Chicken wings are wildly popular with Americans and have been for several decades. They can be eaten as a snack or made into a whole meal. They can be oven-baked, deep-fried, or roasted. They can range from mild to spicy or even served without sauce, if you prefer. You can enjoy them at a bar with friends or order chicken wing delivery to have them at home.
Perhaps it is the versatility that makes chicken wings so popular, or maybe it is how much fun they are to eat with your fingers. Whatever the reason, chicken wings have become the go-to appetizer to share while watching sports events. Because chicken wings were developed right here in the United States, there are some who have suggested that they should replace apple pie as the quintessential American dish.
How the Spicy Chicken Wing Came About
Prior to the mid-1960s, no one ever asked, “Where are the best wings near me?” At that time, chicken wings were rarely prepared as food. There was so little meat on them, people considered them a waste. If anything, they made the wings into chicken stock to make soup, but more often they simply discarded the wings.
John Young was an entrepreneur who opened a chain of restaurants in Buffalo, New York, during the early 1960s. His chain was called Wings ‘n Things, and according to some reports, he was the one who pioneered the spicy chicken wing as a menu item. Young’s chicken wings were not like those we know today. He served the whole wing breaded and fried. However, as with the more familiar wing of today, Young served his wings with a special sauce, alternately referred to as “mumbo” or “mambo” sauce, described as spicy, sour, and sweet. Young claimed that he had frequently eaten chicken wings as a child growing up in an African American neighborhood, which inspired him to make his own version of the dish to serve to restaurant patrons.
Why They Call It a Buffalo Chicken Wing
Young may have pioneered Buffalo chicken wings, but it was Teressa Bellissimo who popularized the version best known today. Teressa and her husband Frank opened the Anchor Bar in Buffalo in 1939. The most commonly circulated version of the story is that the bar had ordered chicken necks for making spaghetti sauce, but wings were delivered instead. There were too many wings to make stock for soup. Wanting to recoup the losses, Teressa cut the wings in half to produce a flat portion and a “drumstick,” deep-fried them without breading them first, and served them with a hot sauce.
Both Young’s Wings ‘n Things restaurants and the Bellissimos’ Anchor Bar were located in the city of Buffalo, which is where the wings get their name. However, it is only outside of Buffalo that people use that name. In Buffalo, they are merely called “chicken wings.” The inherent humor of the fact that the town was named after an animal that does not have wings probably helped make the dish more memorable and increase its popularity.
Both John Young and Teressa Bellissimo deserve credit for creating an unlikely but enduring side dish that you can order for delivery from your favorite pizza place.