2011 National Chicken Wing Festival

On Saturday Alli and I made our way to the National Chicken Wing Festival.  Over the past few years our enjoyment of the festival has gone back and forth between love and hate.  It always seems to be ridiculously hot (Saturday was no exception) and the idea of roaming around with a bunch of tourists to try wings from out of town restaurants never really made sense to me (and there’s never anywhere to sit to eat the wings! hint: put tables right on the field) That said, last year was decently enjoyable and this year was just as much if not more.  Sure we enjoyed some perks that normal attendees didn’t, but all in all it actually was a good time and we were pleasantly surprised by the number of great wing sauces we discovered.  Buffalo.com will be releasing a video of our adventure later this week but in the mean time, here are some of the highlights from our time at Wingfest.

We started the day off interviewing Buffalo Bill legend and future hall of famer Andre Reed.  He was there talking about his new sauce Over The Middle, which you can find at our local supermarkets (Wegmans, Dash’s).  He’s not just selling this thing to make money off his name, Andre is actually going out of his way to give back to the community.  Portions of the proceeds from the OTM sauce are going towards Kids Escaping Drugs.  Look for more about Andre Reed and his sauce on the site in the coming days and if you want to find out more check out the OTM website, facebook page or follow Andre on twitter now!

That wasn’t our only interview, we then met with The Ultimate Wingman Ryan Hohman who is on a mission to eat 2011 wings in the year 2011.  As you can see on his sign, he was at 1327 when we ran into him but he ended up eating about 70 wings in his 3 days in Buffalo.  Ryan got on stage on Sunday with the “Wing King” Drew Cerza and Mayor Byron Brown who invited Ryan to come back to Buffalo on December 31st so that he could eat wing number #2011 on the steps of City Hall. We met up with Ryan later that night and he’s a really cool guy so we highly suggest you keep track of Ryan’s progress on his website, facebook page or follow him on twitter.

After we finished our interviews, we got down to business and started eating some wings.  It’s important to say that when you are going to the Wingfest you are really just trying out what sauces these places are offering.  Everyone is getting distributed basically the same wing and aside from extra grilling by some places, they were all the same size/crispy-ness/etc.  Serving wings outdoors on a baseball field isn’t the most ideal scenario for restaurants, especially if things slow down and these wings are just sitting in sauce for lengthy periods of time so I get why the festival runs how it does.  That said, it’s hard to really judge anything but sauces and you really can’t know how the out-of-town places would cook the actual wings (or what type/size/quality of wings they would use) in their own restaurant.

We’ve posted a bunch of pictures on our facebook page (you can check out the gallery here) but here’s some of our favorites from the festival….

Pineapple Jerk from Super Wings

Mango BBQ Wings from Hurricane Wings

Cajun, Garlic, Blue Cheese Wings from Zebb’s

  • Hurricane Grill & Wings – Their Garlic Parmesan was fantastic, you could literally see pieces of chopped garlic on the wings and the parmesan was strong and hit you right in the mouth.  Normally, when we’ve had any type of wing with a garlic sauce, it was so subtle you could barely tell it was in there.  Not with these wings, there was no mistaking it.  Their Mango BBQ wings were also great, a really sweet sauce that was almost like candy.
  • Bocce Club Pizza – I know they are more famous for great pizza but their BBQ Wings (that were finished on a grill) were great. I now know that when I finally make my first visit to Bocce it will be for Pizza AND Wings.
  • Super Wings – This wing joint from Brooklyn incorporates a lot of Caribbean flavors into their sauces and their Pineapple Jerk really stood out.  These things were spicy, not in a hot sauce but in a dry spice kind of way, the pineapple was definitely hidden behind the spice assault but I really liked it.
  • Wings To Go – Their owner was pretty entertaining but their Sweet and Tangy Wings actually lived up to their hype.  Almost like a Sweet and Sour sauce that I’m used to with “Chinese” food, this wasn’t as thick but had some chili flakes in the sauce.
  • Zebb’s – I never associated Zebbs with anything besides Hamburgers and their toppings bar.  But apparently they make pretty good wings (or at least good wing sauce) as their Cajun/Garlic/Blue Cheese Wings were pretty damn awesome.  Alli went back for 2nds.

We ended the day with our friend/Hungry Hungry Buffaloes star Phil competing in the Amateur Wing Eating Contest which was quite fun and will be hitting the internet air waves soon as a Hungry Hungry Buffaloes episode.  The introduction and announcing that was performed by the hilarious George Shea and the lovely rapping skills of Eric “Badlands” Booker (of hamburger eating fame) really was something to be seen.

Overall, while I’m still not in love with the Wingfest, I have to say it’s not a bad way to spend a few hours on a long weekend.  Sure, it was crazy hot outside, you have to walk over gross chicken bones and there were some pretty corny DJ’s yelling into microphone’s all day.  But it’s only 5 bucks to enter and most booths are offering 3 chicken wings for 2 tickets, so it’s not really that expensive to try a bunch of new places.  We’ll definitely be going again next year and I now have a new respect for (some) Chicken Wing places that don’t call Buffalo their home.

2 thoughts on “2011 National Chicken Wing Festival

  1. Chas

    The event was lame. $6 beers and no fresh wings. All the wings at this event were fried up ahead of time and brought in, so they were all soggy. Buffalo can do better. The vendors probably weren’t allowed to bring fryers out onto the field. The the future organizers should hold this event in a different location. It also felt very empty inside, even though there were a lot of people. Add a $5 charge just to get in the place and you can see why I won’t return if its held at Coca-Cola field again.

    • Don Burtless

      If your looking for an affordable beer at any event in the summer time (outside of bars on Allen during the art fest) I think you won’t find it. The wings themselves are definitely not representing what a true Buffalo wing is. But I don’t see what other venue could hold so many vendors and I can’t imagine any place is going to let 30-40 individual deep friars inside.

      That said, this event is definitely not for everyone and I bet a large % of the attendees are from outside Buffalo.

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