Food Meets Beer: A Classic Pairing
by John Garland of the Heavy Table
The lowly chicken wing could be the most mistreated appetizer of them all. Let’s discuss the very nature of the meal, find some bars that give this classic the respect it deserves, and consider the right craft beers to wash those Buffalo wings down.
The extreme popularity of chicken wings is a bit strange. These goofy little knobs of meat aren’t even the best cut of chicken – that’d be the thighs. Forget what you know about them. A step back reveals what an inelegant, unceremonious plate of food they make.
But then you dig in. They’re steamy, yet portable. Sweetness turns into spice. Butter and fryer grease mingle about the crispy skin. They deliver the carnal satisfaction of ripping flesh from bone in every bite. They mark all boxes on the excellent snack checklist.
They’re still full of contradiction. The wing itself is a vestigial appendage on a bird that’s not allowed to fly, though one still engineered to be muscular. And like many popular plebeian snacks, they’ve been taken hostage by the gastro-pub movement and re-envisioned as haute cuisine.
But it’s places far from haute-anything that are the stuff of hazy, lip-numbing legend around here. Take Art Song’s or Shorty & Wags. They were nondescript dives frying up chicken with no pretensions] and no fuss, staying true to the spirit of the snack.
The firm conviction of a proper place and time for Buffalo wings makes it difficult to separate Buffalo, the chicken wing, from Buffalo, New York. One envisions factory workers with hunched shoulders walking through snow-beaten alleyways. They duck into a one-room bar to order a steaming basket of wings and a pitcher of macro-brew. They’ve had a long day. There’s respite in those wings.
That’s what initially made this installment of Food Meets Beer feel disingenuous. Part of us thinks mixing craft beer and Buffalo wings completely misses the point, especially when you consider that the place that’s great at making wings isn’t always craft-beer conscious. There’s an air of snobbery here, like deciding if Champagne or Chablis goes better with mozzarella sticks.