Tracy & Scott’s quest to find the Philly area’s best Buffalo Wings

Byrne's TavernAddress: 3301 Richmond Street Philadelphia, PA 19134
Web site: www.byrnestavern.net
Price: 12 Pieces for $7.25

Tracy’s Overall Review: After an almost year-long hiatus from wing reviews I wanted to go someplace good. Site visitors and people IRL have raved about Byrne’s wings so it was at the top of our to-do list. When I got there and sat down I noticed a few red flags. First the price, it was higher than average — ok if the wings are great, but still a little weird. Also you had to pay extra for celery and bleu cheese dressing. That is just strange especially when the price is already high. Third they kept the wing tips on, something I don’t like, but I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

When the wings came out, and we took our first bites, a few things hit us right away. First they were warmish, but not hot. It was like they were made earlier and then put under a heat lamp before serving. This made the wings tender, but not crispy at all. Also the wings seemed to have a light coating on them, not good. The size of the wings were inconsistent. Most were small, a few were medium, but some were mutant small. You know the kind…the bone has a tiny, weird chunk of meat on it that doesn’t even look like a wing. If a tiny mutant wing is going to count as one of your 12 in a serving then that is just uncool. However, the sauce was tasty, if the wings were decent sized and prepared better it would have been delicious. I think the most disconcerting thing was both Scott and I, and our co-worker that came with us, all had stomach aches soon after getting back to the office. That’s a little disturbing.

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Scott’s Overall Review: Walking into Bynes had the aroma of good wings, so my hopes and appetite were up. When we sat down I kind of felt a bit uncomfortable, the dining area was a little small, cold and I felt like we were getting the fish eye. Paranoia and chill aside, I was ready and optimistic that the wings were going to be good. We ordered the wings and no longer then 10mins later they were promptly served. At first glance they looked a little skimpy, but the smell and color was there. I reached for the first wing and it was cold to the touch. The second wing was cold and kind of mutilated. The wing looked like the chicken had compound fracture and then was fried. The sauce was really good, just needed to be a little hotter which is why it makes this review so hard. I mean, I think these wings could be really good. I just think that this was a lack of effort. It was like we got the bottom of the pantry and the cook was hungover from the night before. The sauce is good and I think there is potential. The wings just need to be  a little bigger, not mutilated, a little spicier and at least luke warm. If they step it up a little bit I would go back.

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Authenticity: The wings had some kind of very light coating on them. Scott thought maybe cornstarch with spices. Not authentic. Also the tips were left on.

Wing size: Mutant small to small to medium.

Sauce: The sauce was not bad. It could stand to be hotter, but it was tasty.

Accouterments: You had to pay extra for celery (60¢) and Bleu Cheese dressing (25¢). Our pal and coworker, Pearson, who was with us on this wing trip, described the Bleu Cheese dressing as having a glossy sheen. It also had a yellow-ish hue. Despite it’s apprearance, it still tasted decent and had a good number of bleu cheese chunks in it.

Atmosphere: Byrne’s is a long-established Port Richmond institution. The old, historical photographs on the walls are great. It was homey and unpretentious with its wood wainscoting and standard-issue Irish Bar decor. The people weren’t exactly warm and friendly, but the service was fine. It can’t be typecast as a stereotypical Irish Bar, because they are known for steamed crabs which always gives a place a Chesapeake Bay vibe. Plus they serve Cannolis. I think the disconnect between the glowing reviews we’ve read and heard vs our experience can be explained by below average effort going into these particular batches of wings. The sauce was good…if they used better sized, non mutant wings, got rid of the coating and fried them up fresh and hot they would have been good. Oh, and they need to not do whatever they did to them to give us all stomach aches.

Rating: ★★★½☆


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Kelliann's Bar & GrillAddress: 1549 Spring Garden Street Philadelphia, PA 19130
Price: 10 Pieces for $5.75

Tracy’s Overall Review: When we go out for these wing reviews Scott and I keep our expectations low. Even though I read about people loving Kelliann’s wings on the Internets I didn’t have my hopes up. I looked at the menu and read “Our Famous Buffalo Wings” under House Specialty. Scott and I gave each other a skeptical, “we’ve read that before,” look. When the wings were placed in front of me they were fresh out of the fryer and super hot. The steam and smell gave me that intense Buffalo wing sauce sting in my nose. When I took my first bite it was a perfect crispy to tender ratio taste sensation. And after that I think Scott and I barely said a word to each other except the occasional “these are delicious.” When I eat wings I usually stop and take notes, but I was enjoying eating them so much I didn’t take any. Simply put these wings were great; no nonsense, delicious, authentically prepared Buffalo Wings. My only complaint is mine did not have enough sauce on them. I got mild and Scott got hot and his were all saucy while mine started to dry up so bad I had to ask for more sauce. But that’s OK, because these wings made my day and gave me faith that good Buffalo Wings could be found in Philly.

Scott’s Overall Review: The atmosphere at Kelliann’s was rather eclectic from the afternoon morose drunk old man to the friendly and kind young server. The visit was a little different but a nice old bar all the same. The wings came out and at first seemed a little small to me. After biting into them I noticed my initial impression was wrong. They may have looked a little small but they were really meaty and not all bone like most places. The sauce was perfect to be honest. I had no complaints the “Hot” was the right amount of spicy and there was no hints of other add ons. I was pleasantly surprised by these wing and would definitely go back. I liked the sauce so much I ordered the buffalo tenders to go. The tenders were extremely moist, tender and drenched in that perfect sauce. Go Kelliann’s!

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Authenticity: Perfectly authentic.

Wing size: Medium to small.

Sauce: They offer 2 varieties of sauce, mild and hot. Both sauces were very good, however the mild wings did not have enough sauce on them.

Accouterments: It came with Celery and Bleu Cheese dressing. The dressing had too much mayo, but it was decent.

Atmosphere: We got there are 11:30AM and it was surprisingly crowded (all dudes) and drunk in there for a Wednesday before noon. We also, unknowingly, sat near the crazy old guy at the bar having an animated conversation with his PBR. We got a little scared every time he got up, because it looked like he might fall over. The place itself looked like it could have been an old Irish corner bar in NYC. The ornate antique tile, tin ceiling tiles and beautifully detailed wooden bar spanning the length of the front room were obviously very old and worn in, but taken well care of. The service was very friendly and after the morning crowd left a more mellow, diverse and less alcoholic lunch crowd came in. We say come to Kelliann’s but avoid the old crazy guy.

Rating: ★★★★★½

Locust RendezvousAddress: 1415 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102
Website: www.locustrendezvous.com
Price: 10 Pieces for $7.50

Tracy’s Overall Review: I’ve been Googling around looking for places to add to our wing to-do list and Locust Rendezvous came up a few times. When we looked at their menu online they listed their wings as “Vous Buffalo Wings ***The Best!!!” With 3 exclamation marks Scott and I decided we had to try them.

When the wings came out I noticed they had the wingtips still on them. Not something that would cause them to lose points in general, but I, personally, don’t like the tips left on my wings. When I first tried them they were nice and crispy and they tasted good, but not great. As I continued to eat and the wings cooled (you can tell a good wing by their staying power) the sauce seemed to be lacking and there was something kinda gross about the wings. Scott and I came to this realization at the same time — the wings were slimy. Slimy isn’t good. They were fatty and it gave them that gross, slimy taste. I don’t want to totally trash these wings, overall they were decent, but the slime really tainted the whole experience.

Scott’s Overall Review: Locust Rendezvous really caught me off guard. The outside was little dodgy looking to me but once I walked inside I was pleasantly surprised. Inside the place looked very clean, low key and inviting. The wings seemed to be a highlight on the menu with other buffalo items like “buffalo fries” and “buffalo nachos” so I was eager with anticipation. The wings came out with a bowl on top to keep the wings warm and room for the bones. Unveiling the bowl gave a whiff to an inviting tangy smell. The wing themselves where medium in size had a nice taste and good sauce. The Celery was okay and the bleu cheese a little more mayo then bleu cheese. All in all I was pretty happy with the wings. As we got through the bowl though Tracy pointed out that the wings were getting a little slimier as time went on. The wings were good though and I did like the overall look and feel of the place and will definitely go back, maybe for the “buffalo nachos”.

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Authenticity: The wings were prepared authentically.

Wing size: Medium to small.

Sauce: Decent, but lacking. Could have used more tang and spice. They only offer one variation of buffalo wing sauce.

Accouterments: It came with Celery and Bleu Cheese dressing. Some of the celery stalks were rubbery. The dressing was a little gelatinous and tasted eh.

Atmosphere: Locust Rendezvous was cute, clean and dark. It was like a bar in someone’s living room. Unpretentious and sports bar-esque, the decor was homey with wood-paneled walls. It was like a small-town bar in the middle of center city. The service was nice and they also offer other Buffalo appetizers.

Rating: ★★★★☆

mtap2Address: 2331 East Cumberland Street, Philadelphia, PA 19125
Website: www.memphistaproom.com
Price: 10 Pieces for $8

Tracy’s Overall Review: After reading the description “Pilsner-Brined Hot Wings” both Scott and I were scared these wings were going to be too fancy to be good. However I saw these wings mentioned a bunch on the Internets and the place sounded intriguing so we decided to give them a try. I am glad we did because these wings were delicious. I could taste a little fancy in there but a solid foundation in authenticity pulled them through. The wings were very tender and crispy. The sauce was decent, it started strong but didn’t have staying power as the wings cooled. As I made my way through the wings the sauce lost it’s tang and heat. The bleu cheese dressing was kinda gross. It was watery and tasteless even though it had lots of blue cheese chunks. Overall, though, I found the wings to be very enjoyable.

Scott’s Overall Review: We were the first ones in for lunch so I was pretty psyched for fresh wings. I was not disappointed . The wings here were pretty good. The only suggestion I could give is “more sauce”‘. I was kinda worried about the pilsner brine but that didn’t seem to alter the taste at all. The wings were good but the blue cheese was lame. The blue cheese tasted like mayo and water kinda like a cold mayo soup. I would definitely go back for wings here!

mtap1Authenticity: Even though they don’t use a “pilsner brine” in Buffalo this element of fancyness was not too overpowering to make the wings not taste like Buffalo wings. Other than the brine the wings were prepared authentically.

Wing size: Most wings were a nice size, but some were small.

Sauce: Very good at first, but lost steam as the wings got cool. Could stand to be more tangy and hot.

Accouterments: The wings came with celery and carrots. Although it contained lots of bleu sheese chunks the dressing was pretty watery and tasteless.

Atmosphere: Located in Port Fishington, the Memphis Taproom is a hipster bar with a good sense of humor. Interesting art installations, rustic decor and decent music. The menu is very creative and we would totally come back again to try out some of the other items. The service was also very nice.

Rating: ★★★★★

ws1Address: 1600 North Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19121
Website: www.wingstop.com
Price: 10 Pieces for $6.99

Tracy’s Overall Review: Scott and I are not big fans of chain restaurants, but we knew we had to hit the corporate wing places eventually so we decided to start with Wing Stop. First off the wings were small…some of them were downright tiny, however they were pleasantly crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. They let you get 2 different flavors of wings in your order so I got mild and original hot. The mild was disgusting. Seriously, it was like the stuff they pour on buttered popcorn at the movies. It did not taste like Buffalo Wing sauce at all. The hot was not bad. It was a not-found-in-nature red color, but it tasted pretty decent. However the lack of celery, the gross “bleu cheese” dipping sauce and that nasty mild wing sauce kept me from putting this in the “good” category.

Scott’s Overall Review: The service at Wing Stop was surprisingly very good. The Cashier at the front was very happy, helpful and nice. I had ordered the original hot and the atomic wings. The original hot was a little small and just had something missing. I think they were missing that vinegary bite and had  of an awkward peppery taste. The wing almost tasted like it had black pepper thrown into the mix. They seemed to be authentic, there was no breading, no hint of sweetness or any fancy additions. The wings came with a dipping sauce choice of ranch or bleu cheese. The atomic wings were not a buffalo wing sauce. The wing was topped with pepper seeds and more painful then actually enjoyable. The original hot was the better tasting and authentic sauce out of the two. Thankfully, you get to mix two types of sauces in an order of ten wings or the trip would have been just painful. I guess the search continues!

ws2Authenticity: Passed the authenticity test.

Wing size: Small to very small.

Sauce: If you decide to go to Wing Stop go for the “original hot” flavor sauce. The mild is horrible and the “Atomic” is just painful and not in a good way.

Accouterments: The wings do not come with celery or bleu cheese dressing. They do not offer celery at all. They do sell dipping sauces, including bleu cheese, but traditionally the bleu cheese is not for dipping the actual wings in. We did try the bleu cheese and it was gross. It tasted like fast food salad dressing with no detectable bleu cheese.

Atmosphere: The place was nicer than your average fast food place, it was clean — even the bathrooms! It has a weird WWII airplane theme (get it, wings?) meets scaled back TGIFridays feel to it. They were pumping out the cheesy Auto-Tuned R&B in full force. The most pleasant surprise was the excellent service.  The people working there were super friendly and attentive and not in a “I am being forced to be friendly” way. It was very nice.

Rating: ★★★½☆

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Address: 2000 Fairmount Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19130
Website: www.fairmountpizzaandgrill.com
Price: 10 Pieces for $6.45

Tracy’s Overall Review: After a little hiatus from wing reviews we wanted to start off with something good. This place was emailed in as a recommendation from a Buffalo Wing lover, so I went in feeling optimistic. This place did not disappoint, the wings were tasty and satisfying. They were crispy and tender. My only complaint is they were small and the medium sauce was thin so it didn’t stick to the wings. I kept redunking the wings in the sauce and it would just run off. The nice, unpretentious, atmosphere makes Fairmount Pizza & Grill a great place to curb a wing craving. We couldn’t help not getting a slice of the Buffalo chicken pizza too, it was also tasty.

Scott’s Overall Review: The atmosphere was a little busy and chaotic and for some reason I felt right at home. The service was very good, nice and hardworking girls at the front made sure everyone was taken care of. The wings took a little while to cook but it was good to see that they were freshly made. At first glance the wings looked a little small and meager in size but smelled and looked really good. The sauce was pretty good and the wings weren’t dry. Tracy’s Medium looked a little mild and drier but I think the hot had the perfect amount of sauce. The wings came with a decent amount of celery and carrots. I still think the carrot addition is a weird Philly thing. The bleu cheese was okay, It had a bit of a mayo consistency with large chunks. All in all Fairmount was a pleasant surprise and my only real negative is that they were a little small.

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Authenticity: Passed the authenticity test.

Wing size: On the small side.

Sauce: The sauce was decent, it comes in mild, medium, hot and x-hot. Tracy got medium and Scott got hot, both were a little less hot than advertised. The medium sauce was thin, but the hot was a nice consistency.

Accouterments: We got 4 stalks of celery and 2 carrot sticks. The bleu cheese dressing was a little gelatinous, but tasty with a lot of nice chunks of blue cheese.

Atmosphere: Fairmount Pizza & Grill is a better-than-average Philly Pizza place. It has all the makings of a quintessential pizza joint, but the service is so nice it makes the place special. We went there at a busy, bustling lunchtime and our orders were taken quickly and efficiently. It is also bigger than your typical corner pizza shop with plenty of table seating. It’s at the corner of 20th and Fairmount, a good location to grab lunch if you’re visiting the Eastern State Penitentiary.

Rating: ★★★★★

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Address: 558 College Street West, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M6G 1B1
Website: www.duffsfamouswings.ca
Price: 10 Pieces for $9.75 (CAD)

Tracy’s Overall Review: I was on vacation in Toronto which is only 2 hours from Buffalo, NY so I had high hopes for finding good wings. These were not them. They were small and overcooked (a very bad combination) making them crispy on the outside and tough on the inside. They brought out the celery as an appetizer before the wings. That is just weird. They also had this ranch dressing-like dipping sauce that had dill in it. That is just wrong. I was really disappointed because this place looked like it took wings very seriously. They did have a nice touch of giving you a bucket to put the bones in.

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Authenticity: Passed the authenticity test.

Wing size: They were small.

Sauce: The sauce was eh. Not very tasty. They have a wide range of heat levels to choose from: mild, mild-medium, medium, medium-hot, hot, super hot, death and Armageddon. They have all kinds of warnings “the medium is hot and the hot is super hot” etc. But I got mild-medium and it was not hot at all. I was so disappointed with the flavor of the sauce I ordered some hot on the side and it wasn’t much better.

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Accouterments: The celery came out like an appetizer well before the wings. It came with a ranch-like dipping sauce with dill in it. Not only wasn’t it very good, it was just wrong. It should have been bleu cheese.

Atmosphere: I would describe the place as a upscale-ish generic sports bar. We were there at lunchtime and it was pretty empty. They were playing cheesy music including a really bad cover of Boys of Summer (a bad enough song on its own). The place was COVERED with decor boasting about their famous wings and the history of the original Duff’s in Buffalo, NY. They claim that their wings are “an original.” I just think a place that takes their wing history as seriously as they do should have better tasting wings.

Rating: ★★★½☆

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Address: 512 South Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147
Website: www.manny-browns.com
Price: 12 Pieces for $6.49

Tracy’s Overall Review: I think these wings are a solid contender for pretty darn good. They are tasty, crispy, enjoyable and a bargain. The wings fall short of amazing because of the sauce, it could be a little tastier and a little hotter. Also they aren’t saucy enough, I like a little pool of sauce in the bottom of the basket to dip in. I don’t like sauce that is dried on within 15 minutes. Another downside may be that they play some of the worst music in Philly on their sound system.

Scott’s Overall Review: After a few mediocre wing tries I wasn’t expecting good things. I was pleasantly surprised. The wings were good, crispy and the sauce was good. There weren’t options for mild or hot but they were in a nice mid range. The wings were priced nicely, the celery was a good amount and the bleu cheese wasn’t bad. The only thing holding them back from a perfect score is the sauce. I think there needs to be more sauce and maybe a little more bite.  The lack of sauce and a drier wing seems to be a Philly thing though. It may be just me but I say “Drown them!”

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Authenticity: Passes the authenticity test to a T.

Wing size: The wings really vary in size, from big to little.

Sauce: Very decent sauce, but it is not very hot.

Accouterments: We got 6 stalks of celery and bleu cheese dressing. The dressing was alright, but a little too gelatinous.

Atmosphere: Manny Brown’s is a divy (but not in an old man way) bar on South Street. It’s a little less hipster than Tattoo Mom’s. Scott describes it as an “Alt Sports Bar.” When we were there at lunchtime it was pretty dead. Our server was very nice. On Monday nights they have $6 pitchers of PBR and $.15 wings from 8pm – 12 am. It’s a bargain, but the 15 cent wings are tiny. If you want good wings, just get the regular ones, because they are already a good deal.

Rating: ★★★★★

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Address: 3rd & Spring Garden Street, Philadelphia, PA 19123
Website: www.finnigans.com
Price: 10 Pieces for $7.50

Tracy’s Overall Review: My first impression of these wings were positive. When they came to the table they had that spicy/tangy Buffalo Wing smell that stings your nose in a good way. The first bite was good, but soon the that spicy/tangy flavor faded away and this sweet flavor came and dominated the sauce. I couldn’t pinpoint the sweet flavor, it almost tasted like Teriyaki, but I didn’t like it. Sweet has no place in Buffalo Wing sauce. The wings themselves were crispy on the outside and tender on the inside which was nice, but the sauce turning sweet just brought the wings down. The wings were also a little small and became dry as I ate them, because there was no extra sauce to keep them saucy.

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Scott’s Overall Review: As soon as I put them to my mouth I remembered eating these before. The wings are sweet it is either a teriyaki or honey and it is the first thing I noticed. They were pretty good at first. The wing was a little on the small side but the meat was very tender. The buffalo chips at Finnigans are really good. I just wish that same sauce was on the wings. The sweetness thing just isn’t part of a real buffalo wing and shouldn’t be done cause it just overwhelms and dulls the taste buds really quickly. Overall they were decent but the buffalo chips are better.

Authenticity: Passes the authenticity test except the sweet taste in the sauce.

Wing size: A little on the small side.

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Sauce: The sauce started off good, but became overpowered by a mysterious sweet taste. It did have some spice to it which was nice.

Accouterments: They gave you bleu cheese dressing and only three pieces of celery. The bleu cheese dressing was pretty good.

Atmosphere: Finnigan’s Wake is a giant Irish Bar in Northern Liberties. It is a totally different scene during lunchtime than it is on a Friday night. It’s really dark inside and has that bar during the day smell, but it’s a mellow place to have a bar food lunch. Our waitress was very nice.

Rating: ★★★★☆

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Address: 22 South 3rd Street Philadelphia PA 19106
Website: www.nationalmechanics.com
Price: 8 Pieces for $10.00

Tracy’s Overall Review: These wings were good, not amazing, but decent. The sauce was good, but there was too much pepper. I know people want their wings to stand out, but I think you should strive to be #1 by having the most authentic sauce, not adding pepper. I got the “mild” wings and they were hot for me (I am a spice lightweight). The biggest problem was the price. They were the most expensive with the fewest wings per serving (and small wings at that) of all the places we have reviewed so far. I would have liked them to be a little crispier and a little less salty.
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Scott’s Overall Review: The wings were crispy and the spiciest in the city So Far. They where tasty and enjoyable. The sauce did seem to want to set its self apart with salt and black pepper, but not too overpowering. My only gripe with the wings here was the size and price. At $10 bucks for 8 meager wings its a little pricey. The wings came with a nice amount of celery and carrots. The bleu cheese was another story though. I had to take a few tastes before I realized the problem. The bleu cheese tasted blah like it was watered down. The taste of the wings did even out the price and bleu cheese.

Authenticity: Passes the authenticity test with the only exception being too much pepper in the sauce.

Wing size: The wings were small. For 10 bucks the wings should be bigger or they should give more in a serving.
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Sauce: The sauce was tasty , but a little too peppery and salty. They offer a mild and hot version and both were pretty hot, which is a nice change, because in our experience the sauce is usually less hot than advertised.

Accouterments: They gave you bleu cheese dressing, celery, carrots and a lettuce leaf. They advertise the dressing as “home made,” but in this case home made doesn’t necessarily = good. It was kinda watery, chalky and not very tasty.

Atmosphere: National Mechanics is in the old Club Revival building in Old City. That space has been a million different things since the Revival days, but this one seems to have stuck for now. They did a nice job renovating the building and the lunch crowd was pretty mellow. We’re sure it’s a different scene on a Saturday night with an obnoxious Old City crowd. The decor is interesting and kind of schizophrenic — big stained glass windows, church pews, old lights hanging, terrariums, bugs under glass and fake fires — but it’s not cheesy. The staff was very nice and the rest of the menu looked pretty tasty.

Rating: ★★★★½

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