It's always a good time to eat chicken wings, but there's something about the onset of fall and the kickoff of football season that has us hungering for this messy, delicious and versatile finger food.
Metro Denver has many options for wings, in styles ranging from classic Buffalo to garlic Parmesan to Korean. The way each place preps its chicken matters: Some smoke the wings, others fry them, still others bake them, and a few do all three before tossing in flavoring. And then come the sauces...
Where do the best wings in Denver land? We flew into the task of trying as many as possible to make the determination, skipping the spots that only occasionally offer specials. Even so, it was tough to narrow down our favorites to ten, but we managed — focusing on those with juicy meat on the bone, a pleasing crispness outside and great flavor all the way through.
Here are the ten best we sampled, listed in alphabetical order:
501 East 17th Avenue
Tiger Wings from Ace Eat Serve.
Inside Ace Eat Serve, chef Thach Tran created Wing Alley
as a takeout-only spot open Wednesday through Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Of all the great offerings from this concept, our favorite is the Tiger Wings, which are glazed in an Asian-style sweet and salty lemongrass chili sauce. The Tiger Wings have been around for years, and are available on both the Wing Alley and Ace menus. Wing Alley also serves flavors such as Asian buffalo, Korean-style Angry Chicken, and Lucky Dragon, which is made with bang-bang sweet Thai chili sauce. There are also naked wings and two dry rubs: the Night Owl, with parmesan and lemon garlic pepper; and Foxy Kitsune, with Japanese chili powder and shichimi togarashi spice blend. All of the wings are fried and crispy. Eight pieces run $16, sixteen pieces are $31, and a pack of 24 costs $46. Visit the restaurant on Wednesdays to get four wings for $5 plus whiskey specials all night.
1200 West 38th Avenue
Brined, smoked, baked, ten grilled wings from Crush Pizza & Tap.
Yes, owner Jason McGovern knows his pizza, but he also knows how to make a killer wing. In fact, he's opening a wing-focused spot called Crush Wings + Tap soon in the former home of The Elm on Colfax. McGovern's wings are brined and smoked before being baked and finished on the grilled. The result is meat that's super flavorful and juicy on its own, but with a crispy outside that lends a pleasing bite and works as a catalyst for holding one of the many sauces or dry rubs available. Our favorite sauces have a sweet heat thanks to the sriracha mixed in with either honey or maple syrup. There are other options, too, including the super spicy crush bomb, sweet-and-sour habanero, classic Buffalo and dry rubs like Nashville hot, sweet heat and lemon pepper. Get these wings in bundles of five, nine, twelve and sixteen, starting at $8.50.
5160 West 120th Avenue, Westminster
Simple Buffalo wings from GQue Championship BBQ in Westminster.
8433 Park Meadows Center Drive, Lone Tree
Getting a solid Buffalo-style wing is sometimes all one needs to curb the craving, and the meaty, buttery and smoky wings at this barbecue joint with locations in Westminster, Lone Tree and at Mile High Stadium hit all the right notes. In fact, the wings at owner and barbecue master Jason Ganahl's place were Westword
's pick for best wings in 2019, and the dish still stands up two years later. Each batch of wings gets slow-smoked over hickory logs before being flash-fried to order, resulting in juicy chicken and crispy skin, even when it's coated in rich and spicy Buffalo sauce. You can also opt for a dry rub or whatever special wing flavor the eatery is dishing out that day. Order five wings for $6.99 or ten for $12.49.
7741 West 44th Avenue, Wheat Ridge
These wings from King of Wings are pretty perfect.
Editor's note: King of Wings is temporarily closed following a kitchen fire in late December 2021.
With a legion of fans across metro Denver, this spot truly lives up to its name. After five years of operating the business as a food truck, owners Eddie Renshaw and Evan Pierce launched King of Wings in Wheat Ridge in March 2020, right at the start of the pandemic and just after indoor dining was shut down. Still, Renshaw told us, the place did great takeout business, and there weren't any problems keeping the pub going. That's good for us, because now you can go to the small spot for slow-cooked, grilled wings, a pint of craft beer and a stack of extra napkins. Try flavors such as Thai BBQ, bourbon Buffalo, dry rub, extra hot and more. Wings start at six for $11 and go all the way up to 100 for $130.
1550 Blake Street
Mono Mono specializes in Korean fried chicken.
3014 East Colfax Avenue
When Mono Mono arrived on Denver's Korean fried chicken scene earlier this year, its name brought to mind the whimsical joint founded in New York City by M.J. Chung. Turns out our Mono Mono was inspired by that spot and brought to fruition locally by restaurateur JW Lee, who also owns Seoul Korean BBQ, Sushi & Hot Pot, Seoul ManDoo and Thank Sool Pocha. Chung even consulted on the project to help Lee serve the same quality Korean-style chicken wings. Dubbed KFC (Korean fried chicken), this type of wing is so popular right now that Lee just opened a second location near City Park (the original is in LoDo). While the NYC and Denver spaces differ widely from each other in appearance, the double-fried, crisp chicken wings do not. Each bite offers a sweet and/or spicy crunch that's all at once rich and airy. The wing size may be small, but the chicken inside the delectable shell is meaty and juicy, making it almost too easy to down a plate of six — or twenty — pieces, which range in price from $11 to $33.
2251 South Parker Road
The Piper Inn's Chinese-style wings pair well with a cold beer.
For over fifty years, this family-run joint currently owned by Jed Levin has been a hot ticket on best-wings lists, and we decided it's time to highlight the Chinese-style chicken dish again. For those who've never heard of Chinese wings, don't worry: The only real difference is in the sauce the wings are tossed in and the fact that the chicken is fried in a wok rather than a deep fryer. While the chicken wings are a decent size, with plenty of tantalizing meat on the bone, the blend of soy sauce and a secret Chinese spice mix gives them a unique flavor that will make you wish you'd ordered a plate of twenty instead of ten. In fact, you can request up to 100 wings for $129.50. A dish of ten runs $14.25, twenty go for $26.75, and fifty wings cost $65.50. There are two other flavors, as well: Buffalo and garlic dry rub.
2501 Dallas Street, Aurora
Karaage-style wings from Qi-Lin were light and satisfying.
Not every wing needs a complex sauce to make it sing. Exhibit A: the basil karaage wings at this Stanley Marketplace eatery and ramen shop. The very simple chicken option has no sauce — just spicy mayo on the side and a handful of fried whole basil leaves scattered about the plate. The main flavor of the meaty but light, crispy wings comes from marinating them in soy sauce, ginger, garlic and sake before they're deep-fried with a light dusting of potato starch. Get an order of six for $8.95, straight off the appetizer menu.
3330 Brighton Boulevard
Even to-go, the wings from Smok hold up in texture and flavor.
The wings at chef/owner Bill Espiricueta's barbecue joint inside the Source only come one way — a good sign that he's perfected his wing technique. Like most of the other foods Espiricueta serves, the chicken is smoked. Not only do diners get a taste of wood-charred nuances in each large and meaty wing, but there's also the wonderfully tangy and spicy sauce they're tossed in. Before getting a coating of that finger-licking sauce, the wings are flash-fried to seal in the juices, adding a pleasing crunch to the skin. Each order consists of one pound of chicken wings for $14, with your choice of blue cheese or ranch for dipping, along with carrot and celery sticks.
15473 East Hampden Avenue, Aurora
Get saucy at Wing Hut.
This small family-owned spot has been specializing in wings for two decades, and the experience shows. The wings are on the smaller side, but with tender meat, a nice, crisp bite and a whopping 46 killer sauce and dry-rub options, size really doesn't matter here. Not sure where to start? The garlic parmesan is a customer favorite, while the hot honey mustard offers a sweet and tangy experience with a kick. Orders are placed at the counter, and you can go half and half on flavors when getting wings by the pound ($13.50 for eight to ten wings) — an essential move if you're going for variety. Wing Hut also has a lineup of Cajun items, too, including po'boys, gumbo and fried okra, but our favorite wing side is the classic curly fries.
7530 South University Boulevard, Littleton
The wings from Wing Wok are double fried.
Don't be surprised if Wing Wok starts popping up all over the city: It opened in July, and already the takeout joint from James Park, the former CEO of Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh, is busy. It's easy to see why, too. Park and co-owners Brian Gunning and Zach Frisch have created a way to serve the double-fried Korean-inspired wings a lot quicker than the usual twenty minutes it takes to get them when ordering at a sit-down restaurant. The way they get these small but meaty Red Bird Chicken wings out so fast is by frying them once before they're ordered, then frying them again after someone requests them. The final fry happens in a wok, where the wings not only crisp up more, but are tossed with whatever sauce is desired, be it tangy citrus, soy garlic or gochujang. The wings can also be served naked or with a Korean Buffalo dry rub. The light and crispy wings come in packs of ten, twenty or thirty, starting at $13.95, and each order includes a side like cuke-kimchi, white pickled radish or Seoul-slaw. As a bonus, all the wings are gluten-free.