Snackers seeking the tastiest wings in Cumberland County have a wide range of options. That’s what made the task of identifying what businesses residents think have the best wings so daunting, but also fun.
The idea to do “the great wing taste test” for the Super Bowl came about while The Sentinel staff was enjoying wings at a newsroom party. We knew it would be difficult, especially with how many restaurants in the area serve wings — pizza places, bars, chains and locally-owned restaurants alike serve their own version of the classic buffalo wing.
We wanted to know where people could get the best wings for their Super Bowl parties.
We first took to Facebook to find out what our readers suggested since the best restaurants are discovered by word of mouth. After receiving more than 90 comments on our Facebook post, it was time to figure out which places were our readers top picks.
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That narrowed-down list was formatted into a poll on our website, where readers could pick which place they thought had the best wings. After four days online, the poll gave us a look at who the contenders would be.
The Trindle Inn in Carlisle led the way with 456 votes, Three Pines Tavern in Mt. Holly Springs was next with 357 votes, next was North Hanover Grille in Carlisle with 105 votes, Redd’s Smokehouse BBQ in Carlisle with 57 votes, The Wing Co. in Camp Hill with 54 votes and finally Moe’s Bar and Grill in Mechanicsburg with 51 votes.
We decided to purchase a dozen wings from each location, with half standard buffalo and the other half that location’s best-selling specialty flavor. With five people trying two flavors from each of the six locations, we figured it was good to have an extra wing flapping around, just in case someone needed to try a flavor again.
So we wound up with variations of buffalo wings from all of the locations, all mild to avoid anyone losing their tasting abilities.
From Moe’s and The Wing Co., the specialty was Garlic Parmesan, from Three Pines its famous Wing Dust, North Hanover Grille had its Bourbon Honey BBQ, Redd’s with its Tomato BBQ and from Trindle Inn Almost Everything. The general cost wound up being anywhere from $8.43 to $11.60, with Redd’s being the cheapest and The Wing Co. charging the most.
So then, it was time to taste the wings.
While everyone has their preference for flavor, spice, dipping sauce and location, there are some general characteristics to look for in a good wing. If there is all spice and no flavor, how can you know if the wing was good? And is your wing fully cooked with juicy chicken on the bone? In the end, five Sentinel staff members stepped up and were tasked with deciding which places have the best wings in the county.
They chose the best specialty, best buffalo and then shared which one surprised them the most. Find their reactions to the wing taste test below:
Mike Bupp, photo editor
Best specialty — It came down to two varieties for me, but in the end, chicken wing powerhouse Three Pines stole the show with Wing Dust and is a must-try for wing lovers. They’re good enough you consider cheating on a home-cooked meal. It is almost impossible to describe the flavor, but I guarantee it will fire up your taste buds and entice you to reevaluate your favorite wing place. In a very close second was Trindle Inn’s Almost Everything, providing a delicious BBQ-flavored experience that left me craving more. Regardless, if you were to toss either one of these delicious treats into the Susquehanna River, you would chum-up every catfish from York Haven to Marysville.
Best buffalo — After trying six great wings that were tough to differentiate (in a good way), ultimately, Redd’s stole the show. Redd’s grills their wings, which offers a unique change of taste and leaves the meat falling off the bones. Along with the grilling method, their dipping sauce provides the perfect old-fashioned taste duo that reminds me of back-yard cookouts at Grandma and Grandpa’s and will leave you and the hound dogs licking your chops for another dozen.
Daniel Walmer, reporter
Best buffalo — The Wing Co. provided exactly what I’m looking for when I order buffalo wings: a tender chicken wing covered in straightforward, no-nonsense buffalo sauce. However, it’s the homemade blue cheese dressing that lifts The Wing Co. buffalo wings above the rest. A large cup of thick dressing with generous blue cheese chunks provides the perfect cool contrast to the buffalo heat.
Best specialty — The heavenly Wing Dust wings from The Three Pines Tavern taste like nothing made on earth. The powdery mix of spices is hard to describe as it mixes sweet, savory and spicy flavors. It can be summed up in one word, however: delicious.
Most interesting — Developing a successful new wrinkle to a concept as old as the chicken wing is a tall task, but Redd’s Smokehouse BBQ pulls off the difficult feat. Redd’s prepares plain wings and provides sauces on the side for dipping, which creates at least two advantages. First, the quality of the meat is superior to any of the other wings. Second, the consumer is able to decide how much sauce he or she wants. The sauces themselves — buffalo and tomato barbeque — also strayed from the typical in a decidedly tasty way.
Naomi Creason, city editor
Among the Sentinel staff going in for the early afternoon taste-testing, I was clearly the novice. I was never much of a fan of wings. I can’t say I’m fond of a meal that produces more trash than what I actually consume, and I previously never felt as though I ate enough chicken to make the mess worth it.
Best of the best — And that is mostly why my overall choice for best wings is Redd’s Smokehouse BBQ. There wasn’t a question that Redd’s had the best meat, which was a primary driving factor in my personal taste-test. The grilling gave it a secondary flavor to the sauces — or a primary flavor if you chose to just eat it as is.
Redd’s is unlike other wing destinations in that it gives you the sauces separate so you can dole out however much you want. This, to my enjoyment, also happens to cut down on the mess. It required the least amount of napkin usage, and it also let me choose to what extent the wing should be slathered. The sauces were, thankfully for my sensibilities, also on the mild side, which meant I didn’t have any overpowering spices to make the taste-testing a trial.
Setting aside Redd’s offerings, the best of the categories — buffalo sauce and specialty wing — were tough choices.
Best buffalo — Buffalo meant hot wings, and I have a low tolerance for spicy foods. The Wing Co., however, takes my vote for best buffalo wing, which seemed to offer a milder choice if you didn’t get a wing swimming in sauce, and a much stronger kick if you happened to pick the one soaking in the sauce.
Best specialty — The specialty wing was the hardest to decide because I ended up liking all of them. Unlike some of my fellow taste-testers, I enjoyed the Garlic Parmesan entries from The Wing Co. and Moe’s, and enjoyed just as much the Tomato BBQ from Redd’s, as well as North Hanover Grille’s Honey Bourbon BBQ.
It eventually narrowed down to The Three Pines’ Wing Dust and Trindle Inn’s Almost Everything. It was difficult in both to pinpoint the exact flavors. Almost Everything had, well, almost everything, with a spicy, sweet and tangy flavor, as well as a substantial amount of chicken. Wing Dust is much harder to describe — the homemade flavor has spices but isn’t spicy, isn’t sticky but isn’t exactly easy on the hands.
In what I’m sure goes against the other testers, I’m going for Trindle Inn for this round. For me, the meat on the wing makes a considerable difference, and I’d much rather have something a little more filling than just a great coating on the outside.
Jason Maddux, executive editor
There were tough choices to make, and I decided to go hard-core and not use blue cheese, which is usually a staple of my wing diet.
Best traditional — I’ll go with Three Pines Tavern. It’s just a good, solid wing with a nice amount of spice that builds up nicely as you go along. It looks good, tastes good, and the meat was good. What more can I say?
Best other — I could go with the Wing Dust wings from Three Pines, but I’ll instead say the Almost Everything wings from the Trindle Inn. It starts out sweet and moves along nicely to spicy. I’m not sure I could taste everything, but certainly enough to tell you it’s a good wing.
Other notes — Thank you to the Wing Co. for the homemade blue cheese. Wow. That was tasty stuff. And Redd’s ... I love the way you grill your wings. For overall chicken quality, minus any flavoring, you definitely had the best.
Christopher Hopkins, sports editor
Buffalo — For me, there’s several factors that go into making a buffalo sauce better than the rest. The big difference maker is what it brings other than just “hot.” A lot of places just try and blow you away with how hot their sauce can be, but for me, there’s got to be some flavor with it as well. The sauce from The Wing Co. delivered just that. While there was that nice kick that’s expected from a buffalo sauce — and it was one of the hotter sauces I tried — it still brought with it plenty of flavor that kept me reaching for more. The sweetness of the sauce complimented the spice just right and really separated it from the rest.
Specialty — As much as I love the standard buffalo sauce, it’s always great to try a restaurant’s specialty. It’s where a place can really separate themselves from the competition and give customers a reason to come back. For me, that difference-making flavor was not a sauce, but the Wing Dust from Three Pines. It’s hard to describe exactly what the flavor is. I’ve certainly never had anything quite like this dry rub-esque topping. Wing Dust is sweet, yet brings a little kick. While great on its own, Wing Dust can provide a great complement to any other sauce there.
Another winner in my eyes was the Almost Everything from Trindle Inn. As I said, to make a truly great specialty sauce, it’s got to bring something new and that’s just what they did here. The appropriately monikered sauce brought flavors from all over, providing a spicy kick before soothing down with a very flavorful, sweet aftertaste.
Side notes — In addition to the delicious buffalo sauce, The Wing Co. delivered on my favorite wing sidekick, blue cheese. This homemade dipping sauce was far and away better than your average blue cheese most places will hand out and was perfect with every sauce I tried with it.
The award for messiest wing easily goes to North Hanover Grille’s Honey Bourbon BBQ. While it will cost you more than a few napkins in the process, it makes up for it. The thickness of the sauce brings plenty of flavor, combining honey and barbecue perfectly.
Last but not least, the best chicken has to go to Redd’s. This Carlisle restaurant delivers its wings with the sauce on the side, leaving the chicken wings dry to start. While their sauces are good, the deliciousness of the wings alone leaves you tempted to just go without. It’s clear Redd’s goes above and beyond with making sure the meat of the product is just right.