Review: The Ainsworth's Over-The-Top 24K Wings Are Good As Gold But Cost A Fortune

New York is known as one of the culinary capitals of the world, and for good reason. There are countless iconic New York foods that were either created or perfected in the city, reflecting the diversity of New Yorkers and the unique convergence of flavors the chefs who find a home here bring from all over the globe. The New York culinary scene has a reputation for having an inclination toward the finer things in life — representing a way of living that is often conjured in movies or dreamt up in fantasies. Where else but New York can you walk into a sports bar and find a plate of chicken wings entirely coated in 24-karat gold?

The Ainsworth, a popular sports bar in Midtown, Manhattan, is restoring the aforementioned gilded wings to its kitchen lineup for a limited time only. We recently visited the restaurant to sample the internet-famous entree and to see what all the fuss is about. The goal was to determine for ourselves whether or not the over-the-top chicken wings were worth ordering.

What is The Ainsworth?

The Ainsworth is an elevated sports bar in Midtown, Manhattan with locations in Rockville Centre, New York, and Phoenix, Arizona. The Midtown location is connected to The Hilton Garden Inn, making it a hot spot for tourists and business folks alike, gathering after the workday in the dimly lit dining room where the wood-paneled walls are lined with television screens. Contemporary pop music is blasting at full volume — that, paired with the vibrant glow from the many monitors broadcasting sporting events throughout the restaurant, gives the space the distinct feeling of a fever dream. 

While The Ainsworth undoubtedly smells like a sports bar with a powerful odor of ale that seeps directly into your pores, the tables have marble facades and are covered with votive candles, giving you the sense of a dining experience that is slightly more upscale. It's worth noting that a sports bar isn't exactly what we imagined when we sought out the 24-karat gilded chicken wings, but the combination of classic American comfort food with the shiny ideals of New York luxury is a surprisingly fitting pairing. 

How are The Ainsworth's over-the-top 24K wings made?

The Ainworth's gilded chicken wings are described as "coated in a layer of gold dust," so imagine our surprise when we were served a plate of chicken wings that looked as though they'd been dipped directly into a bucket of liquid gold leaf. Often times when menu items include a signature or buzzy ingredient like shavings of truffle or pearls of caviar, those luxury additions are minimal, merely decorative dressings to add a little flourish to the meal. But that's not the case here. The quantity of gold far exceeded our wildest imagination, making for a dish that is truly a work of art.

How is this preparation even possible, one might ask? According to The Ainsworth, the restaurant's over-the-top 24-karat gilded chicken wings are brined over the course of 12 hours — a cheeky number as the preparation time is one half-hour per karat. Next, the chicken wings are heavily slathered in a homemade dry rub, baked in the oven until the meat is tender, then flash-fried before being thickly coated in a generous layer of gold leaf.

What do The Ainsworth's over-the-top 24K wings taste like?

When you dig into a plate of chicken wings, your fingers often become coated with sauce. When you lift one of The Ainsworth's 24-karat gilded chicken wings off your plate, prepare for your hand to be immediately covered with liquid gold. Each chicken wing is drenched in a coating that is simultaneously eye-catching and mouthwatering. But some picture-perfect menu items are only good for an Instagram grid. So, what do the gilded chicken wings actually taste like?

The flavor of the chicken wings' exterior isn't nearly as intense as you'd expect to find with a traditional buffalo or barbecue sauce, but there's a pleasant sweetness that comes forth once you get passed the surreality of eating so much gold. The real standout of these chicken wings in terms of the overall taste experience is the tenderness of the meat, which is decidedly high-quality. There's barely any fattiness present, as the chicken tastes both moist and satisfyingly fresh. The subtle sweetness is a mystery as the restaurant is keeping the recipe under wraps, but we suspect that flavor likely comes from honey that's been added to the gold coating, lending a complexity of flavor to the otherwise more subdued taste.

How much will the 24-K gilded chicken wings set you back?

The majority of over-the-top buzz-worthy menu items that appear throughout New York City restaurants are generally offered for a limited time only — making procurement of these dishes an exciting challenge. The Ainsworth is upping the ante of exclusivity by bringing its 24-karat gilded chicken wings back into the kitchen as an off-menu item. Secret off-menu items add a bit of fantasy to a dining experience and have been embraced by many beloved fast-casual chains such as Panera Bread and In-N-Out Burger. 

At The Ainsworth in Midtown — the only location where the gilded wings can be savored — diners won't actually see the 24-karat dish appear on their menus. Instead, they'll have the pleasure of covertly inquiring with their waitstaff for a special plate of these gold chicken wing beauties. 

What will it cost you? If 24-karat gilded chicken wings sound too good to be true, that's likely because they are. We say that because in order to sample these iconic wings, diners must pay a whopping $150 for a dozen. That price, while jaw-droppingly expensive, is likely as high as it is because of the generous amount of gold leaf that coats the entirety of each chicken wing. If you want to sample the gilded wings, we recommend acting quickly because The Ainsworth hasn't disclosed how long it'll be offering the wings, particularly since they aren't even officially on the restaurant's menu.

How do The Ainsworth's over-the-top 24K wings compare to the BBQ and Buffalo?

Chicken wings are practically synonymous with sports bars. Enter any establishment around the country and you're sure to find groups of diners huddled around piping-hot bowls of chicken wings slathered in a variety of sauces. Some of the most common varietals enjoyed are Buffalo wings and barbecue wings. We tried The Ainsworth's over-the-top 24-karat gilded wings alongside the house boneless barbecue wings and the bone-in Buffalo wings to see how the taste compared. 

Each plate of chicken wings is served with a small portion of sliced carrots and celery and a dish of ranch or bleu cheese for dipping. Both the Buffalo wings and the barbecue boneless wings are topped with microgreens and generously coated in their respective sauces. 

The Buffalo wings are perfectly tangy with a nice level of heat that builds with each subsequent bite. The house boneless barbecue wings are the standout here, with a crispy exterior and a sumptuously complex barbecue sauce that is equal parts spice and sweetness. The boneless chicken is the most tender of the three, though the meat of all the chicken wings is of a refreshingly high quality. The over-the-top 24-karat gilded wings are beautiful, but their flavor profile doesn't quite live up to their barbecue or Buffalo counterparts.

Are The Ainsworth's over-the-top 24K wings worth it?

While The Ainsworth's over-the-top 24-karat gilded chicken wings are exquisite eye candy and would make an inspiring addition to any social media feed, the price point and the availability of other top-quality chicken wings at the restaurant means they are a difficult splurge to rationalize. For $18, you can enjoy either The Ainsworth's Buffalo bone-in chicken wings or the barbecue boneless chicken wings, which are just as delicious, if not more so, and the cost is a fraction of what you'd pay for your platter of gold. 

As with most buzz-worthy menu options available in New York City, the gilded chicken wings aren't a dish diners are likely to order frequently, but if you find yourself longing for an extra special way to kick off the holiday season and you can afford to stretch your wallet, the over-the-top 24-karat gilded wings might just be worth trying once. 

If you want to sweeten the deal, two on-menu items The Ainsworth is known for that are just as decadent but available at a significantly lower price point are the Mac Burger (Angus beef patty and cheddar cheese topped with a heaping portion of fried mac-n-cheese on a brioche bun) for $24 and the Supreme Sundae, available individually sized or large format for $20 or $75 respectively. The latter dish features mounds of ice cream slathered in caramel, chocolate, and strawberry sauce and a heaping of other desserts.