The Local newsletter is your free, daily guide to life in Colorado. For locals, by locals. Sign up today!
As the temperature rises, Denver restaurants are slinging fiery eats to match, specifically crispy, juicy chicken wings coated in capsaicin. From vinegar, butter, and cayenne-based sauces à la Buffalo to fruity habanero, these are the wings that rule the roost when it comes to nailing that delicate balance of setting your mouth ablaze—but not so much that you can’t taste their great flavor. For those who like to feel the heat, here are our favorite five hottest (but still delicious) wings, ranked by spiciness from mildest to angriest.
This spot makes crave-worthy wings—but the eats won’t burn your face off. Smoky char is part of the flavor here, and King of Wings has a flock of fans for a reason. While sauces like Tangy Gold and Spicy Thai pack good flavor, you have to level up to the XXX Hot to feel the heat, and even then, it’s not going to set your tongue on fire.
But there’s no denying that the wings themselves are tops. Roasted and then flame-grilled to finish, King of Wings does sell out, so get to the laid-back taproom early to ensure you secure your chicken. 7741 W. 44th Ave., Wheat Ridge
Smaller in both size (Fire on the Mountain uses cage-free, antibiotic-free chicken, which could explain why there are no plumped-up birds here) and spice than the others, Fire on the Mountain’s wings are still solid. The extra-hot Buffalo has a bit of a kick, but your lips won’t be on fire, let alone an entire mountain. True heat seekers will want more. For those masochistic souls, go for the El Jefe wings, which even come with their own challenge: Eat 15 of them without ranch or blue cheese in three and a half minutes or less and get them for free. 3801 W. 32nd Ave.; 303-480-9464; 300 S. Logan St.; 303-480-9464
3. Wing Hut
There are many choices to make at Aurora’s Wing Hut, where they’ve been slinging wings by the pound for more than 20 years. How crispy? Extra. How many? You can order from a half pound all the way up to 10 pounds. How saucy? The restaurant has 30 different Buffalo-style and specialty sauces to choose from, as well as a dozen dry rubs. Bone-in or boneless? That’s between you and your poultry god. And maybe the most important question of all: How spicy?
Go for the Way Too Hot Habanero if you’re looking to break into meat sweats, or the Inferno Ranch if you’re looking for something that won’t make you cry. But with so many fiery options, there are gobs of ways to get hot and bothered at Wing Hut. 15473 Hampden Ave., Aurora; 303-699-9464
2. Outlaw Wings
Outlaw’s Inferno-sauced wings come with a warning: only for the rebels, not the weak. At first bite, rebels will be hit with a vinegarish tang, shortly followed by an oppressive fire that burns hotter. And hotter. And hotter. While just short of insufferable, if you don’t want your lips to feel like they’re painted with burning embers for the next 15 minutes, order the Mango Habanero instead.
The meaty wings are covered with plenty of sauce, but you will still want more of the sweet-spicy Mango Habanero and will probably continue to lick it off your fingers, even while your brain screams at you to halt the digestion of nearly straight fire. It’s just that good. Whether you go with the rebel Inferno, mouthwatering Mango Habanero, or any of Outlaw’s other 21 sauces, you’re going to have a palate-awakening experience. 12920 Lowell Blvd., Broomfield; 720-667-2551
1. CD’s Wings
If you still want your tongue to function, ordering CD’s meaty wings coated in No 1 Left Standing sauce— a Buffalo-esque blend that includes ghost peppers and is arguably the hottest sauce in the state—is a mistake.
Those in the know opt to knock the spice down just a smidge with the Uncle Nasty’s House sauce. The thick sauce doesn’t look or taste foreboding at first and you may think that the server accidentally brought you ones shrouded in barbecue. But there was no kitchen blunder here; these wings will get you. They will allow you to thoroughly chew them, permeating your supple gum and cheek tissue with their slumbering heat, and then, once you think it’s safe to swallow, it will be too late. Your entire mouth will explode with a patient inferno.
If you’re looking for a straight Buffalo-style sauce, the XXX-Hot is lovely. Extra spicy for sure, but not painful. Your tongue—and maybe your entire body—temperature will rise a few degrees after a visit to CD’s, but that’s what you want, right? 7685 W. 88th Ave., Westminster; 303-467-7700