By Doug Deal
Macon Community News
Buffalo style chicken wings have become almost as universal as the hamburger in restaurants these days, and it is no exception here in Macon. With so many options, it is hard to know who is putting forth an extraordinary effort and who is just trying to wing it.
Over the course of the last month, we solicited feedback from our readers about who they felt makes the best wings in town. From that list, we visited the top six and threw in a popular national chain as a baseline. The clear winner was the restaurant patron, as we discovered that there is not only high quality available, but also great variety here in Macon.
All of the wings we evaluated in this article were good, as our policy is not to publish our bad reviews and instead focus on the positive in Macon. To be clear, we didn’t eliminate any restaurant that we visited because the recommendations of our readers led us to positive dining experiences across the board.
Our judging criteria was to independently rank each contestant in four equally weighted categories (flavor, heat, value, and texture) and assign points based on that ranking. So, the top finisher in each category would get seven points, and the last place finisher would get one. The winner would be the restaurant with the most points.
“Flavor” was a measure of the overall taste of the wing; this included the sauce as well as the meat.
Since we were explicitly evaluating “hot” wings, the “heat” was determined by how close the taste came to what we considered a “hot” level of spiciness. At this level, the wings should give you a bite, but by the end, you should not be begging for mercy, just near your limit. This criterion a bit arbitrary, but any food review is a bit arbitrary.
“Value” was a deterministic calculation of cents per gram of wings. For this evaluation, we selected one of each of the most average flat pieces and a drumstick for each restaurant and measured the weight and divided by two. Then, we divided that weight into the price.
Finally, “texture” was scored on two main components. The first was how crispy the skin was and the second was if the meat came easily from the bone without actually falling off the bone.
When all other factors were even, the relative position of one company versus another was lost with overcooked or dry meat, but for the most part, every restaurant had moist wings that were perfectly done. This was a credit to each of them.
Our 7th place finisher (12 points) was American Feel & Wings. Do not let the last place finish fool you; they make a delicious wing, but they lost points because they were a bit more expensive for the weight and the heat of their hot flavor lacked bite. We loved their very light breading which made the skin have nearly perfect crispiness. If you have a companion who isn’t into wings, we recommend their burger, which is also delicious and is a great value.
We do not have a 6th or 5th place finisher because there was a three-way tie for 4th (13 points) between Buffalo Wild Wings, Fatty’s and The Brick. Buffalo Wild Wings is our corporate baseline. It was entirely on point for heat and also offer a vast variety of heat and flavors beyond hot buffalo style. This was unfortunate for them, as their hot buffalo might be one of the worst on their list. Still appetizing, but we thought it would be better with more intense vinegar zing. Their value was surprisingly decent, but the wings had a bit of soft skin, which cost them on texture.
Fellow 4th place finisher, The Brick, also suffered from soft skin, and in fact came in last in that regard. Perhaps it was a relic of ordering them to go, but there was very little crispiness left when we ate them. Although I liked the level of heat, it was punishing for our other tasters, and they had to stop after a couple of wings and then resume after they recovered from the burn. The Brick made up a lot of points on value, placing second only to our overall winner in that regard.
Our final 4th place finisher was Fatty’s. They have a decent wing at a good value (finishing third), but no particular category was excellent. You will not be disappointed, and if you are looking for a good value on wings, this is a good option. Their wings were not too hot, nor too mild, but offered a nice mid-range flavor and heat.
Second place was also a tie, and both finished close to the first place in the log jam for the top tier. Francar’s was our first 2nd place with a wonderful level of heat (tops in that category), and great flavor and texture (3rd in both). Their value was low on our list as their wings were smaller than some of the others. If you are looking for a good local place with a large selection of heat levels and flavors, this is the place. Being wing-focused, they were also the quickest in service time.
Our other 2nd place finisher was Piedmont Brewery & Kitchen. They took top honors in overall flavor and texture with their smoked wings. The skin was perfectly crispy with a finishing step in the fryer after being cooked low and slow in a smoker. The smoke permeates every bite down to the bone, and the only real ding is in value, being a smaller wing and the most expensive of the options. Heat was a tad on the medium side of hot, but if you are into gourmet, this is the place.
Top honors were given to a place hidden in South Bibb County off of Houston Road, Pig on a Pie. Like Piedmont, Pig on a Pie also smokes their wings, but with a slightly lower level of intensity. The level of heat was a bit on the mild side, and the texture a bit off from the standard set by Piedmont, but Pig on a Pie had no equal in value. Combined with 2nd place in flavor, that propelled them to take the overall winner’s spot by a single point.
All of our contestants were places that we would order from again, and although we felt some were better side by side, each offered their own twist on the standard Buffalo wing to appeal to different tastes. In the end, you won’t go wrong giving all of these places a try and especially our three top finishers who knocked everything out of the park.