We’ll defend it to the snootiest gourmets: Buffalo chicken wings are a perfectly balanced bite. In the best-case versions of this addictive bar snack, the wings’ gooey skins are rendered crisp, while their richness is balanced by a vinegary, chili-based coating. Meanwhile, the chili’s heat is tamed by a cooling, tangy dip, whose palate-coating dairy is cleansed by the watery snap of celery sticks. It’s a perfectly composed dish, pinging around the palate in an endless cycle of refreshing sensations: lush and watery, crisp and gooey, warm and cool, piquant and creamy. It’s no wonder wings are served by the dozen. And it only gets better, folks…chicken wings usually come with pitchers of beer and wall-to-wall TVs.
In honor of Super Bowl XLIII, we decided to take one for the team: we sampled Westchester’s finest wings. Here’s what we found.
Rte 22, Purdys (914) 277-4424
THIS FUNKY, CASH-ONLY PULL-OFF on winding Route 22 is all about its massive, spherical burgers, which shoot arm-drenching juice as soon as you venture a bite. Yet this family- and drinker-friendly spot also slings some mean fried food, including weighty, hand-cut French fries, battered whole onions, and plates of Tabasco-heavy wings, whose celery might be a little curled and rusty, but whose dip delivers a cheesy punch. Best of all, the prices at the Blazer promote lingering through the game—you can get pints of Coors Light for $3.50, or a locally made microbrew, Captain Lawrence Pale Ale, for just $5.25 a pint.
519 Central Ave, Scarsdale (914) 472-9706
THIS little bAR IS A Westchester wings icon; a bit of still-operational history in a tiny, oddly shaped bolt-hole located on Central Avenue. With Carvel’s nearby original building gone, ’50s-era joints like the Candlelight feel endangered. Elbow your way through evergreen crops of young families and college kids, and you’ll find yourself in a time warp: there are the Candlelight’s original regulars, still holding up the tiny, worn bar.
While TVs are visible from almost every seat in the house, the Candlelight is no sports bar. It’s a down-and-dirty professional drinking establishment whose menu is all about cheap fried food. Look for tasty six- and 10-ounce cheeseburgers, waffle fries served under gobs of melted cheese, and masses of chicken wings tossed in oily, lightly vinegary pools of mild, hot, extra-hot, and “Chernobyl” sauce. (FYI—the Chernobyl-intensity wings are rarely ordered: they’re reputed to cause severe and lasting digestive damage.) Whichever level of heat you dare, be prepared for a wait for a table and expect to pay in cash—the Candlelight doesn’t accept credit cards. And while delivery is a new amenity at the Candlelight Inn, this funky, ramshackle joint is all about its iconic, biker-esque ambiance. It’s jammed from the moment it opens in the morning until 4 am, though last call for the kitchen is at a prim 3 am.
1 High St, Dobbs Ferry (914) 693-4130
ON PAPER, HALF MOON MIGHT BE the fanciest venue in our list, since it features honest-to-God tablecloths and ex-Le Bernardin staffers (including its Corporate Executive Chef, Executive Chef, and GM). Yet to slap Half Moon with the slur “fancy” would be discounting its real charm: just like the rest of the restaurants in this round-up, Half Moon is a casual, family- and group-friendly spot with a reasonably priced menu. Better still, it’s all offered with stunning river views that—in summer—include outdoor decks where you can practically dip your toes in the water. For our money, there’s no better summer evening than one spent with iced buckets of “nips” (seven ounce bottles of beer) and a basket of Half Moon’s five spiced chicken wings.
Totally un-gooey, these crisp bites are coated with aromatic Chinese five-spice powder—a haunting mix of cinnamon, ginger, star anise, cloves and mouth-numbing Sichuan peppercorns. Crunchy where others are gloppy, and aromatic where others are sour, Half Moon’s wings strike the right salty, spicy note to have you ordering another bottle—just to make it to the end of the quarter, you understand.
Lazy Boy Saloon
54 Mamaroneck Ave, White Plains (914) 761-0272
WITH 500 WORLD-SPANNING brews, and an intriguing, ever-changing roster of 26 beers on tap, the Lazy Boy Saloon is where beer snobs unite: it’s a brass-railed temple to suds. Great, but when did that ever bode well for food? It turns out that the Lazy Boy serves up some of the tastiest wings in Westchester, which are available in nine very distinct flavors: traditional Buffalo, sweet bourbon Buffalo, Thai-spiced peanut, tequila citrus, honey barbecue, Caribbean jerk, BBQ mesquite sesame, garlic Parmesan, and teriyaki. Our favorite, Lazy Boy’s sweet bourbon Buffalo wings, have a paper-thin skin that’s rendered almost candy-like with a tangy, sweet and sour glaze. It’s an addictive treatment for wings, reminiscent of gooey-sweet, finger-lickin’ Kansas City ribs or a best-case version of Americanized Chinese food (like salty-sweet Kung Pao chicken or twice-fried and sugary beef with orange flavor). So maybe Lazy Boy’s wings are a guilty pleasure, and you might have to squint to see the game on smallish flat screens. We don’t mind, especially after a pint or two.
Q Restaurant & Bar
112 N Main St, Port Chester (914) 933-7427
487 E Main St, Mount Kisco (914) 241-7427
WESTCHESTER’S PREMIER barbecue joint offers a leaner, smokier take on Buffalo wings. Instead of deep-frying its chicken wings (like the others in this round-up), Q spins theirs around a garage-sized smoker. Plus, Q uses the biggest, meatiest, triple X-Large wings available. Seriously, you wouldn’t like to meet the hulking creature that yielded these massive wings—these things are like boomerangs.
Yet despite their pterodactyl-like size and an absence of greasy, deep-fried unctuousness, Q’s smoked chicken wings draw fans with their sweetly tangy sauce and the haunting whiff of wood smoke. Plus, with a greater meat-to-skin ratio, Q’s wings are all about meat. In fact, they’re a reasonably healthy alternative to traditional fried Buffalo wings…until you opt for a diet-killing dunk into Q’s delicious, richly blue-cheesy dip. On that note, we won’t even mention Q’s dreamy pulled pork sandwiches (that come with two carb-heaven sides), or the fat wedges of pastel-iced layer cakes from Q’s sister business, the Kneaded Bread. You’re on your own trying to resist those.
2136 Boston Post Rd, Larchmont (914) 833-3317
THIS STANDBY IS like Larchmont’s Great Leveler: absolutely everyone eats at Sherwood’s. Some go for the cozy, ageless bar scene, while others go for Sherwood’s casual family-friendly menu. In a world of TGIF’s and Applebee’s, Sherwood’s stands out as a warm, independently owned alternative. It’s exactly the sort of place that inspired all those franchises.
Sherwood’s hopping bar leads to a roomy, darkly paneled dining area where a mixed crowd tucks into big (15 wing) bowls of super-traditional Buffalo wings. Striking the right balance between vinegary tartness and red-chili heat, these saucy wings are contrasted by a tangy, deeply blue-cheesy dip. And while there’s no TV visible in the rear dining room (a plus for customers who prefer to dine while making eye contact), you can always take your wings in the barroom—either in pew-like wooden booths, or right at the bar under the seductive blue glow of The Game.
Julia Sexton is a Westchester-based food writer and an avid wing fan who feels that the best complement to a big bowl of Buffalo wings is a Grant Achatz/Alinea-style scent pairing; diners should eat the wings while sniffing a freshly unfolded Wet-Nap.