We're going to go out on a limb and say it – Buffalo chicken wings are the best bar food in existence. Why? Well, we're no scientists, but we attribute their appeal to the combination of crispy, buttery chicken wings so saucy and spicy that they must be washed down with a pint of cold beer.
Buffalo, less than a three-hour drive from Toronto, changed the course of American food history in 1964 when the city invented the eponymous Buffalo-style chicken wing. The deep-fried chicken wing was first prepared in The Anchor Bar by Teressa Bellissimo, who owned the bar with her husband Frank. It might be hard to believe now, but at the time, chicken wings were undesirable and reserved for stocks and soup. Many variations of the origin story exist (some claim a misdelivery of wings necessitated some menu ingenuity), but suffice to say, history was made and perfected in the decades since.
Restaurants across the city continue to put their own spin on this Buffalo-born dish, with variations ranging from Korean BBQ to cajun honey mustard to hot, medium and mild classics. The Buffalo Wing Trail, a curated list of the city’s top wing spots, makes it easy to explore some of Buffalo’s tastiest and most unique wing options.
Beyond sampling the many interpretations of this fried favourite, the trail gives visitors a chance to experience a slice of Buffalo culture. The spots on the wing trail have been chosen for their interesting stories as much as their delicious takes on Buffalo wings, with many featuring histories that stretch back 50 years or more.
Follow in the footsteps of John Lennon, Elvis Presley and Britney Spears with a trip downtown to The Anchor Bar, where it all began. Make a pitstop at Elmo's in the "northtowns" for their double-dip (twice coated in sauce) cajun wings. Head to Bar Bill's in the "southtowns," where they paint the sauce on the wings with a brush. Meanwhile, Doc Sullivan’s makes a “beef on weck” wing flavoured to resemble a sandwich from the region, and Gene McCarthy’s, a brewpub in the First Ward neighbourhood, mixes blue cheese into the sauce.
If you need an additional wing fix, you can also check out the National Buffalo Wing Festival, taking place September 1-2. Now in its 17th year, this massive festival features more than 100 flavours of wings to try, along with wing-related events like eating competitions and bobbing for wings.