Where To Eat Chicken Wings In LA Right Now
I've been on a search for the best chicken wings since I was a kid. My quest, like most of my stories, begins at Tam's in Lynwood. This fine establishment offers the deal of the millennium — a spicy dinner combo of chicken wings, fries, onion rings, toast and several cups of ranch dressing. Current price: $12.
I first tried Tam's wings as a kid, before a road trip to Mexicali. Maybe it was the discovery of buffalo sauce or the marriage of spicy, vinegary and creamy, but I was captivated. And I had to start rationing my ranch. I wasn't a spicy boy (yet) so the creaminess made the heat from the wings bearable. The phenomenon of being overtaken by spice is one of my earliest food memories. When my ranch supply dried up, we stopped at a marketa and I bought a bottle of Hidden Valley so I could finish my meal.
Although hot wings helped launch my fascination with food, my love for them isn't blinded by nostalgia. It's steeped in an appreciation of their essence — crunchy, juicy, salty, sweet. People tend to write off wings as a sports bar food, what your drunken tio eats when he's watching football. But here in Los Angeles, we see so many styles of wings — classic, buffalo, smoked, grilled, baked, peppery, sweet, tangy, Mexican, Korean, Japanese — all unified at the temple of crispness and infinite flavor combos.
Although the wing debate sometimes revolves around the boneless vs. bone-in issue, I have a proposition: Screw that false dichotomy! Let us put aside our divisions and unite to explore all wings, in all their glory. Yes, that means tenders, too.
Classic Wings… With a Twist
From stellar pies to exceptional wings, everything chef Brandon Gray offers at Brandoni Peperoni has a fine-dining flair. He lollipops the drums so the plump white meat is scooted up, making them easier to eat and nicer to look at. Chef Gray hates flats so he breaks them down and removes that pesky second bone. Every wing can be eaten in one or two bites. This kind of dedication makes Brandoni Pepperoni stand out. "Everything is super thoughtful and with intent," Gray says. I agree. The wings are extra crisp, so much so that after I drove 25 minutes and tossed them in buffalo sauce, they had retained their crunch. Gray uses a light dredge made with his proprietary blend of spices along with Tehachapi Grain Project flour, potato starch and cornstarch, to achieve that mind-shattering crunch. His buffalo sauce is more acidic than most and his housemade ranch dressing is tarted up with lemon zest, yuzu kosho and a smoky vegan mayo. Order online and set a pick-up time.
Alondra Hot Wings
When I was in middle school and my mom first took me to Alondra Hot Wings, it was a shack in Paramount decorated with Al Capone and Goodfellas memorabilia. Although the original location has closed and it is now a mini-chain with a half-dozen outposts in L.A. and Orange counties, the wings are still fire. Of Alondra's 21 types of wings, the classic buffalo is one of the most popular but my favorite flavor is chili lime, which cranks the acidity to 11 and keeps the heat at 5. Make sure to try the fried cheese balls and the pastrami pizza, known as "A Friend of Ours."
Launched during the pandemic by former Jon & Vinny's chef John Clark, Two Wings serves crisp, juicy chicken out of a converted church in South L.A. In addition to classic rubs and sauces, Clark makes his own flavors including sweet, boozy Henny BBQ and zesty buffalo, a flavor-blasted version of traditional buffalo wings. The tenders are equally delectable with a thin but glassy dredge that boasts a satisfying crunch. You can order them tossed in any flavor or with dipping sauces on the side. I recommend the potato poppers, crunchy cubes of potatoes dusted with a slightly sweet rub.
Wings 2 Go
Originally from the ATL, Wings 2 Go has been in L.A. for four years, serving flavors like lemon pepper wet, immortalized in the TV show Atlanta. It's a saucier, heavily seasoned version of a flavor that I think they do better as a dry rub, which has more acidity to cut through the salt. Other options include Jamaica BBQ, sweet BBQ, Cajun rub and buffalo (mild or hot). All combos come with a side of rice. Whatever you choose, a watermelon slushie, made with sugar and frozen watermelon chunks, is an ideal companion.
The first time I tried these bad boys, I was waiting for comedian Tom Segura's show at the Long Beach Convention Center. A short walk away, Beachwood BBQ was serving smoky goodness. I decided to skip the traditional barbecue offerings and go for the buffalo wings. It was the right choice. Smoked, finished in a fryer (so the skin gets extra crisp) then doused in housemade buffalo sauce, they're smoky, spicy, vinegary, salty and delicious. They're also the perfect snack before a killer DJ Dad Mouth set.
You'll find Wing Ferno in Gardena, serving hot chicken sandwiches and 15 flavors of wings — not including Nashville. Instead, choose from Jamiacan jerk, sweet Thai chili, spicy Korean, mango habanero, lemon pepper and honey barbecue. The last two are the two most popular. If you want a more straightforward wing, the Louisiana rub has a touch of heat and sugar but mostly relies on the crispness of the wings. The original buffalo uses Frank's Red Hot, which is always reliable for the classic creamy, tangy, spicy buffalo experience. If you're a masochist and want to crank up the spice, try the eponymous Wing Ferno, which offers face-melting dry heat and a hint of sweetness. An order of fries should complete your meal.
Alitas El Diablito
Alitas El Diablito, a pop-up that sets up on Compton's Atlantic Food Row (the stretch of Atlantic Blvd. between Compton Blvd. and Alondra Blvd.), makes the finest Mexican wings. The most popular flavor is aguachile, a ferociously spicy green sauce made of lime and serranos, that's usually served with shrimp. El Diablito pairs its version with pollo and the effect is humbling. One moment, I'm biting into a crisp drumstick. The next, I've got mocos streaming down my face and I'm sweating like I just got my heart broken. The à la diabla wings, bathed in a rich, spicy paste of chiles and garlic, is another sauce typically reserved for mariscos. But why let tradition limit you? Other sauces include BBQ and mole and pineapple habanero. Each order of wings comes with fresh-cut fries dusted with your choice of lemon pepper or limon con chile. Call ahead or check their IG for pop-up days.
L.A. Birria Pizza
Competition breeds innovation, neolibs like to say, and L.A. was bound to see another version of aguachile wings. Enter L.A. Birria Pizza, which started as a taco stand and expanded to feature Mexican pizzas topped with birria and carnitas. But the aguachile wings are the sleeper hit. Crisp and juicy chicken wings are slathered in a tart, chunky, moderately spicy aguachile sauce then topped with pickled onion and cilantro. They're the best way to accompany a birria pizza and a reminder of why I love L.A. Why be traditional when you can be exceptional?
Big Al's Pizzeria
Maywood's finest Halal pizzeria, Big Al's, happens to serve the crispiest, juiciest baked wings in Los Angeles. Their selection of eight sauces and flavors, from classics like buffalo and lemon pepper to original creations like Red Dragon (sweet and sour) and sweet and spicy, presents something for every palate. The heat in the sweet and spicy wings lulls you into complacency then builds to a fiery crescendo while the sweetness makes you crave more. The Jamaican BBQ wings are covered in a sweet, smoky, thick green sauce that serves as a Trojan horse for the spice. If you're looking for something mellow, try the lemon pepper wings, which are doused in a potent sauce of lemons, garlic and olive oil. You can only choose one flavor per pound, so plan accordingly.
Operating out of a kitchen space in a North Hollywood business park, Coley's is hard to find but it's jerk chicken wings make it worth the effort. Baked wings are tossed in a thick brown gravy seasoned with cloves, allspice and Scotch bonnet peppers. The sauce is precious gold so make sure to soak up every drop of it with festival bread, which comes as a side. Add a few flaky beef, curry chicken or beef and cheese patties to your order.
This Echo Park strip mall restaurant serves fantastic comfort foods including fried fish sandwiches, corn dogs and insanely flavorful wings. Grilled over mesquite until they're charred then drowned in a salsa macha with chunks of smoky chiles and garlic, Eszett's wings tiptoe toward overwhelming spice but never cross the barrier. Dripping with red oil so dark it's almost black, these wings feel like the ultimate backyard indulgence. Make sure to order their potato wedge fries, which are crisp on the outside and pillowy on the inside. Their tomato and cucumber salad melds smoked tomatoes, crunchy cucumbers and puffed rice for a fresh break from the wings.
The spicy Korean fried chicken at Shiku has a way of changing hearts and minds in the boneless vs. bone-in chicken wings debate. Whatever your viewpoint, a few bites should make you see how silly this "issue" is. Craggy nuggets of chicken are fried then tossed in a wok with a sticky-sweet-spicy sauce and topped with sesame seeds and green onions. The sugar in the sauce causes the wings, which taste of smoke and chili paste, to harden, giving each piece a glassy crunch.
Gol Tong Chicken
Opening a styrofoam box from Gol Tong is like looking at a work of art by Takashi Murakami. Inside, you'll find a fruit-shaped cacophony of color on top of sticky, glazed Korean fried chicken. The more you look, the more you notice the details. At Gol Tong, the half-and-half (half-soy garlic, half-chili) is served with chunks of plums, avocado, pineapple, cherries and blueberries. On the soy garlic side, crunchy chicken is topped with a load of sesame seeds. On the chili chicken side, you'll see a pool of sweet, berry-infused sauce. Both can be enjoyed with honey mustard or sweet chili sauce. Both deserve a spot at The Broad.
Munchies Buddies sets up Thursdays through Saturdays in front of a Mitsuwa Market in Mar Vista. They specialize in a karaage that incorporates ramen noodle bits into the dredge. But what makes it special is the juiciness of the chicken. They use chicken thighs, instead of white meat, marinated in ginger, garlic, sake and soy sauce. The crushed ramen adds an extra layer of crunch. Flavors include original, teriyaki, spicy teriyaki, ponzu, lemon pepper, Korean style and cheese. You can also order the karaage as sliders on sweet Hawiian rolls, tossed in any flavor or served with the sauce on the side.
Ronnie's Kickin Chicken
Check IG for truck location
Chef Ronnie Muñoz started Ronnie's Kickin Chickencooking out of his home pop-up then launched a food truck in 2020. While I respect his sandwich, I always go for his tenders. The magic is in the details. Muñoz dehydrates his own chiles and lemons to use in his rubs then fries his birds in beef tallow. The al pastor rub tastes exactly like a good taco de al pastor, tart but spicy. Muñoz says the trick with his lemon pepper is the acid. He only gets it from the pulp, giving the tenders a fresh citrus flavor without being too sour. The fennel in the breading combined with the beef tallow gives the chicken an unmatched richness, like the best version of chicken fried steak.