Top 5 Nashville wing joints for your Super Bowl party

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The Honey BBQ wings from Brother Z Wang Shack along Dickerson Rd. Thursday Jan. 26, 2017, in Nashville, Tenn.(Photo: George Walker IV / The Tennessean)Buy Photo

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With Super Bowl LI just around the corner with all its pageant of plenty, millions of fans will gather in homes around the world to watch the spectacle. And eat.

Welcome to the home game, the over-the-top, too-much-is-not-enough Super Bowl Party, when thought takes wing and dreams carry us to the Mother of all Spreads. Look beyond the chips and dips. Glide past the pigskin-themed sandwiches. Move to what is above all others and worship at the platter of wings. Behold the sacred mound of drums and flats, crispy-fried, salt-rubbed and sauce-drenched. For football fans, wings are a Pavlovian benchmark and everyone has an opinion. So, here‘s mine.

While I would have loved sampling wings all across Middle Tennessee, from bars to barbecue joints, I limited this exercise to local, independent restaurants dedicated to the chicken wing arts. Five made the cut.

Truth be told, variations from place to place were subtle. The lists of post-fry sauces almost all carry varying levels of vinegary, Buffalo-style heat. More than a few hold up their gold sauces as crowd favorites. These are homespun takes on smoky honey sauces,  but with deeper flavor and more kick. Dry rubs tend toward Cajun spice, lemon pepper and garlic Parmesan. The good wings, though, stood out, with crispy skin no matter what the sauce and always fresh-hot from the fryer. These were professionals and were dropping those orders as they came in.

That‘s the challenge then, because no fried food ever tastes better than when it‘s delivered fresh from the sputtering oil. And if you‘re carrying out a big order, and all of these places can do really big orders, then you may lose some of that crisp-skin texture. The eternal problem of food logistics.

Honestly, I could toss these names in the air and rank them as they fall, but there‘s no fun in that. So get your wet naps ready and dig in.

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Allen Zilker of Brother Z's Wang Shack along Dickerson Rd. Thursday Jan. 26, 2017, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo: George Walker IV / The Tennessean)

 

1. Brother Z’s Wang Shack

1407 Dickerson Pike

When Brother Z, Allen Zirker,  greets you, his Klieg-light smile immediately draws you in. It‘s followed by some friendly banter before he gets down to business. While his “mystery” dressing is a more layered riff on barbecue sauce, it has a slow burn that takes hold after about your third wing, bringing sweet but not crippling pain. This tiny wing shack also advertises egg rolls, liver and gizzards,  and, brother, he sells a lot of gizzards, but the wings are the stars. Try them plain, too, and you‘ll find they hold up on their own naked self, which is the true mark of a proper wing joint.

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Gold sauce wings from Ghot Wingz in East Nashville. (Photo: Jim Myers / The Tennessean)

2. Ghot Wingz

2617 Gallatin Pike

With a strong East Nashville fan base, and some creative spelling, this joint jumps. If you‘re a hybrid sauce kind of person, this is the place for you. They‘ve got lemon pepper, hot lemon pepper and even gold sauce with lemon pepper sprinkles. You get the idea. That lemon pepper, though, isn‘t just vapid spice blend, but has some real pucker to it. Their gold sauce rocks, too.

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Hot wings from Nuttin' But Wings on Jefferson Street. (Photo: Jim Myers / The Tennessean)

​3. Nuttin’ But Wings

2605 Jefferson Street

The name on this small box is misleading. They have burgers, too. The NBW Buffalo sauce was fantastic. I‘ll admit to not being a huge Buffalo sauce fan, but this one was a little more rounded in flavor instead of just a jolt of heat and vinegar.

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Lemon pepper wings from the Wingbasket. (Photo: Jim Myers / The Tennessean)

4. Wingbasket

5753 Nolensville Pike

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1775 Gallatin Pike North

Wingbasket‘s honey gold was far and away my favorite in that category and managed to be sweet but not cloying. They do a pretty good job with a version of Nashville hot, but not good enough to want to skip a true hot chicken outpost.

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Country-style wings and a Rope a Dope honey biscuit from Knockout Wings on Jefferson Street. (Photo: Jim Myers / The Tennessean)

5. Knockout Wings

1300 Jefferson Street

These were actually the largest and meatiest of the wings, and they came with a soft, honey-drenched “Rope a Dope” biscuit instead of the standard roll, which is a really nice touch and worth going back for. The flavor of the meat, especially in the plain country style was just that, a bit plain and a bit off. They also have the most limited line of sauces, but the Cajun spice is great if they don‘t have too heavy a hand.

Reach Jim Myers at or, on Instagramand on Twitter.

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