Dirty Birds: It’s impossible to discuss chicken wings in San Diego without mentioning Dirty Birds, at 4656 Mission Blvd. (just steps from the beach), and at 2970 Truxtun Road in Liberty Staton.
Ranked by The Daily Meal as the No. 12 Best Buffalo Wings in America (and No. 1 in the San Diego region), Dirty Bird’s sports a mind-boggling 37 varieties of chicken wing flavors, ranging from milder classics like Hawaiian and Honey Mustard, to the mouth-scorching Ghost Wing and Habanero. Come for the food, or just to enjoy the laid-back atmosphere and friendly staff, who are more than willing to guide you through your options.
Bub’s at the Beach: With 25 types of wings, Bub’s at the Beach, at 1030 Garnet Ave., weighs in as a close second to Dirty Birds, but this dive bar’s zany, family-friendly atmosphere is more than enough to set it apart. Come with your kids to play Connect 4 on a jumbo-sized board, or knock down the massive Jenga tower. The bar’s specialty dishes include the Russian Roulette Wings, a plate of nine buffalo wings and one super-spicy “bullet” – perfect for sharing with friends. Make sure to try the Archie sauce, Bub’s good-with-everything blend of classic buffalo and honey mustard.
Miller’s Field: Visit Miller’s Field, at 4465 Mission Blvd., and you’re likely to find the place packed with sports fans. With nearly 50 TVs in the building, this bar’s sports coverage is a major draw – but their chicken wings and ocean breezes keep the patrons coming back.
Offering classics like Buffalo and Lemon Pepper along with in-house inventions such as Peach Habanero and Mezcal BBQ, Miller’s Field is a prime example of how bar food can be more than just bar food.
Guava Beach Bar & Grill: Some food you eat for the quality, and some food you eat for the spectacle. At Guava Beach, at 3714 Mission Blvd., you can have both. Their SoCal-infused, too-good-to-be-bar-food burgers and tacos are served alongside some of the spiciest grub this side of the border.
Their Beautiful Death wings are advertised as “The Hottest on the Beach,” and they aren’t joking around – at Guava’s recent wing-eating competition, one team was forced to quit rather than finish a basket of the stuff. Chew on that.
Sandbar Sports Grill: The Sandbar’s location, at 718 Ventura Place, makes it the perfect place to go after a ride on the Giant Dipper roller coaster. Have a seat at the bar, or sun yourself on the skyydeck with a view of the ocean, and send for a basket of the Sandbar’s fried-to-order buffalo wings.
This bar’s commitment to top-notch Mexi-Cali food is obvious from the first bite. Their wings are dry-rubbed with fresh-made sauce, and are served with both ranch and blue cheese dipping cups.
Cannonball: With artisanal sushi served on a rooftop terrace overlooking Mission Beach, Cannonball, at 3105 Ocean Front Walk, prides itself on delivering a relaxed, poolside atmosphere – minus all the splashing.
Their menu offers a Far Eastern spin on beloved bar classics, including both red chili- and garlic-rubbed chicken wings. Come in the evening, order a plate for yourself, and lick your fingers as you watch the sun set over the ocean.
The Bar Key: Whatever you can say about The Bar Key, at 954 Turquoise St., they aren’t one to do things by halves.
Their wings’ menu features more than 20 flavors, and the options run from barroom staples like Cajun and Teriyaki to decadent creations like Bacon Cheddar Gorgonzola and Spicy BBQ Blueberry. The bar is a great place to have a drink and catch the game with friends. Check out their rotating Wing of the Week while you’re at it.
Regents Pizzeria: Pizza may be their specialty, but their wings are some of the best in the business. While Regents Pizzeria, at 4150 Regents Park Row, doesn’t have as many flavors as some San Diego eateries, what they do have is heat; their wings run the range from Regular, to Habanero, to Ghost Pepper, to – if you’re willing to sign a waiver – the infamous Scorpion Wings.
This, alongside the pizzeria’s commitment to quality – their wings are delivered whole-cut and fresh from a local free-range chicken farm – set it head and shoulders above the rest.
The Spot: Unlike the others on this list, The Spot, at 1005 Prospect St., offers only one variety of buffalo wing – and this bar is living proof that quality outweighs quantity.
Both crispy and tender, and drenched in their spicy-sour buffalo sauce, The Spot’s wings alone make the visit worthwhile. And that’s without mentioning the stellar burgers, or the relaxed, upscale atmosphere, or the fact that you’ll be eating at the oldest restaurant location in La Jolla – all in all, there’s a reason it’s known as The Spot.