Cutthroat Kitchen host Alton Brown recently appeared on an episode of Hot Ones in which he taste-tested Buffalo wings. During the 25-minute segment, the 55-year-old TV personality made a bold assertion about the dish’s origin.
“Once a region believes it’s got the lock on something, the quality almost immediately starts to go downhill,” Brown said in the video. “I'm sorry. If you really want great Buffalo chicken wings, you don't go to frickin’ Buffalo."
The food star's diss of the upstate New York city's iconic food naturally does not sit well with locals and Buffalo wing afficiondos.
"Disappointing to hear such frickin' harsh words from you, NEVER trash our fine City and our WINGS!" tweeted Buffalo's "Wing King" Drew Cerza, founder of the Buffalo Wing Festival.
Local news reporter Kate Welshofer also is getting lots of attention for her on-air defense of Buffalo's beloved dish.
Invented in 1964, the history of the Buffalo wing contains a mishmash of facts and various claims. The facts: The wings, which were usually just thrown out or used for making chicken stock, were transformed into a sticky finger food by Teressa Bellissimo, co-owner with her husband Frank of Anchor Bar in Buffalo. This is where the story gets messy (excuse the pun), because why and how Bellissimo came up with the idea of the Buffalo wing is up for debate. Frank claimed the creation was the result of the restaurant receiving an accidental shipment of wings, while their son, Dominic, argued that his mom whipped them up after being asked to make a late-night snack for him and his friends. There are even people who say the wings were created to be served as a gift to Catholic patrons late on a Friday night when they were able to eat meat again. Since the members of the Bellissimo family have since passed away, we may never know the exact origin of the famed bar food.
Buffalo food expert Arthur Bovino has written two upcoming books on the subject (Buffalo Everything, to be published August 2018, and its companion cookbook, February 2019).
"There's something to be said about regional complacency around food icons. Certainly, you could say that New York City, known for its great pizza, also has its share of mediocre slices. But it's hard to trust Alton Brown's swoop-and-poop on Buffalo's signature food. First of all, he's calling them ‘Buffalo chicken wings,’ which nobody who knows wings would ever do (they're ‘wings’ or ‘chicken wings,’ Alton),” Bovino told The Daily Meal.
“Second, from his own tweets back in November when he visited, it looks like he hit two places: Bar Bill and Anchor. While Bar Bill is generally regarded as one of the city's best spots for wings, their birthplace, Anchor, (with all due respect) isn't generally regarded in the same league. It would kind of be like going to San Francisco and judging its Mission-style burritos on La Taqueria and Taco Bell, or going to New York and judging its pizza on Joe's and also a random place in Times Square,” he continued. “You can't make a responsible statement about the best food anywhere based on two places.”
Bovino spent a month living in Buffalo, where he ate at more than 120 eateries, including Duff’s — one of the top-rated wing spots in Nickel City, and the No. 1 contender on our ranking of best Buffalo wings. Former President Barack Obama even ate there once. The highly trafficked spot has become a regional landmark, so it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that Duff’s general manager Josh Brown doesn’t agree with the famous food critic.
“If you want good deep-dish pizza, you’re going to go to Chicago. If you want a good thin slice, you’re going to go to New York City. So if you want good Buffalo wings — by the way, we don’t call them ‘Buffalo,’ we say ‘chicken wings’ — then you’ll come to Buffalo,” Brown told The Daily Meal. “I understand markets get flooded and saturated because everyone has Buffalo wings, but there’s a reason we’re known for them, because the best ones are authentic and local.”
Just about the only place completely unbothered by the TV star’s damning statement was the bar where Buffalo wings were born.
“I know nothing about football,” said a manager at Anchor Bar— the restaurant responsible for putting Buffalo wings on the map. Alton Brown’s name doesn’t seem to be recognized as a culinary authority everywhere in Buffalo — or even recognized at all. Alton Brown, wide receiver?
Buffalo may think they have the best chicken wings, and according to The Daily Meal’s rankings, that’s true. That being said, there are tons of other delicious options all around the country. Here’s where to find the best ones.