The Original Buffalo Wing At Anchor Bar, Buffalo, NY

There’s few food items that you can go somewhere and have the original version of something in the place where it was invented.  Yes, you can go to New Orleans and have jambalaya, or Philly for cheese steaks, or Chicago for Italian beef sandwiches… but there is usually a disagreement over exactly where it started (Philly has narrowed it down to two choices with cheese steaks). 

Earlier this year I had a chance to have some Boston Cream Pie at the Parker House in Boston, where it was invented.  Oddly enough, I was rather disappointed by it – the custard wasn’t very rich, the cake wasn’t decadently moist and the chocolate frosting/glaze on top left a LOT to be desired. 

This weekend was a chance to try another original – the original buffalo wings at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY.  For a hot-wing lover like myself, this is akin to a pilgrimage; visiting the holy land where the religion of capsaicin-laden wings was born!

Walking through the restaurant, you could see people enjoying platters of wings – with the wings served on the pedestal platters normally reserved for a family-sized pizza, and the smell of oil and hot sauce wafted throughout.  The restaurant is a perfect little hole-in-the-wall joint, but was hopping on a early Saturday afternoon in late September.

Anchor_wings The wings themselves are perfectly executed if nothing else; now that buffalo-style wings are everywhere and are found in sandwiches and even in non-meat substitutes, the original can appear tame compared to what has evolved from it.  However, these wings were large – meaty and tender – and perfectly cooked, with a nice crispy skin and cooked all the way through, allowing the meat to be pulled easily off the bone.  We went with the "medium" sauce, which is the "original" – it was pleasantly hot and spicy, but not overpowering.  Hotter levels are available.  The buttery-ness of the margarine and the spicy Red Hot is a classic and is tough to beat. 

The bar and rest of the menu is basic, and the wings are traditional, but they are the original, they are prepared just the right way and are truly "authentic."

RATING: 5 out of 5 Stars!!

Memphis Roadhouse – Attleboro, MA

This was my first visit to Memphis Roadhouse since starting this blog, but their wings have long been a favorite of mine.  They are always pleasantly spicy and smoky, this time being no exception.

The first thing you’ll notice with an order of wings from Memphis Roadhouse is the size of the wings themselves – these are jumbo wings with plenty of meat.  This really allows them to smoke them without loosing moisture, though they are never fatty.  The sauce is pretty traditional, not needing too many other flavors thanks to the smokiness of the chicken.  The skin isn’t crispy, but isn’t greasy or fatty either, and the meat is thoroughly cooked.

As a side note, I would like to say that the food there the other night was excellent all around.  I go to Memphis at least a few times a year, but the food last night was the best I’ve ever had there and some of the best barbecue I’ve had in a restaurant, period.


Wynkoop Brewing Company – Denver, CO

A business trip to Denver afforded me the opportunity to taste some of the local eateries, including the Wynkoop Brewery, the first modern brewpub in Denver and among the forefront of the the brewpub and microbrew revolution of the last 20 or so years.

Not only was the beer excellent, but the food was great as well.  My colleagues and I just got a selection of appetizers to go with our beer and while the typical spinach and artichoke dip given a re-mix as artichoke and Parmesan dip served with big wedges of beer bread got rave reviews from everyone, I was particularly enamored with the wings.  Pleasantly spicy and sweet with a nice fresh flavor in the sauce, it complimented the perfectly cooked wings… well, perfectly.  Among some of the best wings I’ve had anywhere.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Maggie McFly’s – Middlebury, CT

While on a recent trip to visit y girlfriend’s friends, we ate dinner at Maggie McFly’s in Middlebury, CT.  A two-store chain of an upscale pub in Connecticut, they had the usual suspects on the menu and an appetizer sampler included buffalo wings.

These were your typical wings – the sauce was the classic buffalo wing style and the wings were cooked well enough though not particularly crispy, bordering on soggy or fatty.  I don’t have much to say about them – not that they were bad at all, but they were also nothing special.  A good enough quality wing, but also not worth going out of your way for.

RATING: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Quaker Steak & Lube – Sharon, PA

This is definitely one of the best "wing pilgrimages" you can make if you’re a buffalo wing fan, outside of going to the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY, home of the buffalo wing itself.  Quaker Steak & Lube place has the tag line "Best Wings USA" and they do have some damn good wings.  I won’t even try to explain the name – just look at the web site and read the section on "The Story."

I went to Quaker last August on a business trip, long before this blog was started, and wound up there on "All You Can Eat Wing Night" which gave me a chance to try a variety of wings.  They were so good, I ordered some of their sauces online when I got home.

This trip put us at the restaurant a day later, so we were there on "bike night" which was an experience in itself, with hundreds and hundreds of bikes surrounding us.  Without the the buffet set-up I had to actually choose a style of wing to try, which is tougher than you would think with 16 sauces ranked in order of Scoville Heat Units (SHU) from a very mild sauce all the way up to an "Atomic" sauce which is ranked at 150,000 Scoville units and requires a release form to be signed before they serve you.  Being a relatively intelligent person, I didn’t go that far, but I did get their "Arizona Ranch" style wings, which were among my favorites last time.

The Arizona Ranch is a spicy ranch sauce, kind of a combination of buffalo wing sauce and ranch dressing, slightly creamy and lots of flavor.  I also got a side of their "Suicide" sauce, rated at 30,000 SHU and described as "for real wing nuts."  Since I have a blog and a domain name for wings, I figured I qualified!

The Arizona Ranch wings I got for dinner were quite good – they know how to cook their wings here.  Crispy, tender, cooked all the way through.  The flavor was good, but I would have liked a bit more sauce on them – the sauce is so good, I simply wish there was more.

The Suicide sauce was very hot as anticipated, but still with a lot of flavor. It was great to dip the wings in, but an entire serving of wings drenched in that sauce might be too much – the sauce is fairly thick and sticks heavily to the meat, so it would definitely be a BIG hit of heat.

My dining companion for the evening (my boss, just for the record) got a few wings, trying their new wasabi ginger spice dust and got a side of the Golden Garlic wing sauce, which may be my second favorite after the Arizona Ranch.  The spice-dusted wings were good – crispy with no sauce and a nice pleasant flavor.  I think that it would be great on some grilled chicken.

The wings here are as good as you can get, and you can’t beat the selection.  I wish that there was more sauce on the wings I got, but the last time at the buffet there was plenty of sauce.  I haven’t been to one of their chain stores – only to the original in Sharon, PA.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars, based both on quality and principle!!

Sunset Grill & Tap – Boston, MA

When you’re a wing lover, some wings stay in your memory for a while as being exceptional.  A few years ago I went to the Sunset Grill & Tap and I still remembered those wings.  They had a particularly sweet taste that was reminiscent of fresh peppers and other flavors.

So I was anxious to try them again while in Boston last Saturday for a little day trip to the New England Aquarium.  The Sunset is best known for its formidable beer selection – 112 on tap and 100’s more in bottles.  A beer lover’s dream come true. But the food is pretty impressive too.  Especially the wings…

These are great wings.  A little nontraditional in their recipe, but hot, saucy, spicy, and perfectly cooked.  The wings are average size and cooked to an ideal doneness and crispiness.  There’s also a good serving of them as well.

However, its the sauce that makes the difference here.  The sauce is thick and flavorful.  There’s a lot more going on in here than margarine and Red Hot.  There’s flecks of peppers visible in the sauce and it has a flavor that is somewhat similar to that of Manwich, but I mean that in the best way possible.  The heat provides a nice steady burn that some might find a bit too hot (I got their original "Subatomic" style.  I would imagine that "Atomic" is only for the masochistic), but I found perfect.  I was soaking up the sauce with anything I could use to soak it up with.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars!!

The Charlie Horse – West Bridgewater, MA

During an impromptu lunch date with Meghan at the Charlie Horse, I decided to have an appetizer of their buffalo wings for lunch.  The waitress assured me that there were plenty of wings in there, and she wasn’t kidding – as an appetizer, there were definitely enough wings for two people, possibly three. 

The wings are pretty traditional – fried and tossed in sauce.  However, they are executed perfectly – a big mound of well-cooked wings arrived, coated in sauce, but not so much that it turned the crispy skin soggy.  The wings were thoroughly cooked, making it easy to pull the meat off the bone and insuring all the skin fat was cooked out. 

The sauce itself is pleasantly hot – if you like it really spicy, their "hot" won’t be hot enough for you, but it still gives a comfortable spiciness that makes them very edible.  They were served with a nice complement of excellent blue cheese dressing and carrot and celery sticks. 

The wings are a little small, but I don’t downgrade them for it, since there were plenty of them and resulted in some perfectly cooked wings.

RATING: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Bison County – Waltham, MA

A recent trip to Bison County BBQ naturally involved trying an order of their Spicy South Carolina Jumbo Chicken Wings.  I went with just the spicy rather than the "crazily hot" since the waitress said that that version was made with nearly straight habanero chile.  I love spicy food, but I like to be able to taste the meat and enjoy the food too.

The wings are indeed "jumbo" – not only are they large and meaty, but they are full wing sections, with the wing and drummets still connected, unusual for restaurant wings.  There aren’t many in a platter, but there’s plenty of meat to go around.  The wings are smoked and grilled with a spicy rub on them – a deceptively spicy rub.  I was the first to dig into the wings and realized rather quickly that these were pretty spicy.  Others didn’t believe me for the first half-minute or so after biting into them, but then quickly agreed.  The "South Carolina" part of the wings is simply that it comes with a vinegar-y mustard-y dipping sauce, a combination of the vinegar and mustard-based BBQ sauces found in the Carolinas.

It made for a great accompaniment to the wings, which did taste great, with a nice char-grilled and smokey flavor.  However, while they were definitely fully cooked, they weren’t cooked to the point where the fat of the skin and wings had completely rendered out, so they were a little greasy.  The sauce and the spices made up for it though. 

As a quick aside, the main course barbecue itself was good, but not great.  The first sparerib I had was fantastic. The others had clearly been sitting around for a little bit waiting for a customer to order them.  The brisket was OK, but sliced very very thin, meaning it was a little dried out and not that tender.  But this is about wings, not BBQ, so I’ll give these:

RATING: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Gritty McDuff’s – Portland, ME

Following the disappointing attempt at wings in Lowell the day before, I was determined to get some good wings during a quick overnight trip to Portland, Maine.  Once we got into Portland, we stopped at Gritty McDuff’s for a beer and a snack, which of course turned out to be wings.

Specifically, we tried their "Gritty Wings" which, in retrospect, isn’t the most appetizing name.  I was really just hoping for a well-executed batch of traditional buffalo wings, but was pleasantly surprised.  Rather than your straightforward Frank’s Red Hot and margarine sauce, Gritty McDuff’s sauce has a bounty of flavors which makes the wings delicious AND spicy. 

As Meghan and I ate them, we picked apart some of the flavors – what we believed was either honey or molasses and what I believe is definitely some cumin.  With the addition of some unusual flavors, the sauce tasted fresh, not bottled or manufactured.

The wings themselves were perfectly cooked and served with some great blue cheese dressing.  These wings are real winners and I would love to get my hands on the sauce recipe, since it is one of the best I’ve ever tasted.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars!!!!

The Brewery Exchange – Lowell, MA

I recently took my parents out to a concert in Lowell, MA and had dinner before at The Brewery Exchange.  Their menu had hot wings, advertised as being with their "own spicy honey glaze."  Intrigued, we tried some.

The wings themselves were somewhat mediocre – obviously a pre-made breaded frozen style wing, the breading was soggy from the sauce by the time they got to us.  They should put the sauce on the size if the wings are going to be breaded.  In addition, the chicken was cooked perfectly white, but the bone itself felt a little cold still, so they must have gone from freezer to fryer.

The sauce was good – definitely some underlying sweetness from honey, but overall, nothign special, and a little dissapointed with the wings themselves.

RATING: 2 out 5 stars