From a lunch counter in Brooklyn manned by two guys from Buffalo to a sports bar in Little Rock that smokes their wings for four hours before frying, there's no shortage of places to find great Buffalo wings in the U.S.
When chicken wings hit the deep fryer, something magical happens. What was once a flabby, borderline useless part of the chicken that was most commonly used for stock suddenly becomes a crispy, juicy snack that’s perfectly good with just a little salt. But drench the wings in a combination of hot sauce and butter, and they become one of the most delicious foods known to man, and the perfect companion to a football game and a cold beer. With football season in full swing, we’ve decided to track down the 25 best Buffalo wings in America.
By now, the origin of the noble Buffalo wing has become the stuff of legend. They (obviously) have nothing to do with the buffalo, but instead are named for the city in upstate New York where they were invented. As legend has it, on the evening of March 4, 1964, Dominic Bellissimo was tending bar at the famed Anchor Bar in that city, with his mother Teressa in the kitchen. When a group of his hungry friends showed up, Dominic asked Teressa to whip up some food for them, so she took some chicken wings, which were intended to go into the stockpot, and instead tossed them in the deep fryer. She concocted a simple butter- and hot sauce-based sauce, mixed them together, and arguably the greatest bar food of all time was born.
Over the next 10 years or so, the Buffalo wing diaspora made its way across the country, and its position as the ultimate "man food" — greasy, salty, messy, spicy, addictive — was further cemented. Today, whole chain restaurants are built around the noble wing, and restaurants pride themselves on offering a wide variety of sauces, including some of the spiciest on Earth.
But today, we’re not setting out to honor the most creative, wild, or inventive sauces; we’re out to honor the finest examples of the true Buffalo wing. And while you might argue that it’s impossible to judge a Buffalo wing because they’re all the same (just deep-fried wings tossed in sauce, right?), that couldn’t be further from the truth. A perfect Buffalo wing is one that’s crisp and not soggy in the least, completely coated in sauce but not bogged down by it, fresh from the fryer, crispy on the outside (with no flabby skin) while remaining juicy on the inside, and the sauce needs to have the right balance of spice to butter without being overly greasy. It’s actually a lot harder than it appears to make a perfect Buffalo wing, but the bars and restaurants we’re honoring today have got it down to a science.
The universal appeal of the Buffalo wing can’t be denied, and from humble sports bars to one of the country’s most well-known experimental restaurants, we’ve tracked down the finest examples of the form, nationwide (we left out the big chains like Buffalo Wild Wings to give everyone their fair shake; that’s a slideshow for another day). The Buffalo wing is one of the most easily accessible, enjoyable, fun foods known to man, and is served just about everywhere that had a modest kitchen and a game on the TV. Today we salute this deceptively difficult dish, and the chefs who work to keep ‘em coming. Click here to check out the 25 best Buffalo wings in America.