For authentic Buffalo wings, the secret isn't, as they say, in the sauce.
According to Brian Griffin, owner of St. Angelo's Pizza and Wings (4051 Madison St., New Port Richey), it's not even about the sauce at all; he says 90 percent of people use Frank's RedHot anyway.
While others tend to overcomplicate things by adding lemon or butter or trying out various combinations of spices, Griffin said that the key to authentic wings is really about letting them sit long enough in the fryer.
"We cook them longer so they're crispier," he said.
The Buffalo, N.Y., native, who moved to Florida in 1981, explained that sports bar giants like Buffalo Wild Wings, Kerr's Wing House and Hooters, which popularized the chicken wing when it opened its doors in 1983, don't cook their wings long enough.
"They don't come out crispy like you would get them back in Buffalo," he said.
He opened St. Angelo's in 1981, two years before the first Hooters appeared in Clearwater, and said he used to have to give wings away because no one knew what to do with them.
He remembers having to ask the Publix bakery to make the kummelweck buns (see more on the kummelweck sandwich at right) the way he wanted, and asking friends to bring cases of hot dogs in their luggage when returning from trips up north.
Griffin himself is a true Buffalonian. St. Angelo's interior is peppered with the Buffalo Bills logo, and for years Griffin streamed the team's football games at the restaurant. Its slogan is "Where the Buffalonians Roam." Along with pizzas and wings, Griffin serves traditional western New York fare like beef on weck ("wick"), which is "basically like a French dip" on a sandwich, with roast beef soaked in au jus inside a kummelweck bun; Sahlen's hot dogs, which are cooked over charcoal as opposed to boiled in water like in Chicago; haddock sandwiches and fish fries; Weber's mustard; and bottles of Labatt Blue and Genesee beer.
These are Buffalo staples that Griffin said people drive to St. Angelo's for specifically. He has had customers from all over the bay area. The restaurant, he said, is a hit with the snowbirds.
Kevin Alessi moved down from Buffalo in 1983 and has been going to St. Angelo's for at least 25 years, at one point driving over from Tampa.
"They make the best wing around that I've found," he said. "He just knows it."
Alessi said it's the crispiness that sets St. Angelo's chicken wings, and authentic Buffalo wings in general, apart.
"Eating wings (in Buffalo) is like eating wings here," he said.
Contact Carlynn Crosby at email@example.com.
BEST SANDWICH EVER
While Buffalo's most famous food export is the chicken wing, perhaps its greatest signature dish is the best sandwich ever: beef on weck.
When my family moved to Florida from upstate New York when I was a preschooler, we didn't know how difficult it would be get your hands on the salty mound of roast beef goodness now that Charlie the Butcher wasn't around the corner anymore.
The problem isn't the roast beef, though a quality beef shaved handkerchief-thin is essential. The crucial element is the kummelweck roll, an invention of German immigrant baker William Wahr who, around the turn of the 20th century, topped a kaiser roll with coarse salt and caraway seeds. The name is a combination of the German words kummel (caraway seed) and weck (roll). It's soft and chewy on the inside, crusty and salty on the outside. The top of the bun is dipped in a bit of au jus and perfectly holds a heaping pile of rare roast beef and a smear of sinus-clearing horseradish.
The problem: The rolls can't be shipped from Buffalo bakeries because they last a day at most before they turn rock-hard. And few bakers outside of upstate New York have mastered the technique. Even the chain Buffalo Wild Wings no longer serves beef on weck sandwiches on its menu outside of western New York. And since Buffalo isn't a hot tourist destination, chances are you've never tried the sandwich featured on cooking shows by Bobby Flay and Anthony Bourdain.
Eats American Grill, with locations in Riverview (6264 Winthrop Town Centre Blvd.) and South Tampa (4502 S Dale Mabry Highway), has a version of the classic beef on weck, though the raw horseradish has been toned down to a horsey sauce because the locals couldn't take it. And the Glory Days Grill (9900 Fourth St. N, St. Petersburg) sports chain also has a beef on weck, with caramelized onions and optional Swiss cheese.
Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Times staff writer
Make your own kummelweck
Pining for our favorite sandwich, my large extended family came up with a hack that has now become our Christmas Eve tradition — or as close as we can get in the Sunshine State. We talked the deli manager at the Winn-Dixie in Kenneth City (5802 54th Ave. N) into making three dozen of their kaiser rolls special for us. Give it a try with your local Publix or Winn-Dixie, asking them to dip their kaiser rolls in kosher salt and caraway seeds before baking. Barring that, here's how to make your own.
Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Times staff writer
1 package frozen bread rolls, kaiser style, or plain store-bought kaiser rolls that have no seeds on them
One egg beaten (or one egg white beaten with a little water)
Coarse salt such as kosher or rock salt
Brush the top of the roll with the egg wash, then sprinkle the coarse salt and caraway seeds on top. Be generous.
If using frozen dough, allow the rolls to proof at room temperature until doubled in size then bake as directed. If using store-bought baked rolls, bake in a 350-degree oven for 5 to 7 minutes until golden brown.