A Legend, Tarnished? The Slow, So-So Orchard Park Duff's

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Duff's Famous Wings of Orchard Park
3090 Orchard Park Rd., Orchard Park, NY 14224
Phone: 716.674.7212
Rating:    [learn more]
Pros:

Uses Buffalo's best wing sauce recipe, offers expanded menu and wing options relative to original location, nicer decor and larger seating with a sports bar theme.


Cons:

Key menu items - wings and weck - aren't quite as good as they are at the original location, slow and less than interested service may leave you confused about new menu items.


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"Duff's of Orchard Park is the quintessential mixed bag, a restaurant with a famed, pretty solid specialty item, and somewhat disappointing execution on the rest of the experience."


Let's get one thing straight up front: despite its cramped quarters and utter lack of ambience, Duff's Famous Wings in Amherst is the area's very best chicken wing restaurant. But independently-operated franchise locations of beloved hometown restaurants rarely exceed the quality of the originals, even if they attract larger crowds; if patrons are lucky, the franchise may match the restaurant it was based upon. Thus, Duff's now has three independent franchises, two in Toronto, and one in Orchard Park, all run by different people using the same recipes. Having visited Duff's Famous Wings of Orchard Park, we wouldn't pick it over the original location, but it's not bad; some patrons might be excited by certain parts of its expanded menu, but they may also be put off by slow and unenthusiastic service.

It was obvious from a peek at the Toronto shops' menu that Duff's wasn't using a strict, McDonald's-style franchise model with the same small, consistent menu in every location: somehow, the Canadian Duff's managed to offer a number of new menu items, honey garlic wings, and even an "Armageddon" spice level that isn't found in the original Amherst venue. Duff's Famous Wings of Orchard Park actually goes a few steps further in this department: there's a large and conspicuous specialty drinks menu, while the wings menu now includes not just one but seven barbecue sauces, plus a lime Southern Comfort sauce, sweet and sour wings, and even a vinegared Chiavetta's version. There are now 12 different sandwiches, ranging from Yanked Pig ($7.50) to Fried Bologna & Onions ($6.50); soups, salads, and even mini-pizzas ($4.99). It's classic Duff's, plus some.

Well, maybe that's a little too generous. We ordered ten of the Suicide wings - this location's hottest, as the menu lacks both Amherst's Death and Toronto's Armageddon - as well as ten of the Cajun BBQ wings, sold in tens for $7.99 or bundled together as 20 for $11.99. The menu even offers a take-out order of 1,000 wings for around $620; it's one of those surprising little references that really belongs on a catering menu, but instead serves as a transparent effort to let every customer know that bulk sales are available.

There's good news: the Orchard Park Duff's wings were pretty good. Actually, the Cajun BBQ ones were really very good by BBQ standards, coated in a thick, smoky brown sauce that was literally finger-lickin' good. We had half before the spicy wings, and half afterwards; they were as good a spice-quencher as a palate cleanser. On sauce alone, these wings beat the BBQ versions we've tried elsewhere, hands down.

Unfortunately, we can't tell you much about the other BBQ flavors. Before we placed an order, we asked our server to help us understand the differences between the seven wing sauces - Original BBQ, Hot BBQ, Char-Broiled BBQ, Cajun BBQ, Carolina Gold, Honey BBQ, and Sweet BBQ. She didn't seem interested in explaining anything more than that the honey ones were "honey sweet" and the sweet ones were "sweet sweet," with the cajun ones tasting "cajun." Right. After meals at Buffalo Wild Wings and Quaker Steak & Lube, we're accustomed to at least being able to distinguish between different wing flavors, but not here. On a related note, even with a very light lunch-time crowd, the service was the worst we've ever experienced at a Duff's, with zero attention paid to our table for the staggering 40 minutes it took from the time of our small order to the delivery of two simple meals. Service at the Amherst and Canadian locations is comparatively speedy and certainly friendlier.

How were the "famous" Buffalo-style hot wings? The Suicide-spiced wings were, to our taste at least, not quite as spicy as ones we've had at the Amherst Duff's location - close, but not quite. To the Orchard Park store's credit, they were served soaking in a decent bath of sauce and would be more than enough to scorch the tongues of some hot sauce fans. Yet our table's "medium-hot" wing fan Christina found her wings too mild, and tried the Suicide sauce for dipping. She was surprised to discover that she was able to take the heat; classic Suicide wings aren't that easy of a step up from true Duff's medium-hots. We've seen people break out into sweats after trying just one Suicide, and that wasn't happening here.

The real disappointment, though, was the Roast Beef on Weck Sandwich, typically done well by the Amherst Duff's. Here, the meat was dry, the bun was bland and a little hard, and a cup of gravy was served on the side almost apologetically given what was there. Served for $9 with five of the medium-hot wings, it wasn't exactly an advertisement for two of Buffalo's most famous foods; first-time visitors to the area probably wouldn't have known what the big deal was about. As more experienced locals, we skipped dessert and went straight to the check. Life's too short.

In summary, Duff's of Orchard Park is the quintessential mixed bag, a restaurant with a famed, pretty solid specialty item - spicy wings, which even when less than perfect are still better than at most places - and somewhat disappointing execution on the rest of the experience. We legitimately liked the venue, complete with sports bar trappings and a nicer ambience than the beat up Sheridan Drive location, and started our meal by discussing the prospect that we'd be making this our Duff's of choice. By the end of the meal, however, we were disappointed by the service, not hugely impressed with the food, and unwilling to sample the drink or dessert menu. If it wasn't for the Duff's wing recipe and name, we'd find it easier to recommend passing on this place; as-is, it's worth a shot if you like BBQ wings, and you're not expecting the Amherst location's perfection in either the spicy ones or the sandwiches.

Duff's Famous Wings on Urbanspoon


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Comments (2)

josh :

hey im a cook at the orchard park duffs and in a way i tottaly agree with you and i work there but depending on the time of that rush and the kitchen staff we were prolly just having a bad day so i say give us one more chance on maybe a week day where its not as fast our usual slow days are days with no football or hockey and if the waitress is rude or to slow dont tip and ask to speak to a manager but depending on who you get your service will be diffrent with each waitress

Karen Kaweki :

My husband and I visited this location in Orcahrd Park twice. I can tell you that we will never come in again. To start off my husband and I both work in the restaurant industry and understand that service is everything. Food can me ok and the service can be outstanding and we and others would deffinitly come back. Now Good food and bad service no one is coming back. Well We came in to watch football since we both are fans of diffrent teams and they have the nfl ticket. SO we came and went to the bar around 12:30 pm and there were Three other guest at the bar. We sat down and waited and after Five minutes the only bartender working(which we didnt understand why 1 was on durning a bills game) came over and just asked my husband if he wanted a drink. He said sure a blue on tap. the Old women bartender then walked over and filled his beer and came back and then asked if i would like a drink....does anyone see whats wrong so far? well let me explain. 1 we waited five mins to be waited on. 2 we weren't greated with a hi or anything to make us feel welcomed. 3 the old women bartender asked for my husbands drink 1st and not the women 1st were if in the industry you know is a no no. Than the well trained bartender goes and get his drink 1st than asked me if i wanted a drink when you should be asking both of us what we wanted and got them at the same time. well after we had our drinks we paid and left to go to bsg's. we will never go to that DUFF'S again. I also will let everyone know how horriable the service is. Good luck stayong open with just the tradmark name Duffs without any GREAT service.

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