Buffalo Wings Stampede Market For Hot Stuff To Go

June 19, 1991|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff writer

They're hotter than Georgia asphalt at high noon.

They make grownmen cry.

They're not so much sexy as scorching. Novice customers who try Glen Burnie's latest delicacy -- super spicy, Buffalo-style chicken wings -- often end up gasping for a drink of water. Even the pros have been known to wince.

Inside Wings to Go, a tiny take-out next to Parie's Honey Bee Liquors, the air is heavy with the smell of hot sauce.

Eric Weaver, a native of a town 16 miles outside Buffalo, N.Y.,stands in front of a bubbling deep-fryer and watches a half-dozen chicken wings turn golden brown.

"I still eat them every day," he says. "You can't get sick of them. They're addictive."

A former landscape architect, Weaver quit his job and moved to Anne Arundel Countytwo months ago to open Wings to Go. The store at 7509 Ritchie Highway is the newest location for a growing chain based in Dover, Del. It's also the linchpin for a planned expansion into the Baltimore-Washington market.

"We really didn't expect it to turn into something this big," said Sally Mayhue, who founded the first Wings to Go outsidethe gates of Dover Air Force Base in 1985.

When her husband was stationed in Delaware six years ago, Mayhue missed the sharp, tangy taste of the chicken wings that became famous in her hometown of Buffalo. She and her husband, Henry, used to reminisce at nights about munching on a big bucket-full of wings.

She hit the malls, but couldn't find a place that specialized in chicken wings. So Mayhue got a recipe from her mother, improvised on it a bit and opened her own take-out business.

Her company now has sold 34 franchises, including stores in Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland and even Rhode Island. The next is scheduled to open in July in Brooklyn Park. Christopher Tisack,Mayhue's 24-year-old son and the company's president, predicts revenues will reach $2.25 million, double last year's income.

The stores offer different side dishes, but they all use the same special sauce for the chicken wings. Brewed at the company headquarters in Dover,the sauce is made from a secret recipe. Mayhue will only admit that it includes hot pepper, possibly cayenne.

"It's mixed in a locked room," she said. Pressed for more information, she added: "It isn't sweet and spicy. There's no sweet about it."

The sauce ranges from mild to "suicide," the super-hot, top-of-the-line, burn-your-tongue, jalapeno-style flavor.

It's so hot that Wings to Go sponsors "suicide" chicken-wing eating contests. Brave men and women try to eat dozens of the scorching wings at Dewey Beach each summer.

"I've only made it up to eight," Weaver confessed sheepishly.

He likes reallyspicy food and always orders "the hottest tacos you'd get." Still, he finds the "suicide" wings a bit much. The burning sensation lingersfor hours, he said.

Weaver, who grew up with Tisack and graduatedfrom the same high school, remembered spending many nights talking over chicken wings.

In Buffalo, just about every bar specializes inthe deep-fried wings coated with spicy sauces, he said. Legend has it that the bartender at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo concocted the now-famous wings one night because he had nothing around except for a few chicken pieces, hot sauce, celery sticks and blue cheese dressing.

Tisack and Weaver were best friends who played football on the same team and ran track together. So when Tisack called and offered him a job, Weaver couldn't refuse.

"I just about lived at his house," Weaver recalled. "I don't remember ever making chicken wings, but we ordered them out a lot. We'd get a bucket of 50 and all mow down."

These days, when Weaver and Tisack sit down to discuss business, they fry up some of the Buffalo wings and make themselves at home.

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