Recently, when offering to bring my parents some takeout, I suggested the usual for myself — chicken wings. Sure, mom says, but we don’t like a lot of sauce. We prefer dry rub-style wings, I’m informed of my parents’ palates. Suddenly, I realized I too was moving in that direction. I, who has pushed saucy wings on this town for years, might prefer a crisper, drier, saltier wing. Immediately, several incredible orders of dry rub wings from Phoenix-area restaurants and drinking dens came to mind — and here they are.
ATL Style WingsATL Wings
A must-mention on any wing list in this berg — ATL Wings. And specifically, ATL Style wings. These hefty, oil-slick wings are tossed in a colorful array of herbs and spices, and the dryness gives the skin’s edges a fried-like crispness. Though the chicken meat itself is juicy, good, you can’t wait to start on the next wing. This takeout-friendly wing joint also offers a Spicy ATL dry rub, as well as ranch, garlic Parmesan, garlic pepper, and lemon pepper rubs.
Chicken Drumsticks ConfitArizona Wilderness Brewing Co.
Downtown beer garden or original Gilbert location, one thing is consistent — the Chicken Drumsticks Confit. Beer, burgers, sure, sure, but this order of “shareable” chicken drumettes is a gem. There are five frenched (meaning the bone is exposed on the end for a lollipop style) drums resting under a heavy dusting of house fry rub, and it’s, of course, served with celery and scratch-made sauce for an extra buck. And why are these drums confit style? It says right on the menu. It’s an old-world technique, and Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. likes to slowly cook the chicken in duck, low and slow, “because it is so decadent.”
Desert Ranch WingsBooty's Wings Burgers & Beer
This small chain of west Valley sports bars knows food. Sure, you can go in for a High Life and a high-volume game, but you’d be remiss to wave away a menu. Especially for one of Booty's Wings Burgers & Beer in-the-name specialties — wings. The Traditional, Bone-In birds here are a good size, with the tough and crispy edges we all hope to see on a bar wing. But the flavor options are many, 13 kinds of rubs alone. And Booty's Blast is enticing, go for the Desert Ranch. It’s like a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos made chewable, especially when dipped in more of the house ranch.
Our Best Wings: Jamaican JerkBoulders On Broadway
530 West Broadway Road
A Tempe neighborhood joint is ever there was one, Boulders is the type of gin joint that knows how to put a menu together. And while this place is known for craft beer and pizza, the wings are not to be overlooked. The Southwestern dry rub and garlic Parmesan are tempting but know the Jamaican Jerk is where it’s at. These airy, crunchy wings come just covered in a heavy herbal dust, so good you’ll be pinching up remnants of it after the chicken is long gone. Just be sneaky in the communal mirror when checking your teeth.
Cajun WingsJupiter Rings Wings & More
4700 North 12th Street, #122
Jason Higgins’ journey to opening Jupiter Rings Wings & More started with sauce but thank goodness it ended with wings and a storefront. The wings here are smallish, so spring for 15 if you normally go for 10 or 12, but their petite size means the selected flavor permeates the whole piece. The Cajun seasoning is a strong and heavy dry rub, way more intense than Tony Chachere's Original Creole Seasoning. You can dip these in ranch or blue cheese but don’t. Let the rub sing loud.
Cajun Monkey WingsMonkey Pants
3223 South Mill Avenue, Tempe
Monkey Wings at Monkey Pants — one of the unsung wing orders in town. This is the ultimate oblong platter of bar food. The ranch is milkshake thick, the celery and carrots cut with care, the leafy garnish dewy and useless. But the wings — a half or full dozen — come plump and piled high. There are no runts, no weird broken pieces. And for a dry rub, the Cajun here is outstanding. All wings can be grilled or blackened — and they are serious about blackened — upon request.
Chicken N' Waffles WingsNative Grill & Wings
We know you have options when ordering some Traditional bone-in wings from Native Grill & Wings, and we thank you for choosing Chicken N' Waffles. These sweet, salty treat-like wings even come with their own slogan — “All the sweet without the stick.” It’s true, this dry rub arrives in the wings like a heavy coat, and the breakfast dish-flavored salt is outstanding. It sounds ridiculous, it is ridiculous, but you won’t be laughing when you get that first whiff of syrup and take that first overly seasoned bite.
Garlic Parmesan Epic WingsEpic Wings
9524 West Camelback Road, Suite C100, Glendale
Though a couple of dozen locations of Epic Wings has been kicking around California since 1982, the west Valley has hosted one location since 2019. This quick-service eatery in Glendale offers standard wings (original Buffalo wings means the bone-in kind) in garlic Parmesan, and honey, they are good. The garlic is not overpowering, while the sprinkled-on and sometimes creamy Parmesan is abundant. And the chicken wings themselves are pretty meaty. Orders here come in six, 12, 24, and 48.
Chili Salt Chicken WingsAsian Café Express
1911 West Main Street, #3, Mesa
The chili salt chicken wings at Asian Café Express are an essential dish in metro Phoenix. That sounds dramatic, but these salty, piping hot wings at this Hong Kong-style eatery really are that good. The drumettes are cooked in canola oil and tossed in green onions, garlic, spices, and chili oil. They arrive extra crispy while the chicken inside remains juicy. A spoon accompanies the arriving dish, designed to dole the plate’s excess green onion, garlic, and spices onto the wing while eating. These won’t arrive with a cup of ranch and a small helping of celery, by the way. These little guys are different.
Tandoori WingsCornish Pasty Co.
The oven-baked chicken tandoori wings from Cornish Pasty Co. are kind of a blackened dry rub offering from this well-loved pub. The darkened edges of each wing are crispy, and meat is fall-off-the-bone tender, and the tandoori flavor features a mild kick and a sneaky sweetness. The six or so wings come with cucumber and tomato slices, and a cup of lemon mint yogurt dip, which goes quick.
Editor's note: This story was originally published on July 29, 2020. It was updated on January 9, 2020.
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