In Buffalo, declaring that you serve "the best wings in town" is a bit like calling yourself "the worlds greatest grandpa" or "the Bjorn Borg of beer pong" -- it's hard to quantify, easy to claim and tricky to dispute. (See also, "Hockey Heaven.")
Hamburg's Mammosers, a modest, rustic structure found at 16 S. Buffalo St. in the village, just past a newish traffic circle, makes that statement on its Facebook page, and on its menu. And its legions of local fans sing its praises online, too.
So I came prepared during the first of two visits, ready to try the famous wings -- note the absence of the word "Buffalo" -- and interested to experience in what has become a beloved Hamburg bar.
Visit No. 1 was a lunchtime jaunt, during a rare recent rainstorm. On this Saturday afternoon, we arrived to find the several outdoor tables filled with jolly Hamburg-ers, and opened the right side door to -- darkness.
Well, not total darkness, exactly. But it was pretty darn dark, a wood from top-to-bottom room with a hunting lodge feel, right down to the deer heads on the wall.
It felt like the kind of room where Ernest Hemingway might have plopped down for a scowl-y shot, had he been passing through after hunting in Ellicottville. (I can't picture Papa skiing, unless it involved gunplay -- ski-hunting?)
I popped my head into the bar, and to my surprise, found every seat in the long, narrow row taken. On a Saturday afternoon? That's the sign of a successful bar, methinks.
I asked our friendly and to-the-point server what was on tap, and he handed me his pad of paper, with the list written on the cardboard back. I thought that was rather charming, and while the list was not lengthy, it had some nice surprises.
Yes, there was Blue, Coors, Canadian and Guiness, but also one of my favorites, Saranac IPA, Sapporo, Stella, St. Pauli (they were out of this one), and a perfect summer Saturday selection, Leinenkugel Summer Shandy.
This lemonade-wheat-beer mix is a refreshing favorite of mine, and it made my day to see it on the list. Honestly, I've never seen it on tap anywhere else.
While waiting for our drinks, we looked around the place more closely. The old-timey feel was hammered home by vintage photos and signs. ("There are more old drunkards than old doctors," read one, which sounded like something Garrison Keillor's spirit-pounding cousin might utter before falling into Lake Wobegon.)
Only the flat-screen TVs felt incongruous, but it being a Wimbledon weekend, I was glad to see them. (The bar area also has several.)
When it was time to dine, two of our quartet ordered the not-Friday-only fish fry, another the beef on weck, and I, of course, opted for the wings, medium.
While I smartly opted for the killer deal our server mentioned -- buy 20 wings, get 10 free (I was hungry, OK?) -- I made a mistake in my hotness selection. The menu accurately stated that Mammosers wing sauce is "hotter than most." I expected, then, to see them dripping with sauce.
That was not the case -- at all. In fact, my medium wings seemed instead to be seasoned (rubbed), with little to no sauce on them at all. This, friends, is the Mammosers style, and many adore it.
Me? Not so much. The seasoning was tasty, and very, very hot. But I'm a Duff's-Bob and John's guy, and my expectation of wings is an orange disaster scene. Of course, those are "Buffalo wings." And the menu never uses that word.
The rest of the food? Quite good. And the tavern's relaxed vibe was just as evident when I stopped by on a weekday evening. It was crowded, but not obtrusively so, the air conditioning was blasting, and the regulars seemed more than contented.
Despite my wing thoughts, then, the establishment with the "JOSEPH MAMMOSER UNDERTAKER" sign on the wall earns a solid grade. Next time, I'll try the burger.
Mammosers Tavern and Restaurant
16 S. Buffalo St., Hamburg 648-1390
Scene: An old-timey, hunting-lodge-esque bar in the village, one with a relaxed vibe. Happy hour: Nada, but the regular prices seemed reasonable.
On tap: The micro-brew list changes; during my visits, Saranac IPA, St. Pauli, Stella and even Leinenkugel Summer Shandy were on tap.
Hours: The kitchen is open from lunch until 11-ish; the bar is often open later.