Buffalo Wild Wings: Ex-Pats Import Their Chicken Wing Chain

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Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar
5431 Transit Road, Williamsville NY 14221
Web: Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar
Phone: 716.636.6211
Rating:    [learn more]
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"This is a safe restaurant for a larger group of people, particularly if they like sports bars or want to try different foods; when you're out of town, it may be the best option available."

We knew it back in Ohio as BW3, the acronym for what was once Buffalo Wild Wings and Weck, a restaurant started in 1982 by Western New York expatriates in an attempt to bring their favorite local foods to their new home. Subsequently, BW3 dropped both the weck and the abbreviation, becoming Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar in 1998, and expanding far beyond its original locations into a legitimate national franchise. Though the individual locations are exceptionally inconsistent, with a California location offering wings we found only three steps shy of inedible, the chain's Transit Road location in Williamsville offers both reasonably tasty Buffalo-style chicken wings and a host of creative alternatives. Here, you can get wings soaked in Jamaican or Japanese sauces, American barbecue sauce or other chain-created flavors, all served alongside traditional bar foods in a sports bar-styled atmosphere. Though we wouldn't rate the wings as perfectly authentic, they're some of the best we've tested by chain standards, at least when they're properly prepared; Quaker Steak and Lube is, in our past experience, superior.

The Story: There are three Buffalo Wild Wings locations in Buffalo and its suburbs, and they all look like sports bars that just happen to be a little nicer inside than most bars. Tables, elevated barstool counters and big-screen TVs elevate the decor of these places over, say, Duffs, and though there's wait staff for food, drinks, and desserts, there's typically someone at a front counter ready for takeout orders and initial seating. One of the things you can take out: bottles of Buffalo Wild Wings' sauces, which are sold in 14 flavors, and attractively labeled - at this point, they're the marketing and menu highlight of this chain.

Highs: If you're looking to try a few different types of wings on a given visit, no problem. Batches of six wings ($4.59) can be ordered with a given flavor, including five Buffalo-styled Mild to Blazin' variants, with nine others that include barbecue, teriyaki, garlic parmesan, caribbean and mango flavors that are mild, medium, or hot. Most of the additional flavors are worth sampling if you like how they sound; they provide options for those who don't like or are tired of the classic chili pepper Buffalo sauce.

There are other items on the menu, of course, now including salads, boneless wings, chicken tenders, wraps, ribs, burgers, and sandwiches - Beef on Weck no longer included. We've tried and not been blown away by the ribs and salads, but they're good enough to satisfy those who aren't here for the wings. Prices are reasonable across the board, with ribs going for $14 alone or $12 in combination with wings, salads all under $7, and sandwiches all under $8.

A major advantage of Buffalo Wild Wings is its physical size: unlike many of Western New York's homegrown chicken wing restaurants, this one has large group seating capacity, most likely without forcing you to wait in line. While it's tempting to dismissively note that the places with lines are typically worth waiting for, those with time pressures can walk out of here relatively quickly with full stomachs.

Lows: We love spicy wings. Love them. Eat them in bulk. But we'd avoid Buffalo Wild Wings' hottest wings, called Blazin' and shown in the first of the pictures here. They're as spicy as advertised, but seem to contain some ingredient that doesn't sit well on the stomach in large quantities. We've tried them on several occasions and for some reason always wind up feeling nauseous afterwards - we don't think it's the spice, which can be had in greater abundance at Duff's, but something else. The Wild flavor, one step down, is plenty hot and not quite as sickening.

As noted in the introduction, wing quality can be inconsistent from location to location. None of the wings we've had here are huge, but though we haven't experienced this in the Williamsville restaurant, our visit to a California shop demonstrated that you can't expect exactly the same quality of preparation or quantity of meat at every given franchise. True Buffalo-style chicken wing aficionados will find bigger and better wings elsewhere; this place is a good choice only for those seeking variety.

Additionally, the sports bar atmosphere, an apparent attempt to entice customers in the many non-Buffalo markets where chicken wings are not enough of a draw on their own to merit a visit, can be grating; similarly, the franchise chain restaurant feel comes a little too close to the "trying too hard" feel of a T.G.I. Friday's at times. But then, many of the area's best wing places aren't known for their ambience; this is more an observation than a knock on Buffalo Wild Wings.

The Verdict: As restaurants go, Buffalo Wild Wings is pretty good, offering fairly priced wings and plenty of other options that cater to a variety of different tastes. When in Buffalo, it would be a mistake to rely upon this chain for the authentic chicken wing experience, and its recent removal of Beef on Weck from the menu is similarly a limitation relative to purebred places such as Duffs. That said, this is a safe restaurant to bring a larger group of people, particularly if they like sports bars or want to try different types of foods, and when you're out of town, it may be the best local option available.

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