Every traveling Buffalonian has encountered The Annoying Chicken Wing Discussion.
It’s an exchange that includes one well-meaning stranger asking if wings in Buffalo are really that good (usually right after insulting the city’s weather, industrial economy and/or football history), and requires one Buffalo native to answer in the affirmative — and then explain why. Answers may vary from cooking techniques, variances of butter or distinctive flavors.
But if one response can cut to the heart of why wings are so good, it’s this: Because if they’re not, the corner bar serving them won’t stay in business for too long.
Have the signature wings of Kelly’s Korner helped it remain a North Buffalo favorite since 1967? Certainly. Plates of its distinctive, dry-rubbed and inexplicably under-the-radar wings have delighted neighborhood regulars and visitors for decades and would likely blow the minds of any out-of-towner curious about the dynamics of Buffalo’s chief delicacy.
This alone would be enough to keep the lights on at Kelly’s. Thankfully, its classic Buffalo tavern feel and throwback prices offers more to those who continue to find its booths and barstools.
Guests who enter its Delaware-at-Hartwell door will first be swallowed by the locale’s predominance of green, an obviously appropriate interior shade for its name. Its scattered decoration of delightfully outdated sandwich boards, distributor-bestowed beer signs and Buffalo sports regalia adheres to the décor trend of bars still staying true to their more simplistic heyday — back when the neighborhood watering hole didn’t have to be a place with an encyclopedic pub menu.
It just had to be a third space away from home and work, the man (or woman) room you never constructed in your basement or garage, and with barroom food you couldn’t whip up yourself.
Kelly’s is certainly this type of place, an imbibing escape made for a bygone generation, but with the essentials that appeal to any Buffalo-bred generation. Beers are thankfully cheap, with Labatt Blue bottles $2.75 and pitchers $7.50, and pints of Sam Adams just $4.
Team either with hilariously inexpensive selections off Kelly’s sandwich board, like its stomach-lining turkey sandwich ($4.50); show up for lunch on Monday through Friday (between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.) and snag a burger and fries ($5.25); or opt for the advertised combo of its award-winning beef on weck and a domestic draft ($8.50).
But truth be told, unless you’re huddling into a Kelly’s booth to pound a few morning pops before trudging through the annual Turkey Trot (which starts two blocks from its front door), you should have only one menu item to go with your succession of beers and setting appreciation: a steaming pile of the Korner’s signature wings.
Served mild, medium, hot, barbecue or garlic (for those who have given up on socializing), visitors can hammer down a single ($11.50), double ($18.50), triple ($24.50) or a fine 50 ($35.25) of some of the most sneakily supreme wings in the city. All are made more enjoyable with Kelly’s draft lines of affordable domestic coolants—and all amid a barroom as likely to blast the hair metal of RATT as turn up the volume on three TVs of September Yankees baseball.
All collaborate to construct the allure of Kelly’s, while proving that classic ambiance, affordable drinks and addictive wings are still an essential trio for enduring Buffalo barroom success.
Address: 2526 Delaware Ave. ( 877-9466)
Hours: 11 a.m. to 4 a.m. Monday to Saturday and noon to 4 a.m. Sunday.
Scene: Green-hued Buffalo corner tavern, perfect for a few drafts, plates of wings or a generous helping of both.
Hot to Trot: Pop in for warmth (or beers) before running the annual Turkey Trot, which starts steps away from Kelly’s front door.
Ready to roll: Enjoy your beer with a few games on the bar’s classic Gold Mine Shuffle Bowling game.
Parking: Spots on Delaware and surrounding streets.
Credit/Debit: Yes. Also an ATM inside.
Don’t forget to: Get an ample supply of napkins before sweating through your choice of Kelly’s wings.