So in last week’s blog I wrote about the “birth” of buffalo wings, which has been (almost) indisputably attributed to Teressa Bellisimo at Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York in 1964. But like all great things, there is always that “touch of gray” controversy.
While we all know and appreciate that mouthwatering Louisiana hot sauce and butter combination that has become known at the “buffalo” flavor, Anchor Bar didn’t necessarily become the first restaurant to market chicken wings. That designation might just go to a man by the name of John Mack Young, who opened a restaurant called John Young’s Wings “n” Things - also in Buffalo, NY - somewhere between 1960-1963.
While frequented mostly by the black community, Young’s restaurant didn’t feature wings in the same way. Unlike Anchor Bar, who separated the wings into drums and flats, and used a buffalo hot sauce, John Young’s Wings “n" Things used the entire full wing, breaded and fried, and topped with what they called "Mambo Sauce."
According to John Young, who passed away in 1998, “If the Anchor Bar was selling chicken wings nobody in Buffalo knew about it then.”
Mambo sauce, more of a ketchup-based vinegar sauce, spread quickly to Chicago and is now claimed to be the national treasure of Washington, DC. where it can now be purchased as “Capital City Mambo Sauce.” And it’s pretty good! Yes, the Wingaddicts have some! It is sometimes referred to as “mumbo sauce” as it has evolved over the years.
Up through 1975, there isn’t much published information regarding chicken wings. Although in 75’ a Buffalo transplant in South Florida named Edmund Hauck opened up the first chain of restaurants that specialized in wings, called Wings N’Curls. Over 17 years, this franchise spread out into Florida, Indiana, and California with 18 locations. It sold wings in different sauce varieties, including (the most-popular), buffalo.
As Wings N’Curls was expanding, a second franchise was born in Florida in 1983 making wings a central part of its menu. It was called Hooters. It was then, during the latter half of the 80’s, that buffalo wings “took off.”
The rest is history, as they say. Who gets the credit? Who cares? Clearly both the Bellisimo family and The Wing King John Mack Young were instrumental in what has become a world-wide delicacy. And both own a rightful place in the National Chicken Wing Hall of Flame!
Wings up, to both of them!