Philly food is so much more than cheesesteaks. Let us show you.
The Super Bowl is upon us, and that can only mean one thing: chicken wings. Tomorrow, Philadelphia will hold its annual debaucherous ode to gluttony at Wing Bowl 24—which I was invited to see the preparations for, although driving to Haddon Township in New Jersey to watch 10,000 wings be cooked at 1am isn’t the most exciting press access I’ve ever received. It also marks the re-emergence of lists from Zagat, Drink Philly, and surely many more about the best places to find and eat wings in the city. Bars have specials, restaurants that never do wings are pulling them out, and people couldn’t be happier.
I don’t get it.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had delicious wings. I’ve even helped make them—every year for the 4th of July my family has a wing cook-off, and last year my wife and I took home the trophy. But everything about the wings, to me, screams inefficiency. Breaking them down, cooking them, making sauce, and eating them—especially eating them—makes way too much work for such a small payoff. All the digging around, maneuvering around bones, smearing food all over your hands and face, and for what? An ounce of chicken meat. If you’re going to go through the trouble of making delicious chicken, make a thigh. Even with the bone in, the meat-to-bone ratio and ease of consumption is exponentially better than with a wing.
I’m no neat-freak who can’t handle a hand-eaten meal. But the human race has perfected so many ways to eat things with our hands, wings seem to have been left behind somehow. Tacos, burritos, and nachos all pack more punch than a wing and with a modicum of the mess. Burgers, even when they’re messy, offer more payoff at the end in terms of food amount, and you don’t have to keep slithering your tongue in and out of bone like some weird, creepy homeless person—unless you’ve received a really, really terrible burger.
But maybe you just want a snack. You’re not looking for the whole meal a burger offers. There are still plenty of options that offer more return and less work—basically, anything that isn’t a chicken wing. Even a boneless wing requires infinitely less mess and work than a regular wing—pop it in your mouth, chew a few times, and you’re good. No muss, no fuss. And while I’m in no way vegan or even vegetarian, the meatless version of wings have the same simple process of popping into your mouth and chewing.
If you have to have your wings, that’s great. I’m a firm believer in “whatever makes you happy.” But I still just don’t get it, and I probably never will—I’ve never been a fan of something that requires more weight in wet naps than it gives in actual edible food. Or something with a challenge that is hot just to be hot, rather than food that is hot and also flavorful. Wings almost always come up short for me, and it seems like the sauce would be better used on a different part of the chicken. Or anything else.