There isn’t any shortage of beer snobs and coffee cuppers in Toronto, people who seek out the best of the best and revel in its quality. Chicken wings, though, aren’t exactly something that you hear much about — there are few complaints. People sit there slathering sauce all over their faces, not aware of the fact that they could be blissfully hiccupping from the unparalleled sweet chili heat of a perfect Duff’s wing, or salivating over the stone-cooked goodness of an Indie Ale House maple wing. So, give your wing man a call, and let’s head out to get something to eat.
On our wing tour, first stop is the Real Sports Bar, an odd, gigantic downtown Toronto venue that feels like a strip club for sports fanatics. Sure, you can watch “the game” on the bar’s movie theatre-esque screen, or one of about 100 other screens, but we’re here to sample some really expensive, but really good hot wings. It’s worth it.
Real Sports Bar (15 York St.) hot wings are ginormous and delicious. They are tender, meaty, and cooked to perfection by Executive Chef Tony Glitz, who takes his pub food damn seriously, as one should. His Thai Sweet Chilli wings will distract you from even the best football game. But while you may miss a touchdown or two, your brain will at peace on a wing-fuelled high that will take all your troubles away.
Next stop on the wing train is a city favourite for many. Duff’s Famous Wings (see locations here) comes from Buffalo under the watch of founder Louise Duffney but in recent years the chain has opened three restaurants in the Greater Toronto Area. Its specialty is spice. There are few wing joints that can match Duff’s in terms of hotness done well, which means not forsaking flavour. You can climb the Scoville rating scale here without any fear that you’re going to get some vinegary dive bar Frank’s sauce. Armageddon — Duff’s spiciest offering — is worth the embarrassment of the staff sounding an alarm from the bar when you order it. They are magical.
Lastly, I’m including one of Toronto’s newest bars, Indie Ale House (2876 Dundas St. W.), partly because it’s somewhere you may not have tried otherwise, as it’s tucked away in the Junction, at the westernmost tip of Hogtown. Not only do they brew their own beer on the premises here (you can even take it home with you), but their wings by head chef Patrick Fraser are like little works of art. They go with the less is more game plan here, but each wing is of such fine quality, you’ll kind of wonder if you’ve ever really tasted real chicken wings before. In a distinctive touch, each wing plate is served with a side salad as opposed to the usual veg and dip combo.