In the 1960s, a black restaurateur named John Young opened Wings and Things in Buffalo, New York. Around the same time, a white couple named Frank Bellissimo and Teresa Bellissimo started selling chicken wings at Anchor Bar, about a mile away from Wings and Things. By the 1980s, the Bellissimos family had become famous for allegedly inventing the buffalo wing. In recent years, however, local historians tracing the history of the dish have drawn attention to the contributions of John Young and his predecessors.
Early Origins of Buffalo Wings
Chicken wings have long been used in both restaurants and home cooking around the country and around the world. The oldest known place to serve chicken wings in Buffalo is the Clarendon Hotel. A copy of the hotel’s menu of July 1, 1857 lists the appetizer as “chicken wings, fried”. In addition to this menu, Cynthia Van Ness, director of the library and archives at the Buffalo History Museum, found a recipe for chicken wings in an 1894 magazine. buffalo commercial advertiser.
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But chicken wings were more than just an appetizer at Buffalo. By the 1960s, Wings and Things, a black-owned restaurant in Washington, D.C., served chicken wings with mambo sauce. Sometimes spelled “mambo” or “mombo,” the sauce has its roots in Chicago and has since become associated with DC. It is also possible that John Young was inspired by this sauce when he began serving wings at his similarly named restaurant, Wings and Things in Buffalo in the 1960s.
It is unclear when Young opened the Buffalo Restaurant. He applied for a Wings and Things license in 1966, but according to interviews with Young and his former customers, he likely began selling food under that name before applying for the license. Either way, Young’s restaurants have become known for serving whole breaded chicken wings with Young’s own version of mambo sauce.
At some point in the mid-1960s, Frank Bellissimo and Teresa Bellissimo told Anchor Bar that they began offering their own version of chicken wings. Unlike Young’s wings, Anchor Bar’s wings are deep-fried, crumbled, and tossed with hot sauce. It is to this recipe that today’s buffalo wings are most similar. And it was Belissimos who was most credited with “inventing” the buffalo wings when this dish became popular in his 1970s and his 80s.
Who Takes Credit for Buffalo Wings?
Early media coverage of Buffalo Wing focused on Frank Bellissimo and Teresa Bellissimo. In 1972, buffalo evening news Highlighted the buffalo wings served by a couple. After that, the couple received even more national press. Associated Press cooking show articles, New Yorker in 1980.
However, Trillin also interviewed John Young, heard his story, and reported that Young disputed the theory that the Anchor Bar was the first to sell chicken wings in Buffalo.
Young moved to Illinois around 1970, but when he returned to Buffalo about a decade later, he was surprised by the number of restaurants serving so-called “buffalo wings.” He was also surprised that Anchor his bar claimed the title of being the first restaurant to serve chicken wings. Especially since Frank thought Bellissimo got the idea from him.
“In 1962 I was selling £5,000 of chicken wings,” Young said. courier express In a 1981 article. “Mr. Bellissimo used to come to my house and eat my chicken wings.”
Young’s advocacy helped secure his name as the first person to open a Buffalo restaurant centered around chicken wings. “He called it ‘Wings and Things.’ That’s his specialty. I think it definitely deserves his credit,” says Van Ness.
In 2020, Young’s daughter, Lina Brown Young, began serving her father’s recipe for chicken wings on Buffalo Bike Tours’ historic “Wing Ride.” The tour refers to John Young, who died in 1998, as the “King of Wings.”
The Buffalo Wings Joined Pizza And Became A Gameday Grab
In the 1970s, more restaurants in Buffalo began offering their own chicken wings. These wings pretty much followed the Anchor Bar recipe in that they were deep fried, crumbled and tossed with hot sauce. Often these wings were served with blue cheese dip and celery. But some restaurants have found new ways to serve them.
“There was at least one pizzeria in Buffalo, if not more, that started serving wings with pizza in the 70s,” says Brian Hayden, director of communications and community engagement at the Buffalo History Museum. The combination proved so popular that it is now “extremely popular in Buffalo for parties and game day celebrations where you can order both a sheet pizza and wings on the side.”
In the 1980s, more restaurants outside of Buffalo began selling their own Buffalo-style wings. The franchise Buffalo Wild Wings (originally named Buffalo Wild Wings & Weck) opened in 1982 in Columbus, Ohio. As the buffalo wings spread across the country, they became associated with football, especially the Super Bowl.
This increased demand for chicken wings has caused a serious shift in prices. When the Super Bowl started in 1967, buffalo wings would have been an inexpensive chicken option for game day food. Ironically, its growing popularity since then has made chicken wings one of the most expensive and sought-after parts of chicken.