Small bites: Asheville Wing War strikes again

MIXING IT UP: At this year's Asheville Wing War, 12 local restaurants will compete for the titles of best traditional and speciality wings and people's choice. Pictured is Andrew Spears, who competed in last year's event with Mojo Kitchen. Photo by Max Ganly

An estimated 12,000 wings will be prepared and served during the ninth annual Asheville Wing War, says Kelly Denson, the event’s executive producer. As in years past, 12 local restaurants will compete, creating two styles of wings — traditional and specialty.

“We spent a lot of time eating chicken wings in various places around town to make sure we found the absolute best,” Denson says. “So when people come to the event, they know they’re experiencing the best hot wings that Asheville has to offer.”

General admission is $15. During the event, ticket holders can purchase wings for $1 apiece. Beer will also be available for purchase. VIP tickets are $50 and include wing samples, unlimited beer, early admission and a pint glass.

For at least one participant, the competition has served as a launching pad for his culinary career. “Wing War has helped me gain the recognition and support that has built my business over all these years,” says A.J. Gregson, owner of Black Bear BBQ.

In 2013, as manager of One Stop Kitchen, Gregson was an award-winning competitor, and following the event, he says, wing sales tripled. More recently, Gregson and his team from the now-closed Mojo Kitchen & Lounge took home the top prize for their 2019 specialty wing. “I’ve gained a lot of fans, friends and customers from this event,” says Gregson.

Gregson will be back this year with Black Bear BBQ, competing against the Barrelhouse, Blue Dream Curry, Brinehaus Meat + Provisions, Dreadlife Kitchen, Gullah Q Lowcountry BBQ, The Malvern, The Montford Deli, Overlook Restaurant at Crown Plaza, Post 25 Kitchen & Lounge, Stable Cafe at Biltmore Estate and Thirsty Monk Biltmore Park.

All competing restaurants must use a vinegar-based hot sauce and butter for their traditional wings. Additional ingredients are permitted, but Denson notes that the judges prefer traditional flavors. This year’s experts include local food writers Jonathan Ammons and Mackensy Lunsford, as well as chef Ashleigh Shanti of Benne on Eagle. Visiting judges are Virginia-based chef Travis Milton, Atlanta-based journalist Angela Hansberger and Sam Slaughter, food and drink editor for The Manual.

Denson says when it comes to the specialty wing category, “I tell the chefs, the world is your oyster.” But she offers a word of caution: Judges sample all dishes blind, so extreme or unusual flavors can be jarring. As an example, she points to a birthday cake-flavored wing presented at last year’s event. (The dish did not place.)

The Barrelhouse is one of several repeat challengers. Last year, the restaurant finished third in the traditional category. “We are really excited about this year,” says owner Brandon Moyer. “We have some new flavors we want to break out: garlic Parmesan and Buffalo pickle.”

And while winning is important, Moyer adds, it isn’t everything. “Placing is always rewarding,” he says, “but not as pleasing as a smile that tells you someone really enjoyed your sh*t!”

The Asheville Wing War runs 1-5 p.m. Sunday, March 8, at the Expo Center at the Asheville Crowne Plaza, 1 Resort Drive. To purchase tickets, visit

Corned beef and beer

The Chop Shop Butchery is gearing up for St. Patrick’s Day with a workshop focused on Irish corned beef. The class kicks off with samples of corned beef sandwiches and house-made charcuterie plus local beer and wine. A live cooking demo and in-depth discussion on the history of Irish corned beef will follow. Students will leave the class with the ingredients and tools necessary to make corned beef at home. Tickets are $85.

The class runs 6-8 p.m. Thursday, March 5, at The Chop Shop Butchery, 100 Charlotte St. To purchase tickets, visit

Coffee Farmer Caravan

PennyCup Coffee Co. will host Coffee Farmer Caravan on Monday, March 9, with Cafe Imports, an independently owned green coffee importer and developer with warehousing in the U.S., England and Australia. The event will feature PennyCup’s longtime Colombian-based export partner, Banexport Coffee. According to the event’s Facebook page, “It’s a great opportunity for roasters and baristas to meet, engage with and get to know the people and experts behind some of our favorite coffees and strongest relationships.” Attendees will sample various pours and learn about the industry’s supply chain. The gathering will also feature a curated gallery of artwork showing the history of Colombian coffee and Cafe Imports. The event is free to attend.

The event runs 5-7 p.m. Monday, March 9, at PennyCup Coffee Co., 362 Depot St. To learn more, visit

Wine focus group

On Wednesday, March 11, MetroWines will host a focus group led by Kate Stamps, owner of Rise Over Run, a local wine import and distribution company. Participants will sample four wines to help determine whether or not MetroWines should carry the bottles and at what price. According to a press release, Stamps is an expert in natural and biodynamic wines. The event is free to attend, but RSVPs are required.

Samples will be served 5:30-6:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 11, at MetroWines, 169 Charlotte St. To reserve your seat, call 828-575-9525 or visit

PubCorps’ new website

PubCorps, a local nonprofit that works to eliminate childhood hunger in Western North Carolina, recently announced the launch of its new website. In addition, the organization unveiled three new programs aimed at making it easier for WNC residents to get involved, as well as special offers that benefit the nonprofit’s mission. In a press release, Kelly Campbell, the organization’s director of operations and logistics says, “If PubCorps can make volunteering simple, fun and accessible, we feel like we can make a huge impact in this world.”

To learn more about PubCorps, visit


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. His writing has appeared in Gulf Coast, the Miracle Monocle, Juked and elsewhere. His debut novel, The Wind Under the Door, is now available.

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

One thought on “Small bites: Asheville Wing War strikes again

  1. think critically

    Wings are for flying, not frying.
    “Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight.”
    Albert Schweitzer

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.