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Onward Debate: Who Has the Best Wings in State College?

Just like apple pie and hot dogs, chicken wings are an American staple, especially in a college town like State College, where the late night delivery orders are aplenty — and everyone has a preference. Multiple elements come into play, from the texture to the flavor. Whether it’s a Saturday night and Penn State’s playing on road or it’s a hungover Sunday afternoon and you’ve just rolled out of bed, these finger foods are an absolute necessity at times. In another debate, the Onward State staff fights over the best wings in town.

Zen Wings and Things – Jack Lukow

Zen Wings makes no attempts to fool you about the quality of food it serves. It wants to give you deep-fried food, and too much of it is a heart attack waiting to happen.

The restaurant simply has two tables, some old gaming machines, and a TV. They know why you’re there — wings, fast. That is really what makes Zen so special: Fast delivery, preparation, and tasty wings are its only goals. It want to win you over with its deep fried goods, not its appearance.

Zen’s signature flavor is Kickin’ Ranch. The original sauce is filled with flavor and spice, and will haunt your cravings for the rest of your college career. No longer will your stomach growl with an errant craving, it will have a goal. “Kickin’ Ranch” will echo through your empty stomach, driving you back again.

Another benefit of Zen is that it’ll keep your wallet light. Almost everything on the first page of its menu is a combo meal, all at the prices of wings alone at other competitors.

The only thing that Zen lacks is charisma, but is that really what you need when buying wings before the big game? Or do you want unapologetic speed and taste?

Wings Over — Greg Schlosser

I feel like everyone remembers the first time they try Wings Over. For me, it was in the Thompson Hall lounge at 2 a.m. after a long night out my freshman year. I distinctly remember ordering the Wimpy boneless wings (I feel bad about it too) and an order of waffle fries.

And just like that, my life was changed forever.

From there on out, Wings Over became my go-to food order for drunk eating and hangovers alike. And what’s not to love? The menu boasts 24 great wing flavors, so there’s something for everyone to enjoy. The french fries are always on point, and the waffle fries are equally as good. I’ve never had to wait longer than 20 minutes for a delivery, and the Hang Glider special is one of the best deals at Penn State. Add up all of the above, and you get the best wing restaurant in State College.

Don’t forget about the Aircraft Carrier special, which is an absolutely incredible amount of food. Sixty wings, six pounds of boneless wings, and two racks of ribs for a cool $136? That could feed an apartment of four for two weeks.

Canyon Wings – Aaron Andrews

When you hear the word Canyon, you probably think Canyon Pizza. My mind, on the other hand, goes immediately to Canyon Wings. The restaurant immediately greets you with a giant board displaying almost 30 delicious flavors. Sure, they call their wings “Boners,” but when you’re ordering you don’t even think about that. You think about the meaty, sauce-drenched chicken you’re about to devour. If you compared the taste of its wings to some of State College’s more popular wing joints I guarantee you wouldn’t find a lack in quality. In fact, I think if you find your preferred Canyon wing flavor you’ll prefer it over any flavor Wings Over offers.

Bold, I know. My personal favorite is the Sigma sauced wings. They’re the best honey mustard hybrid wing you’ll ever have. They also have plain, honey mustard wings if you’re not a hybrid person.

I can’t discuss Canyon Wings without also mentioning their Orgy Fries. I’ll let the name speak for itself. With a location right in the middle of Beaver Avenue, you can’t ask for more downtown convenience.

The Darkhorse Tavern – Doug Dooling Jr.

A dark horse is a candidate who unexpectedly vanquishes her foes, and at the Darkhorse Tavern, the Pazzo’s Choice wings make the competitors taste like gristle. The Darkhorse staff mixes its hot sauce with butter and garlic to create a delectable treat. Add in the actually good bleu cheese and you have an appetizer that burns, melts, and soothes all at once.

Throw in a courteous wait staff, an excellent music scene, and sports on every television, and you have the perfect atmosphere to consume your wings. Short and sweet — Darkhorse’s wings are the surprise winner for best in town.

Kildare’s Irish Pub – Jon Deasy

The main focus of this debate is on the wings, sure. But each restaurant has certain characteristics that cannot be ignored. For less than that ten dollar bill in your pocket, you can feast like a king at Kildare’s. Every Monday night, Kildare’s offers all-you-can-eat wings of your choice. I thought it was too good to be true at first, as well, but this special is a college kid’s dream. The wings are cheap, they come out fast, and they taste like real wings, not like something in a styrofoam box that’s been riding shotgun in a Honda Civic for 15 minutes. Oh, and did I mention you get all-you-can-eat fries as well?

The BFG, or baked-fried-grilled wings, will send your taste buds into complete hysteria. The name tells you everything you need to know. Kildare’s has mastered the art of cooking wings by combining every method into one wing. Baking gives the wings their tenderness, while the grilling method brings out all the seasoned flavor. Finally, the deep fryer gives them that crunchiness that so many people crave.

To this day, I have no idea what kind of sauce Kildare’s coats its BFG wings in, nor do I even care to ask because they’re just that good. The wings are sweet, but yet they have a kick of spiciness. It’s mind-blowing.

Pickle’s – Yuka Narisako

I was enjoying a beer at Pickle’s when a friend of mine suggested I try the peanut butter wings there. For one, I was never a fan of peanut butter. I am 23 years old and I have never eaten a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. But being a wings enthusiast, I decided to give these peanut butter wings a go.

It ended up being the best decision of my entire life.

The sauce was closer to a Thai Peanut Sauce than I’d expected, and I love Thai food. It was magical. Nowhere in my travels have I ever encountered a sauce that I instantly fell in love with. The sauce surprisingly tasted even better with bleu cheese. I’ve been Googling peanut sauces to see if I can recreate this phenomenal sauce at home.

Peanut butter wings or die.

Big Bowl – Noel Purcell

So, the best wings in State College are at a Chinese restaurant. I know, this is exactly what you expected. Discretely located underneath McLanahan’s, Big Bowl is a hidden gem. Boasting an extensive menu of wonderful noodle soups, rice dishes, and stir fry that take up two full flat screen TVs, one would probably pay little notice to the Soups and Side Dishes menu located right by the register. It would take someone truly dedicated to the chicken wing cause to scan that menu two-thirds of the way down to get to menu item number 414/420 to find the inappropriately-hyphenated “Garlic-Butter Wings.” But if you were adventurous enough, you’d be awarded with some of the best fried chicken this side of Kentucky.

At six pieces for $3.15, they’re a steal, and they burst with flavor like few others can. Battered, sort of breaded, and deep fried fresh, the wings are stacked log cabin style in a small dish and bathed in house-made garlic butter sauce. Crispy, hot, savory, rich and garlicky, they’re the most underrated menu item at a restaurant that truly does not get its fair due. Add a splash of sriracha or some chili oil for the extra punch associated with your typical hot wing, and they cover every base. Big Bowl rules, and these wings will change your life. Everything is better with garlic butter.

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About the Author

Jon Deasy

is a senior majoring in criminology from the Steel City. You can find him at the Rathskeller on a Saturday or in the library at four in the morning. He plans to attend law school in the future and enjoys writing about college kids committing the most comical crimes in State College. When he’s not busy, he’s aimlessly staring at his Twitter, @jon_deasy. You can reach him via email at [email protected]

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