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THREE WINGS TO TRY BEFORE YOU DIE

THREE WINGS TO TRY BEFORE YOU DIE

  • Where: Buffalo, NY

  • Date: January 16 – 17th , 2017

 

It’s 10am on a January morning and I just rolled into Buffalo New York for the next two days. My thoughts lead to what in the world am I going to eat here? As many chicken wings as I can find of course! This is the legendary birth place of the chicken wing, and they take pride in it, so how and where do you even start? Diligent research and exhausting cross referencing of at least 20 articles on who had the best wings in Buffalo lead me to my list of what places true Buffalonians ranked among the top contenders for this dubious of title.

 

But this story needs a history lesson, have they been around forever? If not, how did the wings come into existence? What is the original recipe? A little digging and the story starts to come into focus, who was the mastermind, when where they created and what did that original wing recipe look like? Before the 80’s when the humble wing became the bar menu darling it is today butchers almost couldn’t give the wings away, they were a cast away part after the boneless skinless breast was carved out. And back then for the most part the chicken wing was destined for a soup pot, or if really lucky maybe an inexpensive dish in a Chinese restaurant. To millennials the wing may feel like it’s been around forever, but in reality they were invented just over 60 years ago in a little bar located in Buffalo New York called the Anchor. Late one Friday night in 1964 Mother Teressa the matron owner and cook of the bar was approached by her teenage son and a group of his friends, they were hungry and begged her to make them something to eat. As the story goes she was getting ready for the next day’s menu, and had chicken wings to make soup, but they caught her eye as too good for the pot. She fried them up, tossed them with some Frank’s hot sauce and a little margarine, and just like that a rock star was born. That night when Teressa saved the normally cast away meat from the stock pot the world of bar food changed forever, entire chains have been built around this simple dish. Since that hallowed night some slight additions have come into play, they are now served with celery sticks, and Blue cheese dressing. Other possible additions can include carrot sticks, and a choice of ranch dressing, but maybe the biggest variations have come in the way of sauces, chains all over the country offer flavors such as Asian zing, BBQ, atomic hot sauce and the list goes on from there. But no matter how they come out of the bar kitchen, one truth holds, this dish has occupied millions of hours of people lives sitting at a bar keeping them entertained as they eat these messy marvels and watch the game with friends. This dish has changed all of our lives in a delicious way, and I think I can speak for all of us as I say “Thank you mother Teressa!”.

Now on to the testing, I ranked wings for a glorious finger licking two days. At the end I had semi-permanently stained red finger, a half-eaten role of antacids and a short list of three places that topped my Buffalo wings list that you need to try when in Buffalo.

 

BUT BEFORE MY TOP PICK, I’LL LAY OUT HOW THE WINGS WERE GRADED?: No other instructions.

  • WING: The size does matter, I’m looking for one that is not too small and has some meat on it. It doesn’t have to be as large as a turkey wing, but if I put in the work of fighting around the bone, I want some reward. That’s all I’m saying.

  • COOKING: Just drop the wings in the deep fryer and you’re done. Sounds easy, right? Wrong.  There is a sweet spot, a zone of sorts between rubbery skin and burn to a crisp; it’s in this zone that wing legions live. Surprisingly few places can land in this on a consistent basis.

  • SAUCE: First and foremost with so many variations of sauce available, I standardized it and ordered all wings as original sauce, medium hot. The sauce is not a complicated thing, just Franks and a little margarine can be amazing. But some people play with this and add different ingredients, sometimes its better, sometimes it’s not. Also the amount of sauce is VITAL to the dish; you can put on too much and end up drowning the damn things, less can be more.

  • BLUE CHEESE DRESSING: Maybe this isn’t a necessary ingredient of the dish, but I think it has become a large flavor driver and also gives good insight to the kitchens ability. It doesn’t have to be homemade, but that normally adds in my opinion.

TOP HONORS: THE BEST WING IN BUFFALO GOES TO: BAR BILL

BAR BILL

 

  • What: 10 count wing

  • Score: 9.5

    • Wing: 9

    • Sauce: 10

    • Cooking: 10

    • Bleu cheese: 9

Bar Bill is a 20 minute ride out of the city. Were they worth the drive? Well they didn’t take top honors for nothing; these wings were crispy, juicy, well sauced and just plain amazing. The crunch was apparent at the first bite, and the sauce had a slight sweetness to it. The service was solid, and the atmosphere is what you would look for in a great local watering hole. This was one of the busiest bars I went to in my exploration and obviously for good reason. They had other great food options on a very limited menu; which is not a negative at a bar. A great wing needs a worthy beer of course and Bar Bill has a short list, but a good list to choose from. And the cherry on top of all of these great reasons, is they were also the least expensive order of wings that I tried. But if you come to Bar Bill and I think you should, bring cash because they don’t take credit cards.

 

GARBIRELS GATE:

 

  • What: 10 count wing

  • Score: 8.5

    • Wing: 8

    • Sauce: 9

    • Cooking: 10

    • Bleu cheese: 7

Gabriel’s gate is located in a downtown neighborhood, inside an old townhouse with a giant French glass bay window lit with garlands of lights. The inside is loaded with wood and animal heads, I quickly ordered the wings and a tap, and they took what felt like forever to come out. It took so long, that I began to wonder if they could pull off a good wing, but they were worth the wait. The wings were a decent size, not over sauced, and beautifully crispy. The skin had a slight crunch as I bit into them, and I realized these were the first good wings I had this day and they gave me hope that I was indeed in the right town. I was told by a local that you have to ask for them crispy, and I pass that tip on to you.

 

NINE-ELEVEN BAR:

 

  • What: 10 count wing

  • Score: 8.25

    • Wing: 9

    • Sauce: 8

    • Cooking: 9

    • Bleu cheese: 7

Nine-eleven is the definition of a hole in the wall, and pig loves it for that! The wings were real good, had a slightly different presentation using the celery leaves as garnish and on the crispy side of the texture zone mentioned above. But a great place to go grab some wings, a beer and just hang. The story behind the name is the bar is actually two address 9 brimwell avenue and 11 Brimwood avenue. They had both spots and they knocked a couple walkways in the walls and made it into one.  

 

If you find yourself in Buffalo and want to get some great wings feel confident to jump in a car and head out to one of these three great locations and try some of the fantastic fare that itself has become bigger than the city it was named after.  I’m not going to get into honorable mentions, just know I did try a lot of wings including the two mainstays that everyone tells you are the original and that you have to visit. If I didn’t walk away impressed with the quality of the wing then they didn’t make the list. I don’t believe in beating up places for poor food, or service as I assume they will work themselves out on their own. And as always with Pig’s pick you get my honest opinion on food I actually tried.

The Pig is formally trained in the culinary arts, a graduate of the C.I.A., worked in the food industry for over 40 years and currently travels the country as a research chef searching food trucks, street vendors, little restaurants and hole in the walls seeking out the best this country has to offer. For more great articles, culinary travel guides, and tips on travel and cooking follow us to our website. www.pigspick.com

 

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About Pig

Call me Pig, it's not my real name, but it will do for our purpose.  As you'll find out, I'm a research chef, not a blogger. I travel the country looking for new trends and documenting great American independent restaurants.

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