Love wings? These restaurants serve some winners

CINCINNATI -- If the impending Super Bowl has you thinking about wings, we won't judge.

But really, you don't need an excuse to dig in. So who's got the best in town?

In the name of public service journalism, I, entertainment editor Tasha Stewart and editorial cartoonist Kevin Necessary sampled wings from 15 different Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky restaurants over the course of three days. (Yes, we're questioning our life choices, too.)

Ready to drool? Let's go.

SMOKED WINGS

Taft's Ale House

Taft's marinates its wings in Nellie's Key Lime Caribbean Ale before smoking them with hickory chips and serving them with a tangy house-made sauce. "These are good just by themselves with a strong, smoked flavor," Kevin said.

Seven wings for $10. Taft’s Ale House, 1429 Race St., Over-the-Rhine. taftsalehouse.com

Knockback Nat's

Knockback Nat's wings are dry rubbed, smoked and then grilled. As Knockback regulars will attest, the wings are so good they don't even need sauce, but you can order sauces (there are six) on the side to dip them in. Kevin described the wings as "meaty and definitely smoky." I agreed: There was definitely a bit of heat in the dry rub.

Eight wings for $8.95; 12 for $11.95; 16 for $14.95. Knockback Nat's, 10 W. Seventh St., Downtown. On Facebook.

Just Q'in

As far as smoked wings go, the wings at Just Q'in are in a class by themselves. Or as Tasha put it, "These might be in my top three wings in the city." The smoked wings are sticky and sweet enough to eat alone, but you also can dip them in the eatery's hot or mild sauces.

Five wings for $7. 6901 Valley Ave., Newtown; 975 E. McMillan St., Walnut Hills. justqin.com.

Oak Tavern

I fell in love with Oak Tavern's slow smoked, grilled and dry rubbed wings the first time I had them. The dipping sauces on the side were fantastic, too. I'd recommend the Carolina gold barbecue, Memphis sweet or Jamaican Me Crazy if you like a little kick.

Five wings for $6.95; 10 for $11.95; 20 for $21.95; 50 for $49.95. Oak Tavern, 3089 Madison Road, Oakley. www.oaktavernoakley.com

Delicio Coal Fired Pizza

Tasha and I tried Delicio's coal-fired fajita wings, which are marinated in a jalapeño-cilantro-lime vinaigrette, oven roasted and then smothered in caramelized vegetables. Tasha said the wings were "very crisp with a nice charred flavor." Meanwhile, I was glad to eat some veggies to balance all the wings we were eating.

Five wings for $4.50; 10 for $8.50; 20 for $14.50. 3701 Montgomery Road, Evanston. deliciocoalfiredpizza.com

BUFFALO WINGS

Wild Mike's

Wild Mike's elevates Buffalo wings to an art form with seven sauces to choose from and five levels of heat. Did we mention they're messy? As Tasha put it, "They are VERY saucy, so if that's not your thing, be warned." Amazingly, the wings remain crisp down to the last bite.

Eight wings for $8.29; 12 for $10.99; 16 for $14.29; 24 for $20.99; 50 for $39.99. Three locations. www.wildmikeswings.com

Buffalo Wings & Rings

Buffalo Wings & Rings' whole business model is based on wings, so it was no surprise that we enjoyed them. The medium-heat Buffalo sauce was a bit thicker than the sauce we tried at other eateries. You can ask for "extra wet" wings, meaning more sauce for you. (There are 12 options on the menu.)

Five wings for $6.49; 10 for $11.49; 15 for $15.99; 20 for $19.99; 25 for $23.99; 50 for $42.99. Multiple locations. www.buffalowingsandrings.com

Dickmann's Sports Cafe

Dickmann's is a classic sports bar in Northern Kentucky with plenty of TV screens and seating. So, it was no surprise when it served deep-fried wings smothered in medium-heat Buffalo sauce. As Tasha said, "These are the quintessential bar wings." The sauce is on point, too; Kevin described it as "darn good."

Five for $4.75; 10 for $8; 15 for $12.50; 20 for $15; 25 for $18. Dickmann's Sports Cafe, 479 Orphanage Road, Fort Wright. www.dickmannscafe.com

Oakley Pub & Grill

Oakley Pub's wings might be a bit less saucy than some of the other Buffalo-style versions we tried, but they still get the job done. "These are hefty, meaty wings," Tasha said. The pub offers a variety of tasty sauces, too. What makes the wings even better? Eating them at the pub, which is a legit corner neighborhood bar.

Five wings for $6.95; 10 for $10.95; 20 for $19.95; 50 for $43.95; 100 for $84.95. Oakley Pub & Grill, 3924 Isabella Ave., Oakley. oakleypubandgrill.com

Triple Cats Bar & Grille

A hat tip to Jennifer Lauren, who recommended we try Triple Cats' wings on the Cincinnati Food and Drink Facebook group. My wings were crisp with just the right amount of sauce. And Triple Cats is the perfect neighborhood bar to eat them in while watching the Super Bowl.

Four wings for $3.80; eight for $7.60; 12 for $11.40; 16 for $15.20; 20 for $19; 24 for $22.80. Triple Cats Bar & Grille, 1151 Harrison Ave., Harrison. www.triplecats.com

Barleycorn's

The wings at Barleycorn's are deep fried, tossed in sauce and deep fried again for a magical experience. After trying the medium-heat Buffalo wings, Kevin decided Barleycorn's wings would be the perfect food to eat after drinking a few beers, when "you just need something greasy, hot and good." The chunky, thick house-made blue cheese was a favorite, too.

Five wings for $7.50; 11 for $13.50. Three locations. www.barleycorns.com

FRIED AND ... (SMOKED, RUBBED, ETC.)

Northside Yacht Club

Northside Yacht Club smokes and then deep fries its wings before tossing them in house-made sauces with blue cheese dressing on the side. Sauces range from classic frank butter to a sesame ginger. The prep and sauce make for perfect eating, according to Kevin. "The smoked wings offer a decent amount of char that adds flavor. And the sauce is tangy but light," he said.

Six wings for $8; 12 for $15. Northside Yacht Club, 4231 Spring Grove Ave., Northside. northsideyachtclub.com

SmoQ

SmoQ smokes its wings before deep frying and tossing them in hot sauce. I ordered my wings dry and could have ate them plain with no complaints. The wings were definitely smoky and had a bit of a kick to them. Tasha agreed: "They were good and left my mouth tingling -- in a good way."

Seven wings for $8.99. SmoQ, 275 Pictoria Drive, Springdale. www.smoqbbq.com

Pontiac BBQ and Bourbon Bar

Pontiac smokes and rubs its wings in glorious fashion. As Tasha described them, the wings are "smoky, spicy and meaty." They're also a bit sticky with a light glaze on them. Did we mention they are served with a side of house-made ranch dressing? The wings are just an appetizer; order a side of Pontiac's fried pickles and you have a full meal.

Six wings for $8. 1403 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine. www.pontiacbbq.com

Americano Burger Bar

Americano's charred wings are best served naked: The House dry rub wings are nicely seasoned, crispy and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. (And they reheat well the next day!)

Six wings for $7. Americano Burger Bar, 545 Race St., Downtown. www.americanoburgerbar.com

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