Just when I thought that I knew everything that there is to know about the Buffalo wing, I ventured into what I am now calling “Valhalla for Wing Lovers”. This past Sunday I headed to The Dalmatia Hotel for brunch, despite being a bit apprehensive. Why apprehensive? Because the first time that I went, they were closed. The second time, the bartendress said that the cook didn’t show up, and that she would cook the food, but I might not be very happy with the result. The third time that I went (last year), it was closed. So I stopped trying for a while.
Just the other day, a friend of mine was raving about the place for brunch. That’s when I decided that I would give The Dalmatia Hotel one final try, and I am glad that I did. I was the first to arrive, which was great, because I got a chance to walk around the place, while getting to know Jess – a bartendress who started about six months ago. Jess told me that they were now firing on all cylinders, meaning that if they say they are going to be open and serving food, that’s exactly what’s going to happen.
As I walked around, talking to Jess and waiting for my brunch companion, I bumped into the doorman named Wolfman (a guy who sounds a lot like Wolfman Jack). Wolfman was busy sweeping up the back room – apparently it had been a wild night. Jess and Wolfman pointed out a chalk mural that was being sketched up by “MJ”, an artist who has intentions on working on the piece – dedicated to chicken wings of course – until the work takes up the entire wall.
Jess told me that work was also underway to spruce up the back room, which is where they have a pool table (free to play), a projector screen for Bills games, and plenty of room for private parties. She said that the owner was going to build a satellite bar in this room, to make it easier for customers to get a drink.
Eventually my friend showed up, so we grabbed a couple of bar stools and began to peruse the menu. Up until that point, I was not aware that The Dalmatia Hotel serves over 60 flavors of chicken wings. 60+! At first, I was not sure what to think. Being a fan of traditional hot wings, what was I to do? Thanks to some guidance from Jess, I decided to go off the deep end. I threw the chicken wing rulebook out the window and took her lead. My friend decided to do the same. Since I was drinking a Bloody Mary, Jess suggested that I try the Bloody Mary wing. The what? Yes, they have a Bloody Mary wing, but that’s just the beginning.
Ultimately, after discussing wing selections for half an hour (good thing the place wasn’t busy yet), I decided to try… the peanut butter and jelly wings? Why? Why not? I figured that I had to go for the gusto. My compadre ordered the honey sriracha Cajun wings. To tell you the truth, I was a bit nervous, but Jess calmed my nerves by serving up the almost perfect traditional Bloody Marys with plenty of horseradish (she could not find the celery salt).
Before we knew it, the wings were in front of us, and our lives, as we knew them, were about to change. Not only were the PB&J wings delicious on their own, they came with two dipping bowls – one filled with warm peanut butter and the other filled with warm jelly. It was at that point that I threw in the towel and declared that I finally understood all of hoopla about flavored wings. Jess was pretty proud that she had cooked the wings to perfection, because just at that point the cook walked in. “If you think my wings are good, then you have to try his,” she said. She also said that the cook, Dom, makes a suicide wing that will “melt your face off.” He calls them Dom’s Inferno Sauce. I felt kind of lame, listening about this crazy hot sauce that is made with Carolina reapers and ghost peppers, as I dipped my wing into the warm peanut butter. But I also didn’t care, because these wings were bad-ass in their own right thanks to Jess dousing them in PB&J and flash frying them, before throwing them on “the pit” and then re-saucing them. They were cooked to absolute perfection.
Hearing all of this talk about wings, Dom came out of the kitchen and declared that I needed to try a couple of his, so he prepared a sampling of two beef and weck wings with horseradish dip, two Penang curry beef wings with lime slices, and two apple pie wings with powdered sugar. Jess told me that I had to eat them as I would a dinner, by saving the apple pie wing for dessert. Oh my, what was I in for here? The beef on weck wings were pretty good, but I think they needed a few caraway seeds and au jus to make them perfect. The Penang curry beef wings were to die for – especially with an extra spritz of lime. While the apple pie wings were certainly the most bizarre of the day, they were absolutely delicious. All of the wings were cooked to perfection, and all of them tasted just as you might expect – their names say it all.
By the time I finished my last wing, my friend had left, and I was getting to know the regulars at the bar. And there are a lot of regulars to meet. The next thing that I knew, Shawn “Dad” Donovan (former co-owner of Casey’s on Amherst Street) walked in and bought a round for the bar. I don’t think in all my life I have ever seen someone buy a round for the entire bar… maybe a corner of the bar, or a few people at the bar, but not the entire packed bar. For a minute I felt like I was in the movie Barfly. That was about the time that I really began enjoying myself, and the company.
When I got to The Dalmatia Hotel that morning, it was 11:30am. When I left, it was around 3pm, which was definitely an extended stay. It’s been a long time since I hung out at a bar that was so friendly and comfortable. At one point I declared that it would be great to hear some Johnny Cash, and before I knew it the guy sitting next to me got up and went to the WiFi jukebox to play some Cash tunes. Typically, my wife and I have to go to South Buffalo to find corner bars such as this. Now there’s another winner in Riverside.
Here are a few other things that I learned along the way:
- There are probably more wing flavors here than anywhere else, and they keep adding to the menu
- They love The Bills – Jess plays the Shout Song whenever Buffalo scores
- There is a popcorn machine – free bowls of popcorn
- The food is all housemade – the fries are handcut
- There is karaoke on Saturdays
- Wing day specials occur on Monday, Thursday, and during Bills games (60 cent wings)
- There is a video bowling league with over 40 teams signed up
- They have a decent craft beer selection
- Depending on the bartender, food is served as long as the bar is open for late night food
- They are also known for their Sunday Hangover Special – bacon, egg and cheese on grilled Texas toast
I talked to numerous people at the bar that said that they will never eat a chicken wing anywhere else – once you try Dalmatia Hotel’s wings, you will be hooked, and I can see why. The bar patrons also told me that they all feel like a big family. Jess said that the bartenders always try to include everyone in the fun. Me? I can’t wait to go back for the wings, the bloodys, and to hang out with some of the nicest blokes a man could ever have the pleasure of knowing.
To learn more about the history of The Dalmatia Hotel, click here.