Have you ever wondered where and when the phenomenon of dipping chicken wings into blue cheese began? To tell you the truth, I never really quite thought about it… until now.
Thanks to The Buffalo History Museum and Library Director Cynthia Van Ness, we finally have the answers to one of the biggest mysteries of all time. It all started when Van Ness set out on a “restaurant menu collecting initiative,” which is what led her to the fascinating discovery. As part of her task to document Buffalo’s food traditions, she uncovered some telltale findings that she surmised might have led the owners of The Anchor Bar to add blue cheese and celery to their fiery plates of wings.
Van Ness has collected nearly a dozen Anchor Bar menus from 1955 to 2010 that trace its journey from a humble neighborhood restaurant to a Mecca for wing lovers from around the world.
Van Ness traces her findings back nearly six decades ago. As museum researchers combed through old Anchor Bar menus, they noticed that wings were first served at the restaurant in 1964. Around that same time, another menu item of interest happened to be an appetizer described as blue cheese stuffed celery (this dish pre-dates the wings on The Anchor Bar menus).
The assumption is that Buffalo chicken wing originator (this is disputed) – Teressa Bellissimo – added the refreshing appetizer to her new wing creation, to offset the heat of the hot sauce.
I think it’s fascinating that Van Ness has taken up the charge to delve into the history of Buffalo’s notable restaurants and their offerings. I am sure that there will be plenty more discoveries to be found.
“Everybody has food traditions, and if you aren’t documenting food traditions, you’re missing a big part of your city’s history,” Van Ness said.
Just in time for Super Bowl Sunday, we now know the early beginning of the pairings between the wing and its accompaniments. And you will notice that there is no mention of ranch dressing, because Buffalonians don’t believe in the bastardization of their beloved food groups.
The Buffalo History Museum Library is interested in collecting more Anchor Bar menus, placemats, matchbooks, receipts, and personal photos. Further inquiries can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lead image: Photo by Israel Albornoz