There’s nothing quite like good ol’ get-your-hands-dirty, need-an-extra-napkin wings. Whether you’re craving classic hot wings, want the perfect snack to nibble on while watching the big game, or just don’t really feel like using utensils, we’ve rounded up some of the best spots in the state to delight your taste buds. We have intentionally left larger chain restaurants like Buffalo Wild Wings and WingStop off of this list (although they
are tasty), as we want to celebrate some of the best local eateries that dish up wings so delicious that you’ll be licking the sauce from your fingertips!
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Jethro’s BBQ
This one is a no-brainer. Jethro's has won tons awards for it's incredible BBQ, including Cityview's "Best Wings in Des Moines" multiple years in a row, and has been recognized by major publications like Men's Health and Better Homes & Gardens, as well as the Food Network's "Man vs. Food," Travel Channel's "Food Paradise," and even ESPN's "Fanwiches." There's no denying that they have perfected their BBQ recipe, and the wings are definitely a highlight.
Their tasty chicken wings come with your choice of delicious sauces... and there are a lot to choose from. You could go classic with Jethro's Original, or branch out to the Georgia Mustard, Alabama White, Garlic Parmesan, Chicken Teriyaki, Raspberry Habanero, Ghost, or check out the creative, rotating wing sauce of the month. Mmmmm....
As this is such an overwhelming successful spot, it should come at no surprise that they have grown into several locations. You can find Jethro's BBQ at:
3100 Forest Ave., Des Moines, IA
1480 22nd St., West Des Moines, IA
9350 S.E. University Ave., West Des Moines, IA
5950 86th St., Johnston, IA
1425 SW Vintage Parkway, Ankeny, IA
2601 Adventureland Dr., Altoona, IA
2. Jimmy Jack’s Rib Shack
Another top contender for this list, Jimmy Jack's Rib Shack is well-known for their epic BBQ, but it's not just their incredible ribs that will keep you coming back to this local favorite; their wings are amazing. You can get a dozen deliciously smoked wings tossed with either medium or hot sauce for under $10. They have several other awesome BBQ sauces on the menu, so if you need to add a little more mess to your dish, you really should try each and every one of them.
Jimmy Jack's has two locations in Iowa City; downtown at 201 S Clinton St., Iowa City, IA (at University Capitol Center) and on the Eastside at 1940 Lower Muscatine Rd., Iowa City, IA.
3. Chicken Coop Sports Bar & Grill
If you ever find yourself at a sports bar that doesn't have wings on the menu, you should just go ahead and leave. It's not a real sports bar without wings. Chicken Coop, however, serves up some darn fine wings that are best enjoyed with a cold beer and a group of friends while watching your team winning big on dozens of big screen TVs.
Chicken Coop Sports Bar & Grill actually got their start in Nebraska, but their expansion into Iowa has been a huge hit. In fact, they have received several nods from local "Best Of" lists, often locked in a tie or sliding in at #2 with Jethro's. They put up some stiff competition for the best wings in the state!
Chicken Coop Sports Bar & Grill has two locations: 1960 Grand Ave. in Des Moines and at
12799 Meredith Dr. in Urbandale.
4. The Filling Station
Nope, it's not a gas station. It may look like one from the outside, but inside, you will find an awesome restaurant serving up some of the best wings in the Quad Cities area. Their breading: perfect. The meat: juicy and tender. The sauce: well, there are several to choose from... and they all rock. Plus, you can get a TON of it. Go classic with a basic mild, medium, or hot, or go big with fun flavors like Carribean Jack, Mango Habanero, Asian Zing, or Roasted Garlic Parmesan (among others). They also offer boneless wings!
The Filling Station is located at 305 E 35th St., Davenport, IA.
5. The Iowa Taproom
There are a lot of delicious choices on The Iowa Taproom menu, but the wings... they are absolutely out-of-this-world. They offer the standard classics (crispy breaded, BBQ, and Buffalo style), but they also have some tasty creative sauces that will make your tastebuds do a little happy dance. The Honey Sriracha or Peanut Chili are a great way to spice up your meal, or you can go extra bold with the Dragon's Breath!
The Iowa Taproom is located at 215 E 3rd St., Des Moines, IA.
6. Donnelly’s Pub
Donnelly’s Pub is an old-school Irish pub that knows how to make some kickass classic American wings. They, of course, put their own spin on the sauces for their "Drunken Wings" with options like Jameson Buffalo, Honey Hot Jameson and Guinness Hot BBQ alongside the standard BBQ, Sweet BBQ, and Garlic Jalapeno. A whole pound of wings is only $9, so either bring a friend to help you finish, or come hungry and prepared to tackle these saucy little nuggets of bliss!
Donnelly's Pub is located at 110 E College St., Iowa City, IA.
7. 1908 Draught House
1908 Draught House is just... fun. Everything from the upbeat vibe to the delicious, made-from-scratch food makes this spot one of our favorite go-to bars. Their wings are listed first on their large (and tasty) menu for good reason: they are delicious. With all of your standard sauce options and some excellent drinks to boot, it's hard to leave the Draught House without a fully belly!
1908 Draught House has three locations: 8789 Northpark Dr. in Johnston, 1320 E Hickman Rd. in Waukee, and their newest location in downtown Des Moines at 409 Court Ave.
8. Vine Tavern & Eatery
The Vine Tavern has been an Iowa City favorite since 1983 and has become somewhat of an icon when it comes to where to go when you need a solid wing fix... especially when the Hawkeyes are playing. This boisterous bar is a true melting pot; on game days, you will find an eclectic bunch, from university students to old alumni, all decked out in their black-and-gold best... as well as orange-tipped fingers and sauce-smeared lips that not-so-stealthily give away the best item on the menu.
The Vine Tavern & Eatery has two locations; the original is located at 330 E Prentiss St. in Iowa City, and their second location is at 39 2nd St. in Coralville (they also have two restaurants in Arizona!)
9. Harold’s Chicken
Ok, so we made one tiny little exception to our "no chains" rule when picking out place... but we couldn't possibly leave Harold's Chicken off this list. We are SO excited that this Chicago-based restaurant has (finally) made its way to Iowa, with new locations popping up in Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, Waterloo, Des Moines, and Davenport. Yes, we really do need that many of them.
Harold's Chicken has been around for more than 65 years, so it's safe to say they have had plenty of time to perfect their recipes, and we chose to include them because, despite currently operating locations in Illinois, Indiana, Georgia, Wisconsin and Minnesota (and now Iowa), this fried chicken has never lost its soul. You aren't walking into some cookie-cutter operation that feels like it could be found anywhere. Each restaurant feels its own unique entity, reflecting the community, and serving up some of the best fried chicken in the entire world. Needless to say, the wings are absolutely ungodly. You will eat way more than you plan to (or even should), but the food coma that follows is worth every bite.
Harold's Chicken now has locations at 316 E Burlington St. in Iowa City, 200 1st Ave NE in Cedar Rapids, 409 Franklin St. in Waterloo, and plans are in the works to open up shop in Des Moines and Davenport soon!
Are you hungry yet? Our mouths are watering! We’re ready to dive face-first into a big old plate of delicious wings… as soon as we can decide where to go first!