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The Accidental Invention of Chicken Wings, America’s Favorite Bar Food

1960s | August 15, 2018

The Anchor Bar, 2007

Who doesn’t love chicken wings? They are the perfect bar food…versatile and handy. You can order hot and spicy wings, or mild wings, and any hotness in between. Chicken wings are meant to be eaten with your hands and they are delicious with an ice, cold beer to wash them down. Chicken wings are on the menu of most casual dining restaurants. In fact, there are countless restaurants across the country devoted to the chicken wing, as well as hundreds of chicken wing cookbooks. Truly, chicken wings are part of the American culture. It is hard to realize that chicken wings have only been on the scene for a little more than fifty years and that they were originally considered a throw-away part of the chicken. That is until a happy accident led to the creation of one of America’s favorite bar food.

Buffalo Chicken Wings didn't Originate from Bison

The invention of chicken wings occurred in Buffalo, New York, at the Anchor Bar in 1964. The bar’s owner, Teressa Bellissimo, mistakenly ordered a case of chicken wings when she meant to order a case of chicken necks, which her husband, Frank Bellissimo, used to make the Anchor Inn’s famous spaghetti sauce. Teressa was furious with her mistake and wanted to contact the distributor and demand that he take back the worthless chicken parts but the easy-going Frank told her to accept her error.

Wings Were Considered the Most Worthless Part of the Chicken

Prior to 1964, chicken wings were scraps leftover when the chicken was cut up. They were either discarded or sold for mere pennies to poor families who would make them into soup. When she received a case of chicken wings by accident, Teressa Bellissimo considered making soup for her customers at the Anchor Inn, but there were too many wings. It would have made way more soup stock than her patrons could possibly consume. The resourceful Teressa was determined to find a way to make an edible dish out of the wings.

The Buffalo Chicken Wing is Born

After the Anchor Inn closed one night, Teressa cut a batch of chicken wings in half to make a tiny drummy and a flat part. She kept them unbreaded and deep fried them. After they were cooked, she added hot sauce and arranged them with stalks of celery and blue cheese dressing. She served this dish to her son, Dominic, and a group of his friends. They loved the late-night snack so much that Frank and Teressa added the chicken wings to the menu at the Anchor Inn.

Within a week, the people of Buffalo had found a new favorite food. The Bellissimos reported that people flocked to the Anchor Inn for an order of the Buffalo chicken wings. Soon, other restaurants in the Buffalo area started serving their own version of wings to their patrons. The chicken wing was born!

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Karen Harris

Writer

Karen left the world of academic, quitting her job as a college professor to write full-time. She spends her days with her firefighter husband and four daughters on a hobby farm with an assortment of animals, including a goat named Atticus, a turkey named Gravy, and a chicken named Chickaletta.