Legend has it that the concept of snacking on fried chicken wings doused in hot sauce was born at Buffalo’s Anchor Bar in 1964. It says so on their menu so it must be true? Hard to believe nobody ever fried and ate a chicken wing before that, at least in the South if not in upstate New York. Maybe the sauce is part of the key, although you can get “Buffalo wings” without any sauce, even in Buffalo.
Anyway, we recently visited Buffalo for the first time, and naturally had to test the wings at their source. We feasted on wings from three different places, and they were all good, but in the end I don’t think chicken wings are capable of transcending their genre in the same way some other foods are.* A great wing is still just a wing. For me, anyway. Plus what used to be a cheap bar snack now costs about $1/wings – 10 wings for $11 seems to be the going rate — not outrageous but hardly a bargain. Still, we enjoyed the food! In each wingy establishment we ordered both mild and hot wings – we did not go Nuclear or Suicidal or any of the other this-one-goes-to-eleven crazy (allegedly) hot options.
* Like: biryani, mole, pizza, just to name a few off top of head.
Duff’s: many locations, less flair than Anchor Bar, locals tend to favor Duff’s “Famous Wings” and their hot sauce was the hottest we encountered, but it didn’t penetrate my soul like a great spicy vindaloo, for example; instead it just made my mouth tingle but the burn went no further. They say “Warning! Hot is VERY VERY Hot!” but I think they overstate. The wings themselves seemed tired, although in fairness we got takeout so they might have been fresher had we eaten at Duff’s. On average the pieces weren’t all that meaty, either. Nothing wrong with them, but just average overall. Duff’s is also missing out on a huge marketing opportunity by not selling Duff Beer (it’s not just fictional!). 10 wings for $11, 20 for $19.
Pearl Street Grill & Brewery: down by the river with huge decks and views, more about this place in the next post, for wings were only our appetizer here. And they were good: hot wasn’t as hot as Duff’s but had a nice kick, the coating was nice and crisp, and the chicken seemed meatier and fresher. The accompanying Lake Effect IPA didn’t hurt. One pound of wings for $11, two for $21 — inconvenient for comparison! Probably about ten/pound? Given the proximity to Canada, I should just be glad no metrics were involved. They also offer a “barrel” for $47 — would I rather have a barrel of wings, or monkeys? Or winged monkeys?! Now I’m getting ideas.
Anchor Bar: locals think the Anchor has dropped in quality over the years, becoming a tourist trap, and it is touristy, with plenty of merchandise available. There’s one in the airport now (hello tourists!), but we went to the original Main Street location. I’m here to tell you their wings are still good, in fact the meatiest and freshest-tasting of the three places listed here. Their sauce isn’t exciting, ironic since they bottle it and sell it all over the place, and for people who crave great wing sauce, I can see why Anchor Bar falls short. Sauce is important and can elevate a wing, but it can’t make up for flaws in the chicken itself. Anchor Bar had the best chicken, sauce aside, and I liked it best for that reason. 10 wings for $11, 20 for $17.
Of course there are many other
Buffalo wing sources Buffalo Buffalo wing sources sources of Buffalo wings in Buffalo NY. (Disambiguation!) Every restaurant or bar sells them, and you could probably knock on random doors and get good wings from the populace at large — Buffalo folk are uniformly friendly and wings are omnipresent.
Somehow, though, we forced ourselves to eat other foods too, more about which in the next post.
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