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Despite winning the best wings category three straight years in the City Paper Reader’s Poll, Duffy’s Irish Pub & Restaurant still didn’t hold much interest for me. Polls are a popularity contest, and I wanted perfectly fried chicken wings, not a well-marketed homecoming queen.

But prompted by a neighbor who echoed the public praises, I visited Duffy’s earlier this summer — and I’ve returned several times since for the wing sauce alone.

Owner Andy Duffy makes each batch in house, keeping his recipe a closely guarded secret.  My best guess is the sauce starts with a base of Crystal or some other Louisiana-style hot sauce doctored with extra chilies, vinegar, and loads of black pepper.  The results pack a punch: Ladled over the wings before they leave the kitchen, the sauce is at once earthy and bright, with ample heat.

At first I thought Duffy’s saucing technique was lazy as few of the wings were completely coated, while many received no sauce at all. But halfway through my first order, I realized the genius of the application.  Eat the drenched wings first, before they lose their snap, and as your session progresses, the neglected specimens will be doused in the sauce puddle remaining below.

The technique results in perfect crispy wings from start to finish. It’s funny, but I’ve gotten in the habit of requesting orders cooked extra crispy at other bars, but such a request here would be redundant. Each order I’ve had has been fried to perfection, encased in a pleasingly crunchy skin while the meat remains moist and strips easily from the bones.  Ample celery, carrots, and dressing round out an offering that runs $5.95 for a half dozen. You can bump up to a dozen for $5 more.

Are Duffy’s wings the best in the city?  I can’t say because I haven’t eaten all the wings in the city.  But I’m quite certain Duffy’s wings are a flight above most available in the District, and significantly hotter than the girl I took to senior prom.

Duffy’s Irish Pub & Restaurant, 2106 Vermont Avenue Northwest (202) 265-3413