Hot Wings from Marco’s Pizza – Not Really Buffalo

Marco’s Pizza joints are popping up everywhere and they serve some tasty pies. The Wing Authority, being on occasion a lover of delivery pizza chains, decided to check out its chicken wing selection and got some hot wings delivered.

Are they totally Buffalo or are they not Buffalo?


Well, they aren’t disgusting. Marco’s wings fall under their own section of the menu, and a customer can choose between 3 sauces: “Plain”, “BBQ”, or “Hot”. Given the two other options, my expectations weren’t set very high when I ordered the hot wings.

Let’s pause for a second to consider the term “hot wings”. Wings can be hot and NOT Buffalo (think mango habanero or spicy Cajun rub). Wings can be TOTALLY Buffalo and not hot (medium-heat sauces come to mind). The term hot wings tells you nothing about the flavor or sauce, and frequently you’ll see someone talking about hot wings go ahead and order something atrocious like lemon pepper, which is neither spicy nor Buffalo.

Then again, maybe hot wings just means chicken wings that aren’t cold.

Pizza delivery chains face a problem with bringing you Buffalo wings: the crisp. Unfortunately, the wings I ordered arrived lacking the crispness of freshly-cooked Buffalo wings you’d find at a restaurant, tavern or at home. I’m told Marco’s Pizza chicken wings are deep fried and then baked. Somehow they miss the crispness mark on both go-rounds. Oh well.

Those crispy-looking dark tips are deceiving. Notice also how these “Buffalo” wings have barely enough sauce to give the chicken any color other than a yellow hue that comes from too much grease and butter.

Look, you may be thinking that I’m expecting too much from a pizza delivery chain. But this is The Wing Authority. If we aren’t calling out restaurants in our aim to observe and preserve the Buffalo wings tradition, who will?

The Buffalo sauce was generally tasty but carried no heat punch, and the blue cheese was okay but not outstanding. Needless to say, I covered my wings in my own blend of red hot sauces and supplied my own blue cheese.

Is it Buffalo or is it not Buffalo? Greasy, not crispy, not spicy, not even sauced up right. That’ll be a NOPE.

Atlanta Wing Joints are Totally Buffalo

One day while driving around the great city of Atlanta, the Wing Authority noticed that every few miles there seemed to be signs that read, “Hot Wings”. I decided to explore this further. Atlanta is hundreds of miles from Buffalo, New York, where the Buffalo wing tradition began all those years ago. Given the distance and what I know about Southern pride, the Wing Authority can’t help but wonder how faithfully the southern style is to the original Buffalo tradition. Clearly they’re really popular, based on the sheer number of wing joints. If Atlanta traffic prevents you from stopping at one, just wait a minute and you may get another chance. Two of these spots are across the street from each other on the east side of Atlanta in Decatur.

What I’m talking about are the small wing joints all over Atlanta – the kinds of places that specialize in take-out and in addition to hot wings usually offer fish, fries, and maybe a Philly cheese steak. These are not family dining restaurants with appetizers and a draft beer list. The service is quick and prices are reasonable.

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I was delighted to find that each place had a hot flavor that was zesty and light, with heat around the level of Frank’s Red Hot. Southern folks can handle spicy food. Each batch saw a few pepper flakes swimming around in the bright red sauce. I did not come across a single batch of hot wings that was syrupy or dull.

I would feel comfortable walking into almost any Atlanta wings joint and getting a quick Buffalo wings fix. What makes them Buffalo? First you have to select a sauce. Check out the menus. With this many options, the safest way to compare is to get the same flavor – HOT. It is worth noting that no menus listed any sauce named “Buffalo”. Is there a difference between Buffalo and hot? Are Hot wings always Buffalo wings? The Wing Authority believes that in most cases there is not a difference. Some chefs might boast a certain type of Buffalo sauce that coats wings and is not at all runny. The Wing Authority believes the recipe is simpler, and that the Buffalo wing tradition is easy to follow. Atlanta proves that it isn’t hard to nail it: hot sauce, butter, and blue cheese.

Even though I was told by one young lady at the register that lemon pepper was one of the most popular flavors sold, lemon pepper is most definitely NOT BUFFALO. It’s a dry rub and weird, quite frankly. It is missing the hot sauce, it is dry and too salty. Most places overdo it and all you can do is hope for a bold beverage to level out the sour and savory attack. But honestly, whether lemon pepper is delicious or not is not the issue. Lemon pepper is merely a ready-made seasoning for anything from fried chicken to catfish. It lacks the adventure and tradition of Buffalo wings. Not all hot wings may be Buffalo, but all lemon pepper wings are most definitely NOT BUFFALO.

Some of my favorite saucy specimens were obtained from “Atlanta’s Best Wings”, a small place near a busy intersection in Decatur. The Wing Authority was extremely pleased to see blue cheese served with this batch, along with carrots and celery. TOTALLY BUFFALO.

I want to give a special acknowledgement and Buffalo wings shout-out to my friends at Taco Pete in East Point. The hospitality, warmth, and of course the food there was phenomenal. We ordered up just a small order of hot wings and they did not disappoint. I had a great conversation with the grandson of Taco Pete himself, who said that the restaurant started as a taco stand but eventually began serving hot wings in response to overwhelming customer demand. He also gave me one of the best quotes the Wing Authority has ever heard: “Blue cheese is for wings. Ranch is for salads.” So classic. So delicious. SO BUFFALO. Atlanta does it right.

McDonald’s Mighty Wings – they’re real wings (who knew?)



A friend of mine told me that McDonald’s attempt at Buffalo wings were good if you really need a fix of hot wings. I immediately scoffed.

They’re called Mighty Wings, in an obvious effort to overcompensate for the lack of originality in the product itself. When I first saw the signage outside a corner Mickey D’s advertising them, I assumed they would be some kind of enlarged nugget served with hot sauce. BUT IT TURNS OUT – Mighty Wings are, in fact, real bone-in chicken wings. To my surprise, the wings are real, they’re fried, and you’ve got a selection of sauces to eat them with.

My experience ordering the Mighty Wings was typical McDonald’s. If you’ve ever ordered food at McDonald’s and found yourself greeted by the most disinterested eyes ever seen standing on that side of a cash register, you know what I mean. Fortunately, my expectations concerning ambiance and customer service were low to begin. I was informed at the counter that the hot flavored sauce wasn’t available. I was ready to give up at this point, but sheer inertia overcame me. I took the honey mustard variety instead, often my second choice of wing sauce (after exhausting all variations of Buffalo sauce, of course).

The breading forms a thick, breaded crust over the entire wing from tip to tip, leaving you with a crispy but shapeless piece of chicken that you have to tinker with if you’re going to avoid chipping a tooth on the bone you can’t detect using sight alone. This much breading is basically a disqualifying factor from the start. NOT BUFFALO.

But after all, who doesn’t love fried chicken? As fried chicken goes, I was satisfied. The seasoning on the wings, perfectly designed to not offend but yet remain enticingly zesty, makes them potentially the most flavorful item on the menu, in the opinion of The Wing Authority. They were plump, juicy, and filled the little box they came in.

These were tasty pieces of extra crispy fried chicken, but fried chicken alone does not a Buffalo wing make. Look at these fried titans!

Mighty Wing closeup

Problem is, these wings are not tossed in sauce, wear way too much breading, and blue cheese is nowhere to be found. While these wings might compete side by side against a fried chicken food chain (more on that later), The Wing Authority is done here. NOT BUFFALO.



Zaxby’s – Southern Buffalo!

There’s a lot to say about Zaxby’s. This is a short order restaurant chain that stretches from Florida to Virginia to Texas to Missouri. It’s entire aesthetic speaks to old Americana and country cooking. The menu is substantial but not overwhelming, the food is fast and always tasty, and the number of locations spread throughout the land makes it a reliable stop for Buffalo wings.

photo 1Check those out. Great red color, peppery sauce, served with celery and…Ranch Sauce. The Wing Authority refuses to acknowledge ranch as part of a truly Buffalo wings experience. Nevertheless, after two or three bites of Zaxby’s delicious “Insane” sauce, I’ll eat just about anything to cool the palette. Zaxby’s also serves milkshakes, by the way.

Southern Buffalo wings may sound like an oxymoron. I am pleasantly surprised by just how fantastic Zaxby’s chicken really is. The hot sauces are as zesty as can be, sharp and peppery, not at all dull or too greasy. The Wing Authority has been a Zaxby’s-lover for years, and anytime you’re on the highway needing Buffalo wings to keep it interesting, this is a place you can count on.

My friends in Georgia are all big fans and, despite the single-use plates and cups, this restaurant is completely acceptable as a place for lunch or casual dinner. That is, of course, unless you’re like me and a fan of “Insane” sauce. Zaxby’s does not bluff. Unlike many places that offer “extra hot” or “suicide” wings, Zaxby’s brings serious heat and you can expect a lift. I love it.

The Wing Authority stands by Zaxby’s and is proud to clock it in as very Buffalo (even without the blue cheese).