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Chicken wing war heats up more for Anchor Bar, Duff’s

The Anchor Bar and Duff’s have been the most celebrated purveyors in the homeland of the Buffalo-style chicken wing, competing at a distance for decades.

But the wing war is increasingly being fought on the same suburban turf. And on Monday, the battle for the hearts – and stomachs – of University at Buffalo students was joined.

An Anchor Bar franchise is planned for the former Fuddruckers building, 4300 Maple Road, at Sweet Home Road, Amherst. The 250-seat restaurant will be the largest Anchor Bar restaurant so far, said Mark Dempsey, a company vice president.

The newest franchise to bear the name of the Anchor Bar, the restaurant that is given credit for inventing the chicken wing, will be a short drive from the original Duff’s location at Sheridan Drive and Millersport Highway in Amherst, a wing favorite of UB students and others for more than 30 years.

There is no such thing as consensus when it comes to wings, and stating that one is “the best” is as sure a way to start an argument in Buffalo as there is. The Anchor Bar is where Teressa Bellissimo is said to have brought out the first platter of wings in 1964, and Duff’s is where Louise Duffney five years later turned a gin mill into a wing mecca, with an assist from a Buffalo Evening News review by restaurant critic Janice Okun in 1982. The two still are generally considered to be standard-bearers, so much so that when the Travel Channel show “Food Wars” did an episode on the question, it pitted the two against each other. (Duff’s was declared the winner; this reporter was one of the judges.)

Serving generations of hungry fans, the Main Street downtown originator and its suburban challenger have built massive fan bases. In the hands of franchisees, the brands have gone head-to-head on Transit Road since last year.

But this would mark the first time that one has encroached on the other’s firmly established territory.

The area around UB has experienced a building boom in student housing the last five years, and that, coupled with the tens of thousands of students and employees who are on the North Campus every day, is a huge potential customer base.

The newest Anchor Bar franchisees “hope to open by mid-June to July, something in that range,” if all goes as planned, Dempsey said.

It would be the fifth Anchor Bar location in Western New York, joining Transit Road, Buffalo Niagara International Airport, Darien Lake and the original at 1047 Main St. There also are Anchor Bar outlets in Hamilton and Burlington, Ont.

The building on Maple was most recently Honey’s. The operators – Minh Tran, Tom Tran and Jim Kaczmarek, already run 99 Fast Food, the popular Vietnamese restaurant at 3396 Bailey Ave., Minh Tran said.

The nearly 8,000-square-foot restaurant will offer a banquet room, and a patio for customers to enjoy in good weather, besides a dining room and bar, Tran said. Honey’s restaurant closed at that site in February.

At seven restaurants, the Anchor Bar brand has not been spread as far as Duff’s nine locations. The original Sheridan site has been joined by Duff’s restaurants in Orchard Park, Depew, Clarence, Niagara Falls, Rochester, and Southlake, Texas, according to the Duff’s website. In Canada, Duff’s has locations in Vaughan, Ont., and College Street and Bayview Avenue in Toronto.

email: agalarneau@buffnews.com

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