A VIP wrist band, a seat at the judge’s table with a personalized name plate, bottomless booze, and free wings from 11 of the best wing joints in Brooklyn served to me at my request. Being a judge in The Best Wings In Brooklyn Competition sounds easy, right? Not exactly. Let me tell you why. Wing connoisseurs like myself take a job like this very seriously. Before the event, I trained my stomach by eating 38 wings in three days. I also put an 8pm curfew on myself to make sure I was fully rested for the big day. After these grueling but necessary preparations, I was ready to go.
It was T-Shirt Time!
45 minutes after departing from my Hoboken, NJ apartment, I had reached my destination – the G train Greenpoint Avenue stop. I followed my directions West and in the distance I saw a woman dressed in a yellow chicken costume…
After brushing feathers with the yellow awesomeness above, I was greeted by Nick D’Arienzo, who coordinated the event. He introduced me to a few folks, then showed me to my seat at the judge’s table on the 2nd floor.
After settling into what would be my digs for the afternoon, I grabbed a drink from the bar and went downstairs to check out the scene. The competitors were setting up their feeding stations while hungry wing-goers began lining up outside for a chance to sample Brooklyn’s finest. Before long, the line was around the block and people started packing into the bar. I returned upstairs, where I was met by the other judges. The judge to my left just happened to be Brooklyn Paper editor Gersh Kuntzman.
We settled into our seats and reviewed our judging booklets.
After studying the criteria that we would be judging the wings on, the crowd grew silent with whispers of “Shhh.” Into the room walked Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. He grabbed the microphone and kicked off the wing-tivities with an empowering speech.
Here we go…
Bean Post Pub – Bay Ridge
These meaty, Honey-Bourbon BBQ wings were bleeding sauce and had a sweet honey taste.
Buffalo Boss – Downtown Brooklyn
Jay-Z’s cousin’s “Fire In The Hole” wings weren’t the biggest in size, but they had a huge garlic taste.
Flipster’s – Park Slope
I’m not a big fan of breaded wings, but these meaty guys won me over with their crunchiness and bold buffalo taste.
Keg and Lantern – Greenpoint
My buddy Pete from Buffalo (people from Buffalo know a good wing, right?) thought these sausage stuffed wings were good enough to take home first prize. A lot of people agreed with him. They were full of flavor and effortless to eat.
The Kettle Black – Bay Ridge
Sticky, with a sweet strawberry taste, their rumored secret ingredient, Irish Whiskey, had my taste buds partying!
Life Cafe 983 – Bushwick
Perfectly cooked, the meat fell off the bone on contact and melted in my mouth. The sauce had a hint of hickory to it. My taste buds were screaming for more!
Muholland’s – Williamsburg
Flooded in a sweet buffalo sauce, these wings required some work to get off the bone, and I’m not gonna lie, I kinda liked it.
Red Star – Greenpoint
A++ for presentation. These pretty looking Raspberry BBQ wings tasted just like their name. Different and yummy!
Rocky Sullivan’s – Red Hook
Their regular house sauce was plentiful and pleasant. Any other day, I could see myself plowing through 20 of these bad boys in a sitting.
Rocky’s also let us sample their “Triple-X” sauce. Boy, I wish I didn’t. They brought tears to my eyes and my lip was blistering. If you like it hot, these are right down your alley.
Super Wings NY – Crown Heights
It’s no wonder why Super Wings won last year’s competition, then went on to beat Bobby Flay in a Food Network Throwdown. These ginger wings with lava sauce were off the hook! (Photo credit: Metromix)
4 hours later, I’d sampled two wings from each of the 11 competitors, and had a serious case of the meat sweats. I’m not going to speak for the other judges, but let’s just say they weren’t looking too hot…
Everybody brought their A-game that day, but a few recipes stood out amongst the rest of the field. The owner’s of those recipes were our three finalists: Bonnie’s, Life Cafe 983, and 2010 champion, Super Wings NY.
Our job wasn’t over yet. We still had to pick a winner! To help us with our tough decision ahead, we gave each finalist one last chance to make a lasting impression on our taste buds. They would serve us one final wing, then we would make our decision. At this point, I’d threw back 24 wings. Did I have room for three more? Of course I did! I am The Ultimate Wingman. I shook off my meat sweats and threw on my game face…
The final wings were just as good as we all had remembered. With the final tasting complete, it was now time to pick a winner. The jury was divided – so divided I thought Red Star was going to have to put us up in a hotel for the night because I didn’t see a unanimous choice coming anytime soon. After a grueling deliberation, we finally reached a decision…
3rd Place – Super Wings NY
2nd Place – Bonnie’s Grill
1st Place – Life Cafe 983
Red Star and Super Wings NY tied for the “People’s Choice” award.
Only a few were lucky enough to take home hardware, but everybody was a winner. Over 1,500 people came through Red Star’s doors and munched on free wings (no, that’s not a typo – FREE WINGS!) from Brooklyn’s best. More importantly, a portion of the proceeds were donated to The Food Bank of New York City, which provides 400,000 free meals a day for New Yorkers in need.
And I threw back 27 wings, raising my 2011 total to 268 (31.5 ahead of my target for day 43).
Check out more shots from the competition below. Hope you had as much fun reading this post as I did being a judge.