I am not sure exactly when it happened, but at some point in the last two decades, Duff’s became ubiquitous. While it has franchised into Canada and even Texas, Duff’s seems an acknowledged part of Western New York life, like loganberry or Airport Plaza Jewelers.
Today, there are five locations: the original, on Sheridan and Millersport in Amherst; on Orchard Park Road on the Orchard Park-West Seneca border; Dick Road in Depew, aka, “the one Obama stopped at”; a new location on Niagara Falls Boulevard in Niagara Falls; and in the Eastern Hills Mall.
If Duff’s has reached the point of mall acceptance, clearly, it has captured the hearts and minds of the Queen City.
Interestingly, though, when comedian and podcast superstar Marc Maron was recently in Buffalo for a stand-up show at Helium Comedy Club, his query about where to go for Buffalo wings garnered some surprising feedback. As one dude Tweeted, “Duff’s is for tourists. Go to the Anchor Bar.”
Me? I disagree. Perhaps Duff’s has become an out-of-towner favorite, but you cannot tell me it isn’t a townie fave, either. I enjoy the Anchor Bar experience as much as the next guy, but on taste, Duff’s wins, hands down.
And the Eastern Hills Mall location continues the proud hot-is-very-hot Duff’s ways, although the GNC vitamin store next door is an odd juxtaposition.
Like the Orchard Park Duff’s, the mall location has a small patio in front, and there is even a special summer deal: $2 cans of Leinenkugel Summer Shandies, a warm weather favorite of mine.
One enters to find, well, Duff’s in a mall. It feels a bit smaller than the OP and Depew locations, and does not offer as many games, but the same basic aesthetic is in play here: a sizable bar, lots of TVs, various Molson tchotchkes on the wall (a goalie mask, a jersey), and, on the ceiling, Fat Head-style logos for the Sabres, Bills, UB Bulls, Yankees and Bisons. (Note, however, it is the now-dated Mets affiliate logo.)
During both visits, it was clear that Duff’s is ultra-family friendly, and it is worth keeping that in mind.
We brought our 3-year-old on my second visit, and there was a nice noise level to drown out any of his occasional loud bits.
On that second visit, I actually sat and ate – sitting at the bar and not ordering wings took a level of commitment that would impress an abstinence proponent – and a fine experience was had. Our server was friendly and stopped by frequently, and our large and rather involved group order was carried out perfectly. (Note that a small pitcher of beer is really, really small.)
The bar is rather ordinary, but as another option for an alcoholic bevvie at the mall, it will do. The draft selection, too, is not very adventurous: Labatt Blue, Blue Light, Yuengling, Molson Canadian, Bud Light, Duff’s Micro Brew, Blue Moon, Sam Adams Seasonal, Guinness and “Seasonal Craft Brew.” The bottle list also is ho-hum: Labatt Blue and Blue Light, Coors Light, Molson Canadian, Budweiser, Bud Light, Miller Light, Corona Extra and Light, Michelob Ultra, Heineken, O’Doul’s and Yuengling.
There also is a long list of specialty drinks, including the cleverly titled Bloody Duffy, billed as “the Classic Bloody Mary, Duff’s style … specially made with our Hot Sauce.” It comes with that classic Duff’s warning: “Just remember, our Hot is Very Hot!”
And, of course, there are those wings, which, surprisingly, taste a little different at each location. In the Duff’s hierarchy, the unmistakable Amherst spot has the best, but I’d put the new Eastern Hills Mall location in a tie with Orchard Park for second.
I’ve been to the Depew establishment several times, and they’ve got some work to do.
Oh, they are always good. But sometimes, they are transcendent. As transcendent as something this tough on the arteries can be, that is.
Let’s let Maron have the last word:
“Okay. Went to Duff’s. Good.”
Duff’s Famous Wings (Eastern Hills Mall)
Where: 4545 Transit Road, Williamsville (631-3833)
Scene: The Buffalo-centric, family-friendly Duff’s aesthetic – in a mall.
Happy hour: Monday through Friday with two-for-one specials. On tap: Labatt Blue, Labatt Light, Yuengling, Molson Canadian, Bud Light, Duff’s Micro Brew, Blue Moon, Sam Adam’s Seasonal, Guinness, “Seasonal Craft Brew
Music: A range of hit-heavy pop-rock with Def Leppard, Lumineers, Edie Brickell, the Wallflowers.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight Friday through Saturday, noon to 10 p.m. Sunday.