Sun Sentinel Broward Edition

The votes are in

And the award for the best chicken wings in South Florida goes to ...

- By Arlene Borenstein-Zuluaga

We added a little heat to March Madness this year, and some of you added a little sauciness on the side, in a friendly competitio­n over who should be crowned king of the chicken wings.

And the winner, winner, chicken wing dinner award goes to: Wings Plus.

Nearly 3,000 people voted more than 20,000 times in the March Madness style bracket we called Let’s Wing It, South Florida.

Second place finisher was Bru’s Room.

“Our customers are die-hard fans. They are super loyal and they really love coming here,” said general manager Chelsea Walsh, whose parents, Joe and Liz Walsh, opened the Oakland Park location on Prospect Road in January 1984.

“We have seen people come here as kids, grow up as adults and then bring their kids in here,” said Walsh, who grew up at the family-owned restaurant alongside her brother, Thomas. Both are University of Florida graduates who decided to help run the family business.

Walsh says her father moved to Florida from Valley Stream, Long

Island, and convinced her mother that opening a chicken wings restaurant was the way to go.

“He had been a bar manager and my mom was a waitress. They were going to do a sandwich joint, but he said chicken wings are going to be the next big thing. Instead of ordering a pizza, people are going to order chicken wings,” said Walsh, whose father died in 2007.

“This place means so much to our family. I can still feel him here. This was really his baby. He was a food guy and he could talk about food for hours, even if you didn’t want to hear it,” Walsh said.

Joe’s brother Brian Walsh is the owner of both Wings Plus locations in Coral Springs and does business with the Lake Worth franchise location. Brian’s daughter Bridget Walsh-DeVita is a manager at both Coral Springs locations and often works alongside her siblings Erin, Noreen, Brian and Siobhan.

But when you ask DeVita-Walsh about the wings, she credits the “guys in the back” who have been cooking up new sauces and ideas for 20 years.

“Our cooks make up their own sauces that our customers love. They play around back there. They are also like family to us,” said Walsh-DeVita, who says one

of the cooks created a sauce by his own name called Wens Sauce. “His specialty is medium BBQ teriyaki garlic and parmesan lightly grilled.” DeVita says their homemade blue cheese is also a fan favorite.

Wings Plus edged out Bru’s Room Sports Grill, a well-known South Florida sports bar with seven locations across Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties. Richie Prisco has been the general manager at the Pompano Beach Bru’s Room for 15 years.

“I want to thank you for your patronage. It’s a loyal base for us and all the other stores as well,” said Prisco, highlighti­ng why the Bru’s room wings are so popular. “You really have to do your homework to get the size and quality to where you want them.”

And he says it’s not the bigger the better.

“If you get the big fat meaty ones, they aren’t going to cook the same. The medium-sized wings is what you want, not small ones. The medium-sized wings cook consistent­ly,” said Prisco, who says the wings develop flavor, not just with different sauce options, but by using their fryer oil four times over.

“It’s all in the wing and how you prepare it. It’s all about the oil,” he said.

Our Let’s Wing It, South Florida competitio­n began with 32 restaurant­s selected by Sun Sentinel food experts, who combined their expertise with what 36,000+ members of our Let’s Eat, South Florida Facebook group had to say about chicken wings.

The votes steadily came in for weeks as South Florida narrowed down their sweet (and spicy) 16, to the elite 8, and then to our final four: Flanigans, Wings Plus, Wings N’ Things and Bru’s Room.

The four locations were featured on a special live edition of the Sun Sentinel’s Let’s Go, South Florida show, where three longtime food and scene experts — Mike Mayo, Rod Stafford Hagwood and Phillip Valys — blind sampled wings from all four locations alongside host Arlene Borenstein.

South Florida however made the ultimate decision. And the community chose not just a place to get great chicken wings, but a place owners say makes customers feel at home.

“There is something about the atmosphere and the vibe that is more than just the food, and you are seeing it come back alive. It’s like ‘Cheers’ where everybody knows your name,” Walsh said.

 ?? SUSAN STOCKER/SOUTH FLORIDA SUN SENTINEL ?? Bridget Walsh-DeVita, from left, Tom Walsh and Chelsea Walsh on Tuesday at their family-run Wings Plus in Oakland Park, winner of the Let’s Wing It contest.
SUSAN STOCKER/SOUTH FLORIDA SUN SENTINEL Bridget Walsh-DeVita, from left, Tom Walsh and Chelsea Walsh on Tuesday at their family-run Wings Plus in Oakland Park, winner of the Let’s Wing It contest.

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