The birth of the Chicken Wings

Nov 17, 2008

Buffalo is an All America City for more then one reason.  Although it is not known for its fine cuisine, Buffalo is nevertheless the epicentre of the most important sports cuisine revolution ever:  the chicken wings.

Because it is here, in 1964, in a small establishment of Main Street, Buffalo, NY, USA, that the chicken wings were born.  The blessed nativity happened at the Anchor Bar.

Anchor BarI’ve always wanted to go, but although it is on Main Street, it is still a few blocks away from downtown Buffalo.  On our annual football trip, we usually stay at the Adam’s Mark, as it is walking distance from the classy night life experience one only can get in downtown Buffalo, an All America City.

Monday Night Football was changing our plans, as there was no need to enjoy said nightlife.  But it also meant we had time for an All America Lunch.  So off we went to the Anchor Bar.

If I understood the story correctly, the chicken wings were invented one Friday night in 1964, as the son of the owners, Dominic, was hanging out with a bunch of his friends at the bar.  Emptying the beer kegs, they got hungry.  Teresa Bellissimo was asked by her son to feed his friends, but it being Friday night, and it being late, and them being drunk, she didn’t feel the need to feed them with fancy food.  She took the chicken wings she had reserved to make soup stock, and dunked them in a deep fryer. She then tossed them in a “secret sauce” ( A blend of cayenne pepper, vinegar, salt, garlic and margarine) and served them with a blue cheese dressing on the side to cut the heat for the sissies amongs Dominic’s friends. They apparently liked the dish, ordered more beers, more wings, et voilà!  A new star was born, and the Buffalo chicken wings are now a favourite accross North America, still spreading around the world.

We arrived around 1 pm.  The parking was packed, which I assumed was pretty normal for game day.  Still, we were 7 hours away from kick-off.  The place was really busy – we lined-up in order to be part of the experience.  Ivano Toscani, the Executive Chef, was welcoming people and making sure to move people along quickly.  It took about 10 minutes before we were able to sit down in a corner table, not far from the piano.  – Yes, they have live entertainment – but not today.

Today is all about Monday Night Football.  Most of the patrons are wearing either Buffalo Bills‘ gear, or Cleveland Browns‘ apparel.  Cleveland is not that far from Buffalo, so lots of Browns’ fans are in town, and lots of them are at the Anchor.

Jerry and I had a quick look at their lunch menu, but that was mostly just for show. Hell, we were here for wings, so we barely looked at the salads, soup, sandwiches, pizza and other available items to focus on the Holy Grail:  the original wings! (They also have a dinner menu, expanded to include pasta dishes and seafood.)

Anchor Bar Wings are available in five flavours:  mild, medium, hot, bar-b-que and suicide. The original version, I gather, is the medium one. We ordered 20 wings

To chase them down, I went for a pint of Genesee Cream Ale.  Funny enough, of the 29 beers available at the Anchor Bar, 1 is Irish, 1 is Dutch, 2 are Mexican, 8 are Canadian, and 17 are American.  The Genesse Cream Ale is quite clear for a Cream Ale, very pale too.  Pretty weak aroma, it is quite smooth and therefore a good beer to chase down wings.

While waiting for the wings, I went to their souvenir shop.  I bought a great chicken wing hat!!!  It would be a huge hit later, I was sure of it.  You can order a lot of the stuff on-line.

And then, the wings came.

Here they were.  The originals.  The wings to rule them all.

The smelled so good!  They looked so good! And good they were. The wings were served with plenty of celery sticks on the side (for our health – way to go Anchor Bar!) and the original blue cheese dip.  The dip wasn’t bad, but I’ve always preferred to keep my wings un-dipped.  That’s the kind of non-dipper dipper I am.

The sauce is what makes it all happen.  Because the wings themselves weren’t of the best quality.  And, because of the heavy affluence I assume, they probably weren’t as good as they can be.  In fact, some were a tad bit overcooked, so much so in fact that some bones would chip – I believe I did swallow a little piece.

But the sauce was divine, and it made for very tasty wings.  They were served hot, and they were clearly not microwaved as they remained hot to the last one.   I wanted to try the other sauces they had available, but that was plenty of food for now.  So I went to their store again and bought an assortment of sauces and a gallon of original sauce.

I will make another pilgrimage if I have the chance.  This place changed the world.

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