The road to Atlanta is paved with wing bones.
Let’s face it…we are the wing capital of the world (eat your heart out, Buffalo).
Whether someone’s a townie or a suburbanite, they don’t just have a favorite wing spot, they have a list.
Our fine city has an embarrassment of riches of top-tier wing joints, so plenty of other restaurants have risen to the occasion with their own takes on the chicken wing.
Here are six restaurants you wouldn’t typically associate with slinging killer wings who (as the kids say) fully understand the assignment.
This Vietnamese spot on Buford Highway has no shortage of phenomenally flavorful dishes to choose from. With so many authentic and delicious options, wings could have easily been an afterthought but Nam Phuong decided to make theirs soar. After they fry them, they get some oil piping hot in a wok then add onions, shallots, dried chili flakes, black pepper, and fish sauce and let them cook so all the flavors can get to know each other. Then the wings are added in so the sauce will stick right to them.
These wings are about as crispy as it gets. The fish sauce brings a major savory umami flavor that might take a bite or two for you to get used to, but once you’re locked in, you’ll be addicted. The onions and shallots add so much depth to this dish and if you eat them, we’ll count it as your veggies for the day. Note that the wing tip is still attached to the flats so either ignore them or be prepared to put in a little extra work to earn your spot in the clean plate club.
You’re probably thinking, “Rumi’s has wings?!” I had the same reaction. Sandy Springs’s go-to Persian place is known for bringing the meats like lamb and salmon, so if they’re showing up to the chicken wing party, you know they aren’t messing around. These wings are grilled with a spicy lemon saffron rub and served with a side of guajillo pepper hot sauce.
The saffron and citrus emulate the classic Rumi’s flavor profile and the char from the grill accentuates those flavors. The hot sauce has a fruity sweetness with a lingering heat that kicks in as the flavors settle. It’s a perfect complement to the creamy and salty jalapeño feta dipping sauce.
As a side note: I love when wings come with the sauces on the side. You have full control over each bite: toss the full wing, dunk each bite in something different, pour the sauces on top…you become your very own assembly line as you choose your own adventure.
Nina and Rafi is a Beltline staple. While you can count on them for crunchy and oozy arancini, fresh caprese, and, of course, iconic pizzas, one of the stars of their menu is the Roasted Wings, Rafi Style. They’re roasted in their own juices, which most Jewish people (myself included) will tell you is schmaltz AKA chicken fat AKA the most delicious substance in existence.
And what is Rafi Style, you ask? It means they’re cooked with onions and cherry peppers, adding extra oomph to each bite and potentially stealing the show from the pizza. The only thing that can make schmaltzy chicken wings better is schmaltzy onions and cherry peppers on top.
Sean Brock’s Mexican restaurant is already one of the best restaurants in Ponce City Market. When most people go, they opt for the creative tacos or the indulgent queso fundido, but they’re missing out on some can’t-miss wings. Minero’s wings are brined, given a mojo rub (including ancho chili and cinnamon), grilled over charcoal until crisp and juicy, and then tossed in Valentina hot sauce.
These are tangy and citrusy, with a unique sweetness from the cinnamon that works surprisingly well. The Valentina provides the perfect level of heat, making my mouth tingle without making me uncomfortable. (PSA: if you haven’t had Valentina before, pick it up from the grocery store right now. It’s simply one of the best hot sauces in the game and goes perfectly with Mexican food, eggs, or anything really).
From Richard Tang, owner of Inman Park favorite Char, comes Girl Diver, a Reynoldstown spot serving a modern seafood-heavy take on Pan-Asian Cuisine. This is a restaurant equally comfortable slinging Thai Basil Beef Wraps and Hong Kong Lobster Bisque. Fortunately, they’re also comfortable whipping up wings.
Their Fish Sauce Caramel Chicken Wings are fried and served with crispy garlic, shallots, chili flake, cilantro, and nuoc cham (a Vietnamese sauce that’s somehow simultaneously sweet, spicy, salty, bitter, and with packed with umami). These wings are a perfect level of crispiness yet retain a remarkable juiciness. They’re similar in texture to the plain wings you’d get at an Americanized Chinese restaurant though with exponentially more flavor. No dipping sauce is necessary with bites this tasty. Whether you’re getting these as a shared app or hogging the whole plate to yourself, this is a people-pleasing dish.
From the folks who brought you the Indian restaurant Bhojanic, Tandoori Pizza and Wing Co redefines this style of cuisine with exciting pizzas and, you guessed it, wings! This is one of the best restaurants at the massively impressive Politan Row food hall at Colony Square. Their signature Tandoori Wings are marinated for 48 hours in an Indian-spiced yogurt, which tenderizes the chicken and makes it unreasonably juicy.
The mango chili wings are mopped with the killer sauce, which is sweet in a marmalade kind of way, and topped with sesame seeds and cilantro to hit you with even more flavor. This has the classic Indian kick while tasting unique enough to supersede any specific genre (which is to be expected from a joint doing Indian pizza and wings). I got a side of their raita ranch, which was simply divine and paired perfectly with the mango chili flavor.