Munch goes to Buffalo Blues
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Although it remains unwritten, as any good rule ought to be, one particular decree seemingly governs any joint in any locale where Buffalo wings own a sizable percentage of the menu. Said establishment must designate one night every week for an all-you-can eat wing-fest, whereby customers can eat with enough conviction to nudge chickens toward the endangered species list. And on this matter, there are seemingly no exceptions -- the all-you-can-eat binge is practically mandatory, avoidable only on account of the Christmas holiday or Chapter 11 bankruptcy (or, of course, chicken extinction).
Around Pittsburgh, the specialized Buffalo wing factories oblige this tradition. Quaker Steak and & Lube serves up the wings en masse on Tuesdays ($10.99 per person). Buffalo Wild Wings, too, features the eat-like-Grendel special on Tuesdays, charging 35 cents per wing. And then there's Buffalo Blues, which Munch and one Friend of Munch visited recently, where on Wednesdays customers, for a fixed price ($9), can celebrate the week's midpoint by consuming chicken parts until they assume the midsection of William Howard Taft.
Not a bad way to go, Munch figures. Buffalo Blues is fixed in the middle of Shadyside, where its exterior -- simple white paneling -- makes no secret about the pursuits that occur inside. Workmanlike eating. With TVs and spacious booths in every direction, Buffalo Blues is at least partly a sports bar, and on Wednesdays, eating wings becomes the sport.
These wings made it a pleasure. They are crispy and relatively small, but that compares favorably to most. Some wings are undone by a soggy texture -- they taste as if they were just tossed into a tub of boiling water, and left there until the outside skin curdled. Not here. With these wings, you could practically taste the preparation. The flavor was baked in, not smeared on. No wing had excess skin, and unlike at Hooters, no mutated L-shaped wings jumped into the batch.
At some joints, particularly on all-you-can-eat nights, the wings reach your table having cooled to room temperature -- possibly a side effect of mass production, where each batch of wings must wait its turn to leave the kitchen, as if patiently taking its place in some massive chicken batting order. But at Buffalo Blues, the wings reached Munch's mouth steaming hot.
On Wednesday's, the all-you-can-eat fest begins with an order (12 wings) of any flavor. Then, in passing rounds, wing-bingers order smaller servings (six wings), and this process is repeated until said consumer can consume no more. Both Munch and FOM started with the traditional "Red Hot" wings, but found them bested by more novel flavors.
Munch particularly enjoyed the "Buffalo Blues" wings -- a tasteful, but not overdone, mix of sweet flavoring and hot sauce. In all, Blues has 11 flavors. You can order your wings with mustard sauce ("Old Yeller") or cheese and garlic flavoring ("Garlic Parmesan") or, for the tolerant taste buds, a combination of hot sauce, teriyaki and pepper seeds ("Howlin' Wolf").
Munch, conveniently ignoring all government directives encouraging a balanced diet, ate wings and only wings during the trip to Buffalo Blues. Likewise for FOM. Still, it should be noted that this restaurant features a wide-ranging menu: a half-dozen salads, more than a dozen sandwich options, plus burritos, catfish, jambalaya and barbecued ribs.
Of course, eating any of these items -- much less another round of chicken wings -- seemed perfectly insane by the time our waitress visited Munch's table for the fourth time during the evening. She asked if Munch wanted another order of wings. And Munch, tail planted between legs, bashfully shaking head, admitting defeat. The waitress surveyed the wing bones piled on the table -- a carnival mess -- and commented, "Well, at least you guys got your money's worth." Then she smiled, teasingly. "Barely."
Indeed, Munch left the table cursing his stomach, wishing for the ability to have accomplished more. Always happens that way at such all-you-can-eat nights. Come to think of it, that's another unwritten rule.
First Published August 18, 2005 12:00 am