We love them fried; we love them baked. They make our mouths tingle with tangy Buffalo sauce, and they delight with sticky sweet Asian-style barbecue glaze. However they're served, there is one certainty when discussing chicken wings: Everyone has their favorite.
For this week's Thursday Throwdown, we sampled the chicken wing wares of the Shaved Duck (2900 Virginia Avenue; 314-776-1407) and Wildsmoke (12316 Olive Boulevard, Creve Coeur; 314-548-2222) for a smoked-wings edition. Which of these barbecue titans will be the champion?
The Shaved Duck
This Tower Grove East smokehouse is a favorite among local barbecue connoisseurs looking for a more refined experience. The cozy restaurant smokes its wings with sweet fruit wood that imparts notes of cherry on the meat. The exterior is coated with a traditional barbecue rub that gives the wings a gentle spice while letting the chicken's flavor shine through. As a bonus, the Shaved Duck serves its wings with a side of sweet and spicy mango-ginger-habanero sauce. The tropical flavors enhance the meat's sweetness without taking over, and they leave the palate tingling from the peppery heat.
Andy Kohn opened his west-county smokehouse because he got sick of driving into the city for respectable barbecue. His goal was to bring the flavors from the city's big barbecue joints a little closer to home, but in the process, he brought to the whole of St. Louis some serious chicken wings. That was the consensus of the judges at the 2013 St. Louis Wing Ding -- WildSmoke's entry took top honors. The key to these little beauties is a triple rub: The wings are dry-rubbed, smoked, dry-rubbed again, fried and finished with a final coating. The tasting notes are brown sugar and Worcestershire with just hint of spice.
The Winner: WildSmoke
The Shaved Duck's smoked wings put up a difficult fight with their sweet meat and complex sweet and spicy sauce. However, WildSmoke's brown-sugary sweet and savory glaze caramelizes on the wings, making sauce unnecessary. The result is pure wing enjoyment.