I don’t know exactly how I should feel about how closely I as a person have become tied to the concept of chicken wings, but it’s becoming a thing. I suppose I can’t get mad though, I can only take it to mean that the work I’m doing is resonating with people out there, so much so that when my friends and family come to visit me in NYC, they don’t ask to go see the sights or take them on a tour of my local haunts, but instead they want to eat wings with me. So when my friend of nearly twenty years was here and asked to join me, I couldn’t refuse, so we met up at a place I’d seen only a few days before, and sat down to prep for this weeks wreview of…
17 W 125th St, Manhattan (Harlem)
This week I was joined by one of my oldest and dearest friends, a woman who has been so many things to me over the course of our lives, but more relevant to you all she’s an author and blogger of so many incredible things all collected under the umbrella of jabsplethora.com, the one and only Jennifer Alsina Busfield. (Exterior photos in this article are not only not mine, but not of the Harlem location, since there was a ton of scaffolding outside and I couldn’t take or find any good pictures.)
Buffalo Boss is clearly, by design, a take-out joint. The interior has brick walls and a hand full of solid woodblock tables and stools with enough seating for maybe 25 people. Decorations was sparse except for a few signs and screens displaying different menu items and features. This was all accompanied by a hip-hop soundtrack of which I am far too musically disinclined to have any opinion about except to say I liked it.
The menu here is super straightforward. Wings, tenders, regular or sweet potato fries, sodas, and fried Oreos. They also make sure you know the wings they’re serving are organic, in this case meaning the chickens are antibiotic and hormone free and fed a vegetarian diet. They also make it clear that because of the lack of growth hormones, the wings here are the size of actual chicken wings, and not the overlarge wings one might see at other venues.
The PPW here reflects what one might expect from a joint that labels their wings organic, meaning $1.38 for 6, shifting slightly down to $1.27 for 30. If you were to factor in their party platters, the price does drop down to 98 cents for 500 of them.
What We Ordered
There’s some points in their favor here, since they offer a sampler of 24 wings with 4 different sauces, which is exactly what we shot for. We also grabbed some cheese fried and a couple sodas to wash it all down.
So, I’m not sure if they offer a ‘for here’ option when ordering here, because we weren’t asked, and all our food was packed to go. This came to all 24 wings being packed in a single box, each individual sauce wrapped in its own foil wrapper, which isn’t a super great idea. I say this because it ended up with some of the top sauces dripping down into some of the lower ones, causing a little bit of “cross-contamination.” I’ve said may times that I don’t weigh presentation too hard, but when your presentation actually has an effect on the flavor, I have to take that into account. I’m still curious to see if they have any sort of “for-here” serving presentation, but for packing four sauces into a messy single box I have to say it’s a 1/5.
JAB said these were “sweeter than expected – like a deep sweet…” also adding that the “heat was a FULL HOT – total mouth, but not all-consuming.” I don’t know how long it’s been since I wreviewed a medium sauce, but I was thrown off a lot by the sweetness here. It’s almost a brown sugar or molasses sweet, but one that is most certainly different from a traditional Buffalo flavor. It did, for me, detract a bit from the rest of the flavor, if only because it was both so present and unexpected. The heat was a welcome addition, as JAB mentioned it was a full-mouth experience, and on the hotter side of the average medium. I didn’t love them, but the worst thing I could say is that they were definitely original in what they were trying to do. 3/5.
“Not bad, but not memorable,” JAB thought, also adding that it “would be a safe flavor to order for the kid.” Of course here she’s referencing her own son, who I can totally vouch for the fact that while he does take chances with food, he tends to be a picky eater overall. There is a definite touch of sweet to this sauce, but it was so thin that it barely stuck to the wing. Even after dragging my wing through it to make sure it was thoroughly slathered, the flavor was still so mild as to almost be missed. What I could taste I did enjoy, but the flavor was almost non-extant overall, pulling it down to a 2/5.
“Tart and salty, and crunchy,” says JAB. “I would order these ALL THE TIME!” As I’ve started to say time and again, I freaking love dry rubs, and this case is no exception. I will say that what really put this over the top for me was that not only was there a distinct lemon flavor to these, but it was accompanied by the tart sourness of a lemon that was easily distinguished from the saltiness. Of course, being a dry rub it really drew out the crunchy skin and sealed the juiciness of the wing inside. This is easily one of the best dry rubs I’ve ever eaten, and it’s an easy 5/5.
JAB didn’t dive into these, understandably, as I tell everyone that the tasting is my job. She did, during my pain, take a small dab of the sauce and touch her tongue with it, and found that “the tip of my tongue is on fire, and it’s not dying down.” I pulled out my stopwatch once again for another heat challenge, and the results were: it was a slow build, but around 45 seconds in I started feeling some real pain. Even before I hit 2 minutes, I had actual snot and tears to combat with because the heat was getting so intense. It was almost 4 minutes in before the heat peaked, and it didn’t start dying until after the 6 minute mark, making it one of the longest lasting heats the wreview has had to date. The flavor was much more ‘Buffalo’ than the medium, but still had some hints of the same sweetness. It was definitely a sauce that was as ‘N’Sinerating’ as the name implies, but with a mostly OK flavor it only earns a 4/5.
While I didn’t outright love all the sauces we tried here, it’s clear there is a lot of originality in their flavors, which I value highly. So even though I’m giving the overall sauces a 3/5, I could see how opinions of these sauces might vary wildly.
True to their word, the wings here are little smaller than one might expect. This isn’t to say they’re not still decently sized, but they do a good job of managing expectations. They also offer up the option to fry them to varying levels of crispiness to suit whatever your preferences are. Even with the smaller size, they still pack a juicy punch and nice crispy skin. Between the healthy living and the expert frying, the wings earn a strong 4/5.
The Hot Take
I did a thing a few days after we ate here that I don’t normally do, which is to taint my brain with *shudder* yelp and google user reviews. I did this because I was honestly really conflicted how this place measured up. The wings themselves are great, but I wish there were some better price breaks for volume. The sauces are hit or miss, but at the very least they’re original, and while I didn’t exactly love all of them, that doesn’t mean that others won’t. I think were I to go in for a second shot I would at least be a little more prepared for what I was walking into, and hopefully this knowledge can arm others so their expectations can be managed just a little further. It’s an OK spot that’s worth a try, as long as you’re out to try something a little unfamiliar. 3/5.
I know I’ve been pretty consistently failing at the “weekly” part of the wreview here, which is a hump that, knock on wood, is firmly crossed over now. This means that if you’re part of the WingSquad, it’s time to start gearing up for some more work. If you’re not part of the WingSquad and want to be, then just shoot me an email!
Also I wanted to take this time to shout out our boy mayor Jeremy Frank for the slick new site which he worked his ass off to build. I absolutely love it, and you should check out some of the new features, including the Munch Squad where we all gather to eat some of the wildest food in NYC, or our guide to doing Broadway on the cheap.
See you all next week!
As always, the Weekly Wing Wreview and MaxFun.nyc are not affiliated with Maximum Fun or its associated products or brands. But we’re pretty big fans.