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February 2006
Putting Taste to the Test: NYC’s Vegan Wings and Drumsticks

Review by Maureen C. Wyse


Red Bamboo’s Buffalo Wings. Photo by Kevin Lysaght

Looking for a good chicken alternative but nothing quite hits the spot? Look no further than this handy guide to New York’s wings and drumsticks, rated from good to the very best, sans the cluck.

7. Curley’s Vegetarian Lunch: On Buffalo Wings
328 E. 14 Street, Manhattan

Although called wings, these resemble Tabasco-coated chicken strips. The presentation is simple: five strips ($6.95), with the good ol’ standard vegan bleu cheese dipping sauce, celery sticks and a few leaves of mixed greens. Unlike other vegan wings, these soy strips taste more like seitan. Their chewy texture is a bit alarming to the uninitiated, and the spongy inside adds an element of surprise to the usual soy wing, but the savory flavor of the breading stands out. Also, vegans beware, the On Buffalo Wing has a little EV symbol next to it, meaning easily made vegan, so make sure you pipe up before the order goes through.

6. Kate’s Joint: Buffalo Un-Chicken Wings
58 Avenue B, Manhattan

Five tofu hunks ($5.95) are battered, fried, smothered with a hot ‘n’ spicy Tabasco sauce and served with celery and vegan bleu cheese. The texture is nothing like chicken, instead it’s a delectable breaded and fried, spicy tofu cutlet. For a wonderful alternative to the chicken wanna-be, we salute Kate’s wings for their taste and originality. But careful, they are a bit heavy on the grease.

5. Vegetarian’s Paradise 2: Sugarcane Drumsticks
144 W. 4 Street, Manhattan

Fooling even the biggest of meat-eaters with the chewy and moist texture, these five drumsticks ($6.95) are simply served with a spicy Thai sauce. Neither the drumsticks nor the sauce have too much heat to them, so you taste the fresh herbs in the breading a bit more. If you’re looking for a traditional chicken drumstick, with light flavoring, this is for you.

4. NY Dosa: Veggie Drumsticks
Washington Square Park South at Sullivan Street, Manhattan

These homemade creations ($1 each) are extremely appetizing. Delicately spiced with salt, pepper, and perhaps a subtle mix of other seasonings, the drumsticks alone are relatively mild. But when Thiru Kumar hands you that tiny tub of chili garlic sauce, go easy on it until you’re sure you can handle it. With tender layers of soft flakey soy, these drumsticks are extremely ‘meaty’ and have an almost melting quality when you chomp them down. They are a bit on the greasy side, but no other drumstick can match the smile you get when you purchase a Thiru creation. Plus, each drumstick is mounted on an all-natural sugarcane “bone,” making for a tasty chewing stick afterwards.

3. Vegetarian Palate: Sugarcane Drumsticks
258 Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn

With an uncanny similarity to chicken, this soy drumstick makes us scratch our heads and wonder how they did it. Presented five to a dish ($5.95), the drumsticks are garnished simply, with lettuce and a Red Thai dipping sauce that will put some hair on your head. The golden breading adds a hint of savory flavor, and although fried, these drumsticks are light on the oil. When finished, you can save the sugarcane “bone” to chew while you wait for your main entrée.

2. Red Bamboo: Buffalo Wings
140 W. 4 Street, Manhattan

Red Bamboo’s spectacular soy Buffalo Wings come five to a plate ($6.95) with celery sticks and a vegan sesame garlic bleu cheese dressing. Because their spicy citrus barbeque sauce is more sweet than spicy, those with milder tastes should not be afraid to indulge. These extremely delicious wings have taken many a meat-eater by surprise. They are by far the most popular item on the menu, with people traveling from all over to enjoy their taste. Excellent for sharing.

1. Foodswings: Drumsticks
295 Grand Street, Brooklyn

Foodswings is the premier place to go for chicken-free drumsticks. Nowhere else do you have your choice of Buffalo-style, BBQ or Southern Fried. The drumsticks come five to a basket ($7.95), but if you think five are two too many, you can order just three with your choice of side salad, mac ‘n’ cheese, fries, plantains or mashed potatoes for $6. Wooden sticks as “bones” present choking hazards, which is too bad because it’s hard not to scarf these down.

Buffalo-style is the spiciest of them all, breaded and fried, beautifully red, topped with their Buffalo sauce and served with carrots, celery sticks and vegan bleu cheese dressing to cool down the heat.

The Southern Fried are eerily reminiscent of the good ol’ southern classic: golden, thick, and crispy fried with your choice of sauce. They are just the way drumsticks should be, without the cluck.

Unlike their sister drumsticks, the BBQ drumsticks are not breaded but rather drenched in BBQ sauce and fired on the grill. The taste is a hickory smoked, savory flavor and the texture is perfectly tender and chewy.

Our compliments to Foodswings for better than chicken “chicken.”


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