There area a TON of places offering chicken wings in St. Pete, and this year our list has expanded from 10 to 18. They are not ranked, but are listed in random order.
First, A Little “Wingstory”
I’ve been bingeing on food history, and gorging myself on culinary education for the past few years, and the more I learn and experience, the more I find out about disagreements and controversy everywhere. Should you use the water pan or not in your Weber Smoking Mountain Cooker? Chili with or without beans? What’s the best pizza dough recipe?
In this case, it’s about who invented Buffalo wings. If you couldn’t care less, then just skip down to the list like half of the readers already did. (By the way, it’s not a ranking. They are listed in random order.) If you like a good food story, then keep reading.
Buffalo wings were invented in 1964 in Buffalo, New York. The Anchor Bar claims to have invented them. Some feel this is dubious because the bar specialized in Italian food. Also, three different people, two of them owners and one an employee, all have a different story of how they originated. Even the husband and wife original owners can’t agree. The most popular story is that their son’s friends stopped in late one night with the drunk-munchies, and didn’t want the regular Italian fare, and asked for something off the menu.
Mom, Teressa Bellissimo, thought about the “useless” chicken wings order that they received by accident that day, and decided to discard the tip, and separate the drumettes, and flats, fry them up, and then toss in Frank’s Red Hot Sauce and butter. Ta-Da! Buffalo Wings are spontaneously invented! To this day they have a sign saying “Home of the Original Buffalo Chicken Wings”.
Another story goes that John Young, an African-American, actually invented Buffalo wings before the Anchor Bar.
Back then the chicken wing was considered a throwaway part of the chicken, and they also were only sold as a full wing that included the drumette, the flat and the tip in one piece.
John Young‘s Wings and Things started selling chicken wings in 1963, a year before the Bellissimos claim to have invented them.
|SIDE NOTE ON PRICES: Hand-written notes of Young’s from 1963 show that chicken wings cost the restaurant 25¢ a pound back then. A local restaurteur tells me about prices today. “It fluctuates a lot, but it’s typically no lower than $2/lb, and lives in that range until Super Bowl, where it peaks around $3.25 lb. During the height/peak price of the pandemic they were at $4.50/lb. We took them off the menu when they hit $3.50/lb. The fluctuation is typically completely related to demand from sports bars and pizza places during football and basketball season. Come April, it starts to go down after March Madness.”
So, do we have black people’s food being appropriated by white people, albeit Italian-Americans? An argument could be made either way.
John Young was selling chicken wings in Buffalo before the Bellissimos. Back then, more well-off people did not eat chicken wings. They were considered throw-away parts of the chicken, but poorer people would eat them because they were more affordable. However, Young’s were different than the Bellissimo’s in a couple of ways. The Bellissimos made them in the way we still think of Buffalo Wings today—separated flats and drumettes, and hot sauce with butter, amongst other ingredients.
John Young left the wings intact, including the tip. (We have a new one like this on the list this year.) He had his own sauce called Mambo Sauce which is completely different than Buffalo wing sauce. There’s a myriad of more details to the full story, but that’s a sum up of this story, and a warm up for our list of the best wings in St. Pete.
Best Buffalo Wings & Chicken Wings in St. Pete
Wings remain one of the hottest food items, literally and figuratively—proper use of the word, ‘literally’ (you’re welcome)—and St. Pete’s eateries are happy to oblige.
The list order is random. (I actually put the names into an automated randomizer.)
Here are the Best Wings in St. Pete for 2023
From Haley: The wings at The Burg Bar & Grill are outstanding. Choose how you want them to be smothered from their list: mild, medium, hot, nuclear, bbq, sweet Thai chili, garlic parmesan, blackened or jerk. I went with medium for a little spice and it was perfect. If you’re like me, you’re okay with getting a little messy as long as it’s worth it. I’m here to tell you that these wings are finger licking good.
A life-long chef friend of mine told me about these so I had to check them out. Mangosteen goes a little more rustic, or peasant-style / street food by leaving the wing intact instead of separating the flats and drumettes. They leave the tip on too just like John Young in Buffalo did in 1964 when he claims to have invented Buffalo Wings. Mangosteen is Asian themed, and this style is likely how some of the Asian cultures do it with the full wing. These are done like spicy fried chicken. They are crispy on the outside, and moist on the inside with a little bit of heat, and there’s some extra sweet heat when you dip them in the chili sauce.
From Haley’s review: The wings at Category 36 come in either a batch of 5 or 10 with the choice of mild, medium, hot, BBQ, or garlic lemon pepper. The first time around I ordered the mild and the second I got them with BBQ. They know how to smother the wings in a tasty sauce but what’s equally important is the preparation and let me just say the meat fell off the bones with each bite I took. How impressive. If I had to pick, I liked the mild wings slightly more but they were both amazing and I can’t wait to try the medium sauce for a spicier kick next time. I mean, wings and beer, you can’t go wrong.
Last year, Mullet’s got left off the list after Lori and I went in June 2022 and they fell flat for us.
Then everyone went insane.
People were ranting on my Facebook post, “How could you leave Mullet’s off!?!?”. I even got a call from one of the owners to ask me why they weren’t on the list. Everyone still raves about them, so here they are. The above photo and below text are from Haley’s 2021 review. Note: The wings are no longer served on a plate as shown. They are now on a metal tray with aluminum foil.
From Haley’s review: When wing cravings hit, they hit hard, and now I know where my go-to spot is for the sauciest, most delicious, fall off the bone wings in St. Pete. Mullet’s does not mess around here with their Signature Smoked Wings. They smoke them right outside every single day. The quality is just impeccable and beyond scrumptious. I will be telling all of my wing aficionado friends about these wings. We ordered them in their House Merman Sauce which is a Carolina Gold style sauce with a major cajun kick. You’ll choose your style from Dry Rub, House Merman Sauce, Signature Dirté sauce, or Classic Buffalo. The blue cheese is also something I must rave about. A side of this cooling, blue cheese for dunking will surprise you and here’s why… I hate blue cheese but this house made blue cheese at Mullet’s is out of this world. It’s the perfect consistency and has a smooth taste to it. You can’t go wrong with the ranch either.
Datz’ Yum Yum Wings are a nice change-up with an Asian twist that I love. You get a pound of crispy jumbo chicken wings, tossed in Korean BBQ sauce and topped with green onions and chopped peanuts. Who could say no to that?
The Big Catch is a fun, laid back spot. It sits on Salt Creek, which leads out to Tampa Bay. It has a Florida-like vibe without being kitschy or feeling like a tourist trap. It’s a true locals place, and of course tourists are welcome too. Their Buffalo Wings are excellent. They are nice and saucy, crunchy and tender with a nice little bite of spice. There are also choices of honey BBQ, Jamaican rum or garlic Parmesan sauce.
Ma Brown’s Extra Hot were perfect for me. I like extra spicy foods, and this one was spicy, but not extra-spicy to me. That’s not a complaint. I loved them. They would likely be extra spicy to the average palate. The wings were perfectly crispy on the outside, and plump and juicy on the inside. Lori ordered hot and they were spicy enough for her.
The Galley’s Buffalo Wings are meaty, and hot with just the right amount of bite. They are nice and saucy with heat and vinegar, but still crispy at the same time.
We always see people raving all over social media about the Sriracha Wings at Engine No.9, and it’s for good reason. It’s nice to have something unique too. We can’t think of any other place that has Sriracha Wings. Just look at that sauce.
Roam’s wings come with either candy sauce or herb buffalo. We opted for the more traditional route of herb buffalo. These wings are perfectly crispy and fried to perfection and are undoubtedly some of the best in town. The spice from the buffalo sauce was idyllic for heat babies like Abby, but still bursting with herby buffalo flavor.
From Lori’s write-up: “Harry’s has been voted as having the best wings on St Pete Beach, so no question, we had to try them. We were going to just get them with buffalo sauce, but then our server said we had to try the Signature Sirata Sauce which is a mixture of Boom Boom and sriracha. As soon as I heard that…I was totally in. They are super saucy and absolutely delicious. I highly recommend these wings and that sauce is a must. Completely craveable.”
The Buffalo Wings at The Avenue provide that nice sting and vinegar kick that we all crave. They are spicy and mouthwatering, and always consistent.
From Abby: From the Appetizer section, we elected to order the Thai Original Wings. We order wings a lot when we eat out, but are often ever so slightly disappointed. You see, I’m one of those who just *needs* needs the wings to be crispy. Extra crispy. A lot of times, no matter how much I reiterate the “extra crispy, please,” I’m left with a sad plate of chewy wings that, sadly, are just mediocre. However, the Thai Original Wings at Pin On Cafe are anything but mediocre. In fact, I didn’t even request them to be crispy, by mistake, and after one bite, I deemed them the crispiest wings that I have had in St. Pete, period.
The wings are not spicy, in the slightest, and are coated in a pleasant batter. They are presented with a sweet and tangy sauce for dipping or drizzling. With each crunch, I enjoyed the wings more and more.
From Lori’s Bier Boutique review: “These wings are large in size, juicy, spicy and absolutely some of the best I have ever had. On the menu they are described as a Pound of Grilled Wings – choose original, chipotle bbq, supercharged or jerk. I know Kevin will definitely go for the supercharged next time.”
Ferg’s offers 12 different versions of wings—more than any other place by far—and they are all excellent. We were in the mood for Hot Wings. They have the perfect amount of crunch, and enough spice to satisfy me, without hurting Lori’s pretty little mouth.
McArthur’s Irish Pub has some great food, including their wings. They have nine different sauces to choose from starting with mild, medium, hot, very hot and more. I knew Lori wanted to try them so I went with hot instead of very hot. They had a great plump bite to them with the skin being nicely done, and they were quite meaty. The heat level didn’t let me down even though I like very hot.
Lala’s wings are delicious. The sauce has a nice level of spice that is approachable, and the sauce has flavor as well. They had a nice char on the outside, were plump and juicy on the inside with a good amount of meat. When you’re done, have fun singing in the karaoke rooms, and check out the rooftop bar.
V9 Eats wings are slow smoked then flash fried. You can choose between Buffalo, sweet Thai chili, or dry rubbed. The sweet Thai chili wings are balanced between tangy and sweet with just a little bit of spice. Smoked chicken can have a rubbery skin, and they do a good job of crisping them up with the flash frying.
Lori Brown, Abby Allen-Leach, and Haley Haman contributed to this article.
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Here are the best wings - Buffalo, Hot, Sriracha, and several other styles - In St. Pete for 2023.