by Jim Ridley
Slick Pig BBQ (1920 Main St., Murfreesboro) The gold standard for smoked wings, and so worth the 30-minute drive down I-24. The wings arrive blackened on the outside and juicy inside, sweet with smoke; there's none of the acrid twang of accelerant that often ruins smoked meat around here. The ribs are nearly as good, and the pulled pork just a notch below that; I'm even a major fan of the fried catfish sandwich served on white bread with thick rings of raw onion. Best downed with a cold RC from the cooler case.
Mojo Grill (317 Broadway, Midtown) Plump hot wings — sometimes a little too plump for my taste, as they're harder to get done to the crisp outside I prefer — in tangy, somewhat tropical sauces that pack plenty of spicy punch without obliterating flavor. For some reason I find the jalapeno-molasses Panama sauce hotter than the supposedly hottest Mojo habanero sauce; the good news, fellow wingmen, is that both leave something more than scorched earth on your tastebuds.
Maniac's (99 Seaboard Lane, Cool Springs) As much as I like the relatively subtle mesquite-rub seasoning, I'm even more fond of the preparation that renders the skin golden brown and crispy, so it pops to the bite. The many sauces offer something beyond the usual too, including a complex sweet-hot "Bang Bang Sauce" and a habanero sauce that's closer in texture to a relish and in flavor to salsa verde without the creaminess. Bonus points for the East Texas egg rolls, shamefully gooey gutbombs of chicken, spinach, black beans and cheese deep-fried and served with a cool avocado dipping sauce.
Where do you go for wings? Who has the best Buffalo wings you've tried (or the worst)? Do you ever try cooking wings yourself, and if so, what has worked? Our weekly Open Thread is coming in on a wing and a prayer.
UPDATE: Only a fool such as I would have left off Knockout Wings (1300 Jefferson St.), home to a heavyweight contender for the city's best, hottest sock-your-mama Buffalo wings. If you can't handle that, go with the excellent lemon-pepper wings — or be sure to tack on a few honey biscuits to cushion the ride.