Wings of Desire: Searching for Santa Fe’s Best Chicken Wings

| - August 2, 2013

On a recent Tuesday night, four local restaurants went wing-to-wing. One emerged victorious.

“These are important,” my editor said as he handed me a stack of wrinkled, cardstock pamphlets stained with smudged, orange fingerprints. He continued to explain that the greasy papers were official scorecards for a recent birthday wingding.

It was all very straightforward: This past Tuesday, eleven friends embarked on a flight of fancy – a “Respect the Wing Tour” – to identify the best wings in downtown Santa Fe. My task was to make sense of the resultant data.

The four contesting restaurants were the Thunderbird Bar & Grill, Coyote Rooftop Cantina, Cowgirl BBQ and Junction. Each restaurant’s wings were rated on a scale of 1-5 using a thorough judging system that was broken down into eight categories (Presentation, Accoutrements, Sauce, Mouthfeel, Tenderness/Juiciness, Fingerbility, Meatiness, and Value). Each participant had to eat at least two wings per venue. Each restaurant could score a maximum of 40 points.

Here are the results. Drumroll, please…

The Lord of the Wings
The Cowgirl emerged victorious, with an total average score of 26.09 points. The house chicken wings ranked highest in the Mouthfeel, Tenderness/Juiciness, Fingerbility, Meatiness and Value categories.

The Wingman
Following close behind was runner-up Coyote Cantina, with 25.64 points. If you’re looking for a scrumptious sauce, the "Fiery Bird Chile Sesame Hot Wings" took home the highest rating in the Sauce category.

Junction came in third, with 24.09 points. However, if you’re looking for a beautiful spread, go to Junction, which ranked highest in the Presentation category with an impressive average score of 4.68/5.

Not-so-hot Wings
Thunderbird came in fourth, with 22.17 points. While the restaurant certainly came in first for its “diablo” concoc(k)tion, a mixture of frozen margarita, Negra Modelo and a floater of mescal, its “Southwest of Buffalo Chicken Wings” failed to top any category.

Editor's Note: Congratulations to Cali for winning the "Chop-Chop Timed Challenge," in which he polished off 10 wings in 5 minutes, making him the clear participant winner of the evening.

(Photo: Nicole Gallegos)

Editor's Note 2: Allison Stertzer is a graduating senior at Santa Fe Prep and a summer intern at Hutton Broadcasting/

Wing photo: Rick's Photostream