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Winging it! Life Cafe wins boro-wide chicken contest

The Brooklyn Paper
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The wing is dead, long live the wing!

In a stunning, sudden-death upset, Life Cafe, the Bushwick eatery best known for its tofu salads and eggless rancheros, bested last year’s chicken-fried champion, Super Wings, to win the second annual “Best Wing in Brooklyn” contest at the Red Star in Greenpoint on Saturday night.

The victory came after a five-judge panel declared a tie between Life Cafe and Bonnie’s Grill, a Park Slope retro-diner, after eaters had sampled two wings apiece from 11 restaurants from all over the borough.

The 2010 champs, Super Wings from Crown Heights, were a close third, putting them in the running for a come-from-behind, snatch-a-wing-from-the-jaws-of-the-judges victory.

But in the finals, Life Cafe’s tender, juicy, fall-of-the-bone appendage pulled away from the classic Buffalo-style purity of Bonnie’s.

And Super Wings was disqualified after making the judges — including Brooklyn Paper Editor Gersh Kuntzman — wait an hour for a final retaste, evidence that a member of the Super Wings contingent had gone to Crown Heights and returned with a fresh batch of the ginger wings with lava sauce.

“They were the best wings here today — but making us wait an hour so they could get fresh wings ruined it for me,” said Ryan Hohman, also known as “The Ultimate Wingman,” thanks to his 2011 quest to sample wings at 2,011 restaurants.

Both Hohman and Kuntzman had championed a Thai sausage-stuffed wing from Keg and Lantern, an Irish bar on Nassau Avenue in Greenpoint, and a juicy, garlicky wing from the new, Jay-Z–backed Buffalo Boss in Downtown, but like many forms of democracy, judging was ugly and contentious throughout the day, and Hohman and his own wingman Kuntzman were forced to abandon their campaigns and come together around the concensus pick, Life Cafe.

“We are just so pleased to win because we had so much fun today,” said Life owner Kathy Kirkpatrick, after feeding hundreds of wing lovers who lined up outside Red Star all afternoon.

Super Wings owner Colette Burnett was gracious in defeat.

“They beat us fair and square,” she said. “I’m so happy for them.”

Of course, given how many friends and family Burnett packed into the sprawling, two-story bar, it’s no surprise that her wing tied with the hosts for the “People’s Choice” award. The professional judges had rejected Red Star’s Asian-influenced wing as a bit dry and sweet, but its home-field advantaged helped it retain its crispy freshness.

Life Cafe [983 Flushing Ave. between Evergreen Avenue and Bogart Street in Bushwick, (718) 386-1133]; Red Star [37 Greenpoint Ave. at West Street in Greenpoint, (718) 349-0149]. The Ultimate Wingman can be found at www.2011wings.com.

Updated 4:17 pm, February 14, 2011
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