Chicken Fight! Fest might sound like a throwdown in the coop, but it’s actually Denver’s premier food festival where the best of the best of poultry dishes take center stage. The stakes were high and the results? Crispy, delicious, and dripping with glory. This year’s winners in the Chicken Wing category were selected based on popular vote, both by the discerning palates of the public and a panel of esteemed judges. It was a saucy showdown of flavors among the competitors—and a finger lickin’ good time for all involved. Once the dust had settled and the rides come to a stop, these are the places the people and the judges deemed to have the best chicken wings in all the land.
The People’s Choice: Chicken Wings
Fresh out of Broomfield, Outlaw Wings won festival-goers over with layers of flavor on top of crispy, juicy wings. The secret sauce? A multitude of sauces. Among the choices Outlaw had in its lineup of signature sauces: Spicy Garlic Parmesan (garlic-infused spicy buffalo sauce topped with fresh parmesan); Spicy Ranch (a combination of buttermilk ranch and classic buffalo sauce); and the Outlaw specialty, Bootleg Blueberry—a fresh blueberry-based sauce that’s sweet with a tiny bit of heat and exotic flavorings. (If the sound of that is making your mouth water, you’ve gotta try it with the jalapeño poppers. A purely divine treat.
2nd: Bao Brewhouse
A little anecdote for you: while I was walking over to the festival with my BFF Heidi, she was raving about this creative Chinese restaurant and tea house she had just discovered in Downtown Denver. Like seriously raving, she had convinced me that I must go try it as soon as physically possible. And then we walk into Chicken Fight! and what’s one of the first restaurants we see? Why, it’s Heidi’s new favorite place! And the dish, buttermilk fried chicken wing in a kochujang glaze, absolutely lived up to the hype. Don’t just take my word for it (or Heidi’s, for that matter). Trust the people. They have spoken, and they declared Bao Brewhouse’s wings to be better than almost all the wings in the land. You should go see what the fuss is all about.
3rd: Hesher BBQ & Catering
To build their award-winning dish, the Hesher team started with a base that had already earned a medal at Chicken Fight 2018: the BBQ Dry Rub wing. This year, they sauced that wing with “Bat Outta Hell BBQ Sauce” and “Bama White BBQ sauce” to bring some sweetness and some heat. After passing out some 2,000 samples and chatting with Colonel Sanders, they took home a bronze in the People’s Choice category. This has us pondering how they’re gonna top this award-winning combo at next year’s all-things-fried-chicken fest.
The Judge’s Choice: Chicken Wings
The winning dish: Nashville Hot Wings with Dill Pickle Ranch
Serving up the best damn hot wings since 2007. The wings are hot, the vibes are sizzling, and the fun is endless. They came to win. And (full disclosure) they got my vote. Was it the fiery cayenne kick and a subtle smokey sweetness of the wings, or was it the dill pickle ranch—a tiny twist that takes the wings to a whole new level, adding the perfect amount of tanginess to balance the heat of the Nashville sauce? Final answer: It was both. This team knew their wings were the best around, and they wanted to make sure everyone tried them, so they armed some team members with trays and sent them out to mingle among the hungry masses so that everyone got to sink their teeth into the Nashville hot wings—and the effort paid off.
The silver medal dish: Palisade Peach Smoked Chicken WingThe pitmasters at this award-winning championship barbecue joint smoked their wings over hickory wood to get that delicious hickory flavor into it that you just can’t get cooking it in a fryer. Top that with a sweet, sticky, lip-smacking peach barbecue sauce and GQue earned itself another notch on its accolade belt—which is already studded with 10 Grand Championships and a BMBBQA Hall of Fame entry. Want to learn how to do what they do? Check out GQue’s BBQ Channel on YouTube, where Jason Ganahl teaches grilling and barbecue techniques to help you step up your game.
After taking home a silver at this year’s Top Taco, Seasoned Swine—a fan-favorite food truck and brick-and-mortar in Golden—was fired up and ready to win at Chicken Fight! On the menu: a cherry smoked wing seasoned with Seasoned Swine’s Swine Candy BBQ rub. The wings are smoked and held hot and then flash-fried to order and served with a smear of Cherry Chipotle BBQ Sauce—a winning combo that got the nod from our panel of expert judges.