While the historical Inland Northwest lacks a deeply-rooted tradition of fried comfort foods, free-ranging poultry and the African je ne sais quoi of the South, Montana frontiersmen possessed one common cornerstone: cast-iron. This all-important skillet was and is ubiquitous in Montana kitchens, creating the inimitable environment for perfectly-crisp chicken (and, well, anything actually). It’s with this tradition that the chicken wing, an East Coast invention, was embraced and perfected. In the best way possible, it’s Big Apple meets Big Sky. Here are the six best places for chicken wings in Montana.
Tried and true, indeed. Occupying a century-old building, Double Take takes its history seriously, serving up some delicious chicken, cooked in the same (best) way a frontier grandma used to make. Atop a similarly-worthwhile basement bar, this restaurant admittedly focuses breasts and thighs. But with their trademark batter, fresh-never-frozen birds and a time-honored process, the chicken wings are excellent as well. Don’t expect fancy sauces and competition-inducing heat scales. Just enjoy the delicious simplicity of crunchy, properly friend chicken, just as it was done in a time before industrialization.
It’s exciting to come across a fried chicken joint in rural Montana, fixated on southern style and southern charm. The menu draws from the friendly staff and obsession with hospitality, showcasing delicious and simple comfort food. But this mood and cuisine is further elevated by the Bozeman surroundings: a populace with disposable income and a demanding palate has necessitated fresh, local ingredients and professional service overflowing with contagious enthusiasm. Buy the wings a la carte and enjoy their handful of house-made sauces.
Blue’s has some great barbecue. The husband and wife team craft quality local proteins, always using high-quality, local, handmade ingredients. Though the brisket and pork are notable draws, the barbecue wings are worth the visit. The chicken is of good stock, and the grill gives a surprisingly subtle char, imparting the restaurant’s unmistakable je ne sais quoi. The chicken here is slightly smoky, with an expertly-crafted crust and glaze that’s savory-sweet. This tomato-y, brown-sugary and savory basket of wings is best complemented with house-made potato salad and coleslaw.
Spawned from a couple New Yorkers’ making an Arizona pizza restaurant into a chicken wing enterprise, the Native, as it’s locally known, emphasizes community and excellent chicken. Establishments nationwide focus on fresh ingredients, responsibly sourced, providing a fun and nourishing environment for the community. All that admirable altruism aside, this restaurant sports delicious daily wing specials (boneless and traditional). And the real fun lies in the over twenty sauces and rubs. These toppings attract both the hungry but shy passersby and the dedicated spice-hound alike. There’re the spicy-sweet (Strawberry hot and mango habanero), the excruciatingly hot (The Ghost), and the cheesy-herbaceous (Asian garlic and Asiago-Parmesan).
Everyone who knows Red Robin knows they have burgers. And bottomless steak fries. But under the radar are a host of gastropub appetizers and fried treats. Case in point: the unsung chicken wings. The Bar Wings app showcases Robin’s crispy chicken, naked or tossed in a choice of three time-tested sauces: Barbecue (Whiskey River-style), Buzz (house-made spicy Buffalo sauce) or Banzai (a house version of teriyaki). Alongside some Yukon Chips, these wings are best ordered well-done and served with another signature appetizer or equally-impressive salads.
A truly classic location. This Billings favorite is well-known for their incredible Cajun chicken wings, which pair nicely will their selection of beer and liquor. Wing order sizes include a large, “tweener,” and small. They even have a great sports bar area for those looking watch the big game. And what goes better with sports than a piping hot plate of wings? Swing by on Mondays for the all you can eat chicken buffet.