NYC Wings: International Wings Factory on the Upper East Side, An Unlikely Location for the Best Sauces in NYC
October 2, 2013
What makes a great wing? Is it the size and quality of the chicken? Is it the frying technique? Or is it the sauces? Take a trip to the International Wings Factory on 1st Ave b/t 91st & 92nd street, and the answer is clear: it’s all about the sauces. They offer thirteen different sauces as well as four dipping sauces, all of which are hand made from scratch using fresh chiles, in order to achieve the perfect flavor and texture so the sauce will actually cling to the wings.
You don’t think of wings as a dish that a serious chef would dedicate his time to, but that’s exactly what’s happening here. Chef Deepak Ballaney is a Culinary Institute of America graduate and has consulted in big time restaurants across almost every cuisine, from Chinese and Mexican to Indian and American. But no matter the cuisine, the big batch of wings Chef Ballaney would cook for his staff at the end of every shift always brought people together. Now he’s drawing on the unifying force of wings, as well as his diverse culinary background, to create some of the most flavorful and juicy wings in all of New York City.
Read on to find out which sauces I loved, what new exotic flavors are coming soon and what they’re doing to French fries that will make you drool!
WHAT SEPARATES THESE WINGS FROM THE REST OF THE NYC FLOCK?
Delivery makes up a big part of International Wings Factory’s business and if you’ve ever had wings delivered, you’ve probably opened the styrofoam container to find a pile of buttery wings with all the actual sauce sitting in a pool beneath them. The intense sauce-making process and the pride Chef Ballaney puts into every order of wings ensures that your International Wings Factory experience will likely be one of the most memorable of your wing-eating career, especially if you go beyond the typical Buffalo sauce.
The “Original Confession” classic style Buffalo sauce.
Chef Ballaney’s dedication to the wing craft makes sense; if you’re running a business that’s called International Wings Factory, you better be putting out the best product as often as possible. The wings here – unlike the wings at most restaurants in NYC – are NOT a throw away. Some restaurants claim to take care and pride in their wings, but they’re really just focused on getting as many wings out of the kitchen as possible, even if that means par-frying. That will never happen at International Wings Factory. Everything is made fresh to order and most delivery orders require an hour wait. Sometimes Chef Ballaney will refuse orders all together because he knows he won’t be able to give people the best product. That’s pride in your wings that you don’t see anywhere else.
LET’S TALK SAUCES!
I popped into International Wings Factory with five friends on a Friday night right before the restaurant closed. I got into a conversation with Chef Ballaney’s wife. I told her about my food blog and my passion for wings (check out a prior wing tour here) and the next thing I knew, Chef Ballaney brought us a tray with ALL of their thirteen sauces and four dipping sauces. Talk about service.
What immediately struck me about all the sauces was the consistency. Whether it was Buffalo, BBQ or honey mustard, each sauce really struck the perfect balance between creamy and light, something you RARELY see anywhere else. It turns out Chef Ballaney spends about four hours making each batch of sauce, measuring, combining and emulsifying until each batch is perfect.
I’m happy we got to try all the sauces because there were a lot I never would have ordered that turned out to be surprisingly solid.
IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT BUFFALO STYLE SAUCE
“Original Confession” is the classic Buffalo, but all the other variations will give you a different take on the classic Buffalo, so be aware if you’re ordering something other than the original, you’re going to receive a delicious sauce that’s different from what most people expect when they order Buffalo wings.
Let’s see if I can remember all of these. Left column, top to bottom: Soul Purifier, Pure Heat (“Cayenne rush”), Mild Buffalo, Garlic Parmesan Beurre Blanc, Black Pepper Teriyaki. Middle row, top to bottom: Coastal Pepper, Mexy Q, Spicy Thai with Basil, American Gold (“Spiked Honey Mustard”), Vietnamese Chile Mango Right row, top to bottom: These are all the dipping sauces starting with Bleu Cheese/Ranch combo, Jalapeno Ranch, Chipotle Mayo, and Creamy Cilantro.
The black pepper Teriyaki (below) may have been my favorite. I can probably eat about 50 of these wings. This sauce is on par with Ippudo home to what I consider some of the best Asian salt and pepper teriyaki wings.
My personal favorite, Black Pepper Teriyaki.
The “Soul Purifier” (below) is the hottest of all the sauces, but instead of face-numbing heat, you get a very nuanced flavor from the use of habanero and Scotch bonnet peppers, as well as Thai bird eye chile. It’s definitely hot, but hot in a way that people who enjoy spicy food will really appreciate. If you enjoy the flavor of Scotch bonnet peppers, typically used in West Indian food, you’ll love these wings.
The “Soul Purifier” were more nuanced than face-melting, spicy food fans will love the layers of Chile flavor.
The garlic parmesan beurre blanc, a creamy garlic butter sauce, was excellent, but really, how can you go wrong?
The Mexy Q, is another sauce I probably would not have considered as most BBQ sauces are fairly standard. Not the case here, the Mexy Q had actual layers of flavor. It starts off sweet and smokey but that melts away as multiple layers of chile kick in. This is the spicy BBQ sauce of my dreams.
Vietnamese Chile Mango is a flavor I NEVER would have considered and upon first taste I was about to write it off as just being another sweet, mild sauce. But Chef Ballaney must have been laughing somewhere, because a serious Chile heat melted the sweetness away and I was left shaking my head in disbelief. Never judge a book by its cover when it comes to wing sauces!
MAKE SURE TO ORDER DIPPING SAUCES
The dipping sauces were another great surprise. Everyone typically goes for Bleu Cheese or Ranch, right? Well here they offer four dipping sauces for your already sauced wings, including their own homemade Bleu Cheese mixed with Ranch (best of both worlds). The Chipotle was standard yet solid, but the Jalapeno Ranch and Creamy Cilantro, were good enough to eat on their own with a spoon! The Creamy Cilantro was reminiscent of the famous Pio Pio green sauce, not quite as thick or spicy, but bright, fresh and flavorful in a similar way.
THE GOOD BUT NOT AS MEMORABLE SAUCES
The Pica Verde (Mexican green sauce), American Gold (spicy honey mustard), Spicy Thai with Basil, and Coastal Pepper with Hawaiian fruit and Caribbean Jerk spices all offered the flavors you would hope for from their names, but none stood out or offered as much depth of flavor as the ones in the “Winner” category.
NEW SAUCE FLAVORS COMING SOON!
Chopped naked boneless wings with the soon-to-be-released Szechuan Chile Garlic sauce.
If thirteen sauces are not enough, Chef Ballaney is going to make his life even harder by offering some new sauces in the near future. These include Lemon Pepper, a take on Indian Tandoori/Vindaloo and one that he actually let me try a prototype of: Szechuan Chile Garlic (above). It was really freaking good. I just wish I didn’t start eating it at 11pm as it had some legit heat. It features real Szechuan chile, Szechuan peppercorn and a Himalayan chile that you can only get out in Jackson Heights, Queens. Talk about taking it to the next level.
SEASONED FRENCH FRIES MAKE ME HAPPY
Clockwise from top left: Spicy Garlic, Southwestern, Pepper Parmesan Sweet Potato, Indian spice.
As the restaurant’s closing time came and went, and the chicken bones piled up, I thought we had overstayed our welcome. Not quite. Out came Chef Ballaney with four orders of their seasoned fries. All the fries were crispy and piping hot, but while the Indian spiced and Southwestern spiced fries certainly got eaten, it was the Spicy Garlic and Pepper Parmesan Sweet Potato Fries that had everyone fighting for the last crispy nubbins of fried potato.
A FISH SANDWICH AT A WING JOINT?
That dark, crispy exterior is actually just flour and spices, no heavy breading here.
I was as skeptical as you are after reading that heading, but Chef Ballaney swore that his tilapia sandwich was a best seller. I had my doubts but then I had a bite and I was sold. The tilapia is dusted in flour and spices and then fried, leaving it crispy but not heavy, since there’s no breading. It’s juicy and flaky inside and very flavorful overall. It’s topped with pepper jack cheese, which I wanted a little more melted, lettuce, tomato and Chipotle sauce, all inside a brioche bun. I wouldn’t call it a sandwich that you’re going to run and tell all your friends about but if you’re into fish sandwiches, you’ll be doing yourself a favor eating this one.
Chef Deepak Ballaney and family.
International Wings Factory
1762 1st Ave b/t 91-92 Street
New York, NY 10128