Friday, August 07, 2009

The Quest for the Perfect Wing

Dateline: Buffalo, NY The conventional wisdom has it that Frank & Theresa's Anchor Bar in Buffalo not only invented the Buffalo chicken wing but still makes and sells the best product, but is that true? During our annual pilgrimage to my husband's family home, we decided to put it to the test.

Yesterday, after days of discussion, my son and I drove for an hour and 15 minutes on a "Wing Quest" to pick up 30 wings at each of four popular wing locations in Buffalo: Duff's (home of the "suicide" wing, Motto: mild is hot, medium is very hot, hot is very very hot), Central Park Grill (home of the tangy fresh wing, also the bar I frequented while in law school here 1985-1988), Just Pizza (home of the milder hot wing, Motto: our name is a bloody lie) and, of course, Frank & Theresa's Anchor Bar the founder and defending champion (Anchor bar was by far the most expensive too).

While on the quest, my son and I noted that the customer service over the phone and in person was quick at Duff's, friendly at the CPG, skeptical but efficient at Just Pizza ("no pizza?") and ranging from idiotic to mildly annoyed at Anchor Bar. Inevitably, my son compared the Anchor Bar to the Yankees: on top of the world and arrogant.

The stop at the CPG may have involved the dubious mother-son activity of having him park at my old home across the street and re-enact in rush hour traffic a December 1987 incident involving my weaving across Main street from the CPG at 4am several sheets to the wind only to lose a boot in a snow drift and wander around mid-drift looking for the boot "where's my f***ing boot!" only to nearly be killed by passing traffic on the way home.

We got home safely with 130 (including 10 extra "suicide" wings from Duff to try) tepid wings. N. secured the kitchen while I set up 4 tasting stations with numbers and pads. The assembled dozen of us wandered in, instructed by my daughter as to the rules ("2 each, vote for your favorite, optional ranking of all 4 with comments").

It was really difficult to do the tasting. It's hard to hold a previous flavor in your mouth and compare it to a new one especially when you keep being blasted by lots of hot sauce. We had to keep the carrots, celery and blue cheese dressing coming to keep the pallet even vaguely serviceable.

At the end of the day, the results were a disappointing vindication of conventional wisdom: the Anchor Bar wings won hands down. CPG second, Just Pizza third and interestingly Duff's a distant 4th (except for my father-in-law a heat fanatic). We really wanted it not to be Anchor Bar because the week before my husband purchased 150 wings from them, only to be shorted 45 (even after he asked at the restaurant whether those could really be all 150 in those light boxes). And when we later went back for the additional 45? They were mild, not hot!

With the cost and service at Anchor Bar, even with the superior taste (which some are attributing to a possible lucky pick-up right after a grease change), some in my family are pushing for a change to the CPG. How about that, Central Park Grill? Want to be the official wing of the Nichols-Magavern family? Then we could all stagger across the street after gorging ourselves, wiping the sauce from our face, happy that we only travel to Buffalo in the summer, leaving little chance for snow drifts.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I believe it was me weaving my way across Main Street sans boot, sans scarf, sans tarot cards. With blog author following behind over an hour later after introducing CPG clients to her interpretation of the "Dance of Legislation", tracing my devolution and picking up the crumbs. At least that was the case after first semester exams. Oh and by the way. I did my own test--CPG wins hands down. That extra vinegar tang haunts me regularly. And the loss of my 5 of pentacles. . . .

Tundra J.C. SUNY BFLO 1988