I don’t normally resort to click baitish sounding headlines as the one I’m using here or making lists, but Steve’s on a mission. Why stoop to that level?
I saw an article on the Business Insider blaming millennials for the demise of suburban chain casual dining due in part to changing dining habits like eating in or eating faster meals. I proposed a far simpler rational.
It's either millennials or people realizing these places are hot garbage. https://t.co/3Q8SyCbAlf
— Steve DiMiceli (@SteveDiMiceli) June 3, 2017
Of course I managed a typo in my tweet that I’m now just realizing, but our Tiger Rowan looked passed it and raised the bar.
Yep. I can name over 500 places (no hyperbole) that I'd rather eat at than Applebee's. #neveranoption
— Tiger Rowan (@TigerRowan) June 3, 2017
On paper, that sounds lofty, but he didn’t place any restrictions by location, cuisine, type of restaurant Michelin Star, nothing. He could conceivably include any place from The French Laundry to Taco Bell on that list. Personally, I would prefer a meal at either to Applebee’s even if I’ve never eaten at French Laundry. Rowan, the only happy football fan in San Diego, would prefer some restaurant he made up on the spot that he referred to as Vons.
Not to be outdone…
And I could name 40 chicken wings I'd prefer to Buffalo Wild Wings https://t.co/JnSRLbdras
— Steve DiMiceli (@SteveDiMiceli) June 3, 2017
Challenge issued by myself and accepted by myself. Grouped by neighborhood, but in no particular order beside that, here are the Pittsburgh area Wing establishments I’d prefer to Buffalo Wild Wings.
Holds a special place in my heart as I went there almost every Thursday for a very long time. Classic flavors and always well covered in sauce.
Not a Buffalo Wing per se. More like they were dumped in a crock pot at 10 in the morning and left to stew all day. Good flavor and they fall off the bone. I have heard the phrase best in Pittsburgh used to describe them.
Doublewide doesn’t even need to put meat in their wings for me to prefer them to Buffalo Wild Wings. The seitan wings are better than most boneless wings. Also can we establish that boneless wings aren’t wings?
Not sure if they still do it, but they used to run a daily wing special so every night is wing night. I like an extra crispy wing and that’s how the come out there.
Even though the name seems to suggest it, this is not a wing joint, though they do wing quite well.
Generally, I don’t eat something as straightforward as a chicken wing when I do go to Fathead’s, but they were legit the couple of times I had them.
Another joint that doesn’t even need meat. It’s been a while since I’ve had them, but I’d sooner go back than go to Buffalo Wing Wings.
Again, this preparation would be unacceptable for anyone from the only city in America where the Tragically Hip played arena shows, but I have zero problem with smoked wings. Also stay for the most underrated dessert in Pittsburgh.
I would go through phases in wing eating and these guys won most wing nights for a while.
Screw the wings at Cupka’s I though, am I right?
I didn’t really want to include Mario’s for some reason, but if there were only two chicken wings left in the world, Mario’s and BWW, I would take Mario’s.
Here’s a Pens pregame spot that I’ve been familiar with since they opened. It’s got a special place in my heart.
If you’re not a Duquesne graduate, Red Ring sounds more like a personal problem than a great place for snacks. In general, this is mediocre casual dining fair a la what one might expect at an Applebee’s, but the wings are a cut above the rest of offerings.
You had me at turkey wing.
Mt. Washington has a plethora of established wing joints, more than maybe we deserve, but I’ll start with the original. Very consistent wing experience with a solid Buffalo as a foundation.
They have a buttload of sauces that when I went there regularly all tasted similar, but they were still solid. No complaints.
Could technically count this as two restaurants, but I won’t. What they lack on variety of flavor, they make up for with perfect preparation. Bacon flavoring is where it’s at.
They have so many things I like to eat here that wings rarely cross my mind when I’m there, but I’d gladly skip the rest if the choice is theirs or Buffalo Wild Wings.
This is more of a haunt for CMU grads, but this Duquesne guy’s a fan.
Yes, it’s a hot dog joint, but don’t sell them short on the wing side. Honestly, they do bar food as well as anyone in town.
Confession, I’ve never had the wings or anything else at Big Jim’s as every time I’ve tried to go there, something has come up, either a private party or an unexpected closure. Still, I’d rather take the risk and get turned away than step foot in a Buffalo Wild Wings.
Dare I say Pittsburgh’s original gastropub? This was the type of place that when I first moved to Pittsburgh, the Lehigh Valley couldn’t hold a flame to. I feel like you shouldn’t eat out in Oakland after you turn 30, but I would make an exception.
Go for the wings. Stay for the men’s room urinal.
I phoned a friend on the North suburbs. While I lived there briefly, one of my go to wing joints (Sharkey’s) closed down. The other, Shenanigans, was solid but second fiddle.
Kevin helped with these next three. I will take his word that they’re good and better than Buffalo Wild Wings.
As it turns out, Sharkey’s old friers are still churning out crispy, spicy goodness in the same location. The place changed hands but according to Kevin, it’s still a destination. Kevin — It’s good, but they stubbornly still allow smoking in the restaurant/bar, so I get them purely as take out because I like wings but not with a side of emphysema.
Kevin — North Park Lounge has a fair share of faults, but if you’re in the mood to inflict damage on the inner workings of your body, they do bar food very well. Their wings are respectable.
Kevin — Take a gander at their selection of wing sauces. I mean…regard it! I would like to meet the human being that has tried all of these sauces and can differentiate between them.
Just to prove that I’m not entirely anti-chain, I have a lot of love for Quaker Steak. Their Louisiana Lickers sauce is no question one of my favorite non-Buffalo wing sauces.
Again, this is not one that I’ve tried personally, but I’ve met a ton of people who swear by it. While I haven’t eaten there, I promise I will drive an hour and a half to go there before I hit the Buffalo Wild Wings just up US 30 from my house.
Try to spend an hour in this place and not smell like a chicken wing. Not possible.
With this exercise, I’ve forced myself to comb the memory banks for spots I’d forgotten about. Carnivore’s in Oakmont is one that I regrettably have.
This Steelers training camp staple is new to my list. Their hot sauce has a tanginess to match the heat. Pro-tip from the friend who introduced me, order the wings with extra sauce.
Might be the most underrated wings in western PA since literally no one seems to rate them. This downtown Greensburg joint consistently produces big crispy wings. If I made a actual ranking, these would be in the top 5.
I haven’t been to this little joint down the hill from my house in Greensburg, but my in laws, who moved in up the block have been in their twice in the last month. In case you’re keeping score, they have not been to Buffalo Wild Wings.
I’m not a huge fan of Rivertowne’s beer overall, but I’m always a big fan of their food.
When I’m looking for bad-for-you food in the South Hills, it’s generally pizza as it’s inarguably home to the two best pizza joints in Pittsburgh, Fiore’s and Beto’s. However, Mt. Lebanon Saloon makes a nice wing.
So I got to 36 and failed. I’m sure people would be happy to help me fill in the rest in the comments section with a litany that I missed. I guess I’m actually proud of myself for not having gorged on so many chicken parts that I can name 40 places easily. One thing that made it particularly challenging is that wings, generally speaking, are an impulse food. You don’t normally stray far from home, so your wing experience and preference is likely to be localized.
I still think my point stands. There are a lot of places out there I’d prefer to Buffalo Wild Wings. For the sake of this piece, I only looked at quality or expected quality based on the feedback of people I trust, but there are other reasons why I prefer local spots to national chains. For one, I like to experience the true culture of where I am and while the chicken wing is certainly not unique to Pittsburgh, I think you get a better feel of what’s appreciated where you are when you eat at a locally based place. I like the idea of helping my neighbors operate a successful business. Given the choice between supporting an owner who lives within a few miles of me or some national corporation in Minneapolis, I’ll take the little or the little’ish guy every time.
So I ask Boomer and Gen Xers to unite with Millennials and break the chains of suburban casual dining and get some variety in your life. If you’re going to pack on the cholesterol and calories from wings, you might as well make the experience as worth it as you can.