“Who has the best chicken wings in Syracuse?” It’s a common question that people ask. And for good reason! Chicken wings are one of the most popular appetizers, especially in Upstate New York, and especially during football season.
Finding the best chicken wings is no easy task either. You want a wing that is crispy on the outside, moist on the inside, and with a flavorful sauce or dry rub.
So what do you do when you’re looking for the best spots around? Go to Facebook and get other people’s opinions, of course! While many restaurants came up as responses, three of them stood out more often: Change of Pace, Shifty’s, and Swallow’s.
The Mission: Compare the Chicken Wings at the Top Three Places in Syracuse
So I gathered up a couple friends and headed out to try the wings at each of the three recommended spots. Our goal? Try a variety of flavors at each spot and compare the flavors, crispiness, size, price*, and service at each bar. We did so like any good researcher would: by using control groups! At each spot we ordered 4 half-dozens: the house medium, garlic parmesan, and two signature flavors from each restaurant. Here are our results.
* Note: The price was consistent across them all: $15 per dozen, or $8 for a half dozen. Each spot offered celery and blue cheese with the wings, and let you split an order of a dozen wings into two flavors.
Change of Pace Chicken Wings
First stop: Change of Pace. They had – by far – the biggest wings of the three. They’ve also been voted the best chicken wings in Syracuse multiple times by different outlets. Needless to say, our expectations were high.
Flavors tasted: Medium, Garlic Parmesan, Salt & Pepper, Hot Honey Garlic
Overall, the wings were good. The medium wings were a little dry, and definitely better when we rolled them in the buttery sauce again. Garlic Parm were a hit. Salt & Pepper were very peppery, but lacked the right balance of salt. Lastly, the Hot Honey Garlic (which were recommended by the bartender) had very good flavor – definitely worth the saucy mess!
Change of Pace
1802 Grant Blvd
Syracuse, NY 13208
Shifty’s Chicken Wings
Second stop: Shifty’s. Upon looking at their flavor choices, I was baffled by some of the names. I enlisted the help of the bartender, who told me that their signature Frankenstein sauce is a mix of a few different sauces to make a very unique flavor. The Godzilla is an Asian-inspired sauce, reminiscent of teriyaki. I also noticed that the menu didn’t offer a medium sauce – it went from mild to hot to extra hot. Out of the three, Shifty’s definitely had the most variety of flavor choices.
Flavors tasted: Hot, Garlic Parmesan, Frankenstein, Old Bay Dry Rub
First off, the hot was great – probably my favorite of the three spots. It had the right amount of heat and sauce. Unfortunately the Garlic Parm was a miss. The wings were dry, lacked flavor, and literally had chunks of garlic on them. (I know, chunks of garlic are usually desirable. Not so in this instance.) The Old Bay were also very good, but could use a little more seasoning. Lastly, the Frankenstein was very good. Somehow it managed to be sweet, spicy, and smokey all at the same time.
1401 Burnet Ave
Syracuse, NY 13206
Swallow’s Chicken Wings
Third stop: Swallow’s. Admittedly, I hadn’t heard of Swallow’s until a few weeks prior, when a friend raved about them on Facebook. (Even she hadn’t known about the bar until another friend brought her there.) Oh. My. Goodness. Why hadn’t we known about Swallow’s before?! Their wings are phenomenal! But I’m getting ahead of myself…
Flavors tasted: Medium, Garlic Parmesan, Hot Ranch, Salt & Pepper
The first thing we noticed was how well the wings were cooked. They were all perfectly crispy on the outside, and yet still perfectly moist on the inside. To start, the medium were good. Not overly spicy, but good flavor (it’s made in-house). The Garlic Parm and Salt & Pepper were also good, even better when dipped into the sauce from the medium wings to add a little more flavor. As for the Hot Ranch? It’s the flavor I never knew I was missing! Yes, you can dip your hot wings in ranch dressing, but Swallow’s Hot Ranch wings are already coated in the perfect combination of hot sauce and ranch dressing. They were delicious!
My opinion? Swallow’s has the best chicken wings in Syracuse. The crispy outsides, moist insides, and great flavors made it an easy choice. Change of Pace comes in at second for me, getting points for the size of the wings and good flavors. Shifty’s falls in at third on this list – still one of the best spots in Syracuse, but the flavors weren’t quite as good as the other two.
But no matter which spot you choose, you’re bound to get some really great wings.
I challenge you to go out and do a taste test of your own. And if you’re looking for a few other spots to add to your journey, other recommendations include: Jammers, Wild Cat, Hafner’s, Limp Lizard, Beginnings II, and Angry Garlic.
1914 South Ave
Syracuse, NY 13207