New York Travel: Buffalo Wing Trail

My hometown of Buffalo, N.Y., is home to “America’s Tastiest Drive,” the Buffalo Wing Trail. In the name of research and because I know my readers are curious, I tackled the trail but failed. One day was not enough to visit and nosh in a dozen wing pubs. But, I gave it a good ole’ try and scratched the surface. Which means, I’m almost guaranteed to taste more wings on a future trip back to Buffalo.

National Buffalo Wing Festival, Buffalo, N.Y., Aug. 31, 2019
Wings at the National Buffalo Wing Festival, Aug. 2019.

History of Buffalo Wings

Research in 2014 estimates Americans consume about 25 billion chicken wings a year. Created in 1964 at Frank and Teressa Bellissimo’s Anchor Bar in Buffalo, N.Y., the now famous wings exist, as one legend states, because a crate of raw wings were mistakenly shipped to the Italian restaurant. Unsure what to do with so many wings (typically, wings were used in soup) Mrs. Bellissimo fried them up and tossed them in hot sauce. The mistake turned out to be a hit and is one of America’s most beloved finger food.

Ta-da! The World's Greatest Chicken Wing
Ta-da! The World’s Greatest Chicken Wing

The Great Chicken Wing Hunt

Filmmaker Matt Reynolds set out to find the world’s greatest Buffalo wing. The humorous 16-day journey is encapsulated in the 2013 comedic documentary “The Great Chicken Wing Hunt.” An American journalist based in Eastern Europe and a native of Central New York, Reynolds gave up his job with Reuters to find the world’s greatest wing. He and a group of misfits, as he calls them, visited 70 wing houses, tasted 284 types of wings, and traveled more than 2,600 miles across the Wing Belt, which includes New York, Pennsylvania, and Canada.

The Great Chicken Wing Hunt Director Matt Reynolds and Sarasota Film Festival Photographer, Clasico Cafe, Sarasota, Fla., April 8, 2013
The Great Chicken Wing Hunt Director Matt Reynolds and Sarasota Film Festival Photographer, Clasico Cafe, Sarasota, Fla., April 8, 2013

Did they find the world’s greatest Buffalo wing in Buffalo? Nope. The best, according to the documentary, was about 110 miles east of Buffalo at a restaurant called Abigail’s in Waterloo, N.Y. After 34 years in business, it closed in 2018. A traditional wing is cut in half (creating a drum and flat), not breaded, deep-fried, and coated in a mixture of butter and cayenne-pepper sauce. The degree of heat is measured by Mild, Medium, and Hot. The top wing was not a traditional wing. Called the Blue Bayou, the chef placed hot sauce, blue cheese, and celery in a blender and tossed deep-fried wings in the creamy sauce.

Being fair to Buffalo, only three wing houses were tasted in the documentary, Anchor Bar, Duff’s, and La Nova. The Queen City is home to several top wing spots and a dozen are mapped out in the Buffalo Wing Trail, which I attempted to conquer during a summer visit to my hometown. In the name of research, I consumed a year’s worth of wings in one day so I could find the best Buffalo wing.

National Buffalo Wing Festival, Buffalo, N.Y., Aug. 31, 2019
Wing Competition During the National Buffalo Wing Festival, Aug. 2019.

Warm Up at the National Buffalo Wing Festival

My spicy adventure kicked off at the two-day National Buffalo Wing Festival. Annually, wing lovers from across the country make a pilgrimage to Buffalo to celebrate the delicious wing in its birthplace. Some wear hats in the shape of drums, socks with orange wings, and T-shirts stating, “Winging in in Buffalo.” The festival includes sauce-offs, wing-eating, bobbing for wings in bleu cheese sauce, entertainment, a lot of wings to taste, and many wet naps to wipe sauce away from messy fingers.

More than two dozen restaurants from across the country participated, including a Buffalo vegan eatery. I tried five different wings and a flavor I am having a hard time forgetting is Fluffernutter. The wing was tossed in a peanut butter-based sauce served with a side of marshmallow crème and chopped peanuts.

Double Dub's food truck from Laramie, Wyoming - National Buffalo Wing Festival, Buffalo, N.Y., Aug. 31, 2019
Double Dub’s Spicy Bleu Wing During the National Buffalo Wing Festival, Aug. 2019.

A Surprising Wing Winner

For the first time in the festival’s history, one entrant won three awards plus the Rookie of the Year award. It was Double Dub’s food truck from Laramie, Wyoming. Trent Weitzel, owner of Double Dubs, has tried entering the competition for years. Because he does not have a brick and mortar restaurant, a requirement, he did not qualify to participate until this year. Josh Allen, quarterback with the Buffalo Bills and former University of Wyoming player, vouched for him with festival organizers. I tried their Spicy Bleu, a saucy traditional wing topped with blue cheese dressing and crumbles, and agree, it’s an award-winner.

Honeycomb Mural in Buffalo, N.Y., Aug. 2019
Look for Gorgeous Murals While Walking a Portion of the Buffalo Wing Trail in Downtown Buffalo. Aug. 2019.

A Little Background of the Buffalo Wing Trail

After the festival, it was off on the Buffalo Wing Trail. Visit Buffalo Niagara tourism created the trail and call it “America’s Tastiest Drive.” The “Wing King of Buffalo,” Drew Cerza, and founder of the Buffalo National Wing Festival, helped narrow the list to a dozen.

The entire trail is not walkable, unless you enjoy walking for a couple of days because about 30 miles separate the two furthest wing eateries. The entire trail is a nice journey for those wishing to tour Buffalo and visit some of the smaller communities tourists typically do not venture into.

Painted Wings at Bar-Bill Tavern

The Village of East Aurora is one of those communities. It is the home of the Roycroft Campus, founded by American writer, artist, and philosopher Elbert G. Hubbard in the 1890s. The Bar-Bill Tavern in East Aurora and on the wing trail, creates one-of-a-kind wings. Using paint brushes, staff individually paint each wing with house-made sauces and each order has five flats and five drums.

Gabriel's Gate. New York Travel: Buffalo Wing Trail - Aug. 2019
Entrance to Gabriel’s Gate Which is on the Buffalo Wing Trail. Aug. 2019.

Walking for Wings

Downtown Buffalo has a collection of four wing restaurants within walking distance, for those who do not mind walking about three miles. Think of it as a way of walking off the calories while enjoying the sights. The wing trail in downtown Buffalo weaves into the city’s trendy Elmwood Avenue, through historic neighborhoods, and past eateries, shops, and street art.

The four wing restaurants downtown are the Anchor Bar, Cole’s Restaurant & Bar, Gabriel’s Gate, and Lenox Grill. Each eatery has its own personality and wing specialty. The Anchor Bar is the birthplace of the wing and sets the bar.

Sicilian Wings. Cole's Restaurant - New York Travel: Buffalo Wing Trail, Aug. 2019
Sicilian Wings from Cole’s Restaurant & Bar. The Restaurant is Part of the Buffalo Wing Trail. Aug. 2019.

Sicilian Wings at Cole’s Restaurant & Bar

Cole’s Restaurant & Bar serves a classic wing but give the Sicilian Wings a try. They are tossed in Italian and Caesar dressing with lemon juice and Parmesan cheese. Memorabilia inside dates to 1934 and includes a rowboat in the rafters from the 1960 Olympics. Sit out on the patio and watch the Buffalo world pass by.

Traditional Wings from Gabriel's Gate, One of a Dozen Pubs on the Buffalo Wing Trail. Aug. 2019.
Traditional Wings from Gabriel’s Gate, One of a Dozen Pubs on the Buffalo Wing Trail. Aug. 2019.

Traditional Wings at Gabriel’s Gate

Gabriel’s Gate is housed in a building constructed in 1864 and full of character from the tin ceilings to the wood floors. If you do not mind taxidermy animal heads staring while you eat, find a place in the bar. Otherwise, try grabbing a spot in one of the wooden booths. The wings are perfection. Crispy outside, hot and tender inside, and the sauce has the perfect amount of heat and tang which is probably from the splash of Frank’s Red Hot sauce, a Buffalo kitchen staple.

Korean BBQ Wings at The Lenox Grill. New York Travel: Buffalo Wing Trail - Aug. 2019
Korean BBQ Wings at The Lenox Grill. The Restaurant is Part of the Buffalo Wing Trail. Aug. 2019

Throwback Vibe and Innovative Wings at Lenox Grill

Lenox Grill is a fun throwback to the 1980s and may remind some of a certain TV sitcom. It is located steps below the ground, the bar area is dimly lit, and décor is in hues of brown except the gray mounted shark in the dining area. It is in the Lenox Hotel which opened at the turn of the 20th century and is Buffalo’s oldest operating hotel. Guests included Harry Belafonte, Duke Ellington, and Henry Fonda. The Lenox Grill opened more recently and serves classic wings but for a flavorful kick, try the Korean BBQ Wings for a sweet, sour, smoky, and spicy combination.

Gabriel's Gate. New York Travel: Buffalo Wing Trail - Aug. 2019
The Bar at Gabriel’s Gate Restaurant & Bar in Buffalo. Aug. 2019.

And the Best Buffalo Wing Is…

As for finding the best Buffalo wing, I made my choice but will keep it to myself. Tastes are subjective and each eatery on the trail has its own flavor making it shine. But I am confident the world’s best wing is somewhere in Buffalo. The trail is more than enjoying the world’s greatest food, it is about adventure and being open to new experiences and flavors.

My advice before embarking on the Buffalo Wing Trail, go hungry, plan your route, and call them “wings” and not “chicken wings.” Importantly, never, ever order ranch dressing for your wings. Blue cheese is the preferred sauce of Buffalonians and dipping wings in ranch dressing is a waste of a good wing.

The Lenox Grill. New York Travel: Buffalo Wing Trail - Aug. 2019
Entrance into The Lenox Grill, One of a Dozen Pubs on the Buffalo Wing Trail, Buffalo, N.Y., Aug. 2019.

Nuts & Bolts About the Buffalo Wing Trail

Visit Buffalo Niagara Tourism
Tel: 1-800-283-3256
www.visitbuffaloniagara.com
Lodging, dining, and things to do.

Buffalo Wing Trail
www.buffalowingtrail.com

National Buffalo Chicken Wing Festival
Sahlen Field
275 Washington St.
Buffalo, NY 14203
www.buffalowing.com
Labor Day Weekend, Sept. 5 & 6, 2020

Find it on Amazon!

Solo Travel Girl’s Fave Buffalo Wing Spots

Anchor Bar
1047 Main St.
Buffalo, N.Y. 14209
Tel: (716) 886-8920
www.anchorbar.com

Bar-Bill Tavern
185 Main St.
East Aurora, N.Y. 14052
Tel: (716) 652-7959
www.barbill.com

Cole’s Restaurant & Bar
1104 Elmwood Ave.
Buffalo, N.Y. 14222
Tel: (716) 886-1449
www.colesonelmwood.com

Gabriel’s Gate
145 Allen St.
Buffalo, N.Y.
Tel: (716) 886-0602
Facebook

Lenox Grill
140 North St.
Buffalo, N.Y. 14201
Tel: (716) 884-1700
www.lenoxgrill.com

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Pin it! Buffalo Wing Trail on SoloTravelGirl.com

Live in Southwest Florida? Get Your Wing Fix at These Spots

Can’t make it to Buffalo? Try these Southwest Florida eateries for Buffalo wings and other flavors from the Queen City.

Casa-Di-Pizza
4658 E State Road 64
Bradenton, Fla. 34208
Tel: (941) 748-0700
casadipizzafl.com

Buffalo Wings & Rings
North Port Location
1081 W Price Blvd.
North Port, Fla. 34288

Port Charlotte Location
1020 El Jobean Rd.
Port Charlotte, Fla. 33948
www.buffalowingsandrings.com

Buffalo Wild Wings
18379 Tamiami Trail
North Port, Fla. 34287
www.buffalowildwings.com

Save the Date

Fourth Annual Everything Buffalo Party
Robarts Arena
3000 Ringling Blvd.
Sarasota, Fla. 34243
www.everythingbuffaloparty.com

Buffalo comes to Sarasota during this growing event. Enjoy Buffalo favorite foods which may include as beef on weck, sponge candy, Sahlen’s Hot Dogs, Chiavetta’s chicken, Bison Dip, and authentic Buffalo pizza and wings. Entertainment hails from Buffalo, too.

Disclosure

This post includes affiliate links to support this blog, my traveling habit, and my special-needs dog.

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Author: Solo Travel Girl

Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., a hiking trail led Jennifer Huber, aka: Solo Travel Girl, to a career path in tourism. She has worked in the tourism industry for more than 20 years including 10 years with a park management company in Yellowstone, Death Valley and Everglades National Park. She currently lives in Southwest Florida, and maintains this travel blog with the goal of inspiring others to travel alone, not lonely.

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