What Are Buffalo Wings?

Buffalo wings get their name from their place of origin, Buffalo, New York, where the spicy morsels are called simply wings. The Anchor Bar is universally recognized as the birthplace of this most manly indulgence. The details of the legend vary, but the Anchor backs up this version: Late one Friday night in 1964, the owner’s son asked his mom to make his friends some bar snacks. She knocked around in the kitchen for a bit and emerged with two plates of chicken wings—she was making stock—that she’d deep-fried and doused in a hot sauce.

Although some—likely while chasing wings with pints at fraternity houses—have speculated that Buffalo wings come from small flying buffalo or tiny chickens, they are in fact made from regular chicken wings. The tips are discarded, and the two remaining sections are separated. Authentic Buffalo wings have no breading; they are deep-fried and then rolled in a mixture of butter and hot pepper sauce (e.g., Frank’s RedHot).

Buffalo embraced the snack, proclaiming July 29, 1977, Chicken Wing Day. Wing restaurants spread around upstate New York; snowbirds brought the concept to Florida—where in 1983 the Hooters chain was established on a wing-centric menu. Just over a decade later, Domino’s and Pizza Hut started hawking wings, and the pub grub became cemented in American food vernacular.

“Nationally, 20 billion wings are consumed every year, with 1 billion consumed on Super Bowl Sunday,” says wing king Drew Cerza, who founded the National Buffalo Wing Festival and recently squashed Bobby Flay in a wing Throwdown!

Nowadays, ordering wings is a bit like ordering coffee at Starbucks. At chains like Buffalo Wild Wings, Wing Zone, WingStreet, and Wingstop, you can get breaded wings, wings with garlic and Parmesan, Thai-flavored wings, and even boneless wings.