cheap pitchers of beer on top, and have yourself a night!
1831 Hillhurst Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90027
While Big Wangs gets ridiculed for their sexually suggestive name, it's impossible to argue with their wing selection. Not only do they have nine different sauces that customers can choose to have their wings tossed around in, including some exotic flavors like Rochester and Chipotle BBQ, they also have a boneless version for those who find it nauseating to tongue through the various bits and bones.
Want to know how greatly loved the wings are at this Koreatown standard? Simply take a gander at the heaping helping of wing shots from happy customers at their Yelp page. Judging merely on the photos, the consensus is that the soy garlic wings are the way to go.
3833 West 6th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90020
Hot Wings Cafe
A little behind-the-scenes action on this pick: Last November, for my first assignment for KCET, I emailed comedian Jimmy Pardo to see if he'd be up for an interview at one of his favorite L.A.-based eateries. Much to my chagrin, he chose Hot Wings Cafe. As such, it was really one of the only times I was forced eat hot wings. And, you know what? They were actually pretty great despite my predisposition against them. "A wing that won over a wing-hater." You're welcome, Hot Wings Cafe, for your new slogan.
7011 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038