Today in 1964: The Buffalo Chicken Wing Is Born


Photo credit: Todd Coleman, Saveur

It was 50 years today that Teressa Bellissimo, the owner of a small restaurant in Buffalo, New York called Anchor Bar, accidentally invented an American classic: the Buffalo chicken wing.

To learn more about this classic all-American treat, we consulted wing expert Matt Reynolds, the filmmaker behind the documentary "The Great Chicken Wing Hunt."

"Wings [used to be] considered scraps. [They were] sold for pennies, and sometimes used to make soup," Reynolds told us. "One morning, [Bellissimo] received a crate of them by mistake, [and] could not possibly make enough soup to use them all."

The fiesty Bellissimo was irritated by the error and wanted to return the wings to her distributor, Reynolds explained, but her mild-mannered husband protested. By the next day, Bellissimo had come up with a solution. She decided to deep-fry the naked wings, dress them in a mixture of vinegar and butter, and serve them with sticks of celery and a rich blue cheese dressing.

"Business boomed. The Anchor Bar expanded. Others wanted in," Reynolds said. "Dom Zanghi, who was a friend of the Bellissimos, recalled that in the 1960s local restaurant owners would sidle up to him, naked, in the steam rooms of downtown Buffalo, offering to bribe him for the recipe.”

Well, that’s one way to finagle a recipe. But as is true of many legends, the Buffalo wing’s own history is a bit muddled. Some claim that the first wing was fried at the Anchor Bar in October, not March. Others say it was actually a cook named John Young who invented the Buffalo wing, although his version was breaded and served alongside a secret, "mambo sauce."

We may never know the full story, although Reynolds is convinced that the Bellissimos tell the truth. In some respects, it doesn’t matter—at least when it comes to enjoying a hearty plate of wings.

If you’re not up for a trek to Buffalo, New York, try making your own Buffalo wings with this traditional recipe from Saveur. It doesn’t need to be football season for them to be delicious.

Buffalo Wings

from Saveur

Serves 4

Peanut oil, for frying
4 lb. chicken wings (about 40), separated into 2 pieces, wing tips removed, rinsed
12 tbsp. margarine
1 cup hot sauce, preferably Frank’s Red Hot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce
1 ⅓ cups chunky blue cheese dressing
4 ribs celery, halved lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 3″ sticks

1. Heat oven to 200°. Pour oil to a depth of 2″ in a 6-qt. Dutch oven, and heat over medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer reads 350°. Dry wings thoroughly with paper towels, and working in batches, fry wings until golden brown, about 12 minutes. Transfer wings to a wire rack set over a baking sheet, and place in oven to keep warm until all wings are fried.

2. Heat margarine in a 12″ deep-sided skillet over medium heat; stir in hot sauce until smooth. Add wings, and toss until completely coated. Serve wings in a large bowl with dressing and celery on the side.