A few days before our arrival in Buffalo, N.Y., Joey sat beside me in the front of the car, pondering our arrival in this upstate city. If Buffalo is famous for anything I our minds, it’s the creation of one of the world’s most prolific members of the bar food family – Buffalo wings. These savory morsels can be found anywhere from Pizza Hut to your local sub shop, and their hot, spicy satisfaction has flowed through my digestive tract on more than a few occasions, and we felt it necessary to express our gratitude to this town in memorable fashion.
Joey’s idea was immaculate – eat wings for breakfast, lunch and dinner in Buffalo. As soon as the words left his mouth I was on board, which at that point meant Sarah’s opinion didn’t matter. Sorry Sarah.
So we strode bravely into Buffalo to take on their finest. A slightly late start brought us into town a little later than we’d planned – around noon – but by definition, breakfast can never come too late in the day; it’s simply the first meal after you wake up. One’s overnight fast is being broken, hence the word breakfast. Your English lesson for the day – that’ll be $500.
Breakfast was enjoyed courtesy of Buffalo’s Best Pizza & Wings, where we ordered the first wings of the day and had to wait for the fryers to heat up. We each ordered ten wings of different styles – I got hot, Sarah got Sicilian and Joey got honey BBQ.
Every breakfast should be like this. The wings were very large, larger than I’m typically accustomed to finding around Philadelphia. Joey was quick to thank the steroid-treated, genetically-engineered chickens whose wings we were presently enjoying. I was also intrigued and impressed by the stark grill marks on the wings, which, complemented by the fry cooking, made for some mighty delicious wingies. And each of our orders of ten were actually eleven, which was a nice touch by the cook.
While our stomachs churned through our first meal, we moved our bodies into the car and down the road some 30 or 45 minutes to Niagara Falls, along the U.S.-Canada border. Don’t fret – we had no intention of crossing over for any reason. We didn’t spend several planning meetings coming up with a clever moniker like America in 100 Days, only to wander into Canada for even a smidgen of those 100 days. They’re not even a real country, anyway. Seriously though, pulling into town, we eased ourselves into a parallel parking spot to elude the pains of $10 lot parking and walked a short distance to the Maid of the Mist. This is an awesome boat company that offers some striking views of the falls from an observation deck way up top, and then takes those sensational views to a whole new level once you’ve descended to the dock and boarded the ship.
The complimentary ponchos came in handy, to say the least, as we scuttled to the front of the ship and leaned over the railing eagerly toward the falls. The boat flied up quickly, and as we left the dock our captain began muttering incoherently over the loudspeaker in multiple languages. More importantly, the ship began to move toward the falls and left me a chance for some extreme snapshots.
The falls are considerably more intense at the bottom, a lesson I learned while the boat drifted fearlessly into the raging waters ahead. Shielding my camera, hat and glasses from certain peril, I held on tightly to the railing as rushes of water and mist beat against our faces. The boat sailed directly into the sheer whiteout at full steam, its efforts constantly rejected by the powerful cascading waters. This was easily the most physically exhilarating activity we’ve engaged in thus far, well worth the admission price and then some.
My heavy trigger finger kept us in the area for about fifty more photos before heading back to the car – with plenty of time remaining on our meter – to return to Buffalo for lunch. This delicious meal would be enjoyed at none other than Duff’s Famous Wings on Sheridan Drive. Though it’s not the originator of the Buffalo wing, this place is fairly well-known in its own right, so we tucked in to evaluate.
I immediately got the sense that living within regular visiting of Duff’s would be a terrible idea for a weak-willed fellow like yours truly. I can eat just about anything without packing on extra weight, and believe me, I try. But there’ll be a time in my life when that’s not the case, when I’ll have to watch my cholesterol intake and stupid crap like that. And I guarantee that when that time comes, I’ll be just as much a fan of restaurants with a huge bar, dozens of TVs, a video game room and wings in about fifteen different flavors, as I am now.
For that reason, Duff’s would be the end of me. We ordered a combo off the menu, which came with twenty wings, a heaping basket of cheese fries and a pitcher of whatever we wanted from the tap (Sam Summer, please). The back of our waitress’s shirt read, “Medium is hot, medium hot is very hot, hot is very, very hot,” so we went with hot for half our wings and a specialty flavor for the rest called Chiavetta. The hot was very hot but not suicidal, drowned in a thick red sauce and served in a wooden bowl (shown here). The Chiavetta wings had some kind of delicious dry rub on them, catapulting them to the top of my rating card for the day.
After another pitcher and a few rounds at a hunting game in the arcade, we dragged ourselves out the door and back into the car. The weather was so soggy that any outdoor activities would be a terrible idea, so with our stomachs near their breaking point, the next stop was none other than the world-famous Anchor Bar, where Buffalo wings were born decades ago.
We got a table and nursed a pitcher of Labatt Blue (simply due to our proximity to the border) while the last round of wings crawled through our digestive systems. The room filled up quickly, and our waitress told us to wave her down whenever we wanted food. It took a while. But when we finally mustered up the courage, our eyes fell on the spicy BBQ wings and, at Joey’s insistence, the Suicidal wings. The former were phenomenal, and the latter were extremely hot, as advertised, thanks to a healthy layering of crushed red and black pepper.
Apparently we’d ended up with some great seats, which we discovered upon the arrival of the night’s musical act at the piano directly next to our table. A gentleman in a fantastic suit took the microphone to sing some old Sinatra and Martin tunes, which he did very well, before taking a quick break to walk around the room and ask everyone where they were from. The majority of responses were out of state, lending a sort of clarity to the touristy nature of this particular establishment.
Though our original plan was to spend the night, we wanted nothing more than to forget about Buffalo and the delicious, shameful gorging we’d just put ourselves through. Once in the car, we looked for a hotel around the halfway point in Erie, Pa., only to find it considerably more expensive than driving all the way to Cleveland. Priceline gave us an incredible room at the Hyatt Regency downtown for a mere $50. We got there late and nobody was up and about, so I snapped a bunch of photos in the main concourse in complete solitude.
It was a ridiculous day from start to finish. Something tells me Cleveland would be just as fun.