Here's How Buffalo Wings Got Their Name

While the Buffalo Wild Wings logo includes a picture of an actual buffalo (or bison), there actually isn't any connection between the dish and the animal besides their name. Buffaloes, of course, are entirely wing-free beasties — even in mythology, there's never been such a thing as a Pegasuffalo. Instead, it's chickens who put the wings in Buffalo wings, and the name Buffalo comes from the city in upstate New York where the dish as we know it today originated almost 60 years ago.

Buffalo wings, so the story (as related by Time) goes, were invented when Anchor Bar owner Teressa Bellissimo found herself with a freezer full of chicken wings and a hungry son and decided to fry up the former and serve them to the latter. Before doing so, however, she decided to jazz them up with a spicy sauce made with Frank's RedHot and accompany them with celery sticks and blue cheese. (Sorry, ranch dressing and carrot stick fans, but those sides are just wrong.) While the Anchor Bar never dubbed their signature dish Buffalo wings, when this regional delicacy went nationwide a few decades later, somehow the "Buffalo" moniker got attached to the wings.

Buffalo wasn't wasn't the first city where hot wings were popular

While legend would have it that the Anchor Bar itself put chicken wings on the map, wings in a spicy sauce were not invented on that night back in 1964. Instead, as The Spruce Eats reveals, chicken wings were probably first eaten by the Black community in Chicago, Kansas City, and St Louis after the first wave of the Great Migration brought them north to work in meatpacking plants. Wings at that time were usually discarded, but these southern transplants worked their culinary magic on this free meat and turned it into a tasty treat.

Fast-forward a few years to the Al Capone era, when Chicago's speakeasies needed cheap eats to serve as a "free lunch" for anyone willing to plunk down a few bucks for bathtub gin –- chicken wings to the rescue! Even the spicy sauce can claim a Chicago origin. Chicken wings, it seems, retained their regional popularity even after Prohibition was over, and by the 1950s they were typically served with mumbo (or mambo) sauce, a condiment combining ketchup, vinegar, sugar, and red pepper. Mumbo sauce, however, is more of a spicy barbecue sauce than the classic concoction we know as Buffalo sauce, so for that reason (as well as the addition of blue cheese and celery) the Anchor Bar and its hometown can retain their status as the birthplace of the Buffalo wing as it is known and loved today.