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Delphine at the W Hollywood hotel, known for its raw seafood bar and steaks, recently experimented with a new dish: chicken wings.
With a limited-time menu featuring niblets slathered with truffle-laced cheese and other flavorings, the upscale restaurant isn't the only one taking the once-lowbrow bar staple to a new level.
At Sunny Spot in Venice, chef Roy Choi placed his What a Jerk Wings next to the whole roasted fish and Two Fisted Cheeseburger. Ludo Lefebvre, known for his love of foie gras and his French culinary pedigree, serves honey garlic-glazed wings from his cult favorite truck.
Wings are driving scorching sales at specialty chains, getting the gourmet treatment at fancy restaurants and even emerging in good-for-you vegan versions. Their presence on menus has increased 19% since 2009, according to market research firm Mintel.
As a party food, they're quickly gaining on ribs and nachos, so expect a lot of wings on the table on the Fourth of July, one of the five most popular days for wing consumption along with the Super Bowl and college basketball's March Madness finals.
"They're going gangbusters," said Nick Setyan, a restaurant analyst with Wedbush Securities. "These wings guys were the only ones able to take advantage of this kind of environment."
The dish can thank the recession and the burgeoning snacking and street food culture for its meteoric popularity.
Chicken managed to evade the rising food prices that made beef and pork especially expensive last year. Although chicken breasts still command the majority of chicken sales, wings now constitute 9% — the same percentage as drumsticks and nearly as much as whole chickens, according to consulting firm Nielsen Perishables Group. In all, 36 billion wing segments were sold domestically last year, or about 115 wing bits per person.