Wing Wars

Duff's or Anchor Bar? The Buffalo wing choice is yours

wings

If you are from Buffalo or have spent just an hour here, you know that the one thing Buffalo is best at –– other than having underperforming sports teams –– is chicken wings.

 From fans wearing chicken wing hats at football games to the annual National Buffalo Wing Festival held downtown, Buffalonians are passionate about their fried, saucy wings.

 Chicken wings got their start here at the Anchor Bar and have remained popular ever since. Rival franchises have shown up, however, leading to the ultimate showdown between Anchor Bar and its popular foe, Duff’s.

 The Anchor Bar, the original creator of the Buffalo wing, founded the food on March 4, 1964, according to the restaurant’s website.  

Dominic Bellissimo was tending the bar at his family’s Anchor Bar one night when a group of hungry friends came into the restaurant. Bellissimo asked his mother, Theresa, to make the group “something they had never eaten before.”

 Theresa took chicken wings, which originally were only used to make stock for soup, deep fried them, covered the wings in hot sauce and served them to the group with celery and blue cheese.  

The Buffalo wing, with its trusty side and dip, was born.

 The Anchor Bar still uses the same recipe today and proudly touts its “Home of the Original Chicken Wing” title for all to see.

 Michelle Buchholz, the marketing director for Anchor Bar, said “the sauce we use on our wings today is the same sauce used in [their] first recipe —our medium sauce.” She said the quality of chicken wing and frying oil has also stayed the same.

“When you go to the Anchor, you want to experience two things. First, you want to try the chicken wings, but you also should go to experience the Anchor Bar. It’s an old building that we’ve always kept in good shape,” Buchholz said.

Buchholz said a lot of the decor in the original restaurant, including license plates and registers, are decorative items from the restaurant in the 1940s.

“The restaurant does have its own charm,” Buchholz said.  “We are the chicken wing icon, and no other restaurant can call themselves that.”

Anchor Bar has won a James Beard Foundation Award, a Scovie Award for its “suicidal hot sauce” and an International Quality Award for sauces.

In addition to physical restaurant locations, Anchor Bar delivers straight to students’ doors through SkipTheDishes and Uber Eats.

 Duff’s on the other hand, came later on in the chicken wing game. Opened in 1946 by Louise Duffney, Duff’s served up its first batch of wings in 1969, five years after Anchor Bar.

 Its claim to chicken wing fame, according to their website, is “serving the highest quality wings with [their] ‘famous’ sauce recipe for over 40 years.”

 Duff’s claims that it is “the place you come for the best wings of your life.”

 These “best” wings are a fan favorite when it comes to the sauce, as these are one of Buffalo’s hottest wings. The menus and wait staff t-shirts come with the warning “MEDIUM IS HOT! MEDIUM HOT IS VERY HOT! HOT IS VERY VERY HOT!” 

Duff’s even offers suicidal and death sauces, if consumers dare to try them.

 Students such as Chuck Dick, a senior business administration major, said Duff’s Famous Wings are the best.

 “When I think of Duff’s, I just think of Buffalo,” Dick said. “Duff’s wings are just the best wings and the Bills endorse them.”

“The team sent [Duff’s] wings to the Cincinnati Bengals when they beat the Baltimore Ravens and let the Bills move on to the playoffs last year. We gave them Duff’s wings to congratulate them, so I think of Buffalo now when I think of Duff’s.”

Gage Hilton, a junior business administration major, agrees and thinks Duff’s wings are indeed the best of Buffalo’s bunch.

“Duff’s wings do taste the best, and I like how they feel more local. Anchor Bar just seems too commercialized for me,” said Hilton.

When you you pin the “Original” against the “Best,” an epic wing battle ensues.

Anchor Bar versus Duff’s wings is a highly contended topic among Western New Yorkers. 

Buchholz claims that while “all of the restaurants in Western New York do an amazing job with chicken wings,” there are differences between the wings. Anchor Bar, unlike others in the area, does not put breading on their wings, making them gluten-friendly. Anchor Bar also cooks wings fresh-to-order, using fresh chicken, rather than pre-cooking and reheating wings.

The sauces can differ too. Anchor Bar, according to Buchholz, uses a sauce that is a mixture of ingredients. Some competitors use a sauce that is a blend of hot sauce and butter.

 The rivalry between Duff’s and Anchor Bar was televised on the Travel Channel’s “Food Wars” on March 9, 2010 to determine Buffalo’s best wings. After a blindfolded taste-test, judges voted 3-2 in favor of Duff’s.

 They determined Anchor Bar wings were slightly larger and crispier, while Duff’s wings are spicier and saucier.

 Still, the choice between the two will continue to be a hot topic for years to come. 

“The rivalry makes it fun,” Buchholz said. “Buffalo knows how to make a good chicken wing … Duff’s is right up there with us. You’ve got your fans of Duff’s and your fans of Anchor Bar.  It makes it fun. A good business has to have good competition. Duff’s is a really good competitor.”

Students can weigh in on the wing match at locations not far from UB’s North Campus, as the original Duff’s location is on Sheridan Drive and the closest Anchor Bar is on Maple Road.

Kirsten Dean is the assistant features editor and can be reached at kirsten.dean@ubspectrum.com and on Twitter @KirstenUBSpec.