Buffalo, New York, the second largest city in the Empire State, is an important port on Lake Erie, the western terminus of the Erie Canal, the home of two U.S. presidents, Millard Filmore and Grover Cleveland, and a center of considerable cultural and architectural significance. But what is the great American city best known for — other than a football team that has a hard time with Super Bowls — chicken wings.
Chicken wings are not of much use to the chickens, who aren’t exactly high fliers, and until 1964, they were considered leftover parts to be consigned to the soup or stock pot. The butcher would usually give them away if customers asked for them. Enter Teressa Bellissimo of the Anchor Bar in Buffalo.
What prompted Bellissimo’s embrace of the lowly wing is open to conjecture. Some say it was a late night visit by son Dominic and some college friends looking for something to eat; Dominic says it was needed for a quick snack after midnight night when the Catholic prohibition of meat on Fridays ended. And then there is the tale of mistaken delivery of wings instead of backs and necks that the bar used in its spaghetti sauce. And there were others. John Young, a native Alabamian who move to Buffalo in 1948 claims to have served wings with a tomato sauce, and Young’s assertions earned him a spot in the National Buffalo Wing Hall of Fame.
What is not in dispute is that in 1964, fried chicken wings (flats or drumettes) coated with a vinegar-based dipping sauce laced with cayenne pepper hot sauce and melted butter started appearing in bars all over Buffalo. Celery and carrot sticks, ranch or blue cheese dressing usually accompanied the wings.
It took a few years, but by the 1970s and 80s the taste for Buffalo wings had gone nationwide and they soon joined popcorn and pretzels as standard sides on bar menus everywhere. Restaurants specializing in wings, and usually giant televisions with never-ending sports broadcasts started to appear, and even the fast-food giants jumped on the wing wagon—McDonald’s started selling them in 1990 in some stores. Domino’s Pizza added wings followed by Pizza Hut.
The wing sellers added new sauces, offering their products baked as well as fried.
Wing sellers even invented boneless wings for those who didn’t want to mess with the bones. (They weren’t even real wings most of the time, but slices of chicken breast meat masquerading as wings.)
Eventually, wings made it to Texas where they fit right into local cuisine where spicy Tex-Mex treats played well. Wing Stop in Sherman is one of the areas favorite places for the spicy chicken parts.
“We’ll sell more than 2,000 wings over a weekend,” said Angelus Zarazoza, a cashier and management trainee at the store.
Wing Stop is all about wings — no sandwiches, burgers, or other distractions, although they have recently added chicken tenders to the menu. An order of wings come as boneless or bone-in and a mix of flats and drumettes. But if a customer asked for just one or the other, the kitchen will deliver.
The wings are deep fried — six minutes for boneless, 13 minutes for bone-in — and then seasoned with either a sauce or a dry seasoning. Atomic, Mango Habanero, Hawaiian, and Hickory Seasoned are just some of the different flavors offered.
“The traditional hot sauce and the lemon pepper are the most popular,” Zarazoza said. “We sell out of them a lot.”
Add a couple of kinds of french fries or some Cajun corn on the cob, and you are good to go. Want to dip and munch with your wings?
“We have ranch, blue cheese, hot cheese, and honey mustard as well as veggie sticks (carrots and celery),” Zarazoza said.
It is all pretty basic, but then that is what wings are. A couple of bites and it is on to the next piece.
Zarazoza said she has seen customers pick up orders of 200 or more to feed the crowds gathering around the TV for some special event. And to think, it all started in Buffalo, home of …. Well, home of the Buffalo hot wing.
Edward Southerland is a feature writer for Best of Texoma. For more information, visit BestofTexoma.com or www.facebook.com/BestOfTexoma.