Saturday, September 21, 2013

Anchor Bar - Buffalo, New York

The Lonely Planet guide described Buffalo as a Rust Belt town. It was right. Driving through downtown, we saw shuttered buildings, ghosts of what once was, a sobering reminder of what can become of a vibrant city when the jobs dry up and people leave.

But then we turned a corner and saw life, a crowd, a pulse. What we saw was Downtown Buffalo's still beating heart: Anchor Bar.

If you don't already know this, Anchor Bar is the place where Buffalo Wings were invented back in the sixties. The story is on the front flap of the menu, but it pretty much boils down to this: it was late, they ran out of food, but someone came in hungry, so the owner whips up something from what ingredients she had left over--wings, butter and hot sauce--and fifty years later, the wings are everywhere, an indelible part of American cuisine.

The restaurant, which seemed to have built around an actual bar as demand for the wings increased, has old, rusty license plates tacked up on the wall, real motorcycles and various bric-a-brac that has been copied as a design element in places just like this.

My first visit was almost twenty years ago and I only remembered that I thought the wings tasted like, well, wings. So I prepared my lovely travel companion not to expect something life-changing. They're still Buffalo wings after all, a dish everyone already knows and thus, have formed their own biases and requirements.

Mine is simple: it must be well-fried, and served seconds after being lifted from the oil. And these were. The first few wings I sunk my teeth into singed my upper palate, and cooked in oil so hot, the skin crackled and smelled almost burnt.

But then we over-ordered. We opted for the 20-count tray. "Yeah, we could finish 10 each!" we said. "No problem!" we said. But then, five wings into it, she looks at me sheepishly, a look with which I'm all too familiar by now--she had hit her limit.

"No! Really? I have to finish fifteen wings?" I said, looking at the pile and suddenly feeling very queasy. Luckily, I ordered them Medium hot, which doesn't even register on any sort of scale. So mild were the wings, they might as well be plain. But this still didn't make that twelfth wing any easier to swallow, especially because we'd ordered their house potato wedges and gulped down a bowl of Buffalo Wing soup (a creamy sort of chowder with a Tabasco tang) before this whole thing started.

As we were leaving I said to her: "If I see another Buffalo Wing this year, it'll be too soon."

1047 Main St
Buffalo, NY 14209
(716) 886-8920

Surfas Culinary District - Costa Mesa


At 10:29 AM, Anonymous MikeHu said...

Edwin, you can't have over-ordered if you didn't add a "Beef on Weck." Anyway, I wish I had some of your leftovers right now (because Buffalo Wild Wings here in OC won't do)! Thanks for doing the Anchor Bar. And, yeah, downtown Buffalo, especially on a weekend, is pretty "erie." (sorry)

At 10:28 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Ah! I think I would've tried the Beef on Weck if I'd known Anchor Bar served it! Oh well, next time! It took me nearly fifteen years before I went back to the Buffalo area...hopefully the town hangs in there until I visit it again in 15 years!


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