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ATK Kids

Who Really Invented Buffalo Wings?

The answer is not as straightforward as you might think.
By and Published Feb. 23, 2022

I love buffalo wings. Like, seriously. Love love. Give me some blue cheese dip to dunk them in and I could probably eat more than a dozen in one sitting. But as I’m chowing down, I often wonder: Who came up with this incredible combination anyway?

That’s a question we decided to get to the bottom of while developing our Buffalo Chicken Dip recipe for ATK Kids’ newest cookbook, The Complete Cookbook for Teen Chefs. This scoopable dip features all the things that make buffalo wings so irresistible—tender chicken, spicy hot sauce, creamy ranch dressing, and tangy blue cheese. Pick up a copy of the book for the full recipe, and read on for the interesting backstory. You’ll wow everyone at your next party with the dip and with your newfound knowledge of buffalo wing trivia.

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Most people believe that Teressa Bellissimo, co-owner of Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York, created the original buffalo wings. The story goes that late one Friday night in 1964, Teressa’s son Dominic brought a group of hungry friends to the bar and asked his mom to make them something to eat. Allegedly, Teressa cut up some chicken wings—which would usually go into the stock pot for soup—fried them, doused them in a spicy mystery sauce, and served them with blue cheese dressing. Word got around, and people have been flocking to Anchor Bar for those wings ever since.

But many others believe John Young, then-owner of John Young’s Wings & Things (also in Buffalo) is the actual inventor. In 1963, John started selling his wings, fried whole (instead of the two smaller pieces you normally see) and topped with mumbo sauce, a spicy tomato-based condiment. 

According to his wife, John was friends with Teressa’s husband Frank, who might have eaten those wings himself and passed on the idea. John left Buffalo in the late '60s and then spent years running food trucks in Illinois and wing shops in Tulsa, Oklahoma. By the time he returned to Buffalo in the '80s, Anchor Bar was well established as the name of the game for wings in town. Wings & Things has been gone a long time, but many Buffalo residents can still remember John Young—and his cooking.

While buffalo wings’ origin story remains contentious, their spicy flavor lives on—and their deliciousness, for me at least, is indisputable. 

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