Munchin’ with Michael: chicken wings

Michael Barthelemy, Food Critic

This feels like a clash of the titans.

Chicken is my favorite food, and chicken wings are an exceptional product. Evanston alone boasts numerous options for wings, all fantastic in the eyes of the crowd. With the Super Bowl just around the corner, a time where millions of wings are bought for parties across the country, this is the perfect time to help guide you through the world of wings.

For this review, I chose to visit three of Evanston’s most popular restaurants, all specializing in their wings: 10q Chicken, Buffalo Joe’s and Chicken Shack. I also decided to get classic barbeque wings rather than opt for another sauce such as buffalo due to its popularity, and let’s be honest, not everyone can handle spice, but everyone can handle barbeque.

Anyways enough talk, let’s get to munchin’.


Chicken Shack

In terms of value, no place can compete with Chicken Shack. While the price of $7.40 for seven boneless wings may not seem impressive, the size of the wings themselves are enough to feed more than one person. Chicken Shack is not just a value pick; they know how to cook some delicious chicken.

In the first bite, the meat is what demands your attention. It is cooked perfectly: tender, moist and easy to sink your teeth into. Needing razor sharp teeth or a powerful jaw just to break into dry chicken is anyone’s worst nightmare. Chicken Shack shows clear dedication in their craft, avoiding the rubbery-nature of poorly cooked chicken.

The breading, while not standing out as elite, is still of high enough quality to not act as a negative. It brings a crispy texture that contrasts the tender chicken well.

The problem was in the sauce. It featured a more sour flavor rather than a traditional tangy barbeque. The pungent flavor was peculiar, and I found myself confused about the style of barbeque. Besides moisture of the chicken, the sauce is the most important aspect of a chicken wing, so having to question my liking towards the sauce was a red flag. While the sauce was not bad, it certainly wasn’t great, which holds back the overall score for the dish. 


Score: 4.2/5


10q Chicken

10q is fairly new onto the Evanston scene, established just over a year ago in late 2018. But in that short time, the Korean-barbeque spot has quickly grown in popularity among Evanstonians for their chicken sandwiches and bowls, and their wings aren’t half-bad either.

The chicken was cooked extremely well. The tenderness of it made the bite easy. While it may not have had the same moisture as Chicken Shack, they made up for it by drenching the chicken in a thinner sauce, which rehydrated the chicken.

The breading is where this dish stands out. There is a thick layer that is fried to a perfect crisp. The crunch is difficult to match and elevates the wings in a major way.

10q does not have a “traditional” barbeque sauce, so I opted for their Kangnam Style wings. The sauce is unlike any other on this list, which was expected because it is Korean-barbeque. The sauce was, as mentioned previously, thinner than any other sauce, but that does not mean diluted flavor. To combat having a thinner sauce, 10q simply offers more of it, dousing the wings while having them rest in a layer of sauce underneath. 

As for the taste, I had mixed emotions. In the first few bites, I was growing to be a fan of the unique tangy flavor. As I went on, I began to alter my feelings and find it to be a bit too strong. I enjoyed the flavor, but in small portions.


Score: 3.8/5


 Buffalo Joe’s

Buffalo Joe’s, often referred to simply as “Buff Joe’s,” is what you expect when you think of barbeque wings. They are crispy, on the bone and drenched in a thick sauce. While to many this may seem too basic, there is a reason this is the standard for wings.

The chicken is cooked the best of the three, which says a lot considering both 10q and Chicken Shack did a near-perfect job. The meat falls off the bone easily, is cooked to be tender and the moisture ensures it isn’t tough to swallow. 

The breading was a thin yet crisp layer that was just enough to make sure the wing stays together. While it was subtle, this breading made a tremendous impact in adding texture while still keeping the spotlight on the chicken.

As for the sauce, it was the clear star of the dish. The main component that made it stand out over others was its sweetness, which had me going back in for more. Despite the abnormal sweetness, Buff Joe’s was still able to stick to the roots of barbeque. The classic tang was still prevalent and overall, I couldn’t get enough of this thirst-quenching dressing.

Overall, I would say Buff Joe’s is the standard for what barbeque wings should be. Going in and ordering should be celebrated, and hey, their cheese chips aren’t too bad either.

Score: 4.7/5