Chicken Wing Tournament of Champions: Day Five Recap

Written by Tom & Donnie (but mostly Tom)

If this tournament were a car, day four would be found interesting he side of the road dead with four big blowouts.

South Buffalo’s own Doc Sullivan’s took an early and commanding lead against Amherst’s Loughrans and didn’t let up. I remember my first experience at Doc Sullivan’s. I ended up there mid afternoon after a day Tim Whalen was behind the bar and poured me the most perfect Guinness of my life. I didn’t really know there was a certain way to pour Guinness. I just knew that every one I’ve had before that was weird.

With that said, I started getting hungry and was encouraged by many of my fellow bar patrons to order the wings because they were “the best wings in town.” I immediately scoffed at this. Partly because I’ve heard that a few hundred times. Also because it’s an Irish bar. And while I love your beer and whiskey… Irish food doesn’t excite me. The wings came, and they had some sort of unfamiliar spice to them. Not hot, but more like something out of moms pantry. Nutmeg? Is it nutmeg? Clove? Something’s going on with those wings. I wasn’t sure what to do at first. Then I couldn’t stop eating them. There’s something special about those wings that are worth a visit if you haven’t had them yet. Unique enough to keep them on this list. But maybe too odd or non traditional to get into the final four.

I’ve eaten at Loughrans and enjoyed it. In fact, that’s one of my favorite places for lunch when I’m on that part of main Street. but this was a tough South Buffalo tavern to go up against.

Picasso’s vs La Bella Sicilia.

Another match up near and dear to my heart. I have been going to La Bella Sicilia since I was a wee lad. The quintessential red sauce joint in Cheektowaga, you can find your favorite iceberg lettuce and lunch meat antipasto, warm rolls with frozen butter packets you have to sit on to be able to spread, and ginormous meatballs that are so big, my parents used to split one. Well, they also have great wings and I was one of those that requested they get into the mix here. Alas, they got crushed by the mighty Picasso’s. If you have an opportunity and are in the Harlem and Genesee area – perhaps visiting a grandparents tombstone – grab some wings for lunch here sometime.

Picasso’s is actually one of our go-to pizza joints. They probably sum up the basics of what Buffalo pizza is and most people can enjoy it without getting into a best of argument. Their wings are definately good as well. Nothing extraordinary but well prepared and sauced. And also very consistent. Regardless of the location or time of day, they put out a steady product. I have an issue with their pre-packaged blue cheese, and I feel that this will count them out in later rounds. But Picasso’ and their many locations absolutely deserve a seat at this buffet.

Gabriels Gate vs Thirsty Buffalo.

I’ve had Thirsty Buffalo wings and they are fine. I know they have a considerable happy hour following and I don’t have any real criticisms…

But Gabriel’s Gate is number one seeded for a reason. When I was employed downtown in the mid 90’s for the Tripi Family at the Best Western on Delaware, I worked with this great guy named Hank. He walked to work every day and knew Buffalo, Allentown, and Elmwood village back before it was cool. Being from the Suburbs, I didn’t have a lot of exposure to any of that, but Hank got me up to speed on all of the hot spots to dine. When he heard me recommending Anchor Bar to some guests, he pulled me aside and admonished my mortal sin. “In the hotel business, we are ambassadors for Buffalo. Our job is to show people what they don’t know, and help them discover our city.” I was left with instructions to walk immediately to Gabriel’s Gate (it was around the corner ) after my 3-11 shift ended and have wings and a beer.

Well, after a few beers, and 20 of some of the best wings I’ve ever had, I was enamored with the place. It’s creeky floors and odd kitchen and bar placement… It was endearing. I had cooked at a few pizza joints by this point and I couldn’t figure out what they were doing with their wings. They were huge, but also crispy and juicy. They held their sauce without drowning in it. I sent folks there in droves after that, and it remains one of my favorite places to go – and a tough number one seed to beat.

Buffalo Sports Garden vs Vito’s Avenue

For Orchard Park locals like myself (Donnie), it was a shock when the old <insert name of Italian first name pizzeria> turned into BSG and really took off. For years it seemed like no one could figure that spot on Southwestern out. But when BSG really got going, it gave the locals a place where they could watch a Sabres game on nearly three dozen TV’s while they enjoyed a variety of fried foods. Long before Buffalo Eats started, it was a place that I’d go with my Dad to crush some loaded waffle fries or the bar that I’d meet up with high school friends who were in town visiting family during their Christmas/Thanksgiving break from college. But aside from those very specific reasons, it was never a go to place. Maybe because the Sabres started sucking shortly after and its just incredibly depressing to watch those games with other people.

I can’t remember any specific wing memories but judging by how thoroughly they crushed Vito’s in North Tonawanda, I can only image that they must be doing something right.