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South Side Food Review: Wings Around the World Taking Savvy Travelers on a Trip

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Jan 30, 2007 4:00PM

2007_01_WOWstuart_palmer.jpg"When I was a kid, I wanted to be a pilot," started Abeng Stuart (at right in the picture, with partner Dre Palmer), owner of the Bronzeville eatery Wings Around the World. "With these wings, it's the next best thing." Stuart isn't just spouting mere hyperbole. Since opening last September, Wings Around the World has steadily been bringing in customers from all over the city.

We have to admit to some skepticism; knowing that that particular stretch of 35th Street is dominated by fast food, we thought the last thing needed there was another takeout joint. But a recent series of rave reviews has led to a rush of connoisseurs of chicken wings, foodies, and the curious, and resulted in long hours for Stuart and Palmer. Having had ourselves a sample of Stuart's wares, Chicagoist is more than happy to jump on the bandwagon. They're that good.

Stuart calls the concept of Wings Around the World "chicken with a difference." They serve unbattered, buffet-style chicken wings, in 34 different flavors, inspired from nine different countries. Stuart told us that he plans on increasing that number to an even fifty in time for the big game on Sunday. The lack of batter on the wings is a point of pride for Stuart, and a welcome departure from both the Popeye's and KFC located across the street. Flavors range from standard American Buffalo and Italian parmesan, to a Greek-inspired lemon garlic, to a Japanese "kamikaze" that ABC-7's Steve Dolinsky said is one of the hottest wings he's ever eaten. Having survived Nashville's legendary Prince's Hot Chicken Shack with a smile, we're gonna have to try that on for size in subsequent visits.

2007_01_WOW_wings.jpgWings Around the World sells their wings in varying amounts, from ten to a thousand. We recommend the box of twenty for $12.99. That way, you can split up your wings in groups of five, which becomes a nice starter primer to the flavors Stuart's put together. For our twenty we split it equally between chipotle (top left in the picture), masala (bottom left), sweet ginger bbq (top right), and something called "Montreal Madness" (bottom right. Stuart has three flavors, all with maple syrup as a base flavor, filed under "Canada").

Of the four, the chipotle had the most heat, and it was that low, smoky creeper heat that we associate with the popular pepper, as well. The masala was the biggest surprise of the bunch, with a savory blend of curry and cinnamon that we would place side-by-side with the best chicken masala on Devon Avenue. The sweet ginger bbq was as advertised, with the tangy flavor of the barbecue sauce perfectly complementing the spice provided by the ginger. The "Montreal madness" had a light coating of herbs and spices that cut into the sweetness of the maple, in a good way.

If chicken wings aren't your thing, Wings Around the World also prepares a mean grilled tilapia, shrimp, cod, perch, and catfish, served either grilled or fried. There's no dining area; Wings Around the World is strictly takeout. But the lobby and counter area where you place your order are clean and inviting, with comfortable seating while you wait for your order and small flags signifying each country represented. Customers can buy their wings in bulk; the one-thousand we mentioned earlier costs $450. If you're throwing a smaller shindig, you can buy one hundred wings for fifty dollars and conceivably try the entire menu of flavors.

What we love most about Wings Around the World is that Stuart has placed some thought behind the flavors. Using his interests in both cooking and travel, he's created a way for folks to take a culinary trip who otherwise might not be able to do so. It helps that the flavors he's put together make sense, from perspectives of taste and scent. It gets you thinking about what you're tasting and smelling. Some folks would shell out close to three hundred bucks at a five-star rated restaurant for that experience. You'll get it at Wings Around the World for a fraction of the cost, with none of the attendant pretensions, real and perceived, associated with haute cuisine.

Chicagoist never thinks you need an excuse to visit the neighborhoods out south. But if you're looking for one, Abeng Stuart has given you one with Wings Around the World. Located at 321 E. 35th Street, it's easily accessible via car, bus, or train. Wings Around the World is open Monday through Friday from 10:30 a.m. until 11:30 p.m., 11 a.m. until midnight on Saturdays, and noon until 7 p.m. on Sundays during football season. You can call your order in at 312-326-6930, or fax it in to 312-326-6935.