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Remembering Western New York's first 'king of wings'

Who created the Buffalo wing? Well, if you said "The Anchor Bar", you may want to think again. John Young was the first "King of Wings" in the Queen City.
Credit: Lina Brown-Young

BUFFALO, N.Y. — February is, of course, Black History Month and we are asking a culinary question. Who created the Buffalo wing? Well, if you said "The Anchor Bar," you may want to think again.

Before Drew Cerza was the Wing King, even before the queen of wings, Theresa Bellisimo of the Anchor Bar tossed her first wings in hot sauce, there was "The King of Wings."

John Young got his start the early sixties with a restaurant at Jefferson and Carlton. He spent the next few years frying up chicken wings at a number of locations on Buffalo's east side. 

His daughter, Lina Brown-Young, says it was at the corner of Jefferson and Utica that he really made his mark as his sauce drew crowds. 

"It was there in 1966 that John Young Wings and Things really took off," Brown-Young said. 

Young grew up on a farm in Alabama, before moving to Buffalo and ultimately assuming his crown.

"Before he got to Utica Street, he did take a little trip to Jamaica and he added some things to his sauce, some fruits and things. So he tried to call it Bahama Mama sauce. But that name didn't really stick, people were used to mumbo sauce, so he just kept it John Young's mumbo sauce," Brown-Young said.

As you have probably realized by now, Young's wing was vastly different from the Anchor Bar's, both in the sauce and the way it was prepared. It was breaded and fried and left whole.

Brown-Young says "his opinion was to split the wing was kind of adulterating the wing."

Now, Brown-Young has brought her father's spirit and recipe back. Through a series of pop-up events and a stop on Buffalo Bike Tours, John Young's mumbo sauce and original wing recipe can be sampled in the Queen City for the first time in decades. 

Marc Moscato of Buffalo Bike Tours says Young and his wings are an important piece of Buffalo history. 

"Certainly the contribution to John Young to Buffalo history it is, I would say it is equally as important if not more important than the Anchor Bar," said Moscato.

Brown-Young is just glad her father's legacy is being rekindled. 

"I'm really glad so many people, especially younger people can get acquainted with the story and be able to see it firsthand," Brown-Young said. 

There is also a GoFundMe page set up by the Young family, Michigan Street Corridor, and Buffalo Bike Tours to tell the story through a new mural at the site of Young's former restaurant at Jefferson and Carlton. The mural will be based one that once stood in John Young's restaurants.


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