It was a nation-defining moment on par with Washington crossing the Delaware, and I imagine it happening with Aaron Copland’s majestic “Fanfare for the Common Man” playing in the background. I’m talking about the late night in Buffalo, New York, during the early ’60s when the patriotic and fearless — and perfectly named — Teressa Bellissimo first dunked fried chicken wings into buttery hot sauce.
You think I’m exaggerating? Over the last couple of weeks, especially while doing, uh, “research” for the hoops and food story (see the Snacketology story this week), I realized chicken wings are a much beloved cornerstone of the American diet. I also realized there are some remarkable wings to be eaten in Columbus — some of which swooped into my basketball story, and others I’ve recently reported on (like the great creole wings from Creole Kitchen, which I raved about last week). Here are a few more favorites.
O’Reilly’s “Scott’s Style”
2822 N. High St., Clintonville
“These are making my eyeballs sweat,” said a friend of mine. “Actually I think those are tears,” I stammered back, touching my lips to see if they’d really burst into flames.
We were experiencing a sort of gallows humor giddiness from extreme sensations of delicious pleasure and capsaicin sting delivered by these unique wings. Crunchy, breaded and meaty, they were drenched in a devil red sauce with deep flavors of fruity habaneros sliced through by shocks of heat and vinegar.
When I asked the smiling barkeep what else was in that wild sauce, he chuckled, “Oh, just a lot of love — and nine kinds of peppers.”
Mad Mex, Southwest Wild
1542 N. High St., South Campus
Not only does Mad Mex have the best selection of beers, tequilas and margaritas on the Ohio State campus, but it also serves these tongue-tingling wings. With an aroma recalling a chili verde, these distinct flappers lead with a juicy blast of lime followed by an unusual but welcome cilantro brightness. Also in the mix are garlic and just enough pepper and chili to ignite a pleasant spark. Tying everything together is an olive-oil base which makes these taste less heavy than other specimens in butter-bound sauces. Bonus: The accompanying tangy blue cheese dip is peach-tinted from a dash of vivifying hot sauce.
Latitude 41, Wedge & Wings and Korean Wings
50 N. 3rd St., Downtown
Leave it to witty and creative Latitude 41 to take a sloppy barroom favorite and dress it up into something with elevating, cheffy touches. The restaurant’s regular Buffalo-sauced wings stand out because: 1) Given a confit treatment, the crispy meat releases from the bone with uncommon ease; and 2) The blue cheese component arrives in the guise of an excellent wedge salad.
At least as good are Latitude’s killer Korean Wings. Slathered in a thick, sweet and spicy chili paste, they’re placed atop a bed of gingery, relatively unfunky and housemade kimchee with a fun kick all its own.
Bodega, Spicy Jerk Chicken Wings
1044 N. High St., Short North
The first thing you notice about Bodega’s bodacious wings is they’re enormous. Served whole, unbreaded and expertly crusted, they’re dusted with a clovey and allspice-y seasoning mix and daubed with a chutney-like jerk sauce. Sweet complementing tropical partners arrive in the form of grilled pineapple. Polishing off these beauties is like cruising on a mini-Caribbean holiday.