Location: 1340 W. Washington Blvd.
Cost: $24 admission
I've always considered buffalo wings to be one of my favorite foods. So you can imagine how excited I got when I was invited to cover Wing Fest 2011.
In a large field house down the road from the United Center, 19 of the area's best wing spots set up shop to compete among hordes of gluttonous fans. People showed up with personal Tupperware and rolls of paper towels. For those who couldn't waste a hand on napkins it was a popular move to just wear a white t-shirt for wiping.
Basically you go from booth to booth and grab as many wings as you can eat. They have entertainment throughout the afternoon with a band and wing eating competition. Then the wings are judged in the categories of Hot, Mild, BBQ, and Exotic. Finally a best of festival is named.
My goal here is to give you a nice overall rundown of each place and their wings. Still I don't want this post to go on forever (which it easily could with the amount of wing spots). So I'll keep it to a few main points with each place.
Sporting a Chinese Salt and Pepper (exotic) wing and a Sriracha (hot) wing, Goose island kept by it's creative guns. They didn't come away with any awards this year, but those Sriracha wings had a controlled heat that didn't overshadow a great flavor.
These hot wings packed a punch and had an interesting breading to separate them from the rest. They came in as second runner up in the hot category. I could've eaten these all day, but I had a ton more to go.
This River West pub was cranking out their own mole sauce for an exotic wing that reminded me of something you might get in Pilsen.
South Loop Club
Traditional was they way to go with this hot wing.
Jersey's Pizza and Grill
These guys schleped all the way from Hoffman Estates and really shook things up in the exotic category with their Coca Cola Wing.
Ooga Booga Bar-Ba-Q
The only time I'd been to Lockport was for a high school baseball game, but I'll head back for these wings. With a strong backing by the hungry hound I was anxious to try their BBQ wings with a heavy breading.
I've been here a ton of times since it's right next to school, but I had no idea the wings were so solid. They even have a whole table of trophies to prove it. With a Curried Apricot Wing (exotic) they kept things pretty interesting.
Wild Goose Bar
My favorite of theirs was the Chipotle BBQ wing, but they ended up winning the Mild category. Heavy on the savory sauce quickly won me over with these guys.
These guys meant business with their wings. The had a Smokey wing featuring jalapenos and a Fiery wing with a ghost chili. It had a real kick to it (that I thought I could handle) and then really crept up on me with a spicy aftertaste.
Jake Melnick's Corner Tap
Last year's winner pulled it off again by winning the exotic, hot, and best in festival categories. They were the only ones to submit a grilled wing and it hit with an unmatched smokiness.
Off Broadway Pub
This Brookfield wing joint won me over with a delicious Honey BBQ wing that actually left honey all over my hands (in a good way). They also ended up placing in the mild category.
Gators Wing Shack
I was waiting for someone to have an overly large wing, and Gators brought it. I couldn't get over the garlic wing. They ended up in second for both the exotic and mild category.
Crosstown Pub and Grill
They picked up third place in the exotic category with the Raspberry flavoring on their wings. At this point I was getting pretty full, and it was nice to get some out there variety.
These guys had a solid BBQ sauce that wasn't too thoroughly battered on. Subtle but proper flavors gave them third in that category.
Wings Around the World
The name tells you what categories they were trying for. I absolutely loved the Guava Jerky Wing. You may have to trek a bit south, but it's worth it.
There was no backing down from this thick and smokey BBQ sauce which is why these guys came away with the top ranking in the category.
Buffalo Wings and Rings
These were the only hot wings to give me the hiccups which means they really brought it. They ended up second in the hot category.
With a smoke then fry preparation, Total Sports had a whole different texture to their wings. With a great sauce on top, they came away with second place in the BBQ category.
Lockdown Bar and Grill
I wouldn't normally affiliate wings with the Ukranian Village, but these guys know what they're doing. When I thought I couldn't eat one more wing, they gave me a Teriyaki style wing that let me go on a sweet note.
If you think you love wings then you best put up or shut up. Wingfest 2011 has passed, but next year's right around the corner. Grab a shirt you don't mind ruining, a monstrous bucket, some loose fitting pants, and start fasting right about now. Then maybe, just maybe, you'll be ready.