Buffalo wings have gained in popularity in the United States and abroad, with some North American restaurant chains featuring them as a main menu item. The name "Buffalo" is now also applied to other spiced fried foods served with dipping sauces, including boneless chicken "fingers", chicken fries, chicken nuggets, popcorn chicken, and shrimp. It also describes other dishes, such as pizza, that are seasoned with the Buffalo-style sauce or a Buffalo flavor seasoning.
There are several different claims about the invention of Buffalo wings. One of the claims is that Buffalo wings were first prepared at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York, by Teressa Bellissimo, who owned the bar with husband Frank in 1964. At the time chicken wings were inexpensive and undesirable, primarily being used for stock or soup.
Several versions of the story of the invention of the Buffalo wing have been circulated by the Bellissimo family and others including:
Upon the unannounced, late-night arrival of their son, Dominic, with several of his friends from college, Teressa needed a fast and easy snack to present to her guests. It was then that she came up with the idea of deep frying chicken wings (normally thrown away or reserved for stock) and tossing them in cayenne hot sauce.
Dominic Bellissimo (Frank and Teressa's son) told The New Yorker reporter Calvin Trillin in 1980: "It was Friday night in the bar and since people were buying a lot of drinks he wanted to do something nice for them at midnight when the mostly Catholic patrons would be able to eat meat again." He stated that it was his mother, Teressa, who came up with the idea of chicken wings.
There was mis-delivery of wings instead of backs and necks for making the bar's spaghetti sauce. Faced with this unexpected resource, Frank Bellissimo says that he asked Teressa to do something with them.
Although an article published about the Anchor Bar in a local newspaper during 1969 does not mention Buffalo wings, a local competitor of the Anchor Bar, Duff's Famous Wings, began selling Buffalo wings in that year.
Another claim is that a man named John Young, who moved to Buffalo from Alabama in 1948, began serving uncut chicken wings that were breaded, deep fried and served in his own special tomato based "Mambo Sauce" at his Buffalo restaurant beginning in 1964. Prior to opening his restaurant he had a conversation with a boxer who traveled and in a later interview Mr. Young recalled: "He told me that there was a restaurant in Washington, D.C. that was doing a good business with wings and I decided to specialize". In the same interview Young stated that the Anchor Bar didn't offer Buffalo wings as a regular menu item until 1974. He registered the name of his restaurant, John Young's Wings 'n Things, at the countycourthouse before leaving the Buffalo area in 1970. In 2013, at the National Buffalo Wing Festival, held in Buffalo, New York, John Young's contributions were acknowledged when he was inducted into the festival's National Buffalo Wing Hall of Flame.
Growth and popularity
A cook preparing Buffalo wings
In 1977 the city of Buffalo issued an official proclamation celebrating Anchor Bar co-owner Frank Bellissimo declared July 29, 1977 to be Chicken Wing Day. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s Buffalo wings gained in popularity as a bar food and appetizer across the United States and Canada. Large franchises specializing in Buffalo wings have emerged, notably Buffalo Wild Wings founded in 1982 and Hooter's in 1983.McDonald's began selling Mighty Wings as an optional item in 1990 at their restaurant locations in the United States. In 1994, following four Super Bowl appearances by the Buffalo Bills football team, the Domino's pizza chain added Buffalo wings to their national menu, followed by Pizza Hut the next year.
As the market for chicken wings became larger, restaurants began to create and use a variety of sauces in addition to buffalo sauce. Some of these new chicken wing sauces were influenced by Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Caribbean, and Indian cuisines. Other flavors created by restaurants include unique combinations, such as Blueberry BBQ Wing Sauce and Maple/Bacon Glaze for example, to help keep customer interest and grow their businesses. Because of the increased cost in the price of chicken wings, and a desire by some diners for a neater eating experience, restaurants began to offer a menu item called "boneless wings," sometimes marketed under the name wyngz. Boneless wings are essentially small pieces of skinless, boneless chicken breast that are coated in flour and spices then fried or baked. They are usually coated in or served with similar sauces as chicken wings. The growth of popularity in recent years in Buffalo wing consumption and restaurants serving wings have led to actual and perceived shortages of chicken wings in the United States during certain times.
In many areas of the United States chicken wing festivals are held with Buffalo wings being used in competitive eating events, such as at Philadelphia's Wing Bowl and the National Buffalo Wing Festival. It has also become commonplace for restaurants to offer a wing eating contest featuring a customer eating a certain number of wings, coated in their hottest sauce during a set period of time. Many bars and restaurants intentionally create an extra-hot sauce for this purpose, and customers are usually rewarded with their picture posted on the restaurant's wall or website, a commemorative T-shirt, a free meal or a combination of rewards for successfully completing the challenge.
Roasted Chicken Wings
The chicken wings used for Buffalo wings are usually segmented into three parts: drumette, flat, and flapper or pointer, the last of which is discarded. Typically, the wings are deep-fried in oil, without breading or flour until they are well browned. Alternatively, they may be baked, grilled, or broiled.
Cayenne pepper, hot sauce and melted butter or margarine are the base of the Buffalo wing sauce, which may be made mild, medium, or hot. Commercial ready-to-use wing sauce is made with varying levels of spiciness. The cooked chicken wings are placed in a bowl or pot and shaken to coat the wings completely covering them in sauce before serving.
Traditionally, Buffalo wings are usually served with small sticks of celery and blue cheese dipping sauce on the side.Ranch dressing, however, is the most popular wing dipping sauce in the United States and wings are often served with sliced carrots or whole baby carrots.