Buffalo Bills Hall-of-Famer Bruce Smith loves The Dirty Buffalo's wings so much he's willing to make sacrifices.
Smith, who had planned to fly from Virginia Beach, Va., to the NFL Draft festivities in Philadelphia, rearranged his itinerary so he could appear on a taping of "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" with host Guy Fieri at the Buffalo-themed Norfolk sports-bar restaurant Wednesday morning.
The Food Network show's producers spent 10 hours filming on Monday before Fieri and Smith starred in a tighter shoot today.
For those unfamiliar with "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives," the hourlong show highlights restaurants around the country for outstanding and quirky foods. There has been no date set for when the episode will air.
— Guy Fieri (@GuyFieri) April 26, 2017
The Dirty Buffalo owners Russell and Stephanie Gilbert, both University at Buffalo alums, opened the restaurant in 2012 to cater to the large number of Buffalo transplants and Buffalo sports fans in the area. Two top-selling food items - both of which will be featured on the show - are the Dirty Plate, a play off of Nick Tahou's Garbage Plate in Rochester, and Buffalo wings.
The Dirty Chick - the most popular version of the Dirty Plate - starts with a bed of homefries, then is topped with homemade macaroni and cheese, and finished with two chicken fingers covered in a sauce of the diner's choice. The Gilberts offer 25 sauces regularly, with a new special sauce released each Wednesday.
For the show, Russell featured a Jamaican-inspired sauce called Buffalo Soldier, which blends seedless habanero peppers into a Buffalo-style hot sauce.
"I loved Duff's growing up in Western New York - I set them as a benchmark for when I opened my restaurant," said Russell Gilbert, by phone. "After I opened [Dirty Buffalo], I came back to [WNY] for a wedding and had Duff's, and now the best wings I've had just happen to come from the restaurant I own."
Dale Gump, who attended UB with Gilbert's wife and bonded with Russell over their shared affection for the Bills, was invited to participate as an extra in the shoot.
"Guy was quite taken with Bruce," notes Gump, a U.S. Navy veteran who's now an officer for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "It was exciting to watch them interact on the set. Guy joked with him, 'It seems like you've been on TV a few times.'"
The relationship between Smith and Russell Gilbert blossomed not long after the restaurant's opening - forming the friendship was a "main goal," Russell says. Within six months, Smith tried The Dirty Buffalo wings and got to know Gilbert.
Upon meeting the legendary Bill for the first time, "I was like a kid in a candy store," recalls Russell. "I was so nervous - and I don't usually get nervous. But he started telling me stories, like how he and Darryl Talley could punish 100 wings in their heyday."
"Having [Smith] in was the most surreal thing," Russell continued. "Dale and I argue back and forth about who's the bigger Bills fan - I still think it's me. I was around 9 years old during the Super Bowl era."
Smith often drives the 20 minutes from Virginia Beach to get The Dirty Buffalo's wings; Russell Gilbert is proud that he's made it into the sack-master's iPhone favorites.