Some people don't like chicken wings. They say the fowl taste is too dominant in the wings, or that wings are too messy to eat with grace. But if you ask me, chicken wings are the perfect appetizer. It's fried chicken with a spicy, oily sauce that makes you lick your fingers. What could be bad?
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It wasn't long ago that chicken wings were considered an inferior part of the bird. In the best-case scenario they made it into the soup. But one trendsetter can change it all. In this case it was a bar in Buffalo, New York that was responsible for uplifting the wing into culinary cachet, hence the name "Buffalo wings."
And if you have that hankering for the newly classy wings, here are some of the best places to get Buffalo wings in Tel Aviv.
Dixie – Well worth its reputation
The restaurant: As Israel's first 24-hour American-style diner, Dixie helped to popularize hamburgers and pancakes in this country, taught us about using food to soak up the alcohol in our systems after a night on the town, and is the only place in Tel Aviv that offers chicken wings 24 hours a day. (Not kosher)
Location: 120 Yigal Allon St., corner of 3 Totzeret Ha'aretz St.
The dish: Dixie is synonymous with chicken wings in a spicy sauce, but I approached the dish with trepidation. Nineteen years on the menu is impressive, but might not be a good thing. But it turns out that Dixie's crispy chicken wings really are among the best in the city, if not the country, in large part because the sauce contains significant amounts of butter and chili sauce.
The price: NIS 43 for 12 pieces.
If you're already there: Go for the hat trick: Wings, home fries and garlic bread.
Shine and Sharp – Cult potential
The restaurant: Yankele Shine is a meat man through and through, as indicated by the many steakhouses he has opened in Europe over the years. About a year ago he opened one in Israel, in an effort to put porterhouse and entrecote steaks on center stage. But no one warned us that Shine and Sharp's chicken wings could just be the next big thing. (Not kosher. Restaurant points out that one can order the wings without butter.)
Location: 65 Yigal Allon St.
The dish: Boneless wings in teriyaki sauce and sriracha hot sauce – how come I didn't think of that first? This dish is just right for people who love wings but don't like eating them because of the mess. But that's not why these wings are so great; it's the generous combination of meat and Asian-style sweet-and-spicy sauce that makes these wings so addictive.
The price: NIS 49 for 13 pieces.
If you're already there: Try cocktail 404, a fantastic variation on a mojito.
Tiger Lilly – Thai style
The restaurant: One of the restaurants to get in on the wings action most recently is also one of the most important restaurants to have opened lately. Tiger Lilly expresses a love for the authentic Thai kitchen but do note this place is named after a flower, and is not affiliated with the London restaurant of the same name. (Not kosher)
Location: 32 Habarzel St.
The dish: Peek gai, the Thai take on chicken wings. Unlike in most Israeli restaurants, Tiger Lilly's wings don't come drenched in sauce. Instead, they are cooked with a delicate blend of Thai spices such as lemongrass and white pepper, along with some oyster sauce. The wings are marinated, steamed and only then fried. There is an accompanying sauce that demonstrates all that's good about the Thai kitchen: the spiciness of chili and the sourness of tamarind, along with soy sauce, chili paste and ground shrimp. The bottom line is that these are meaty wings with a delicate flavor, served with a hot and delightful sauce that offers up a gentle taste of the sea. Don't miss it.
The price: NIS 25 for eight pieces.
If you're already there: Order a sweet white wine. It goes well with the Thai wings.
Brasserie – Hot pepper meets blue cheese
The restaurant: Given that its doors have been open for a decade, there's little need to introduce Brasserie, which has already become a symbol of the city whose downtown it helped change and a source of inspiration for many a copycat restaurant. Ultimately, it's Brasserie that's still standing, not least because it's a good place to eat, even in the middle of the night. (Not kosher)
Location: 70 Ibn Gvirol St.
The dish: Here they're called Buffalo wings, two types of which appear on the menu. I'll just be discussing the ones that are served as the bar from 5 P.M., which are marinated for a long time in a sauce of dried hot peppers, allowing them to soak up both the spiciness and the delicate smoky flavor. The wings are also briefly fried, making them crispy on the outside and retaining the softness of the meat. They are served with a blue cheese dip whose texture resembles cream cheese speckled with small pieces of blue cheese. If you like spicy chicken wings, reserve a spot at the bar now.
The price: NIS 26 for five pieces.
If you're already there: Beer goes great with wings, of course, but so does a cocktail like Americano, composed of Campari, sweet vermouth and club soda.
Yavne Montefiore – French hits take wing
The restaurant: The Yavne Montefiore bistro features some French hits along with American classics, all served up in generous, reasonably priced portions. That doesn't mean there are no creative strokes of brilliance or unusual interpretations of particular dishes, though; the bistro's chicken wings are one such example. Location: 31 Montefiore St. (Not kosher)
The dish: Called "hot pilot wings" in this restaurant, they come out a pleasing reddish color because of the beet sauce in which they are served. "Beet sauce" doesn't begin to cover it, though; other flavors include cumin, chipotle, sugar, soy sauce, ginger and peanuts. These chicken wings force you to get down and dirty, and offer a combination of spiciness, sweetness and nuttiness that it would be hard to find elsewhere.
The price: NIS 46 for eight pieces.
If you're already there: When you finish the wings, stick with the chicken theme and order the giant – and quite surprising – schnitzel.
More wings worth trying in Tel Aviv
Moses: Although this is part of a chain, the Rothschild branch serves up Buffalo wings that are nice and hot (NIS 33 for eight pieces), flavored by Frank's RedHot sauce combined with Tabasco sauce and a bit of butter. This is a spiciness that doesn't bite right away but definitely leaves its mark and is accompanied by a pleasant sourness as well. Location: 35 Rothschild Blvd. (Not kosher)
Avantgarde: The U.S.-born chef of this restaurant cooks up the best wings for your money in the city. You get half a kilo of very good wings (about 24 pieces) for NIS 56. They're prepared by the book, and the impressive crust is set off by a barbecue sauce of the chef's creation, with a blue cheese sauce on the side. Location: 3 Habarzel St. (Not kosher)
Nelson 33: The reasonably priced wings at this cross between a bar and a low-key restaurant (12 pieces for NIS 28) have already made a name for the place locally. You get to choose whether you want your wings served in sweet chili sauce or barbecue sauce, which I think is the better option. This might not be a place worth heading out to do from across the country, but if you're in the neighborhood it's an excellent option. Location: 11 Oppenheimer St. (Not kosher)
Giraffe: These Asian-style wings feature a plum, ginger and chili sauce. Some love the plum flavor and others can't stand it. Either way, there's no doubt the plum taste stands out. Eight pieces for NIS 35. Location: 49 Ibn Gvirol St. (Not kosher)
The Diner by Goocha: This seafood diner offers chicken wings in a spicy chil sauce with a delicate sweet balance (NIS 45 for more than 15 pieces) served with French fries. It's not overly sophisticated, but it's certainly tasty. Location: 14 Ibn Gvirol St. (Not kosher)
The best chicken wings outside of Tel Aviv
Soho: This restaurant's menu is so extensive you need a guidebook to get through it. The Thai chicken wings (NIS 46 for 12 pieces) integrate Asian flavors with the best of Israeli grill, offering a dizzying amount of sauce dripping from every wing. Not too spicy, not too sweet, not too sophisticated. Just tasty. Location: 15 Moshe Bakar St., Rishon Letzion.
Bourbon Street: If you're not yet familiar with this bar, which brings some of New Orleans to Israel, now's the time. This place offers the spiciest of all the chicken wings reviewed here: Diablo wings (NIS 38 for 12 pieces), which proved to be a bit of a challenge. Surprisingly, the hotter it is the tastier it is. Location: 8 Hamenofim St., Herzliya.
Three Monkeys Pub: This Eilat institution offers three levels of spiciness for its chicken wings: spicy (for beginners), super-spicy (advanced) and extra-spicy (for people born with a hot pepper in their mouth). The spiciness comes from Tabasco sauce, dried chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, ginger and rice vinegar. The combination confuses the mouth, which is left to figure out whether the sourness or the spiciness is the more dominant flavor. NIS 48 including French fries. Location: Royal Beach boardwalk, Eilat.
Kampai: Anyone who thought the only restaurants in Be'er Sheva are cheap places for blue-collar workers or college students needs to think again. More than four years ago, Kampai opened up in the Negev city, proving that pretty good Asian food can be had in the desert. The restaurant offers a serious portion of fantastically crispy wings in a pleasantly spicy chili and teriyaki sauce (NIS 63 for 22 pieces) that comes with home fries and tempura onion rings. Location: Big Shopping Center, Be'er Sheva.
Beit Hamizrah: This is a place where people flock for the drinks, but the NIS 28 sweet-and-sour wings are worth ordering with the house beer. Location: Ramat Yishai industrial zone.
Marinado: Although this kibbutz restaurant offers great steak, your best bet is to start the meal with the sweet chicken wings (NIS 37 for six pieces). The meat is excellent, to the point that the taste even comes through the sauce. Location: Kibbutz Ein Gev.