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SHARON IS CONTENDER, BUT BUFFALO WINGS REMAIN NO. 1

THE SUN SHONE brightly Thursday on the effort of Sharon, Pa., to give its name to Buffalo wings.

But the product fell short, according to most Buffalonians who sampled the wings from western Pennsylvania.

"They're good, but they're not Buffalo wings," said Rob Murphy, a self-described wing expert.

"They're not meaty enough. They're not crispy enough."

"The garlic wings are the best, and they've got good barbecue wings," said one woman.

But still -- garlic or barbecue -- they weren't Buffalo wings.

Quaker Steak and Lube, the Sharon restaurant that served up the challenge, came a long way to compete against a local tradition. They set up a trailer at Lafayette Square. While a band -- the Pine Dogs -- played in the background, the folks from Sharon did a brisk business in wings.

"I've had wings from a lot of places, and the bars here have the best," said Ed Collins, an out-of-towner who occasionally comes to Buffalo for business. "I have to travel a lot and everywhere there's Buffalo wings."

The vote, however, was not unanimous.

"I like (Sharon wings) better," said one 10-year-old boy. "The sauce is kinda better."

But one or two punches won't knock out the only champ that the world of wings has ever known. In fact the challenger is a lightweight fighting in the ring with the heavyweight.

"After 15 wings I should be full -- I'm not full yet. They're too scrawny," said one referee.

Don't underestimate the lightweight, though. He can still pack the stadium.

"They're good, I'm geting some more," said a fan.

"They're excellent," added someone else. "But they can't touch the Anchor Bar."

The Anchor Bar or the Buffalo Place beer tent. The beer was selling a lot faster than the wings. And the hot dog vendors were keeping the competition stiff for the out-of-town wing-makers.

Not that there was actually any worry.

The general concern over Buffalo taking a back seat to any other city where wings are made was slight. There was no overbearing rush to get a taste of outsider's snacks.

"Buffalo doesn't have anything to worry about, not that wings would ever be anything to worry about. But anyway, Buffalo is safe," said a man with a wing in one hand and a beer in the other.

Buffalo Place was fairly full of folks enjoying the sun, the music, the drinks and the food Buffalonians can, without worry, say Sharon's wings are good -- even excellent. And we'll gladly go back for more.

We'll be gracious.

They have a larger variety of sauces, and they won a national chicken-cooking contest.

But there really isn't any reason to flap our wings over the second-best wings.

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