Savvy Traveler: Buffalo wings in Buffalo, New York

The old saying that “…it will happen when pigs fly…” could relate to Buffalo, New York, a city possibly more famous for the bar food it spawned than the great achievements of such as Nikola Tesla, the Croatian-born genius who built the first hydroelectric plant there.

Whenever a particular food becomes popular, it suddenly has many parents. In Philadelphia, there are fist fights over who invested the hoagie. New York has street fights over which is the first and truly original Ray’s Pizza.

In Buffalo, it is a bone of contention as to who actually invented the ubiquitous and popular bar food…Buffalo wings.

Did John Young really develop the delicacy in the mid-1960s as he claims? Or was it Teressa Bellissimo at the Anchor Bar in the early 1960s?

Evidence seems to point to Teressa and her husband, Frank. Their story is that, one night, their son and some college friends came into the bar, hungry and looking for food.  They were out of ribs and whatever else. Teressa threw together a hot batter with chicken wings and the story (and controversy) began. The wings became popular later as the Buffalo Bills football team spread the word.

Buffalo wings have become as American as the proverbial apple pie and can readily be found coast-to-coast. To celebrate that, Buffalo will host the 13th annual National Buffalo Wing Festival on August 31 at Coca Cola Field. Historically, the event draws more than 400,000 people from every state in the union and 36 other countries.

And like the Nathan’s hot dog eating contest in Brooklyn’s Coney Island, there will be chowhounds attempting to wolf down a record number of wings. A major sponsor of the event will be Frank’s RedHot, a sauce used to make the wings hot enough to be a military weapon.

Heading for Buffalo to challenge each other in the eating contest are such famed gluttons as the Nathan’s champ Joey Chestnut and other competitive eaters including Sonia Thomas and Badlands Booker.

Fans attending the eating rodeo will be able to sample wings from more than 25 vendors featuring hundreds of flavors. Last year, attendees consumed some 2.4 million Buffalo wings and countless gallons of Frank’s RedHot.

Commemorating the nexus between Frank’s RedHot, Buffalo and the tons of wings, the sauce was inducted into the Buffalo Wing Hall of Fame for “…its contribution to elevating classic Buffalo wings from pub fare to a menu mainstay across America.” Who even knew that there was a Buffalo Wings Hall of Fame?

Bob and Sandy Nesoff are members of the American Society of Authors and Journalists.

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