What bar invented Buffalo wings?
I definitely was not going to go all the way to Buffalo and not eat what the place is best known for: its chicken wings! But the answer to the question of “What bar invented Buffalo Wings?” seemed to be, according to The Profs – either Anchor Bar Buffalo or Duff’s Buffalo? Being a pragmatic kind of guy, I decided to split the difference and try them both.
Where did the buffalo wing originate?
When I was a child I would, on occasion, share some (very mild) Buffalo wings with my mother, and I always wondered why buffaloes had such tiny wings. I never voiced this concern to my Mom because I sensed that somehow, I wasn’t at all on the right track. It wasn’t until much later on that I discovered that Buffalo wings were in fact named after the city that introduced the idea of spicy chicken wings to the world, and not the huge (and noticeably wingless) animals that used to roam our prairies in such vast numbers.
I do enjoy almost all reasonably spicy food though, and I have even attended the odd Chillithon – where attested maniacs compete to create the hottest possible version of Chilli con Whatever (Chilli Con Carne being considered very passé in these differently enlightened times.) At a Chillithon I usually restrict myself to the children’s table, in order to avoid the more breathtaking – or should I say breath removing – recipes. However spicy wings are most definitely on my ‘approved for human consumption’ list, and so I arranged with my hosts for the weekend, The Profs, (Eduardo and Jessica – both Associate Professors at BU.) to try two of Buffalo’s most famous wing joints: the Anchor Bar and Duff’s.
What bar invented Buffalo wings?
Located in the heart of downtown at 1047 Main Street, the Anchor Bar Buffalo claims to be the originator of the Buffalo wing. The story goes that in the spring of 1964, a local by the name of Dominic Bellissimo was working the bar at the Anchor Bar when a few of his pals arrived, a bit late for food but starving hungry. Dominic asked his mother if she could rustle up something for them to eat, and his mother, Teressa, like any good Italian Mama with an eye on improving that evening’s takings, obliged.
She came back with what looked just like chicken wings, but deep fried and basted in a dark sauce which proved to be on the hot side of spicy. These fiery wings went down very well with Dominic’s friends, who came in with some of their own friends over the next few days, demanding more of Teressa’s spicy wings. From then on, the spicy chicken pieces that eventually became known as Buffalo Wings were a constant feature on the menu board at the Anchor Bar. Teressa’s secret sauce is still a secret and is what lies behind the Anchor Bar’s claim to serve the “Best Wings in the World.”
While the Anchor Bar Buffalo is known for their wings, they also serve a mix of what you might call “bar snacks” and quite a few traditional Italian dishes. So, I would say come to the Anchor when you’re in a “wings plus” kind of mood – when you really fancy some wings, but perhaps something more filling as well.
How far from Niagara Falls to the Anchor Bar in Buffalo?
Not only was this my first time trying Buffalo Wings in Buffalo, but it was also my first time actually in Buffalo, so while I was up there I made a point of driving beyond the city, and went up to see Niagara Falls, which I had only seen before from the Canadian Side. If you want to know how far it is from the main car park at Niagara to the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, I can tell you exactly. It is 23.6 miles according to my on-board odometer, though I must admit I got a little bit lost at one of the rotaries. However, I made it to the Anchor Bar Buffalo with no problems and met my hosts for the weekend, the Profs.
Since this was my first go at Buffalo Wings actually in Buffalo, I decided to take it easy in terms of the level of spiciness. I asked for the Medium sauce. Just between you and me, I didn’t think it was very spicy at all, but I realized my mistake a little later on. The Anchor Bar Buffalo’s wings themselves were very good – perfectly crisp, with succulent and tender white meat. And they were lightly spiced. Too lightly spiced for my semi-spice-numbed taste buds.
What I didn’t realize was that Medium is actually the entry point for adult eaters (There is also Mild for the kids!) and I would have been better ordering middle grade spicy, described simply as Hotter. That I think would have been more to my taste, and I can’t wait to go back and give it a go. The spicy rating above Hotter is Suicidal, which I can imagine curling the flatware, so I think Hotter is as far as I might be tempted to go.
Another favorite on the Anchor Bar Buffalo menu, and a very popular dish with Buffalo residents in general, is what locals call a ‘Fish Fry’, which we might know better by its British soubriquet – plain old fish and chips. Every Friday, restaurants all over Buffalo, regardless of their regular cuisine, will offer their customers a fried fish option. Buffaloons take great pride in this culinary curiosity and will search high and low for their favorite fish fry.
I must thank The Profs for introducing me to this local tradition, because I actually really liked the fried fish at the Anchor Bar Buffalo. It wasn’t breaded but actually covered in an all-encompassing crust, known as batter. This turned out to be a kind fried fish I could most definitely eat on a regular basis. I am not a fan of heavy-handed breading, but this light and delicate egg-based crust kept the fish moist and piping hot, and added its own pleasant flavor and texture to the meal. I can heartily recommend it. On my trip I discovered the existence of Anchor Bar NYC, which is down there at 357 West 57th Street, so I will try to pop in there on a Friday night to try the wings and, maybe, a ’Fish Fry’.
We were prepared to be doing lots of eating on this trip, and so the next day the Profs and I made our way to the original Duff’s, Duffs Buffalo, actually situated not far away, on a leafy by-way in Amherst, a rather up-market suburb of Buffalo.
Perhaps it was because we were there on a Sunday afternoon, but Duffs Buffalo feels decidedly different from the Anchor Bar Buffalo. You could tell that this place catered much more for locals, at least on a Sunday. Because of its name and downtown location, I guess the Anchor Bar Buffalo tends to attract more tourists, at least that was my impression, but Duff’s has a much more homey feel to it. Duffs Buffalo also offered a much smaller menu, which was really very focused on the whole Buffalo Wings experience, with just a few other minor distractions – So we ordered – ‘Big surprise, Huh?’ – Duffs Buffalo’s Medium Wings!
Anyway, after our meal, the Profs told me that they thought that Duffs Buffalo’s wings were fresher in general, and that you could tell the people in the kitchen had put much more attention into the preparation that went into each individual plate. We actually tried a mixture of Medium and Medium Hot wings at Duffs Buffalo, but I honestly couldn’t taste (or feel) any difference in the level of spiciness.
The Profs actually felt that Duffs Buffalo’s medium wings tasted spicier than the medium hot, but to me, though they tasted very different, I couldn’t tell any real difference in how spicy they were. I did have an issue with Duffs Buffalo’s Medium Hot sauce though, because to me it tasted like the wings had been dipped in vinegar. It was so tart that I was actually smacking my lips and reaching for the butter-milk: so, I must say, I cannot personally recommend that option.
If you find yourself in the Buffalo area – the Anchor Bar or Duffs?
So, should you eat in Anchor Bar Buffalo or Duffs Buffalo? First of all, of course, you have to decide what kind of meal and what kind of atmosphere you want, and then consider too what kind of experience you want.
If we focus on ambiance, do you like a noisier, bar-kind of atmosphere with a loud juke-box and the possibility of live music, a place that could be compared to a Hard Rock Café for example. In that case, I would suggest the Anchor Bar Buffalo.
Duffs Buffalo was definitely much more low-key and focused on providing food to the locals, rather than beer and food to as many people as possible. However, we went to the Anchor Bar Buffalo on a busy Saturday evening and then caught Duffs Buffalo on a much more-laid back Sunday afternoon. However, even allowing for that, I would have to say that the Anchor Bar Buffalo had a lot more buzz to it, while Duffs Buffalo is, I think, just generally cooler and more restful.
If you are looking for more than just Buffalo Wings, then it has to be the Anchor Bar Buffalo with its much fuller menu. If you are looking just for the best wings then I would have to say that I would also have to recommend the Anchor Bar Buffalo. Ignoring the question of the spicy sauce for a moment, I would have to go for the Anchor Bar Buffalo because it seemed to me the chicken there was fresher, juicier and more tender. Don’t go for the medium Anchor Bar wing sauce though, it hardly counts as spicy at all. Anchor Bar Buffalo’s Suicide Sauce sounds a bit too exciting, so I would plump for the Hotter sauce and hope for the best.
For cleanliness I would recommend Duffs Buffalo – which was pristine. The Anchor Bar Buffalo was fine too, but the floors and the toilets were a little scruffy when we went, though it was of course a Saturday night rather than a Sunday afternoon. For spice variety I would also have to give it to Duff’s Buffalo, which offers six gradations of heat for their sauce.
So which is the best place to eat Buffalo Wings in Buffalo?
Well, I am not one to argue with the President, (At least I never used to be!) and President Obama once stopped off at Duff’s Buffalo after he made a speech on the economy in the Buffalo area. But for me I must admit that most of the time I would plump for the Anchor Bar Buffalo.
Duffs Buffalo is fine and is very focused on its wings and its quality (Watch out for that Medium-hot sauce though!) But for me the Anchor Bar Buffalo just has more pizzazz and a more cheerful and vibrant atmosphere. I also like their wings much better. But, if you like your life rich and spicy like me, I would flirt with the hotter sauce at the Anchor, or maybe even the Suicide Sauce if you eat at the big boy’s table when you go to a Chillithon.
In answer to the question, “Is there an Anchor Bar near me?” Simply go to the main Anchor Bar Buffalo website, and look under LOCATIONS. Similarly, to find out more about Duffs, just type Duff’s Famous Wings into your search engine and pick the one that’s closest to you.
Where is the Anchor Bar in Buffalo?
Anchor Bar Buffalo (the original location, there are multiple outlets)
1047 Main Street
Buffalo, New York
Duff’s Buffalo (the original location, there are multiple outlets)
3651 Sheridan Drive
Amherst, New York