We Ranked Shanghai's Best Wing Deals, Here Are the Results...

By Sophie Steiner, January 27, 2021

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Ever since Teressa Bellissimo created the Buffalo chicken wing at Anchor Bar in 1964, the bar scene has been synonymous with wings. And where there are wings, there’s a wing special. 

People’s preferences differ vastly – some are spice seekers while others are all about the meat; some people prefer a wing drowning in sauce, while others only care about the crispiness of the skin. And then, there’s the never-ending divisive debate over flats versus drums that could be an entire article in of itself. 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The one thing we do know is that there’s a lot of wing obsession in Shanghai, so we tracked down the most famous wing specials around the city, ranking them out of five in three separate categories: spice, sauce and X factor. 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Spice is self-explanatory: how spicy are the wings and what all is included in the range of spice options. Sauce covers everything from flavor of the wings, variety in sauce choices (both for coating and dipping) and overall yumminess of said wing. X factor is the catch-all, ‘other’ category of how this wing distinguishes itself from every other wing. 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

We take on this sacred duty to accurately and fully compare all wing deal contenders Shanghai has to offer, fulfilling our obligation to be as unbiased as possible. Weathering the hefty weight of this immense responsibility, our sacrifice was not for naught: after dozens of wings – dreadful and delicious – we found the holy grail of Shanghai wings. Read on for our results, or you can just wing it!

Brewdog

The Deal

Every Wednesday, all day, you can enjoy unlimited wings (chicken, cauliflower or seitan) for RMB98. You must pre-book your time slot ahead of time through their WeChat account. 

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The Details

Wings are available in only one flavor, Buffalo, and usually go for RMB68 for a small portion (six wings), RMB78 for regular and RMB118 for a sharing portion. 

The Verdict

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The wings at Brewdog are medium in size with tender meat that slides off the bone easily. Although the sauce level is lacking, this is quickly remedied by the efficient waitstaff who bring out an extra ramekin of that good stuff to raise the sauce range to optimal levels.

The sauce is on the sweeter side compared to a traditional Buffalo sauce, but still tangy with a welcoming level of spice. These are standard Buffalo wings, good if you’re a bit peckish while drinking your Elvis Juice, but not necessarily memorable. No wheel reinvention here.

Spice: 3/5
Sauce: 3/5
X factor: 1/5

Total: 7/15

Bubba’s

The Deal

Every Wednesday from 6-10pm, enjoy a tasting platter of 12 wings (six smoked, six fried) for RMB60. 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The Details

Usually wings go for RMB68 for eight smoked (all drums) or RMB68 for six fried (all flats). Both kinds of wings come sauceless, but can be enjoyed with either Ken’s secret recipe BBQ sauce (that hasn’t changed since high school) or with the thickest blue cheese sauce in town (that we would gladly lap up off of cardboard).

The Verdict

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The smoked chicken wings are no exception to all of Bubba's perfectly smoked meats. Succulent and oh-so flavorful, these large drumettes could easily be an entire meal rather than a starter – a whole lot of meat for your Mao. 

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 Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The fried wings are presented steaming hot with a side of traditional ranch and veggie sticks. Easily the best batter recipe in town coats the juiciest meat – we would happily crush an entire fried chicken breaded in that flaky, spiced batter. Bubba’s has found a way to nail an impeccably light yet crunchy wing that’s not overly greasy. 

Some serious thought has gone into only smoking the drums and only frying the wings, so that you get the best of both worlds when it comes to meat texture. 

Spice: 4/5 
Sauce: 3/5
X factor: 4/5

Total: 11/15

Cages

The Deal

Every Tuesday, all day, RMB30 gets you six jumbo wings. 

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The Details

All wings come with ranch dipping sauce, or you can drop another 10RMB for some seriously thick blue cheese dipping sauce that is worth the splurge. In addition to the wing special on Tuesdays, you can attempt the Hot Wing Challenge – eat 12 Wings of Fire within six minutes and win a pint to extinguish the fire, a Cages Wing Challenge T-shirt and your photo on the 'Hot Wing Survivor' wall. You can order your wings “naked” aka not breaded but still fried, but they don’t retain as much sauce nor flavor. On non-Tuesdays, eight wings go for RMB78. 

The Verdict

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Cages offers up some seriously meaty wings, served piping hot and saucy AF. We are talking easily the biggest wings on this list – firm yet juicy meat with fatty skin that is immaculately crispy. The sauce variety is a win-win all around; the eight options range from usual suspects like Buffalo and BBQ to more unique twists like Gangnam, Sichuan Mama and – our personal favorite of the non-spicy options – Maple Mustard, which invokes memories of southern fried chicken and waffles. 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

When it comes to spicy options, our go-to (in the entire city, not just Cages) is the Wing of Fire – go big or go home, baby! Like a Buffalo wing’s older brother, these pack some serious heat with a slow and steady afterburn that is still full on flavor. The Buffalo wing itself is our only point of contention; we found the flavor to be too acidic and the wing to be less saucy, but we are really splitting hairs here. 

Spice: 5/5 
Sauce: 5/5
X factor: 5/5

Total: 15/15

Cannery

The Deal

Every Wednesday, all day, enjoy all you can eat wings with the purchase of a bottle of one of the weekly featured whiskeys. Not down to splurge on an entire bottle? Purchase an Old Fashioned made with the weekly featured whiskey and receive three wings (a mix of flats and drums) per glass ordered (RMB98). 

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The Details

The Cannery sports over 100 labels of bourbons, ryes and other Canadian and American whiskeys to choose from. For example, bottles of Makers Mark go for RMB980 (a 20% discount off the regular price), and bottles of Hudson’s Bay goes for RMB1,200 (a 33% discount off the regular price). The whiskeys change weekly. 

When we visited, we chose between a rye and a 57.6% cask-strength bourbon. (Cleary we went with the bourbon!) While Cannery used to offer six different flavors, they have since decided to keep it classic with just one flavor – the only one you really need – the Franks Red Hot style. Wings are only available at Cannery on Wednesdays. 

The Verdict

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

When the wings arrived in a cast iron skillet, a cooking vessel never used for actually cooking wings, we were a bit wary, but those feelings subsided within the first bite. The flats are noticeably larger than the drums, similar to Cages jumbo size wings, leading to a slight inconsistency in the juiciness of the meat between the two kinds of wing. However, even considering the discrepancy, these wings are cooked nearly to perfection. 

With an expert level of crisp on the skin coupled with the best representation of the classic American Buffalo sauce we’ve had in all of Shanghai – punchy spice yet buttery – these are OG classic hot wings. The high quality of both the meat and the clean oil used for frying is apparent from the get-go, and when you pair that with one of the best Old Fashioneds in town, you’ve got yourself a winner winner chicken dinner. 

Spice: 4/5 
Sauce: 5/5
X factor: 2/5

Total: 11/15

Lucky Diner

The Deal

Every Wednesday, all day, wings are RMB5 each. There is a minimum order of six wings. 

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The Details

Guests must purchase a minimum of six wings to enjoy the deal. This is per order, not per person. On non-Wednesdays, wings are RMB45 for six.  

The Verdict

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Lucky Diner has the only boneless wings on the list, and instead of being more traditional ‘American style,’ they are fried with nori wraps and served with sauce on the side – a tangy teriyaki Buffalo and a funky blue cheese. Claiming to be the hottest boneless chicken wings in town, the spice level on the actual wing is minimal. Yet, we can’t think of many other boneless wing spots, so when your competition is zilch, then your claim still stands. 

However, the teriyaki Buffalo sauce served on the side is next level – buttery and spicy with a hint of honey sweetness – a creative play on the combination of two of the best sauces known to mankind. If you are a spice lover, like us, go for a full dunk, otherwise a normal dab will do. 

The crunch on the wings is superb without being too oily, while the nori adds an interesting savory touch. The meat inside is succulent despite the smaller size. Considering they are a little nugget of fried goodness without the bones, the actual meat quantity is fairly standard. 

Spice: 2/5 
Sauce: 3/5
X factor: 5/5

Total: 10/15

Rooster

The Deal

Every Tuesday and Friday, all day, wings are 50% off. That’s RMB23 for six wings or RMB40 for 12. For a dozen wings, you can choose two different sauces. 

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The Details

The Rooster offers seven wing sauces on the menu (Buffalo, BBQ, General Tso’s, Honey Mustard, Southern Fried, Salt & Sichuan Pepper and Liquid Hot Magma) and another four sauces if you’re in the know (Lemon Pepper, Garlic Parmesan, Teriyaki and Chili Honey.) They are also expanding their sauce lineup and aim to add more flavors this coming spring. 

When ordering, you can choose if you want all flats, all drums or a mix, making it an ideal spot for those with particular wing-shape preferences. RMB10 extra gets you your choice of blue cheese or ranch dipping sauce plus veggies for dipping, otherwise wings come with no accoutrement. 

The Verdict

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The wings at Rooster are some of the most reasonably priced in the city given that they are on par size-wise with other venues (Cages jumbo wings excluded). But, the wings arrive tableside a little warmer than room temperature rather than still sizzling like we would hope. 

Perfectly sauced, the wings have a decent crisp on the skin for the most part, but we did notice some inconsistencies across the different flavors tried – on one hand, the garlic parmesan wings’ skin was shatteringly crisp (yet on the greasy side) while the Buffalo wing’s skin was limper. The same inconsistencies apply to the meat, which ranged from slightly overcooked to fall-off-the-bone tender – this could be due to the variance in size of the wings.

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

However, when it comes to sauce flavor and quantity, the traditional Buffalo sauce has the signature lingering piquant tanginess you expect. If you want tried and true, classic wings, these are the ones for you. Note that the spiciest wings at The Rooster, the Liquid Hot Magma, taste like Buffalo sauce with a huge hit of cayenne, leading to a slightly grainier texture. The General Tso’s is quite sweet, but does a solid job of incorporating more Asian fusion flavors. 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The wings at The Rooster are also delicious with ranch or blue cheese, but not necessarily better than without it – the flagship sign of the kind of wing you want. 

Spice: 4/5 
Sauce: 4/5
X factor: 4/5

Total: 12/15

Shanghai Brew House

The Deal

Every Thursday from 5-10pm, buy one order of chicken wings and get the second order for only RMB1. 

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The Details

One order is RMB88, so on Thursdays you can crush 12 wings (six per order) for RMB89. Shanghai Brew House offers two flavor options: the first being traditional Buffalo wings – coated in secret spices, fried and sauced with a homemade Buffalo sauce, served with blue cheese dressing – and the second being a nod to the Southern part of the USA, with bourbon BBQ wings – grilled, tossed in a homemade sweet BBQ sauce, served with mixed veggie sticks. 

The Verdict

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Biting into a Buffalo wing first, it tastes primarily of sour citrus and vinegar – copious amounts of both, with little to no spice – not something you look for in an “authentic” Buffalo sauce, as it’s described on the menu. The wings themselves had definitely sat far too long on a freezer shelf and then again took a spin around a microwave at least a few times after being fried not so recently, resulting in tough meat, soggy skin and thick breading, yet minimal crunch. The blue cheese texture is a grainy paste, with only a negligible amount of pungent blue cheesiness. 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Moving on over to the Bourbon BBQ wings, the sauce quantity is on point, leaving a sticky schmear on your fingers and the corners of your lips, but the overpowering sweetness gets old real fast. The nonexistent bourbon flavor is a precursor for all the other nonexistent flavors you hope for in a BBQ sauce, and instead, you are left with a generic BBQ sauce that tastes like it comes straight out of a bottle – zero depth, smokiness or spice. 

The meat is more palatable than the Buffalo wings, but the flabby skin immediately detracts from any of the meat’s merits. Finally, the carrot, cucumber, and celery sticks are served with a BBQ dipping sauce. No sane person dips their veggies in BBQ sauce.  Facts. 

Spice: 0/5 
Sauce: 1/5
X factor: 1/5

Total: 2/15

The Shed

The Deal

Every Wednesday from 4pm-late, all wings are just RMB2 each. 

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The Details

Unlike anywhere else on the list, the wings at The Shed are exclusively grilled – not fried – resulting in a BBQ char without the added carbs of breading. The wings are served sans sauce, but you can choose from Heinz BBQ sauce, a generic Franks, or – if you’re a seasoned vet – you bring your own sauce. A drink purchase is required for all those enjoying the wing deal. On non-Wednesdays, RMB40 will get you eight wings. 

The Verdict

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

If your goal is to lose weight while eating wings – weird goal, we say – the closest you’ll get to achieving it is at The Shed. The wings (all drums) are noticeably smaller than anywhere else in Shanghai, but for RMB2 a pop, you really can’t complain. Compared to other venues around town, the meat can be a bit dryer on some of the drums, but this is due to size inconsistency. If you grab a thicker wing, chances are it will be juicer, but they definitely aren’t sorting out the small ones. 

The meat quality is also not as good as many other places, but the real bonus is the grilled cumin spice that you can’t find elsewhere. Although the wings themselves are not spicy hot, the uniqueness of the cumin flavor compels us to raise their spice score. There is no option for ranch or blue cheese dipping sauce, but a grilled wing doesn’t necessarily need it.

Spice: 3/5 
Sauce: 1/5
X factor: 4/5

Total: 8/15

So there you have it folks, the tallies are in, the votes have been counted and the people have spoken. After extensive research in the field, Cages is coming in as our big wing winner, in our humble opinion. Take our word for it – or don't – and take on the wing challenge for yourselves. 


[Cover image by Sophie Steiner/That's.]

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