Show Me Spicy - Hot Wings
Seven of Missouri's Hottest Wings
Hot wings aren’t hard to make, yet certain restaurants have a reputation for serving up delicious mouth-watering morsels of chicken-goodness with just the right amount of tang and temperature. Missouri Life consulted food critics, spoke to locals, and scoured the state to track down the most popular hot wings in the state.
CJ’s wings have satisfied Mizzou sports fans for twenty years. The trend continues under the restaurant’s newest owner, Columbia native Ty Moore. But is the new guy really the best in the business? “Every wing is fresh and hand-inspected,” he says. Refrigerated (fresh, not frozen) meat is delivered to the restaurant four times a week in forty-pound cases. Each box is opened, and every wing is hand-inspected to make sure it’s fit to be served with any of CJ’s special sauces, which are made daily. Diners can choose from mild, medium, hot, or Burn Your Face Off flavors. CJ’s does not use heating lamps or trays. Perhaps this is why the restaurant goes through more than one thousand pounds of wings a week.
CJ’s has a Facebook group called “CJ’s … Best Wings in the Midwest,” and the name might not be far from the truth: “I never really considered myself a wing lover until CJ’s,” says a reviewer on TripAdvisor.com. “Their wings are unlike any other. The flavor of the wings sauce is perfect, and the wings are so crispy and tasty.” 704 East Broadway, Columbia | 573-442-7777 | CJ's
Wings A Blazin’, Hermann
“I’ve got a P-51 Mustang coming out the front of my building,” Robert Riddell says of the long-range fighter aircraft busting through the walls of the restaurant he co-owns with friend Elizabeth Johnson. Because the World War II plane carried guns under its wings, it often went into action with “wings a blazin’,” a phrase that caught Robert’s attention. His slogan became “wings on the fly,” and the aircraft paraphernalia and parts throughout the interior carry out the theme.
But you don’t have to be an airplane aficionado to appreciate Wings A Blazin’. “We practically feed half the town on Tuesdays,” Robert says of the restaurant’s twenty-five-cent chicken lip night. Chicken lips? No, not beaks, or anything remotely lip-like, for that matter. Chicken lips are boneless chicken wings, and they’re a huge hit with his customers. The chicken is not breaded; it goes straight to multiple fryers and is then tossed in sauces, which include honey BBQ, honey mustard, Jamaican jerk, garlic Parmesan, and teriyaki. “Wings A Blazin’ is the place to go for Hot Wings in Hermann,” raves Lisa, an intern at Hermann Hill Vineyard and Inn. 120 East 4th Street, Hermann | 573-486-FIRE | Wings A Blazin'
Hackett Hot Wings, Joplin
More than four hundred miles separate Joplin from Memphis, but diners at Hackett Hot Wings are transported to Tennessee, where the wings are as southern as the blues music that filters through the air. Owner Floyd Hackett chose to incorporate “hot wings” into the name of his restaurant because “buffalo wings” sounded too northern. The Memphis native and his wife, Jacqueline, enjoyed hot wings restaurants in Memphis and made their own spicy creations while living there. They moved to Missouri when Floyd’s uncle, a Joplin resident, sold them a vacant building that they turned into the town’s first hot wings hot spot.
The establishment has been wildly successful—it was even named the area’s number one restaurant by TripAdvisor.com. Fifty forty-pound cases are delivered to the store weekly—that’s two thousand pounds of wings that are then washed, rubbed, and marinated in a freezer for half a day. They’re fried in 100 percent soy oil, which Floyd believes allows the most flavor to come through. He also adds that his wings are never breaded, which makes them “good for a low carb diet.” He makes his own sauces, which include Cajun, lemon pepper, jerk, Greek, honey, barbeque, milk, hot, suicide, smoking hot, and hot and honey. 520 S. Main Street, Joplin | 417-625-1333 | Hackett Hot Wings
The Peanut, Kansas City
“We are a destination,” says Peanut owner Melinda Kenny as she explains that wing lovers from around the country flock to her restaurant when they’re in Kansas City. In fact, one out-of-towner enjoyed his wings so much he ordered four dozen to go, which he packed in dry ice and shipped to his home in Las Vegas. What makes the wings so great? They’re huge and cooked to order. At The Peanut, wings are peppered, deep fried, and dipped in sauce. “The wings are the biggest and the best I’ve ever seen or tasted,” writes a reviewer on besthotwing.com. “Best of the best.”
The Peanut holds the longest consecutive liquor license in Kansas City, which dates back to 1933 and the end of Prohibition. Melinda has owned the restaurant since purchasing it with her late husband, Rich Kenny, in 1981 and says the name can be traced back to some apartment buildings of the same name that lie east of the restaurant. 5000 Main Street, Kansas City | 816-753-9499 | The Peanut
Dog Days Bar & Grill, Osage Beach
Dog days are hot and so are the wings at this sixteen-year-old Osage Beach restaurant. General manager R.J. Rau says his wings are dry rubbed and smoked before being deep fried and served with any combination of sauces (original, extra hot, barbeque, or Hawaiian flavors). R.J. orders an average of one thousand pounds of wings a week. His business is seasonal, with 90 percent of the activity taking place between June and August—Osage Beach’s high season.
If Dog Days doesn’t sound familiar, it might be because the restaurant was formerly called the Salty Dog. Due to a trademark dispute, the name was changed in 2005. Fortunately the spat didn’t affect the food, and Dog Days was voted the number one restaurant on the water in 2008, a national top-ten water bar, by Powerboat magazine.
Dog Days is easily accessible from the water, the highway, and on the way to Party Cove. The establishment attracts tourists, boaters, bar hoppers, shoppers, and locals; many people come for the live music, which ranges from hip hop to country and everything in between. The restaurant’s MySpace and Facebook pages list a calendar of the bands playing. 1232 Jeffries Road, Osage Beach | 573-348-9797 | Dog Days Bar & Grill
Coyote’s Adobe Café & Bar, Springfield
Not only has the Coyote’s Adobe Café won Springfield’s Wingpalooza’s People’s Choice Award for thirteen years in a row, but they claim to have created twice-fried Cajun wings. “They’re original to us,” says general manager Garen Floyd. “It’s safe to say we invented them—by accident!” Roughly ten years ago, the restaurant had a fajita buffet; one day the owner decided to warm up some leftover wings by tossing them back in the fryer. They came out caramelized on the outside. “They look burnt, but they’re not,” Garen says. The wings are crispier and flavorful, especially when dipped in sauce again.
The twice-fried Cajun wings are just one of forty wing varieties diners can choose from. Guests who want to venture beyond the most popular original buffalo wings can feast on bacon and cheese, road runner (“da hottest in da house, beep beep”) or Jamaican jerk flavors. All sauces are based on the original recipe but vary depending on heat and flavor. For more information on Springfield’s Sertoma Wingpalooza call 417- 863-1231 or visit www.winga.net/index.html. 1742 South Glenstone, Springfield | 417-889-7120 | Coyote’s Adobe Café
Culpeppers, St. Louis Area
The original Culpeppers opened in 1935 on the corner of Euclid and Maryland; the restaurant is now in eight locations in the St. Louis area—perhaps because their wings have become so popular. Guests can choose from the original style wings, tangy gold wings (a hint of mustard), sweet and sour (brown sugar with wings sauce), or smoky-sweet chipotle barbeque wings.
“Each wing was coated evenly with its respective sauce,” writes Scott Roberts, a St. Louis-based self-described “chilehead” on his Spicy Food blog (scottrobertsweb.com). “The chicken pieces are healthy and meaty,” he says about the below-average-sized wings. “I would take a small, lean wing any day over one that was large but attributed half it’s volume to skin and flab.” 12316 Olive Boulevard, St. Louis (and other St. Louis locations) | 314- 469-3888 | Culpepper's