The Guilty Pleasure: Mighty Wings Where to Find It: McDonald's; limited availability now, soon available everywhere Price: About a buck per piece. What it Really Costs: For most of metro Phoenix, time.
For a few weeks (possibly months) now, I've heard that McDonald's has a new product on the way: Mighty Wings. They're an odd duck (well, chicken) for McDonald's, which popularized the chicken nugget, and (except for a brief period in the late 1960s) has always served only boneless chicken.
The Mighty Wings' nationwide rollout was supposed to be September 9th. I beat feet down to my local Golden Arches on Monday, and... business as usual, no Mighty Wings. Blast.
But wait. This story has a happy ending.
I went around to other locations all over CenPho. Still nothing. I checked around online to figure out what the hell was going on, and found that apparently the full nationwide rollout has been pushed back a couple of weeks, possibly to the 24th.
Later that evening, fortune smiled upon me. I was on some errands in north Phoenix. As I reached 19th Avenue and Bell, I glanced at the McDonald's on the corner. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a sign in the window for the elusive Mighty Wings. They're here after all! At least, they're at that one location in town. Never mind that I'd just had dinner; I had room for these.
The wings come un-sauced; the same array of dipping sauces available for the Chicken McNuggets are also available for Mighty Wings. Spicy Buffalo sauce was a natural accoutrement. I also tried them with Creamy Ranch. I know that for some people, putting ranch dressing on wings is tantamount to heresy, but McDonald's doesn't have blue cheese dressing. Deal with it.
In standard McDonald's fashion, I got my wings in a matter of moments. My first bite was, as one would expect of McDonald's, unremarkable. There's supposed to be cayenne and chili powder in the breading, but it wasn't evident at first. Maybe a timid Midwestern palate would find it on the spicy side.
Dipping a wing in either sauce made the wing seem less like a standard chicken wing (quite a feat considering one sauce was Spicy Buffalo), and more like an extra-crispy Chicken McNugget made out of unprocessed, bone-in chicken. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, mind you. It just didn't say "wings" to me. I suppose I could pour sauce over the wings and then gently shake the box, but that seems unnecessarily messy.
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For Buffalo wing purists, these won't hit the spot. It's that darn breading. An authentic Buffalo wing is fried naked, no breading at all. The few philistines who serve breaded wings (Hooters, I'm looking at you) still use a light hand with breading, usually a simple seasoned flour dredge. The Mighty Wings have enough coating that wings, and more like standard fried chicken.
My mention of fried chicken is telling. If you look at the Mighty Wings as fried chicken rather than wings, they're very mighty indeed. The breading is lightly crunchy without being greasy. The breading is seasoned just right, leaving a faint residual chili pepper glow after a couple of pieces. For chicken part selection, McDonald's was wise to just use wings. Breast meat gets dry and chalky quick, but the wings' rich dark meat holds up very nicely in a warming tray.
Your favorite sports bar isn't in any danger from Mighty Wings, but quick-service chicken joints have every reason to be nervous. I'm going to go out on a limb here, and say that the new Mighty Wings are some of the best fried chicken in the fast food industry. They easily beat the tar out of KFC, and just might compete with one of my favorite guilty pleasure places, Popeye's. Perhaps a side-by-side comparison is in order soon.