A bucket of beer next to a plate of hot wings and a pepperoni pizza

Pizza and Wings: A Perfect Pairing

It’s no secret that pizza and wings are an iconic food duo. They are a staple order that goes together like peanut butter and jelly, lemon and pepper, or Andre 3000 and Big Boi. And while we’ve been enjoying this delicious flavor pairing for decades, it wasn’t always that way. 

Roughly 50 years ago, wings were the undesirable scrap meat of the chicken and often thrown out to be used with stock. But that all changed back in Buffalo, NY in the 60s. There are a few competing stories on exactly who kicked off the trend, but two standout stories are traced to the dish’s origin. 

One suggests Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY accidentally received wings instead of chicken necks to make their pasta sauce. The bar owner’s mother decided to improvise a dish for guests at the bar. She deep fried them, cut them into drums and flats, salthered them in hot sauce and served them with celery. 

Another Buffalo-based chef claims chicken wings were a regular staple in the Afican-American community and he first served them breaded, fried, and uncut with his specialty “mambo sauce” at John Young’s Wings and Things around the same time. 

Both stories are recalled in more detail in the Smithsonian Magazine, but regardless of who officially served up the very first dish, we know that the trend took off in a major way in the 70s and the rest is history. Now, most major pizza restaurants offer the pairing on their menus as pizza and wings are a classic fan-favorite and palate pleaser.

We may have been a little late to the pizza and wings game here at MTH Pizza, but you know when our chefs take on a new dish, they like to take the time to focus on the process and make sure it’s done right. If we were doing wings, we wanted to serve up some of the best wings in Atlanta

How does one cook up the best wings in Atlanta? Chef, co-founder and “mad-scientist” Todd Mussman gives us the skinny on MTH’s wing game. 

What makes MTH chicken wings unique?

All of our chicken wings are Springer Mountain Farms jumbo chicken wings. We twice cook them, first, roasting them in the oven so they stay nice and juicy. Then, we drop them in the fryer to ensure they are really tender, never dry, and fall off the bone. 

As far as flavors go, we kept it fairly traditional to include mild, medium and hot, but we added in a handful of original sauce combos, too.

  • I Ain’t Afraid of No Ghost wings

These ghost pepper wings are one of my favorites. I personally think it’s just the perfect amount of heat. It gives you a little numbness on the lips, a little beaded sweat on brow, but it won’t make you jump up and down and cry. Essentially, we take our mild base and add straight dried, ground ghost chilis for a measured amount of heat and flavor.

  • El’s Ras-zzle Dazzle wings

This one basically started as a riff off of Atlanta’s iconically celebrated wing flavor: lemon pepper wet (lemon pepper wings tossed in medium sauce). I used the Moroccan flavors from the Ras el Hanout (hence the Ras-zzle riff) spice instead of lemon pepper, then added a little lemon juice, and mixed it with our medium base. Best wings in Atlanta? You’ll have to try for yourself.

  • Shan City wings

These are a nod to our collective love of the dishes at our local Tasty China that we have been frequenting for years. Shan City is a Sichuan classic chicken dish and one of my favorites. It’s essentially small pieces of chicken that get twice fried and then stir fried with chillies and Sichuan peppercorns, like a dry-crusted spice. 

I got busy in my home kitchen with my 22-inch wok practicing and eventually created a recipe with a familiar flavor profile to emulate the dish. We use Sichuan peppercorns, chili flakes, cumin, white pepper, garlic, salt and cayenne pepper as the dry spice base because we wanted to up the heat a little. We dry fry the wings crispy, then toss them in the mix with cilantro and dried red chilies and it really does give you the Shan City effect. 

Why do you think the pizza and wings pairing works so well together?

The carb-heavy pizza pairs well with the protein from the chicken. The wing sauces complement our scratch-made pizza crusts nicely. Plus, they’re both pub style foods that are always a favorite spread for parties and sports-watching. They’re both hand food, so no utensils are necessary. It just makes sense. You can get a little messy with it. They go hand-in-hand (very punny, I know). It’s easy for the entire family to enjoy. Even the kids can dive right in and enjoy a little independence without help cutting up bites or prepping their plate.

Do you have a favorite wings and pizza pairing from the MTH menu?

I would go with a build-your-own-adventure pie with a red base topped with mushrooms, raw onions and raw garlic. It’s stupid good. Onions and garlic are in your face. Mushrooms are earthy and awesome. Add blue cheese on the side for pizza dipping (don’t ask) and pair that with ghost pepper wings. All flats. Better skin-to-meat ratio. 

Co-Founder Ryan Turner prefers the Detroit Big Sexy Pie loaded with pepperonis paired with the Shan City wings. And fellow Chef and Co-Founder Chris Hall keeps it classic with Margherita pie and the Drop it Like it’s Hot wings, extra crispy. 

Finally, how did y’all come up with the names for the wings? 

I’ve got to give credit to our Executive Chef Dameren. He’s super punny and wicked funny. Music is a thing at MTH. It’s a big part of our culture and our space. We have a good mix of personally curated music, so they basically came from that.

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