At Duff's, Buffalo's Best Chicken Wings May Eat You

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Duff's Famous Wings
3651 Sheridan Dr, Amherst, NY 14226
Web: Duff's Famous Wings
Phone: 716.834.6234
Rating:    [learn more]
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You wouldn't guess from the exterior of this Sheridan Drive, Amherst restaurant that it is and has for years been Buffalo's very best place to get authentic chicken wings. Walking inside won't change that impression: Duff's looks like a greasy sports bar minus the sports, with well-worn chairs, and tables that occasionally betray the oils of those who ate before you. But when your wings are delivered, bright red, and quite possibly soaking in a rich sauce unlike any you have experienced, you will without question understand what a true Buffalo chicken wing is supposed to taste like, and why virtually all of the world's other restaurants struggle to either come close or vaguely approximate this experience. It's not about the ambience. Duff's is all about delivering flavor, and spice, in drumstick doses. Order right, and you'll eat the best Buffalo-style chicken wings anywhere. But order wrong, and these wings will eat you. Seriously.

The Story: The history of the Buffalo chicken wing dates back to 1964, when Teressa Bellissimo invented the now famous snack at metropolitan Buffalo's Anchor Bar. Five years later, a geographically distant tavern called Duff's began to sell its own version of the chicken wing, eventually becoming more famous for its wings than its drinks. While the Anchor Bar has changed ownership and, apparently, recipes, Duff's has remained consistent over the years, offering wings in a wide variety of spice levels that are predictable up until their peaks: "suicide" and "death" sauces. Ten years ago, Duff's franchised its first location to Toronto, Canada-based entrepreneurs, a second Toronto location is now open as well. The brief menu consists of wings, french fries, onion rings, Beef on Weck and chicken sandwiches, soft drinks and beer. This is one of very few places in Buffalo where you can get textbook-quality wings, Beef on Weck, and loganberry in the same place, though many other places offer two or three at lower levels of quality.

Highs: All of Duff's items are close to perfectly executed; unless you're thinking of ordering the very hottest wings, you're safe picking anything on this menu. Wings, particularly the hot ones, arrive quickly in brown bowls that are roughly a third or half filled with sauce, enabling the large, meaty pieces of chicken to stay moist rather than drying out or tasting predominantly greasy. Virtually no other place is this generous with sauce, and certainly no one else makes it as well; for spicy food, this is surprisingly rich in flavor.

Duff's offers one of the most graduated spiciness scales of any restaurant we've visited, including places in global spice capitals such as Thailand, China, and Mexico. By way of disclaimer, the restaurants advertise that "Medium is hot, Medium Hot is very hot, and Hot is very, very hot," but the waitresses elucidate additional gradations, such as Mild, Mild Medium, and Medium Mild, the latter a very good starting point for wing novices who appreciate spicy foods.

It's worth only a brief note that the classic Beef on Weck sandwich is executed here with understated accuracy, its top bun salty enough to make you consider a quick scrape. Similarly, we always order drinks here by the small or large pitcher, and the loganberry is a particularly nice accompaniment to the strong salty or spicy offerings; french fries and rings are also delicious spice-stoppers, though their added grease can be a put-off after eating a bunch of wings.

Lows: We come at the following sentence from the perspective of serious spice enthusiasts - long-time fans of Duff's hot wings, and even hotter suicide wings: there is something wrong with Duff's newest "death" wings. When we say "wrong," let's be clear - we aren't criticizing Duff's for offering a super-hot level of spice, but rather for its inconsistency, which on one occasion was slightly hotter than suicide, yet on another was the culinary equivalent of battery acid. If death wings were predictably hot, they could be ordered or ignored with confidence, but served with such varying levels of spice, they are downright dangerous; ten wings from the latter batch wreaked such havoc on this writer's upper digestive system that it was uncomfortable to eat anything spicy for a month. We've capped our subsequent orders at "hot" or "suicide," and would strongly advise readers to do the same.

Duff's only other low is its ambience: the 1946-vintage Sheridan location makes little attempt to look like a modern, clean establishment, almost reveling in its black electrical-taped chairs and the grease spots that dot its tables. If memory serves, there's been next to no significant renovation inside in decades, and these or similar pieces of furniture have been around for at least 20 years. The focus is most definitely on the food, particularly the wings, and in all honesty, the continued reasonable pricing - as well as the fact that just enough parking always seems to be available - almost justifies the lack of aesthetic appeal.

The Verdict: Duff's is, at least for now, the very best place to get chicken wings in Western New York, and probably the only restaurant we'd recommend locally as a one-stop tourist destination for accurate wings, Beef on Weck, and loganberry. We loved it when we grew up here, made it the first place we visited when we lived out of town, and today, it's high on our list of "must-try's" when friends come to visit. In our view, Duff's is now far better than the Anchor Bar from which it learned its signature dish, and for residents and visitors alike, it's highly recommended.

Duff's Sheridan Patio on Urbanspoon


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Comments (15)

Stan Polonski :

I have a problem with your review in that you define Duff's as "textbook" wings. Duff's has been around for a long time, but I would argue that textbook wings are more crisp and tend to be of the dryer version than gotten from Duffs. As a matter of fact, there are legions of Buffalonians who add on the "crspy" to thier wing order since the rubbery saucy wing that is Duff's and others are not too their liking.

As a wing eater for 30 years, I must state that there are much better wings traditional wings out there, like at "9-11" in South Buffalo, Bar Bill's in East Aurora, Faherty's in West Seneca, and many others

Once you account for the many levels of spice that a wing can take on, and of course, personal preferences for type of flavor and so on, there could be infinite points of disagreement over what is "textbook." We would argue that Duff's wings are pretty close to perfect, primarily because of the flavor of the hot sauces, and that they achieve the right general balance of crispiness and flavor. And we're obviously not alone in this belief, as Duff's has achieved a level of local and national/international acclaim on the strength of its food... certainly not the decor. But everyone's entitled to their own opinion, and if you like your wings even more dry, then enjoy. :-)

Bill :

Duff's are perfect wings. Period.

I've lived in California, Florida, and Vermont... and traveled many other locations... there's nothing quite like fishing around in a bowl of hot sauce to pull out your next wing.

Anchor Bar started it, Duff's perfected it.

Jim Wilson :

Having family in Buffalo is a wonderful thing. It is a long drive from Boston and the anticipation of getting to Duffs is the only exciting part of our journey. After stopping at Auntie Em's and Uncle Ray's it is straight to Duff's. There is no better saucier wing from here to Buffalo. We've tried many spots around the area and those crunchie things can not be considered as Buffalo, find a new name. Hot and saucy is the only way to go!

Dave Botticelli :

As the manager, and step-son of Ron Duff, I have to make a comment to correct you. Our Death sauce is always the same and never changed. I know I make it. I have never change the ingredients nor would I ever. Yes the sauce is more acidic, but thats whats it's supposed to be. Its not meant to be a nice sauce, hence calling it Death. I am working on a hotter sauce than that, but it may take time to get it right. But other than that, I really apprecite the review as does my family. Thank You

Thank you, everyone, for your comments!

Dave, you have a fantastic restaurant - congratulations on your well-deserved success. (And on your Food Network wing judging gig, which we saw!)

We visit Duff's roughly once every month or two, more frequently if we have guests in town (as we did this past week), so we are very familiar with the sauces there. I personally order Suicide every time and can eat 15 or 20 wings (depending on appetite, not spice) before taking even a sip of a drink. My palate is able to handle almost anything, given some of the insane hot sauces I've tried in various cities, countries, etc.

On the two occasions we tried the Death sauce, I can tell you for sure that it was different, the first time very spicy but manageable, the latter time at a level that was seriously brutal. Based on what I tasted, the average person wouldn't have been able to finish one full wing, let alone five. I had five or six and then had to stop. It took 11 before I couldn't go any further. Was the difference between my experiences by design or by accident? I'm not sure, but accidents do happen.

In any case, you make the best wings in town, and have for years. Keep up the great work!

Alex Diaczenko :

I just wanted to comment on Stans post about how many other places are better than duffs. I do agree that Bar Bill has some awesome chicken wings, but this review was about Traditional Buffalo Wings. When someone thinks of traditional, they think of Franks Red Hot with butter and a few spices. Duffs has the best Buffalo Wings, PERIOD. They could remodel the whole building and make it all fancy like the Orchard Park location ( which I visit more often because it has more space and never a wait.) But remember the Sheridan Drive Location is in Amherst, its expensive to own anything in amherst, let alone get a building permit and expand on a lot where they have barely any space to expand on. I like the duffs on sheridan exactly how it is, its there for the wings, not to be all pretty.

Anyways, Bar Bill's Buffalo Sauce is not traditional at all. They are ok for buffalo wings, but if you seperate wings into 2 catergories. 1. Buffalo Wings and 2. Chicken wings, we can have a debate. Bar Bill has some awesome sauces and wings, such as sicilian and spicy bbq. They make great chicken wings and non-traditional sauces, i visit bar bill often when its not busy, otherwise its a pain to even get a seat. If you like your wings super crispy and dry, then just order from any local pizza place around here, minus La Novas. The places i usually go for wings are of course Duffs, Amherst Ale House ( N. French Rd), Elmos ( near UB on millersport), La Novas is always good, and i can keep adding to the list. Duffs for the best traditional buffalo wing, the end.

Bob :

Duff's wings are good. I don't think they're the best I ever had, but I like them.

Why isn't there a Duff's location in the City of Buffalo? It makes sense.

Phil :

If you're looking for ambiance while getting the same wings, Duff's does have a location in Orchard Park as well...same wings but a fun sports bar with gorgeous and friendly waitstaff

We've reviewed the Orchard Park and new Depew Duff's, as well. The O.P. one isn't quite the same; the Depew store is closer.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater :

Incidentally, whenever I get back to Buffalo, Duff's is a non-negotiable requirement.

And if I have time, Mighty Taco.

I do wish Duff's would consider more locations in the US though, "Buffalo Wild Wings" is about as good as the rubbish that passes for pizza in Buffalo..

lawrence neely :

I saw your restaurant on food network and me and my wife love the look of your wing so much that we re going to visit soon.

Jeff :

I ate my first Buffalo wing at the original Duff's location back in '82.... Come March 2010, 28 year (and a gazillion or so wings) later, I'm returning to the scene of the crime.

Ray :

Just wondering if the product is the same for the Duff's Wings in Western New York to the one in Toronto, Canada. Can anyone comment who has tried both?

Channing :

I have been to Amherst 3 times in the last ten years it's always been the best wings. In 2007 I went to Orchard Park the server screwed up the order the wings came out with no sauce. The blue cheese was not as good either. I am coming out to Buffalo this year is Amherst as good as ever?? MR Boston

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