We realize four out of the six establishments were chains, but we couldn’t not go to a place with the word “wing” in its name. Here are the results from worst to best.
Barley’s: 5.6 out of 10. The honey mustard wings scored big for flavor from all of our judges, while the hot wings underwhelmed, and the almost prohibitively spicy, blistering sauce was just plain mean. Everyone agreed the wings were pretty skimpy on the meat, and deductions were assessed for not even having celery anywhere on site. Also, we had to ask a few times for extra napkins. 727 E. Miller Road, Lansing. (517) 882- 7297. Ten wings for $6.49.
Wing Zone: 5.8 out of 10. Wing Zone offers 25 flavors, more than any of the other places we sampled, and was a tie for first place with one of our judges. The quick turnaround on the food guarantees you won’t be hungry for long, but one of our judges could “barely identify” the flavor of the garlic parmesan flavor we tried. Bleu cheese is free, but celery is extra.
This is specifically a carry-out/delivery place, so it would be unfair to penalize the atmosphere for non-existent on-site dining facilities, but the owner/manager seems like a really nice guy. 340 Morgan Lane, Lansing (in Frandor). (517) 332-WING (9464), www.wingzone. com. Five wings for $6.37.
Buffalo Wild Wings Grill and Bar. 7 out of 10. We tried the Asian Zing, which had a gentle teriyaki warmth to it, and the Mango Habanero, which was simultaneously judged as being the most flavorful and the hottest. The wings themselves, however, were by far the teeniest. Overlapping service makes hailing your waitress a little confusing, but the message seemed to get to the right people quickly enough; our wings came up exceedingly fast and our beers never emptied. Of course, B-Dubs (as regulars call it) is a sports bar, and the Wings, Pistons and Tigers were all playing that night, making for the loudest, smokiest stop on our trip. 360 Albert Ave., East Lansing, (517) 333-2999, www.buffalowildwings.com. Six wings for $5.08.
Wings Over East Lansing: 7.2 out of 10. We tried three of this establishment’s most popular flavors: Honey BBQ, Cajun Teriyaki and Cruisin Altitude. Each had unique qualities, but none were exceptionally memorable. With 21 flavors, Wings provides diversity, and the complimentary celery and bleu cheese was a nice touch. The dining room has a retro-industrial theme that left a couple of our judges a little cold. There was a good amount of meat on these, however, and the flavors impressed one of our judges so much he plans to return and make his way through the upper limits of the menu’s heat index. 1391 East Grand River Ave., East Lansing. (517) 332-5555. www.wingsover. com. Fifteen wings for $9.99.
Hooters: 7.6 out of 10. The Daytona style — which are briefly deep-dried and then actually grilled — were somewhat of a hit, but the 3 Mile Island wings didn’t pack the promised punch. Celery and bleu cheese needed to be purchased separately, but bonus points for the paper towels on the table. We were treated to the full “Hooters experience,” in which eager waitresses snapped on rubber gloves to tease the ample meat off the bones in an unsubtly sexual pantomime. No complaints from any of our judges, who tried their best to focus on the task at hand. 172 E. Edgewood Blvd., Lansing. (517) 393-7997. www.hooters.com. Ten wings for $7.49.
Fresh Fish: 9 out of 10. By far the biggest surprise of the night were the wings at Fresh Fish, which scored tops for meatiness, value and flavor, even though there wasn’t any spice to speak of (sides of Frank’s Redhot doesn’t count). Regular customers call the zesty, lemonand-garlic breading “crack” for its addictive properties, a sentiment shared by all judges. There were at least 15 people in front of us when we arrived, but our order came up fast and hot. Points were deducted for lack of sides and atmosphere, which one of our judges said combined “all the charms of a New England seafood shack with the waiting room at a muffler shop.” All agreed this is a must-try, and the carryout number was added to several of our cell phones. 3140 S. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., Lansing. (517) 882-7007. Ten wings for $6.36.