An Open Letter to Anchor Bar Haters in Western New York
Are you like so many people in Western New York and hate on The Anchor Bar? Here's why you should think twice.
Buffalo's Favorite Wing Spots
Bar Bill. Duff's. Elmo's. Gabriel's Gate. Nine-Eleven Tavern. Wingnutz. Kelly's Corner. Sal's Lounge. Doc Sullivan's. There are so many places to list and these are just a handful of the best places in Buffalo to get the delectable chicken wing made right. Some of those places are well-known around the country. Others are only known by locals. The most well-known around the world, though, is The Anchor Bar. It's where wings were invented (allegedly). Whenever you see wings being made in Buffalo on an NFL broadcast, for example, the place they are filming is more often than not The Anchor Bar. Yet, it's rarely talked about in Buffalo as a favorite spot. What happened?
Why The Anchor Bar isn't Beloved by People in Buffalo
It's difficult to point to one reason as to why the birthplace of the chicken wing fell out of favor locally, but there are some consistent complaints you'll hear from locals. One of the most prominent is that it has become too much of a tourist destination. Everyone from out of town wants to go there, but it's almost like that's too predictable.
There's also the fact the original location, which is where you would want to go, is downtown. That's a big turn-off for a lot of people for various reasons. Some are not so flattering. Still, it's not in a spot people want to necessarily go to.
Also, because it's a tourist destination, it feels good for a lot of Western New Yorkers to say, "That's not where you get wings. Let me tell you where we have to go instead."
Everyone wants to feel like they are in the know. A local expert, of sorts. It's a fun and ego-driven thing to tell out-of-towners you know better. Hey, maybe you do. Maybe you don't, though. Regardless the psychology of it makes sense because everyone in every city and community with a known food has the same take: let's go to this place instead of the known one because this is where REAL people from here go.
There's also the sauce controversy. Anchor Bar famously got rid of the original hot sauce used on chicken wings: Frank's Red Hot. They replaced it with their own line of sauces, which they market in their restaurant and in stores. It's a money grab that upset a lot of Western New Yorkers because they felt like Anchor Bar sold out.
Finally, people often say the quality has gone downhill. That's a hard thing to objectively prove, to be honest. Lots of people enjoy their wings when they go, and the truth is everyone is quick to latch on to the negative before the positive. Ergo, one person complaining about a bad time they had gets around fast, while the stories of the food being good aren't as interesting. So, people don't pay attention to the good stories. We see this in everything today. Negative always takes precedence.
Are Anchor Bar WIngs Good or Bad?
Now, let's be honest. Everyone has their own preferences. This author's favorite is Bar Bill. Growing up in East Aurora, and having them before they took off as a major player in the wing game, I believe they are the best. Does that mean they are, in fact, the best? Of course not. You may prefer Duff's or Elmo's or any of the above-listed (or not) places to get chicken wings. That's, of course, perfectly fine. Whatever you like the most is valid.
However: The Anchor Bars wings are good.
When was the last time you actually went to the original Anchor Bar location? They have tried franchising, and some of that has gone poorly, which isn't surprising. Secondary, and beyond, locations rarely are able to repeat the magic of the original spot for various reasons. When, though, was the last time you actually went to the original spot? I've talked to dozens of people who have gone, myself included, and all of them said the same thing: Anchor Bar's wings are VERY GOOD. They were crispy, large, well-sauced, and delicious. The service was fantastic. Prices were elevated as are all food costs these days, but not so much that it doesn't compare to other well-known wing spots around the region.
To Anchor Bar Haters in Buffalo, New York
You don't have to say they are the best. That's your prerogative. Give it another shot, though. If you don't like them for getting touristy, that's not a good reason to always avoid it. It's not always filled with tourists. It gets busy as any other good restaurant does during peak times.
Anchor Bar should be looked at with pride by all of us in Western New York for creating the chicken wing. By franchising and bottling their sauce, they are spreading the good word about Buffalo food to the masses. That's nothing to be ashamed of and, after all, they are a business. Businesses need to make money. You can't fault them for trying to do that by expanding and bottling.
The Anchor Bar makes great wings. Maybe not your favorite, but at the VERY LEAST you should consider them to be good wings. Don't fall for the trap of trying to sound like you know more than others. Be honest and don't throw hate at them. Give them another shot. You won't regret it.
Anchor Bar did NOT pay for this article. They did NOT influence me to write it.