Friday, January 14, 2011

Hot Sauce on a Snowy Evening

As you might imagine, we take our chicken wings fairly seriously here in Buffalo, NY. While other cities tout fame born of industry, finance, glamour, and culture, we hang our hat on deep fried fowl appendages.

Not to say that Buffalo is as backwater as most would consider…we have produced two (albeit universally unknown) U.S. presidents, were the terminus of one of the most famous canals in history (ask my mule, Sal), and once boasted more taverns per square mile than any other city in the nation. Canal Street and the surrounding environs were at one time considered the most wretched and vile stretches of real estate on the planet, with a murder rate that kept life expectancy so low that no one ever qualified for a senior coffee. Oh, and we get some snow every once in a while.

We are the home of second place: we are the second-largest city in New York…we are the second poorest city in the nation…the Bills came in second four times in one decade…the Sabres (no goal) took second to a town that hasn't seen ice in centuries…we have the second oldest zoo in the country…we hosted the second largest World Juniors Hockey Tournament this year…but we do come in first on cholesterol levels and heart disease. Oh bother.

Back to the chicken wings.

I took the youngest five of my little dumplings and the esteemed son of one "Ellen from Buffalo" to Frank and Teresa's Anchor Bar this evening for a meal fit for a cardiologist: fifty hot wings smothered sauce, chicken fingers, french fries, blue cheese, celery (gasp - vegetation?!?), and two pitchers of cola. We ate everything save about five wings…they were like ravenous little children of the corn, devouring anything that smelled deep fried. Their saucy smiles and sticky fingers spoke of culinary satisfaction…with good reason: Frank and Teresa's Anchor Bar is the birthplace of the chicken wing, the very cradle of coronary catastrophe. It is steeped in Buffalo history, the walls covered with the autographed images of the famous and infamous who saddled up to a table and gnawed on some chicken bones. This hallowed hall of gluttony is a rite of passage for Buffalonian youth, and my children were about to dive into a huge vat of historical spicy sauce. It makes a dad proud.

Of course, all things in moderation.

My Teresa, age five, was initially puzzled; "Why do we just get water?" she asked as the waitress brought glasses of H2O to the table upon arrival. I explained that in restaurants where the spokesperson is not a clown water is often brought to the table for the patrons when they arrive. "Why? What if you like pop?" I had no answer.

While we waited for our food we played "Questions", a beloved tradition in which age-appropriate trivia and general knowledge questions are posed to each in order at the table with absolutely no prize or winner save the love of the game. Math, Social Studies, Church History, and Spongebob episodes are the most frequent categories, and I function as a reasonable facsimile of Alex Trebek. My son John Paul and "Ellen from Buffalo's" esteemed son are classmates and requested European history. I agreed. First question: "What nationality are you if you drink 100 glasses of iced tea? " Answer: "European."

It brought the house down. Props to Helga from "Hey, Arnold".

The wings arrived in what seemed far too short a time, to everyone's delight, and the festival began. They were truly delicious; crispy, hot, with just the right amount of sauce (hot, of course, we don't live in Namby Pamby Land). The fries were crispy and delish, and the chicken fingers were perfect. There were protracted moments of silence (highly unusual) as eating took priority, interrupted only by an occasional burp and the crunch of a celery stick. Then, as we began to feel the fullness only wings can produce, suddenly every child needed to use the bathroom. It began with Teresa and became an unstoppable cascade, and the table was suddenly empty of all but me; a moment of quiet, a silent sliver of time in which I wallowed like a basking hippo in a mud bath. It was all too brief, though…within moments they returned, one with an open fly, another with TP on their shoe, and all of them talking simultaneously. We elicited a great deal of amusement from nearby tables.

A short time later we bundled up against the snow and cold and made our way home. It was an enjoyable trip to the Mecca of munchies…I am proud to say no one spilled their sodas, which is a really big deal, as most parents will attest. We splurged on a little deep fried fun, and shared some smiles and laughter.

And Teresa even drank her water.

St. John of God, patron of those suffering heart ailments, Pray for us.


  1. A great family story. And by the way, I'm glad to see you back at Sunday Snippets. My new niece-in-law is from Buffalo, but now living in California with my nephew, and I didn't know that Buffalo wings were named after your city. Learn something new every day.

  2. I attended SUNY Buffalo in the late 80's but never visited the Anchor Bar. Being mostly on the Amherst campus, we got our wings at Duffs. Now in NJ, God has been merciful: a Wegmans supermarket opened 30 minutes from my house seven years ago and sells Anchor Bar wing sauce by the bottle. It's "Teressa," btw - double s.

    As a matter of fact, I fried wings tonight for my husband with Anchor Bar "medium," as we watched the Jets win. Unfortunately. It was hard to know whom to cheer against. As for snow, my husband attended SU and I'm pretty sure they get more snow than Buffalo, '77 Blizzard notwithstanding!

    Good post - always great to read about WNY.


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