In Buffalo, New York, the origin of the buffalo wing might depend heavily on the side of town where you grew up, and John Young is just getting his credit.
John Young, a black man and owner of a restaurant on Jefferson Avenue in the 1960s, was first known for his whole, breaded wings before his tangy “Mombo”-sauced wings became a hit.
Due to ongoing riots and racial tension, Young left New York in the 1970s. But when returned about a decade later, the hot wings he created were all the rave. Unfortunately, all the credit had gone to a local Italian restaurant.
According to USA TODAY, An Italian-born couple, Frank and Teressa Bellissimo, owned Anchor Bar, which was located on the dividing line between the Black and white sides of then-segregated Buffalo, New York, about a mile from Young’s restaurant.
According to the Bellisimos, in 1964, their son Dominic arrived at Anchor Bar with a pack of friends hungry for something new. Teressa improvised a snack from the materials at hand.
“They looked like chicken wings, a part of the chicken that usually went into the stockpot for soup,” reads the bar’s official history. “Teressa had deep fried the wings and flavored them with a secret sauce. The wings were an instant hit.”
Anchor Bar is now a famous multi-state franchise with bottled sauce sold across the globe. However, Black Buffalonians rarely mention Anchor Bar as the originator of the renowned buffalo wing.
Theodore Clyburn, 74, recalls munching on Young’s saucy orange-red wings after graduating high school in 1964, USA TODAY reported.
“Anybody that was around back then will tell you that John Young was the originator,” Clyburn told USA TODAY about the owner of John Young’s Wings and Things.
The fact that Young’s tale is less told than Anchor Bar’s amounts to a historical wrong.
“If you talk about one of the hallmarks of Buffalo’s cultural contributions when it comes to food, chicken wings, there was an African American man there who—if it was parallel circumstances or some kind of linear progression—he was doing it on the East Side,” City of Buffalo councilman James Pitts said.
Almost 2.5 decades after Young died on Dec. 19, 1998, after a battle with an illness. Marc Moscato of Buffalo Bike Tours decided that it was time to give the man the credit he deserves, as the “King of the Wings.”