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Some Wing Drama From Buffalo

June 6, 2018

As long as I’m going to tease the results of the Tour de Wing and build drama in their ultimate reveal on Monday (I hope), I might as well entertain you with some more wing drama. Or maybe that will be wing drama overkill.

Sometimes I take things too far.

In a nod to the history of blogs being “web logs” intended to share interesting pages stumbled onto in the bottomless pit of the ever expanding interwebs, today I bring you not one, but two videos out of Buffalo.

Yesterday’s post was on wing basics. Primarily it was about my shock and horror at discovering some people want their side veggies served warmed and steamed in a pool of Frank’s Red Hot, butter, and celery water. But it also included my thoughts on how wet naps can ruin a perfectly good meal.

Well, my old buddy Kate Welshofer, thought that last part deserved more attention. And in catching up with her, I learned that she has been involved with some wing drama of her own.

We should start with the basics.

It never even occurred to me yesterday to mention that the sauce served with wings must be blue cheese. That seemed as obvious as saying that buffalo wings need to be made from chicken wings. But perhaps, in these modern times, I should have mentioned that as well. The wings also need to have bones in them.

I’ll save the rant about boneless wings for later.

If anyone should know that there can be only one creamy wing sauce to pair with wings tossed with Frank’s Red Hot and butter, it should be the good people at Frank’s Red Hot. They’ve been part of this since the beginning.

Well, apparently Frank’s Red Hot had a momentary lapse of reason. Kate saw this, and she took them to task. Not just on YouTube. But amazingly, somehow, she’s found a way to bring the attitude of the internet to the local television news desk.

But that’s not all. Because then, Alton Brown goes and says that if you want good buffalo wings, the place to get them isn’t in Buffalo. Instead of getting angry, Kate sees this as a cry for help. And she may be right.

That said, I do think there is something to Alton Brown’s point that places which become famous for something lose their hunger, passion, and commitment to making something incredible. People will continue to go to the Anchor Bar regardless of how good the wings are, simply because it stakes a claim to being first. Pat’s and Geno’s are two of the most famous cheesesteak places in Philly, but aren’t two of the best.

Where Alton goes wrong is that he neglects to consider that in a town known for great wings, bad wing places don’t survive. Especially in a region that isn’t flooded with tourists. It’s the same for pizza, and it’s why New Jersey has some of the best slice shops in the country.

Although I suppose by my own logic there, one might expect Syracuse or Rochester to have slightly better wings than Buffalo.

Here’s what I would expect.

Buffalo probably has enough tourists to prop up some of the more famous, if underperforming wing joints. Syracuse and Rochester don’t. So my hunch is that your odds of hitting a great wing by random chance are higher outside of Buffalo. But the wing is such an integral part of the local culture, and there is so much time and though dedicated to wing excellence, I have to believe the best wings are being made somewhere in Buffalo.

Maybe I need to track down the full Alton Brown video and find out where he thinks the best wings are hiding. Or perhaps one of you already knows. Care to share?

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Benjamin M. permalink
    June 6, 2018 10:26 am

    Most people in Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse don’t demand great wings. They want okay/good wings to go with pizza and beer. They frequently order take-out, the wings arrive in a foam container 10-20 minutes after they come out of the fryer, and they are dressed in sauce from a bottle from Sysco. That is how “bad” wings survive. The restaurants get more traffic if they serve wings cheaper, not better.

    Albany is flooded with places serving mediocre pizza, wings, subs, burgers, etc. They don’t survive because better contenders aren’t out there. They survive because they serve a niche- people who want cheaper food and don’t demand the highest quality. And I personally don’t find anything wrong with that.

    • June 6, 2018 11:56 am

      People also prefer what’s familiar. To the average eater, the familiar IS best.

      If I took any of Albany’s average pizza eaters down to Oak in Hudson and put one of Oak’s amazing Neopolitan pies in front of them, they’d turn their nose up at it. The sauce isn’t sweet enough, it isn’t covered with ungodly amounts of cheese, and they’d complain the crust was “burnt”.

  2. June 6, 2018 10:31 am

    Instant fan of Kate Welshofer! Thanks. And didn’t you love how she said “blue cheese dressing belongs on salad”? By that she’s referring to the product made with buttermilk and sour cream. As opposed to blue cheese sauce, made with mayo, which goes on wings.

    Blue Cheese Day was June 4, damnit! Marking my calendar for next year.

  3. Buffsoulja permalink
    June 6, 2018 10:35 am

    I think the link Jon in Albany posted from the wing war – broadcasts the places in buffalo serving tremendous wings – 64 all told. Alton Browns argument is ridiculous – buffalo serves the best wings in the country both in quality and quantity. That said the final four winners were not the tourist jaunts but some under the radar places that I haven’t even had but def want to now. Also, lots of peeps in buffalo are sick of the classic franks flavor and some of their top places are more known for their bbq (la nova) or other flavors. Serving the beef on weck as well, Bar bill in east aurora – the winner – seems to be the place to go on a tour. But if you ask me – the original duffs medium hot is the gold standard for classic buffalo wing – saucy yet incredibly crispy yet tender and flavorful

    • June 6, 2018 10:45 am

      My hunch is that the BBQ sauce thing is simply about the decline of the American palate. It’s sweet. Full stop. As a nation of soda drinkers, we’re now sugar cravers. Everywhere. All the time. It’s an atrocity.

      • Josh K permalink
        June 6, 2018 10:49 am

        yup – sigh

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