Is there any food more perfect than the Buffalo wing? I think not. They're deliciously crispy and buttery and spicy. And wings are fun to eat; what other food can say that? Sure, you might get a little messy, but that's life. Most importantly, though, they are the perfect complement to a cold beer. It's no surprise that from the moment they were invented, they were an instant hit.
The story of how Buffalo wings came to be is a bit murky, but the official story holds that Teressa Bellissimo was working the kitchen at the Anchor Bar, which she and her husband owned. Her son Dominic rolled in late one Friday night in 1964, and she decided to make something special for him and the other bar patrons to nosh on. She threw a batch of chicken wings (at the time, wings were an undesirable cut of chicken, mostly just used for stock, soup, and broth) into the fryer and then tossed them in a hot sauce (allegedly made with Frank's Red Hot.) Some stories claim that Teressa wasn't even supposed to have chicken wings in their fridge that night; they were accidentally delivered instead of the chicken necks and backs the Bellissimos needed for their spaghetti sauce. Either way, she served the fried wings with celery and blue cheese dressing, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Since then, Buffalo wings have become a phenomenon. You can get Buffalo chicken pizza, Buffalo chicken-flavored potato chips, Buffalo chicken wraps and sandwiches and dips and mac and cheese... and while all of that is great (especially Buffalo chicken pizza), there's no substitute for the real thing. They're just as much a staple in bars across Buffalo as they are in bars across the country. In fact, there are so many awesome bars in Buffalo that serve outstanding Buffalo wings that Visit Buffalo Niagara has an entire Buffalo wing trail. Most of these joints are neighborhood bars, with their own distinctive vibes and their own unique twists on the classic Buffalo wing. Here's our guide to the official Buffalo Wing Trail!
It's not uncommon for some of the best restaurants to be hidden away. Like in Jiro Dreams of Sushi... but instead of Michelin-starred sushi in a Tokyo subway, we have mouth-wateringly indulgent chicken wings in a Buffalo strip mall. Elmo's is most known for their grilled wings and their double-dipped wings (which are fried, sauced, grilled, and sauced again.) The genius of the double-dipped wing is that you can use two different sauces. Can't decide between hot sauce and barbecue? Jonesing to try their signature Cajun sauce and honey mustard? Double dip it! The restaurant and bar is pretty small, but it's got a prestigious past: the Sabres used to frequent the joint after practice in the 90s.
Wings have been around for a little more than 50 years, but the Glen Park Tavern has been a Williamsville institution since 1887! Belly up to the vintage brick building's original mahogany bar and order up a pile of wings. Theirs are just about the largest you'll find in town, and their delicious signature twist is the Sicilian-style option (loaded with Parmesan cheese, garlic, basil and oregano). The staff also recently discovered a secret ingredient to keep their sauce sticking to the wings better (honestly, can we get them a Nobel Peace Prize for that?) Plus, they make Buffalo-style fried shrimp and a legendary Hot Stuffed Hungarian Pepper.
Cole's Restaurant's can best be described as "quirky" or "eccentric" or even "totally freakin' awesome". Take the time to admire the antiques all around (there's a rowboat from the 1960s Olympic, carousel horses, all kinds of gems like that) before you sit down. Cole's has an impressive menu of craft beers on tap, and their menu meshes old-school classics with unexpected flavors (think, Buffalo chicken egg rolls), and, of course, their wings are solid. Their current chef has traveled throughout Asia and is constantly mixing up new sauce flavors, like sweet chili gochujang (drool.) Visit Buffalo Niagara suggested the five wings plus beef on weck special, which pairs two classic Buffalo foods. Beef on weck is a rare roast beef sandwich on a kimmelweck roll (a hard German bun topped with caraway seeds and salt), dipped in jus and served with a smear of horseradish.
Fun fact: Some still call Buffalo Wild Wings "BW3s", and it's thought that the Western New York-based restaurant chain's elusive third W once stood for "weck".
Anchor Bar is the mac daddy of Buffalo wing joints. You can't have a wing crawl without stopping at the O.G. to pay your respects and chow down on some chicken. It's a pilgrimage for many, and a staple for locals. Their menu features burgers, lasagna, pizza, beef on weck (naturally) and more, but obviously the wings are the thing to eat. You can order their wings by the bucket, or you could also get a Buffalo chicken wrap, sandwich or salad, made with their signature wing sauce. If you're feeling daring, try their hottest sauce, Suicidal... but if you're going for authenticity, the medium flavor is closest to the original batch that Teressa Bellissimo made. And if you find yourself craving the taste of their wings in particular, you can buy them online to be shipped directly to you.
Lenox Grill is located inside the historic Lenox Hotel (which has played host to a host of legends, including Duke Ellington, Henry Fonda, Harry Belafonte and a young F. Scott Fitzgerald). The Grill is a more recent addition, but it's quickly made a name for itself as a wing joint. For starters, it's open super late (the kitchen closest at 3am on weekends!), for all of your midnight snack needs. They also have more than 500 different bottles of beer on their menu. Visit Buffalo Niagara says they have some globally-inspired sauce flavors for their wings (helloooooo Korean BBQ wings) and a weekly wing special that really veers into the unique (think, s'mores wings or PB&J wings!)
Pro tip: Every Monday is 64 cent wing night (dine in, with the purchase of a beer.)
If weird wings don't impress you, then perhaps the classic take served up by Gabriel's Gate will hit the spot. Their attitude that nothing beats the original style comes from their status as an institution in the Allentown neighborhood. The bar is located in a circa-1864 building in the area's Tift Row. Inside, the tin roof, taxidermy, and fireplaces set the scene for the simple but done-to-perfection wings you're about to enjoy. They're crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, and coated in the perfect amount of Frank's Red Hot (other offerings include a Sriracha sauce and a suicidal sauce.) Their French onion soup might not seem like a logical pairing for the wings, but if there's one thing on the menu that they do as well as wings, it's the soup.
We all know that wings+beer = heaven, and Gene McCarthy's has gone the extra step to open up a craft brewery (Old First Ward Brewing, named for the neighborhood) next door. The decor inside is Irish pride chic, and though they do serve corned beef and cabbage, they also make a very special chicken wing. The McCarthy's style sauce wings are doused in a sweet and spicy barbecue sauce that has blue cheese mixed right in... and yes, more blue cheese is sprinkled on top as well. The rich wings pair quite well with the crisp Streaker IPA.
Okay, so we've probably talked about beef on weck more than a Buffalo wing guide should, but Doc Sullivan's has Frankensteined the two Buffalo staples into one dish that works surprisingly well: chicken wings with beef on weck sauce. More specifically, the sauce is a horseradish aioli and the wings come with caraway seeds sprinkled on top. They have normal Buffalo wing sauce, but they also make a special "South Buffalo" sauce which they call Smitty sauce; it's a super buttery sauce mixed with half-a-dozen secret spices (we're talking cinnamon and nutmeg and other flavors that are just crazy enough to work) and both the regular Buffalo and Smitty versions come in mild, medium and hot. The recipe for the South Buffalo Smitty sauce has been handed down for 40 years! Don't sleep on their 50 cent wing nights... or their tasty-looking burgers, either.
Another wing joint located in predominantly Irish South Buffalo is Blackthorn. You'll find a menu bursting with Irish grub and classic pub fare, and they too make their wings in regular Buffalo and South Buffalo variants. Also, their house-made blue cheese is a lovely touch that takes their wings to the next level. The pub is beloved by locals and is a gathering place for the community; plus, they just opened up a gorgeous-looking outdoor space where you could easily post up for an evening while sampling their wings and drinks.
Duff's might not be the original, but they could be the best; they're not called "Famous Wings" for nothing, after all. They're most known for double frying their wings (once to seal in the juice, and again for maximum crispiness) and for making their sauces really hot. Their medium is so hot that they have mild medium and medium light spicy options between mild and medium. And, they take suicidal sauce a step further with their death sauce. They've franchised out of Buffalo, and can be found across Upstate New York, in Georgia, in Texas, and across Canada.
Mammoser's was one of the first to experiment with spicier wings, about 12 years after the birth of the Buffalo wing. Their sauce is less buttery and less messy, and four of the top 10 ingredients in it are hot peppers (for a low and slow burn.) It's got a bit of a cult following, and you can buy bottles of the good stuff in stores around town. The tavern has been in the same family since 1948, so you know that everything about this place, from the vibe to the sauce, is totally authentic.
Bar-Bill Tavern might look divey, but the attention to detail they put into their wings is pretty special. Each wing is hand-painted with the right amount of sauce, and every order comes with exactly 5 flats and 5 drumettes. When the Bar-Bill originally opened, the only food on the menu was... (drumroll please...) beef on weck, but the bar was purchased by former aerospace engineer Joe Giafaglione (that's where the attention to detail comes from) who expanded the offerings. While they still serve beef on weck, they've got a reputation for having some of Buffalo's best wings. In addition to the usual "mild/medium/hot/suicidal" sauces, they also make a delectable-sounding honey butter BBQ, a zesty honey pepper, a Cajun, and a honey Dijon.
The beauty of the Buffalo Wing Trail is that you get to experience some of the city's oldest and most beloved bars while sampling each slightly different and unique take on the chicken wing.