“Jenna said what?” That expression cracks me up every time I see the new commercials that Sonic Drive-In is using to push their new Boneless Chicken Wings. But are they any good? Preferably, I will choose a bone-in wing over boneless any day, but when I’m on the go, boneless is much easier to handle in a car for obvious reasons. And seeing how the drive-in atmosphere is part of the Sonic experience, eating in a car is right up their alley.
The three options that there are to choose from include: Buffalo, Barbecue, and Asian Sweet Chili. And according to their news release, “…the uniqueness of the sauces really steals the show, improving on popular flavor profiles to create a premium version… elevating our juicy Boneless Chicken Wings beyond anything you might find at other fast food or fast casual restaurants.” This is when I realized that they are not just out to be better than other fast food restaurants, they are aiming to be better than some of the casual dining places as well. That’s a pretty bold statement, so I decided to put it to the test and compare Sonic’s new Boneless Chicken Wings to that of someone who offers the same flavors: Buffalo Wild Wings.
Now, the thing you have to realize is that it’s not just the quality of the boneless wings that I am looking at here (though that is the primary objective), but it is also how quickly I obtained them and whether it held good value in my eyes. So judging a drive-in restaurant to that of a sit-down proved to be a bit difficult. On one hand, Sonic offered a convenient in-and-out approach while BDubs offered a social scene, TVs, and yes BEER! Therefore, it is whether convenience beats out an enjoyable atmosphere when deciding where to go for my boneless wings. This really comes down to my mood, to be honest. Most of the time I am looking to go out to eat, but there have been times on numerous occasions that I wanted to grab and go because I just don’t have the time. So I’m really going to have to turn to the quality of the chicken and flavors of the sauces to see how they fared.
Let’s start with my Sonic experience, shall we? Sonic’s new Boneless Chicken Wings are available in packs of 6, 12, or 24, and if I ordered the 12 or 24 I got to mix and match two sauces, so that’s exactly what I did. I ordered the 6 pack of Buffalo and a 12 pack mixed half with Asian Sweet Chili and half with BBQ to see how the mixture was presented. Would it be split down the middle so I knew which one I was eating, or all mixed together in a hodgepodge of confusion leaving me to decipher which was which? Unfortunately it was the latter. But once I took my first bite, I have to say that I was super impressed. The wing was very juicy, tender, and a good size (average of around 2″). The breading was crispy and reminded me of the coating you would find on a chicken tender, but because the meat was fully loaded in these suckers, the crispy exterior didn’t overpower and make me feel like I was just chewing on breadcrumbs. They came out hot and the Buffalo flavor, which I tried first, complemented it well. The sauce covered all pieces nicely so I didn’t need to do any unnecessary dunking, and it had just the right balance of pepper flavor to acidity. I prefer a bit more heat, but I understand that if they only offer one Buffalo sauce then they need to appease the masses. I moved on to the Barbecue next, however, I felt that though the sauce was sweet and tasty, the brown sugar muted the BBQ too much which made it not dance on my taste buds like a good BBQ sauce should. Lastly, the Asian Sweet Chili, which I was able to determine from the red pepper flakes sprinkled throughout the sauce, held up to its name with the Asian influence of flavors, but after about 3 or so, the ginger gets a bit heavy. Other than those small things, I enjoyed these boneless wings a lot. I didn’t expect to get such a good quality out of a fast-food restaurant. But is it enough to tackle one of the leading wing chains?
Buffalo Wild Wings (BWW) offers the same flavors of sauces as Sonic’s new Boneless Chicken Wings, but with more variety. Example: Sonic has Buffalo; BWW has Mild Buffalo, Medium Buffalo, and Hot Buffalo. Sonic has BBQ; BWW has Sweet BBQ, Honey BBQ, and Hot BBQ. Both places, though, only offer one variety of Asian, matching Sonic’s Asian Sweet Chili to BWW’s Asian Zing. Why are these other options important? Because not all taste buds are the same, and though I might like my sauce with a bit more heat, grandma down the street may not. Thus, making more options to appease more people. For the sake of this review, I matched up each one with the closest flavor profiles to that of Sonic’s new Boneless Chicken Wings. I got a small order (about 12 wings or so) with half Medium Buffalo, half Asian Zing, and another order of Sweet BBQ. When the wings arrived they were split evenly down the middle and were a nice 2″ size as well with plenty of meat that was tender and juicy. The breading was a bit softer and less crispy than Sonic’s, but still kept from getting soggy like breading tends to do. The wings were covered nicely with all the sauces which glistened from the light above making my mouth water for the first bite (which didn’t take me long to do). The Medium Buffalo had a bit more acidity to it, but the flavor of the peppers were more prominent. It also had just the right amount of heat allowing me to taste my food but still make my lips sizzle. The Sweet BBQ was just that, containing a sweet and savory sauce with the right amount of BBQ flavor that made me feel like I was sitting right at a pit. Basically, it seemed like the sauces at Buffalo Wild Wings were a bit more refined than the ones that Sonic is offering and the Asian Zing was no exception. The ginger didn’t overpower the sauce, and what I like most, that I didn’t find on Sonic’s Asian Sweet Chili, was the kick of heat from the red pepper flakes on the back-end of the bite.
When it comes down to it, the new Boneless Chicken Wings from Sonic are exceptionally good. The meat is tender (as promised), and the sauces held some great flavors (as promised), and in the world of fast food, they reign supreme. I have yet to find another fast food or drive-in joint that even comes close to how well these things were prepared and tasted. But just because they are great in the light-weight division doesn’t mean they can step in the ring with the big boys just yet. Buffalo Wild Wings has been making wings for years and is obviously doing something right with how fast they are growing. Again, the majority of the time I want to get wings I tend to dine out, but it’s nice to know that if I am traveling and looking for a grab and go fix, Sonic’s new Boneless Chicken Wings are what I will be getting… but next time I’ll get two 6 packs because the 12 pack box is hard as hell to hold onto while driving.