The Origins of Buffalo Wings

In my travels around the country, I have heard the question of buffalo wing origination uttered by patrons of various gustatory establishments. It’s an interesting question, and one that seems quite legitimate. After all, Buffaloes do not fly, and to my knowledge, have never been adorned with anything that might afford them the opportunity of winged flight. And that tasty little morsel is much too small to have come from a half ton buffalo even if they were capable of flight. So why? Why Buffalo wings?

The answer is as simple as the answer to the question, Where do Philly cheese steaks come from? After all, cheese steaks do not grow on horses. Nor do any of the phillies I’ve watched circle a quarter mile track ever seem to be sprouting anything resembling cheese. This is, of course, a silly illustration. We all know that those cheese steaks do not come from female horses; they come from the city of Philadelphia.

And therein lies your answer. Those spicy little appetizers known as Buffalo wings originated in the city of Buffalo, New York. They do not refer to the great animal, more properly known as the bison, at all. And there is, of course, a story behind the Buffalo wing’s humble beginnings.

Buffalo wings, called simply chicken wings or more commonly wings in the Buffalo area (as Philly cheese steaks are called simply cheese steaks in Philadelphia), were created at a local bar and restaurant in downtown Buffalo, called The Anchor Bar. As legend has it, it was late on a Friday night in 1964 when Teressa Bellissimo, the owner of the Anchor Bar with her husband, Frank, was asked by her son, the bar tender, to whip up something for his friends to eat. Teressa deep fried some chicken wings, a part of the bird usually thrown out or used for soup stock, and coated them with her “secret” sauce.

Her son’s friends loved them, and the Buffalo wing was born. Word spread quickly about these spicy treats, and people came from all over Buffalo to sample them. Teressa Bellissimo’s secret hot sauce was the key to their success. This recipe has been imitated all over the world, but never quite to the satisfaction of true Buffalonian wing connoisseurs. Original Buffalo wings and wing sauce can now be ordered from the Anchor Bar via their web site: http://www.anchorbar.com if you’ve never tasted the real thing.

There are many restaurants and bars in the greater Buffalo area that serve wings, and many a battle rages between the patrons of these establishments as to who has the better chicken wing. One thing that they all can agree upon though, is that one can not get a good wing outside of Buffalo. Most eateries around the country serving what they term “Buffalo wings” have no idea how they should be prepared. Secret sauce aside, here are some key

Buffalo wing preparation tips:

  1. The wings are deep fried before the sauce is applied. This may be the most egregious error Buffalo wing imitators make. DO NOT cook the wings with the sauce on them.
  2. Choose your hot sauce. You don’t necessarily need Frank and Teressa Bellissimo’s sauce (it is the best, however), but you do need hot sauce.
  3. In a large bowl, combine your hot sauce with melted butter. (Most people don’t know about the butter part either.)
  4. Put the deep fried wings in the bowl, and toss to coat.
  5. Serve with a side of bleu cheese salad dressing, carrot sticks and celery sticks for dipping. The bleu cheese helps to take the sting out of the hot sauce, and also adds a nice flavor to the wing. You can dip the veggies to cool your palette, but more importantly, you are to dip the wings in the bleu cheese dressing. Another area where non-native Buffalo wing makers sometimes err is with the dressing. Do not serve wings with ranch dressing or some other concoction. Ranch may look similar to bleu cheese, and have a similar consistency, but this is not how Buffalo wings are eaten. Use bleu cheese only.
  6. Buffalo wings are best eaten with a cold beer and good company.

For the sake of clarity for this article, I have referred frequently to “Buffalo wings.” Just remember, in Buffalo they are just wings. Don’t say “Buffalo wings” when you are ordering in Buffalo ; people will know you’re from out of town.

And if you want a real wing experience, attend the annual Buffalo Wing Festival in September. For more information about this event, go to http://www.buffalowing.com

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