Wings used to be one of those things that came free with a happy hour special at your local pub. Today though they are a premium treat that in some cases is just as expensive as a steak or good piece fish. Unfortunately not all wings are equal and so it can be very complicated to separate the premium wing companies that are worth spending your money on, from the ones that think you just don't know any better. Lucky for me - and millions of others in San Diego! - Dirty Birds is a great example of a company producing a fantastic product that I personally can't wait to enjoy again on my own dime.
This visit was hosted by Dirty Birds and frankly when I see prices of $9.95 for a 5 piece wing basket that can sorta scare me away. Thankfully these were some very meaty wings and the sauces were both innovative and fabulously delicious. If you want a deal though, they have All You Can Eat Wings for only $21.95 from 6pm-Close, Half Off Bone-In Wings on Tuesdays, Half Off Boneless Wings on Wednesdays, and Half Off Wings every day during Happy Hour from 3-6pm. There are also plenty of other specials such as half off pitchers and more, so be sure to check out the Dirty Birds specials page.
Dirty Birds now has five locations in San Diego and they have begun the process of offering franchises as well. We dined at the Liberty Station location and perhaps the first clue that this was a great place to eat at was that we were joined by several groups of military folks as well as some law enforcement as well. For whatever reason, it seems that if you can win police and military guys over ... then you're doing the right thing!
Dirty Birds offers 40 different preparations for their wings and so it was a bit challenging to just pick a few to try. These range from ultra-hot Ghost (pepper) Wings to more savory such as the Lemon pepper ones below. My favorite was the Dirty Ranch - made from a blend of ranch and their secret hot sauce.
I liked the fact that Dirty Birds offers a variety of not just sauces but also rubs. There is quite literally something for everyone here and that made our selection difficult to narrow down to just a handful.
Just in looking at these wings, you can tell the quality of meat as well as rub is far beyond what many other places offer. For instance, I liked the fact that on the Lemon Pepper rub it was really there and not some butter sauce that barely held stuff on. These had TONS of flavor and were way less messy. Next time I think I'm going to try the Aztec wings featuring a "Bold Cajun Rub" as well.
To help you with narrowing down your choices, they also can bring out a few different taster cups. In our case I really wanted to try the Ghost Wing since everyone has a "challenge wing" and some are just so unbelievably hot that they are inedible. That's not the case here though. While the Ghost Wing was extremely spicy, it had a really nice flavor and was something that I could have eaten ... as long as I had a pint or two of beer near me to help wash it down!
However, in our case I decided only to sample the sauce and went with Soul Wings with a spicy soy glace and a bite of garlic and chilis (back) and Apple Bourbon Chipotle in front.
One of the more unique wings was their 3 Peat BBQ. This is a 3-step wing that is baked ... fried ... tossed in BBQ ... fried again and then finally tossed in buffalo sauce. I was completely fascinated by both the depth of flavor as well as the fantastic texture here that created a delightfully caramelized edge to some of the skin pieces while locking in the juices perfectly.
Man can't live just on wings so they have some great sides as well. We tried their fried Crispy Green Beans and the Chicken Fries as well. Other options include classic tots, fries, rings, Mac & Cheese Balls, and Cheddar Breaded Cauliflower.
We honestly should have stopped right here because this was way more food than we needed but I like to push the limits and explore the menu.
Our choice to try the Nashville Hot Sandwich was not a mistake luckily. I feel bad that sometimes we order too much food and end up taking stuff home where it is never as good as it is fresh but this sandwich is an experience.
The incredibly crispy chicken breast is tossed in sauce and then placed on coleslaw but essentially is a salad that when combined with the chicken creates a colossal mess of exploding flavor.
Dirty Birds also offers tacos, burgers, salads, and sliders if you want something other than wings.
Friends in the various San Diego foodie groups say that Dirty Birds has the best wings in San Diego and I can't say that I disagree. These guys hit every point that you need to nail to be a top place for wings. They've got a great bar with a wide variety of craft beer, fantastic staff that was fun and friendly, big meaty wings instead of those sad scrawy ones you see all too often, and most of all ... the flavors are good and unique.
That last part simply can't be ignored. You can have big meaty wings that are just using the classic Frank's RedHot sauce but here you have a chef that likes to play around and truly create great options that make you want to try more.
For more information, please visit Dirty Birds website and check out their menu, hours, and locations.