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Buffalo Wings with Ranch? Why Not?

Bigshots

Are we really so self-absorbed and insecure that we impose on others our local penchant to refer to a famous local delicacy as “wings” or “chicken wings”? Are we such faux snobs that we insist that people around the world refrain from calling deep-fried chicken appendages drenched in butter and Frank’s Hot Sauce as “Buffalo wings”? 

Do other cities do this? Not Chicago. Not New York. Not Boston.

I watched the CBS Sunday Morning Super Bowl piece about the Buffalo Wing – where it came from, what to call it, how to eat it – and thought it was nice that Buffalo was being recognized by big media in a positive way. We love this sort of thing, am I right? 

But holy crap, do we come off like a bunch of condescending prats. Don’t call them Buffalo wings, don’t eat them with ranch, don’t bake them. You’d think we were talking about a prissy French appellation or Italian D.O.P. As much of a pizza snob as I am, I recognize and acknowledge that pizza is a universally loved food that is prepared differently in different places and to varying tastes. And it’s ok – they can call it pizza

So, Buffalo, here is how we should talk about wings, if we’re really proud of our culinary creation. Call them Buffalo wings. We know they’re not made from flying Buffalos, but it acknowledges Buffalo’s role in their creation, and so long as the “Buffalo” is capitalized, run with it. It’s a way to remind people that it’s our thing, and that Buffalo exists.

Bake them? Make them however you like! Franks and butter? That’s how we eat them! Celery and carrots? Either? Neither? Who cares? Make them however you want! Do you despise bleu cheese dressing with the heat of a thousand suns? Here, try some ranch! We love wings this way, but we hope you love them whatever way you want! We’re happy you love them, too!

It’s a chicken extremity deep-fried in hot sauce. Let’s not pretend we’re talking about L’Escoffier here. 


  • Seems to me the “Buffalo” part of the name refers to it as a specific type of preparation, which you well know is an extremely common thing in the wonderful world of culinary nomenclature. Sure, you can call lots of things “pizza”, but you can’t call lots of things “Neapolitan pizza”, which I’m pretty sure is a point you’ve raised in the past. You can call lots of things “sparkling wine”, but you can’t call them all “Champagne”. And sure, there are lots of wonderful ways to prepare chicken wings. What’s wrong with being specific about “Buffalo” chicken wings? I’m not sure what you’re on about here, really — it frankly comes off as “I don’t care about this, so you shouldn’t, either.”

    I’m starting the day disagreeing with Alan. Strange things are afoot at the Circle K….

    • They made a big to-do on national television about how no one here calls them Buffalo wings. Well, that may be true, but why is that something to crow about? They spent an inordinately long time in the piece with this line of questioning and every time someone said, “never Buffalo” my reaction was to question why not.

      Here we have a right-wing jerk of a football star, a lounge act and a “Buffalover” arguing that it’s wrong to refer to the one food that Buffalo has invented that’s known the world over as “Buffalo wings”.

      So maybe you misunderstood me or maybe I wasn’t clear – I think that they SHOULD ABSOLUTELY be referred to – locally and internationally – as Buffalo wings. Claim the shit out of them and make people think, “oh, Buffalo. This is a place of which I have heard.”

      • Raymond Ban

        I don’t recall anyone saying that it was inappropriate to call them Buffalo wings outside of Buffalo, only that here, we simply call them wings. Do people in Stockholm refer to “Swedish fish”? No, they simply call them “fish.”

      • Actually, in Sweden they’re called “pastellfiskar”. “Swedish Fish” were developed as a brand specifically for the American market.

      • See, I didn’t watch the show, so I’m responding to half a thing here, I suppose. I personally don’t have a problem with calling them “Buffalo wings”, but the thing is, the word “Buffalo” in that case — as is often what happens with food terminology — refers to BOTH a location AND a specific style of preparation. That’s my point. As a denizen of this region I love that the place’s name is on one of the most popular “snack/party” foods out there right now. But I also don’t much like the idea of, say, breading the wings and then tossing them in sweet-and-sour sauce (which could be totally delicious…hmmmm….) and then calling them “Buffalo wings”. That’s really MY only point here.

        As to why we don’t call them “Buffalo wings” here, it just seems like a redundancy that locals simply do without. Kind of like saying on Sunday morning, “Hey, I’m going to the game.” We just assume that others know what we’re talking about. I think it’s a pretty innocuous point to say “We don’t call them Buffalo wings in Buffalo” because, well, we’re around the things all the time. They’re mostly just “wings” here. Anyway, you’re still wrong. About something. Don’t know what, but when I find it…!

      • My criticism wasn’t that we should all start calling them Buffalo wings in Buffalo. My criticism is that it’s childish and sort of “mean girls” to make such a big deal about it.

        Given a chance to be diplomats for our city’s singular world-renowned culinary creation, we were treated to a panoply of “don’t” and “never”. My knee-jerk reaction to being told what I can’t do is to tell the person to fuck off. So, in this particular instance, the tl;dr is that Thurman and Bernice can take their don’ts and nevers and fuck off. (Lance didn’t really seem all that enthusiastic about lecturing people about chicken wing etiquette).

        Over on my Facebook page, Buffalo Wing King Drew Cerza got involved, and we had this exchange:

        Drew Cerza:

        Alan, this is very interesting dialog. I have been harassed a bit by locals for calling the festival… The National Buffalo Wing Festival. I do it for the branding for our city to take ownership of the wing. When I do the national shows like the Today Show, I call them Buffalo Wings and let the hosts call them that without correction. I do however, emphasize to the viewers that a true Buffalo Wing has to be deep fried and tossed in butter and a cayenne based pepper sauce. I don’t mind taking the heat from locals for branding our city to millions of viewers across the country. I also emphasize that “Buffalo” has now been branded as a flavor by food manufacturers and fast food chains as well. Great branding for our city. This is just my opinion and I’m sticking to it. All this said, when talking to locals… I call them “Wings”

        I then remarked that I agreed with that breakdown 100%. Cerza responded,

        I hear you, but I wouldn’t go too hard on them. They were in new territory. You need to prepare and have an agenda when you do these shows. and try to control the message. It’s always a learning experience. I thought that Bernice showed great energy and passion.

        My response to that was,

        Energy and passion are all well and good, but it just hit me that if they were going to do a piece about wings, how could you not have been on it?!

        And that’s the takeaway. If CBS is going to do a piece about the history and etiquette of the Buffalo chicken wing, you – (meaning the CVB, which was I understand in part instrumental in pulling together the panel) – get Drew Cerza on the phone.

      • UncleBluck

        And then Drew can tell them how he serves his wings at his event ….”stone cold” and lousy tasting…..everybody knows that when something fried is allowed to cool off before eating…..not good……

  • UncleBluck

    Although the wings originate from the Anchor Bar the present owner has nothing to do with that and the wings now served there are some of the worst I have ever had….

  • Joel Altre-Kerber

    I thought it was cute, light-hearted story. Nobody came off as a condescending prat. I will say that I rarely order wings out of town, but it does irk me when something billed as “Buffalo Wings” looks or tastes anything like what we know it should be.

  • robrobrobislike

    I don’t think anyone actually cares whether someone calls them Buffalo wings or hot wings or chicken wings or just wings. Or whether someone eats them with ranch dressing. I think it’s more about being lovably curmudgeonly about your regional foods. Like when John Kerry ordered a cheesesteak with Swiss cheese and Philadelphia collectively shit its pants.

  • Buffalo Wing Wear

    I was just happy, Mo wore our chicken wing necktie in the segment. 🙂 The anchor bar looked good as a backdrop for the spot.

  • Raymond Ban

    Should people in Denmark start to call their pastries “Danishes”? I don’t think so.

    • What do you suppose they call Wiener Schnitzel in Vienna?

  • Dan_Blather

    Considering online discussions about fish fry in more “Old Buffalo” online venues, well … yeah, they could just as well be talking about the nuanced differences between first growth and second growth Bordeaux wines. “Decades of grime, Korean War-era decor, and brusk service impart an ethereal authenticity into the haddock served up by Mel’s Crow’s Nest that is unmatched by any corner tavern, VFW post, or Catholic Church basement. There’s even the ever-so-slight hint of sulfur, remiscent of the geothermal pools of Akureyri, the Icelandic port city where the fillet I sampled first saw dry land. Ideally paired with Genesee Cream Ale or a cold glass of Widmer Lake Niagara wine.”

  • Guest

    Good thing Mo didn’t choose Bedenko as one of his “coolest” people of buffalo to do the segment with. Audiences would have been putting pistols in their mouths around the world…

    • Yeah good thing, that.

      It wasn’t enough to be trolled further down the thread by a “FOB” or “Friend of Bernice” who works in City Hall, and is all but managing the Giambra-funded ECC campaign, and is seen in the video. I also need a planner / preservationist doing a horrible job at being anonymous.

  • jimd54

    Any restaurant menu around here refers to them as chicken wings, single or double. Everybody knows what they are. And you order single or double wings, losing the chicken. However if you are in Des Moines or Amarillo it is entirely appropriate they designate them as Buffalo wings so people have an idea what they are ordering.

  • rhmaccallum

    I don’t really care what you call them. But…as long as I devoted the time to reading this and the comments I’ll tell you what I do care about deep in my soul.
    I like Franks Hot Sauce but there are a lot of ways to make your own hot sauce for your wings. Maybe using some of the home grown dried peppers from stepdaughter’s garden (thanks Alicia and Matt). Just relying on Franks is disingenuous.
    So, to heat up this discussion and if you dare…tell me your own hot wing sauce ideas. I like ’em hot and if they are not hot enough adding more Franks is, well, stupid.

    • jimd54

      Which is why I dislike Duff’s. Their crappy little wings are drenched in sauce, and then more sauce depending how you order them.

  • M S

    People in Chicago get all bent out of shape if you order ketchup on a “Chicago Style” hot dog. Which I think is idiotic, so I suppose insisting that nobody is allowed to put ranch dressing on a Buffalo-Style Chicken Wing is just as asinine as the no ketchup on a Chicago hot dog rule.