The debated history of Buffalo wings

Who actually created the Western NY staple? 

By Maddie Roberts

Buffalo wings are one of the most popular dishes in upstate New York, and growing up in Rochester, I have eaten a lot of them. With the NFL season now over and the rising ranks of the Buffalo Bills, buffalo wings are becoming a staple in many houses. Deep fried chicken wings smothered in hot sauce – this spicy snack is a fan favorite. But, they have an interesting origin story, resulting in another famous Buffalo staple. 

According to the National Chicken Council, buffalo wings originated in 1964 from Anchor Bar owner, Teressa Bellissimo. One late night, her son and his friends were hanging out at the bar and needed a filling snack. She took leftover wings (normally used for chicken stock) and covered them in her secret sauce made of hot sauce, butter, and other spices. She served them with celery and bleu cheese. They were such a hit with the boys that she put them on the menu the next day! 

This resulted in Anchor Bar’s fame. Anchor Bar, now a local chain in the Buffalo-Niagara area, has become a chicken wing museum. They have expanded, with locations in Canada, Texas, Georgia, Maryland, and Illinois. Anchor Bar has won multiple “Best Chicken Wing” awards, a “Quality International Award”, and the 2003 James Beard Award, given to restaurants with a timeless appeal; it is a must-see if you are ever in Buffalo. 

Most people agree with the story that Anchor Bar was the first to create buffalo wings, as the chain even has a slogan saying, “Home of the Original Buffalo Wing.”  However, there is another story that has garnered attention. 

John Young, then-owner of John Young’s Wings and Things, claims that he invented buffalo wings in 1963. At the time, he was selling his chicken wings in mambo sauce. He fried them whole, as opposed to individual flats and drumsticks. He served them with mambo sauce, which is a spicy, tomato-based sauce. Young’s wife said that he was friends with Bellissimo’s husband, and shared the recipe with him. Young left his restaurant to work nationally, and when he came back in the 1980s, Anchor Bar and its buffalo wings had taken off. 

It seems we may never know who actually invented the classic buffalo wing. Pop culture tends to favor Teresa Bellissimo, but John Young’s story persists. Today, buffalo wings are a classic dish in American restaurants and households, even grocery stores sell bottles of buffalo sauce. So, next time you are feeling something spicy, make or buy buffalo wings with the classic side of celery and bleu cheese (not ranch – that is no debate).

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