I went to the NYC restaurant that makes wings for 'Hot Ones,' and now I know why celebrity guests are always complimenting them
For six years, "Hot Ones" has been hurting celebrities with hot questions and even hotter wings.
Much of the time, those hot chicken wings come from the same midtown Manhattan restaurant: Shorty's.
Insider visited Shorty's this week to find out what goes into a "Hot Ones" wing.
Like so many of my fellow millennials, I'm a big fan of First We Feast's hit YouTube talk show, "Hot Ones."
If you're not already familiar, it's a typical talk-show format with a twist: Instead of a standard interview, it's an interview conducted while eating through a gantlet of 10 increasingly hot chicken wings.
The show is primarily filmed in a studio in Manhattan, and its wings usually come from a little shop nearby named Shorty's.
Shorty's got a nice shoutout from Elijah Wood on the season 15 wrap-up episode. Wood called them, "Very good wings," to which the host Sean Evans replied, "Shout out Shorty's!"
I went to Shorty's this week to find out exactly how good the wings are, but first I stopped by the iconic hot sauce shop that collaborates with "Hot Ones": Heatonist, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Heatonist is a pilgrimage for hot-sauce heads. The shop has collaborated with "Hot Ones" for years, and it sells several "Hot Ones" branded sauces - including a recent iteration of the infamous "Last Dab."
I was there for two specific sauces from the bottom and the top of spice mountain: The classic hot sauce, and the Last Dab hot sauce, both made by "Hot Ones" and used on the show.
After picking up the hot sauces, I headed through the Queens-Midtown Tunnel to Shorty's to pick up wings. Appropriately, Shorty's sells an order of wings as 10 pieces for $14.
Another 25 minutes later and I was back in Brooklyn, wings still warm, ready to dig in.
Critically, the wings for "Hot Ones" are ordered plain and then tossed individually with sauce by a production assistant. The assistant, "pours hot sauce into one plastic bowl, places a wing inside, and puts another bowl on top to form a clamshell, which is then shaken vigorously," The Verge reported in 2019. So I started by doing that!
As you can see, the "Hot Ones" saucing method is effective. Since Shorty's wings are battered, then fried, there are plenty of little crags and crevices for the sauce to disappear into.
The good news is that Elijah Wood is right: The wings from Shorty's are, in fact, quite good. Since they're battered with flour - rather than straight up fried, naked chicken wings - they're more similar to fried chicken than standard bar wings.
Moreover, the classic sauce is pretty tasty. It's a little sweet, a little garlicky, and surprisingly punchy from Fresno chiles. Definitely hotter than, say, Frank's Red Hot or Tabasco but not overwhelmingly hot either.
Of note: "Hot Ones" has in the past used different vendors in New York City. Sometimes guests want fish sticks or vegan wings instead of chicken wings.
There was only one thing left to do after trying the wings plain and trying them with the Classic hot sauce: the Last Dab.
Would it destroy me, as it had so many people much more famous and attractive than me?
Only one way to find out!
In a shocking twist, it wasn't that hot! It's definitely spicy, and I definitely sweated profusely after eating it, and my lips hurt a bit, but it wasn't the soul-destroying experience that I expected.
It's easy to understand why "Hot Ones" guests are so complimentary: The wings from Shorty's are uniformly golden and crispy with juicy meat. They're not too small and not too big, and they held onto a good crunch even after a 25-minute car ride. They aren't going to change your life, but they're some of the better wings I've had in over a decade eating NYC wings.
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