By David Noyes
Will Duff’s Famous Wings become one of Dallas’ best restaurants? That wouldn’t surprise Buffalo restident David Noyes, who penned this insider’s look at Duff’s, which opened this week in Southlake, for EscapeHatch.
Long before “Buffalo-style” chicken wings became a family-friendly appetizer plate served around the globe, my buddies and I were regulars at a non-descript small white stucco building northeast of Buffalo who’s interior resembles an unfinished basement. By accident or design, the kitchen vents directly into the parking lot. The odor is unmistakable; a mix of fryer oil with lingering notes of cyan pepper that ignite a pavlovian salivation response for wing lovers as soon as they open the car door.
While no wing story is complete without at least a shout-out to the Anchor Bar and Teressa Bellissimo who created the deep-fried sensation one Friday night in 1964, my childhood memories are of Duff’s and the countless testosterone-fueled Friday nights testing my manhood with the boys following a football game.
That’s right, we didn’t drop into Duff’s for the ambiance and to nibble wings lightly sauced with “Honey Barbeque,” or “Parmesan Garlic,” those flavors didn’t exist yet. We gathered around Duff’s picnic tables with piles of napkins and gallons of water to challenge ourselves against sauces with ominous sounding names like “Suicidal,” “Armageddon,” and “Death.” The hotter the better for high school kids with something to prove!
My early wing experience was very different than the mature restaurant menu items of today’s wing craze. It wasn’t until decades later that wings began to appear on virtually every menu from bars and taverns to large chain restaurants and the word “Buffalo” preceded the abundant selections. Over the years I have sampled wings at hundreds of restaurants and with only the rare exception to note, I am almost always disappointed.
Today, there are virtually hundreds of cooking methods and flavor combinations called “Buffalo wings.” But I am a wing purist. I like my wings with a traditional cyan based sauce, big, crispy, and hot. I have even been known to call out a chef or two and provide them with an “authentic” wing recipe. One tavern I frequented in Kentucky actually took “Buffalo Style” wings off the menu after I sent them back with a note saying “these wings are simply wrong.”
Now that Duff’s has started expanding its footprint with franchise locations like their newest location near Dallas, the words “authentic Buffalo wings” truly become meaningful in Texas. However, I don’t know this to be fact, but in the 35-plus years that I have been eating at Duff’s, they have toned down the heat a bit—especially at the new locations. Not saying you won’t sweat and burn if that’s your desire, but the Hot is more like the Medium of my youth, and I need to go up a notch or two for total satisfaction. So if your desire is an authentic wing experience like it was in the beginning, go big, Texas, and take on the heat!
Tips for taking on the heat
- First, coat your lips with something. My preference is Carmex, but any Chapstick or Vasoline type stick will do.
- Since the hottest wings come soaked in hot sauce, I usually order “Hot not saucy” and get some Suicidal and/or Armageddon sauce on the side. This way I control my own heat wing by wing and they stay crispy longer.
- Order the shoestring fries. Maybe not the best fries you will ever have, but they help cut the heat in your belly and are nice to munch on between wings.
- Beer intensifies the heat…your call.
- The heat accumulates. Wing after wing after wing you get hotter. You should be starting to sweat after 4 or 5 or they aren’t hot enough.
- Yes, dip your wings in the blue cheese. It is not just there for the celery. The flavor combo with the hot sauce is where the beauty begins.
- My wife prefers the flats; I prefer the drums…happy marriage.
- With practice, you should be able to remove all the meat with one insertion into your mouth. Insert…twist…remove.
- Wash you hands VERY well before touching another part of your body. That explains that scream from the men’s room you heard earlier.
- Overindulgence of the really hot wings WILL lead to a “wingover.” Many a Buffalonian has called in sick after a night of a couple dozen hot wings. Do I really need to explain?
- Finally, in Buffalo they are just called “wings.” Do you need to say “Dallas” before mentioning the Cowboy’s?
David Noyes is an award winning travel writer and photographer based in Buffalo, NY. His work has taken him to some of the most remote places on earth. Duff’s wings are almost always his first meal when he gets back home.
Duff’s Famous Wings, 2787 E. Southlake Blvd., Southlake, Texas.