Fat Guy's Buffalo Wing Golf Trail
Vegas - Sheyboygan - Mobile - St. Augustine - Myrtle - Raleigh - Philly - Cinnaminson - Hoboken - NYC - Sayre - State College - Johnstown - Pittsburgh - Sharon - Cleveland - Buffalo
If there's one thing Fat Guy knows, it's a good Buffalo wing.
I've had a 20-year love affair with the Buffalo wing. I still remember where I was and who was in the room the first time I bit into a saucy order my Freshman year of college (how anybody from Western PA gets through high school without ever having Buffalo wings, I'll never know). I've ordered 'em in damn near every bar I've walked in ever since, on a never-ending quest to find great wing joints. I've probably had thousands of wings from hundreds of bars and restaurants in 28 states (I'm not planning on living that long). I make my own Buffalo sauce that's famous with friends. I consider myself to be a wing aficionado.
Just so we're on the same page, a few words about my wing palate. I like a flavorful wing with a good kick without crossing that line into stupid-hot. Definitely a deep fried, naked, wet half wing (i.e. no grilled wings, no breading, covered-to-dripping in sauce, and no full chicken wings). Buffalo sauce should have a nice initial sting and a secondary tanginess, without feeling the need to suck air over your tongue or chug half-a-beer to keep your eyes from watering. I like 'em hot, but there should be more flavor than pain.
I'm a wing purist; give me classic Buffalo flavor only, with at least a couple/three degrees of heat to choose from. None of those garlic or Teriaki derivations for me. That first whiff of a fresh batch should sting your nose just a hair and clear your sinuses a little when they sit them on the table still steaming from the fryer. Frank's Red Hot has to be the first thing you smell and taste, along with a secondary whisper of melted butter; subtle deviations are welcome from there, and are what separate great wings from good ones.
And for God's sake, don't even mention Buffalo Wild Wings to anybody from the Northeast who knows better.
I'm not picky about the size or meatiness of a wing like some, but I'm definitely a crispy skin guy. There's nothing worse than a soggy under-cooked pink meat wing. I'm also against dipping the wing directly in Blue Cheese or Ranch (quit spoiling good Buffalo sauce and just order the mild already!). The dressing is for dipping the celery for a momentary mouth-cooler in my humble opinion (I'm a Ranch guy myself). Celery should be crisp, fresh, chilled, and served in a separate container from the wings. There's nothing worse than limp soft celery that's half-cooked by the time you down your fourth wing, from being served in the same basket with freshly deep-fried chicken. And don't give me carrot sticks either, that only tells me you don't take your wings seriously enough to remember to re-order celery when you're low. The proactive presentation of an extra empty basket for dead soldiers is always a good sign. Finally, give me a big stack of napkins without me having to ask (and a couple Wet-Naps for after I'm done). You'll know a wing joint is serious when you walk in if they already have rolls of paper towels on the tables.
Tip: Advancing your social agenda with your golf widow after a sitting of wings will not only likely require a good tooth-brushing and mouthwash, but even more importantly, give your hands a thorough washing (with extra scrubbing to get the dried sauce out from around your fingernails) before you commence any intimate contact around the Holy Land. Forget, and she won't let you make that mistake again.
Beer and wings go together like the internet and porn, so unless you're a recovering alcoholic there's no excuse for ever uttering the sentence, "I'll have a dozen hot wings and a Diet Coke."
You would think that with a base two-ingredient sauce recipe that's printed on the back of every bottle of Frank's and a deep fryer in every bar kitchen in America, a decent Buffalo wing wouldn't be that hard to find, and that much is more or less true (as long as you're north of the Mason-Dixon line... they can't make a wing worth a damn down South, unless you're in a transient Southern metro).
But finding a GREAT Buffalo wing is another matter entirely. A great Buffalo wing is an elusive amalgamation of good chicken meat, fryer oil type and age, fry time and temp, and perfect proportions of sauce ingredients. It's much harder to get right than most local bars and restaurants can handle if it's not their specialty. Great Buffalo wing joints can be surprisingly few and far between, particularly once you get out of the NY/ON/NJ/PA/OH/WV area.
While I haven't had every wing on this trail by a long shot (and surprisingly I've never been to Buffalo), I have sampled some below, and I've gotten pretty good at finding good wing spots through recommendations from friends as well as online research. So here's a heart attack of a golf trail for all you wing lovers, each great wing joint paired with a good value course nearby.
The Wings: Go figure a Buffalo wing golf trail starting 2,300 miles from Buffalo in a town known more for upscale steakhouses, buffets, and $4.95 all-you-can-eat prime rib. Foodie bulletin board posts I've found from former Buffalonians recommend the wings at Jackson's Bar & Grill ( www.jacksonsbarandgrill.com , corner of Flamingo & Jones, Vegas, 702-362-2116) . Or, a Las Vegas Life mag poll named Chicken Bonz (4606 E Sunset, Henderson, 702-456-2669) as top wings in town .
The Courses: For those who already owe the house a few bucks, Vegas' best value is the recently reworked '60's Tour stop Wildhorse GC (formerly Paradise Valley CC, $60-$80, www.americangolf.com ) in nearby Henderson. If you're going for the full-on Swingers /Rat Pack vibe throughout your trip, your only choice is Las Vegas National . Built in 1961 and originally known as the Stardust Country Club, this track hosted PGA tournaments for 20 years, the Rat Pack hung here back in the '60's, Tiger cashed his first pro check here, scenes from Casino were filmed in a house just off the 1st fairway, and you can play it on an off-season, perfect-for-hungover 1:30 PM twilight rate for $40. Straightforward, old school golf. Golf Magazine's Travelin' Joe says, "Among the best of Vegas' second-tier courses is The Legacy GC ( $75-$119 , www.thelegacygc.com , Arthur Hills, Henderson). Burly but playable, mountain and desert vistas, lined with houses, quality service, and a memorable stretch of holes from #'s 10-13 . "
The Wings: Head for Legend Larry's . After bitching with friends that they couldn't get a good wing anywhere in the area, Larry (just some guy named Larry, not Larry Bird) opened up his own shop. His wings have since won many local and regional awards, and compete annually at the Buffalo Wing Festival in Buffalo, NY with local wing stalwarts.
The Course: While nearby big-name courses with major championship pedigrees like Whistling Straits and Erin Hills will leave you salivating for more than wings, the best value in the area is The Bog ($95), an Arnold Palmer design conveniently located between Kohler and the airport.
The Wings: ESPN.com digs Baumhower's Wings ( www.baumhowers.com ), with 7 Alabama locations from Mobile to Montgomery to Tuscaloosa to Huntsville. It's a great spot to catch a game on TV, with wings done by former Crimson Tide and Miami Dolphin D-lineman Bob Baumhower since 1981. 10 flavors of wings, and the Buffalo version come in 6 degrees of spicy, so this is one Southern boy who takes his wings seriously. They also feature hand-carved steaks and extensive menus of cocktails and frozen libations.
The Course: In Mobile, play Magnolia Grove Golf Club . T&L Golf likes Magnolia's Crossings course, an up-and-down adventure featuring marshes and undulating greens, which hosts an LPGA event. Or try the locals pick, the Falls course, slightly tougher than Crossings, with plenty of uneven lies and water as a thematic strategic issue.
St. Augustine, FL
The Wings: Old City St. Augustine was among the last places I expected to find good wings, but find 'em I did. Check out the Buffalo beauties at Scarlett O'Hara's , a great divey joint in it's own right, with a sweet cubbyhole outdoor bar, dining alfresco on the front porch, and an appropriately dark-&-dingy bar and dining room inside staffed by cute female bartenders.
The Course: Chances are you're here on a World Golf Village package. Of the more budget-minded WGV package options, you might try Cimarrone , known as "The Wild One". Not to be confused with the famed California resort course of the same name, this Cimarrone is 10 minutes from WGV and got 4 stars from Golf Digest . It's pretty typical of Florida golf, surrounded by in-play McMansions (my buddy Jeff hit two houses with the same tee ball), with water or marsh on every hole. Overall it was a somewhat fun challenge and a good value, but there were a few too many bugs and mosquitoes, too much water, and it was a bit too tight for my Grip-It-And-Rip-It mood. Maybe next time I'll play it sober.
Myrtle Beach, SC
The Wings: Let's be honest, a boys' weekend in Myrtle screams for 4 of Fat Guy's favorite things: Golf, beer, wings, and Gentlemen's clubs... Wait... Buffalo wings ?! In South Carolina ?! Truth is, Myrtle has plenty enough tranplants and transients from the Northeast to buck Fat Guy's normal rule of 'You Can't Get A Legit Buffalo Wing South Of The Mason-Dixon Line'. Three of Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday's top 5 wing joints on the Grand Strand can be found in and around Myrtle proper. Coming in at #1 is Fat Jack's Wings & Things ( www.fatjackswings.com , Surfside Beach), an area institution since the '70's, but keep in mind they don't open til 3PM. #2 is Murphy's Law (405 S Kings Hwy), a gritty, character-filled Pittsburgh Steelers sports bar with wall-to-wall TV's and memorabilia, plus highly rated hot wings and shrimp specials. A close 3rd was Wing Kings ( www.wingkingusa.com ), another Pittsburgh Steeler bar with 20 flavors of wings, and a favorite of locals. Leave it to us 'Burghers to elevate the wing standard 5 states down. Also getting nods for good wings in North Myrtle is Pittsburgh Steelers bar Oscar's, a fun sports bar with reasonable prices, Iron City Light on tap, Golden Tee, and four flat screens hanging over the urinals. I didn't order the wings while we were there, but a former Buffalonian transplant touts Oscar's as the Grand Strand's best wings. If you're hankerin' for wings at Barefoot Landing, try Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday fave Bully's Pub .
The Course: While we didn't play it, our random golf-addict playing partners raved about the value and conditions at The Witch , which features woodlands, wetlands,and 4,000 feet of cart bridges. Golf Digest gave it 4-1/2 stars.
The Wings: My buddy Mark (a Western PA native who knows a good wing when he eats one) moved to Raleigh about 15 years ago, and he says the best wings in town are at a place called Buffalo's American Grill (7504 Creedmoor Rd, Raleigh, www.buffalos.com ). With so many Northeastern transplants living in the area, apparently Raleigh/Durham is among the rare Southern exceptions to finding a decent wing south of the Mason/Dixon line.
The Course: We played a great value round at the Neuse GC in Clayton, about 20 minutes from downtown Raleigh and 40 minutes from the airport.
A few holes run near the Neuse River, named after a local Iroquois tribe, although it's barely in play on a couple holes unless you're really spraying it. Golf Digest rated Neuse GC at 4-1/2 stars for 3 years running back in the early Ott's, but that's a slight overrating to me. It also earned GD 's #1 Value in NC, and I might agree with that one. It's a sporty little track routed through a housing development, making great use of the hilly ground running down towards the river, and the houses aren't too obtrusive on most of the holes. The front page pictures on Neuse's website (above) are a bit misleading, as all but 2 or 3 holes lack the unique character of the rocky outcroppings featured on the signature hole pic on the homepage.
P hilly, PA
The Wings: As a Philly transplant originally from Western PA wing country, I was surprised to find a glaring lack of great wings just 5 hours to the east in the same state, and a mere 7 hours from Buffalo. I scoured Philly for years and barely stumbled across a passable plate of wings, let alone anything great. Then a friend drug me a few exits up 95 North from Center City to Byrne's Tavern ( www.byrnestavern.net ) in the Frankford section. They sell 2,500 pounds of wings a week, so you know they're doing something right. Thank God I finally found a good wing in this town! Or, a city-dweller buddy of mine recommends Moriarty's (1116 Walnut, ) as Philly's best wings.
Plan your Philly wing swing for the Friday before the Super Bowl, so you can hit Philly's annual Wing Bowl ( www.wingbowl.cbslocal.com ). Wing Bowl was started as a small wing eating contest 20 years ago by local sports talk radio station WIP and Philly-based NHL analyst Al Morganti as a post-season distraction for local fans after the Eagles didn't make the playoffs. Since then it's grown into a half-day Mardi Gras-style party that attracts 20,000 fans to the Flyers' Wells Fargo Center (buy tix the day they go on sale), and world-class professional eaters like Kobiashi. The after-party is even better, as many of Philly's best sportsbars and Gentlemen's clubs are nearby. Tip : Check their website in early December for the day tickets go on sale, and put a reminder in your phone to buy them on Day 1... they always sell out the Wells Fargo Center within a couple of days.
The Course: For a decent value round that's close enough to have skyline views, head for Riverwinds Golf Club ( www.riverwindsgolfandtennis.com , $60 weekend prime time ride), owned by former Eagles quarterback and ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski. The riverside finish on this linksy new layout feels as though it's only driver-wedge from the Philly skyline, and includes an island green set in an inlet of the Delaware River. The only caveats here have been sometimes-inconsistent conditioning since its' opening in 2002, and a grand scale clubhouse is still on the drawing board. A new on-site Philly sports-themed bar called the 700 Level Pub overlooks the indoor tennis courts.
The Wings: The Jug Handle Inn ( www.thejughandleinn.com ). Everybody from the Food Network to The View loves the wings at this South Jersey wing mecca. The oldest liquor license in the county circa 1912 eventually spawned the area's best Buffalo wings, winning local awards and national acclaim. They also specialize in crispy french fries that come in 12 different varieties. During summer, hang at The Gazebo, their seasonal outdoor dining and bar area with live music on weekends, TV's, horseshoe pits, bag toss, and cold beers on tap.
The Course: Willowbrook CC (Moorestown, ) is a classic William Gordon design with thick rough, small undulating greens, flat tree-lined fairways, and water on several holes.
The Wings: Wedged between a rail yard, a post office, and the Hudson River is the Green Rock Tap & Grill ( www.greenrockhoboken.com ), a favorite of wing coneisseurs. Wing specials on Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays.
The Course: You're pretty landlocked by bridges and NYC traffic here, so tee it up at nearby Hoboken Golf's ( www.hobokengolf.com ) simulators at any number of famous courses.
The Wings: You would think that the biggest city in the country, in the same state with Buffalo, would have a list of great wing joints as long as a small town phone book. But those New Yorkers are an eclectic melting pot bunch, leaving many Best NYC wings lists cluttered with wings of the Chinese, BBQ, and even Japanese variety. For true Buffalo wings, the NY Times says the city's best are at Atomic Wings (multiple locations, www.atomicwings.com ). In 2011, a 27-year-old Ohio-born New Yorker named Ryan "The Ultimate Wingman" Hohman completed a New Year's resolution to eat 2,011 wings in 2011 ( www.2011wings.com ). Hohman's favorite NYC wings were from Landsdowne Road in Manhattan and Bonnie's Grill in Brooklyn. Also, Super Wings in Brooklyn won 2011 "Best Wings Of Brooklyn". Other spots getting nods for legit NYC Buffalo wings include Blondies (Upper West Side and Upper East Side), Croxley Ales (Alphabet City), Manny's (Upper East Side), The Bullpen (Upper East Side), Town Tavern (Manhattan), and Scruffy Duffy's (Hell's Kitchen).
The Course: Golf Magazine ranked the Bethpage Red Course as their #3 Most Underrated Course in America: "Bethpage's B-list course lacks the drama of the famed Black Course, but that has its compensations: the Red costs a fraction of the price, is a lot easier to get on, and offers a more than adequate test of your game. This A.W. Tillinghast design will exhaust your long irons and Rescue clubs, thanks to four par-4s on the back nine alone of 463 yards or longer." Pete, a golf addict buddy of mine, claims to have walked on the Red on a random Tuesday, paid half of what he'd have paid to play the Black, and says it offers every bit the challenges of its big brother.
The Wings: Alliger's House Of Wings ( www.alligershouseofwings.com ) on the PA/NY border near the Finger Lakes features 25 flavors of wings on the menu, and sauces good enough to compete in Buffalo NY's annual wing festival. You can order their bottled sauces thorugh their website. My buddy Pete says there are even better wings to be had in nearby Waverly NY at the Rail House Tap Room ( www.railhousetaproom.com ). Although they take the unusual approach of grilling their wings over an open flame before dousing them in sauce, Pete (a fellow wing aficianado) says they're even better than Alliger's.
The Course: Twenty-five minutes east near Binghamton NY is The Links at Hiawatha Landing ( www.hiawathalinks.com ), a hidden gem links rated 4-1/2 stars by Golf Digest . "Built on parkland but no walk in the park, this track just west of Binghamton attempts to approximate the windswept conditions of a British links. Most of the greens are accessible by the bump-and-run and there are no forced carries, although the absence of blind shots makes it perhaps less quirky than the average links across the Atlantic." [ T&L Golf ]
State College, PA
The Wings: State College has to be one of the best spots for wings in PA, and this town is Ground Zero for wings in Fat Guy's book. Penn State Sub Shop #1 serves Fat Guy's Best Wings On The Planet Outside Buffalo NY (225 E. Beaver, www.campusfood.com/restaurant.asp?campusid=78&restid=997 ). A bucket-list-level Must Eat. No booze served here, no air conditioning, and minimal seating, so these go down best as take-out after the bars close for a late night/early morning hotel room feast (although they do close well prior to last call during summer). Lines out the door are common late-night on weekends during the school year, but they're absolutely worth the wait. You could get them delivered to your hotel room, if you wanna take the chance that you won't be passed out cold and not hear them knocking when they show up 90-120 minutes later. There's just a little something extra in the sauce here that sets these wings apart, although I can't exactly put my finger on what it is (and it's KILLING me!). While in college, I actually considered getting a job there to try to find out the secret (but like most college kids, I was waay too lazy). For wing aficionados, the hot version have a strong sting but they're very tasty. For the casual wing eater, the mild flavor still has plenty of kick. Take a big cooler along for your golf weekend so you can take a few dozen home on ice to put in your freezer for football season. They're that good. Other good wings in State College include The Dark Horse Tavern (College Ave)- Recommended by fellow alum Shawn. The Gingerbread Man (130 Heister)- Inconsistent quality on a couple of recent return visits, but when they're good, they're goooood . Or hit Sports Café & Lounge (College Ave) for a sports orgy with good bar food, including their "Head Rush" wings. About as hot as a wing can get and still be tasty, without being stupid-hot. At least that was my judgement after about 3 pitchers of beer .
The Course: PSU's Blue Course . The sister White course is much improved, but mainly for student play. The Blue Course is a great value with the weekday alumni rate coming in at $42, for fairways and greens comparable to Toftrees and an ever-improving layout which grows more interesting on the newer holes on the back. The stretch of #12 - #16 has a more visually appealing, modern feel, with a risk/reward par 5, a cuttable dogleg, a par-3 green hanging over a pondside wall, and includes a boulder-laden waste area and interesting cross-bunker complexes. The course is designed and maintained to keep play moving, with O.B. on only maybe 4 peripheral holes, and water in play on another 4. Plus the ample fairways are only sparsely lined by single lines of pines with mowed grass beneath, and the trees are trimmed up to half-height. So even the most booming slices will be recoverable with a 4-iron punch. While the peripheral maintenance on the course can be a little rough, they do a great job with landscaping like colorful flowerbeds and interesting flourishes (although the replica of an Italian courtyard on the 16th tee is a little much; a landscape architecture class project run amok, no doubt). The pro shop was rated in the Top 100 in the country, and features all the PSU golf gear you ever wanted.
However, the Blue does come with a few caveats. First, it seems to be a perpetual (albeit improving) work in progress, as the golf course design, turf, and course management programs at Penn State have a free canvas on which to experiment at cheap student labor rates. So the few times I've played it over the last 10 years have meant one or more holes under construction with temporary greens, temporary cart paths, dirt patches from construction, etc. Second, this place is one of the noisiest courses I've been on in recent memory. Between the inexperienced student grounds crew running mowers or their mouths nearby during your swing, the legions of local retired foursomes boisterously ribbing each other over their hearing aids, the noise of the construction equipment, and the tight proximity of many of the tees and greens making even normal conversations easy to overhear, it can be fairly distracting. And I'm generally not one of those silence freaks while on the course. Pace of play can be a little slow due to the preponderance of inexperienced student golfers and the groups of retirees with pull carts out for their daily walk. Despite it's drawbacks, PSU's Blue Course is still a good value for a round before a State College bar tour. No alcohol permitted, which might be a good thing on a Saturday or Sunday morning in this town .
The Wings: There are lots of great corner bars where you can get good wings in this dead steel town, but the best in town are at Fat Guy's old stompin' grounds, the Old Tollgate Inn in Tire Hill PA. My hometown hangout, owned by the family of a buddy of mine from high school. A horseshoe bar surrounds a single TV which has shown every Steelers, Penguins, and Pirates game ever broadcast, and compliments a roughshod dining room. They serve 95-cent 10-ounce drafts (I can recall the days when the Tollgate regulars revolted after drafts went from $.60 to $.65). Order a shot and an Iron City if you don't want to get looked at funny. They make Fat Guy's 2nd Best Wings on the Planet outside Buffalo NY . The model for my personal "It Ain't French Dressing" buffalo wing sauce. They also serve a great Western PA culinary tradition, "Fish on a Dish", a fried fish sandwich with 3 times as much fish as bun (a big hit with the Catholics from the church across the street). You can lay a $20 on the bar, eat wings and drink beers and shots all night, tip well, and go home with change. Make sure there's no dark cop cars lurking in the church parking lot across the street before you leave.
Just down the street from the Tollgate is another Must Eat wing joint. When you check out the menu, you won't believe your eyes. C .K.'s Wings & Things (1484 Ferndale Ave, 814-536-3600, www.ckwingsnthingspa.com ) serves 1,150 different flavors of wings (yes, you read that correctly). With that many choices, you're bound to find a flavor that hits your spot.
The Course: Less than ten minutes up Route 985 from the Tollgate and C.K.'s is North Fork Golf & Tennis Club (Country Club Rd aka Rural Route 4, off Route 985, Johnstown, 814-288-2822): A sentimental favorite, I grew up on this course. My grandfather was a member for 10 years back in the day. Your basic Billy Goat track, also designed by Ferdinand Garbin in 1929. The bottom 9 is flat with Stony Creek in play on nearly every hole, and the top 9 is built on the side of a mountain. Narrow fairways, and the greens are hard and don't hold, but slow for putting. 300 feet in elevation change from the 1st tee to the 10th (I used to walk 36 here as a teenager, but I wouldn't walk it if you're over 18). Some great par 3's. #17 may be my fave par 3 on the planet: a great downhill 135-yard half-wedge to a kidney-shaped green, with multiple pin placement options bringing deep bunkers front & left, or pines and creek long & right, into play. #11 is a 320-yard par 4 that's drivable, playing straight down the mountain. Some tricky, tough-to-club valley carries on the top 9. Legend has it that Arnie played an exhibition here in the '50's and drove the green on both the tight dogleg par-5 1st, and the par-4 18th, a 355-yard 90 degree dog right over trees with an elevated green (note: the trees have grown a lot since then). Maintenance is kinda shoddy, lots of dicey lies, but a fun, interesting layout and a good value. Rating: 7.5 (more like 8.5 considering your area options). After your round, stop at nearby Schaffer's Tasty Freeze for a throwback soft-serve ice cream stand, and pray for Teaberry as the feature flavor .
The Wings: You can tell we're getting closer to Wing Mecca Buffalo, as the good wing joints per capita is pretty high in Pittsburgh. It's pretty easy to get good wings in this town; almost every corner bar from the Southside to the suburbs will serve you a dozen that fall somewhere between good and great. Butya's (5576 Steubenville Pk Rt 60, Robinson Township) is a great place to watch hockey once the Penguins start the playoffs... the place gets so rowdy they actually throw nets up over the numerous pictures on the walls before the playoffs start to keep them from falling during games, and they keep a full-size aluminum foil Stanley Cup behind the bar just in case. They also make Fat Guy's Top 5 Best Wings On The Planet . Down on the Southside, e verything at Fathead's is big, from the wings to the sandwiches. Their original flavor wings are just on the hot side of tangy, and 44 worldwide beers on tap . There's also a Quaker Steak & Lube location (see below) on the way to the Pittsburgh Airport that was featured on Man vs. Food .
The Course: Try the sporty Hickory Heights (Bridgeville, $48, www.hickoryheightsgolfclub.com ) with vertigo-inducing tee drops and a strong collection of ravine par-3s.
The Wings: Sharon is a tiny little burg near the intersection of I-79 and I-80 in the Northwest corner of PA, and it's on the map for one reason only: Quaker Steak & Lube's Buffalo wings ( www.quakersteakandlube.com ). This stock-car-themed chain serves great wings doused in 20 sauces, cold beer, and house drinks with names like Leaded Lube-N-Ade. They were featured on Food Network's Man vs. Food , and they make Fat Guy's Top 5 Wings On The Planet Outside Buffalo NY. Take a bottle of their hot sauce home for grillin'. They also have 9 other locations in PA, 13 in Ohio, and have expanded regionally to CO, FL, IA, IN, MI, NC, NY, ON, SC, TN, VA, WI, and WV.
The Course: Oak Tree CC was built on hilly terrain, so you can expect some uneven lies. This former private club has tree-lined fairways and the fast greens vary in undulation. The signature hole is #18, a 407-yard, par 4, requiring a long tee shot up a straightaway fairway, then an approach shot over a lake, highlighted by a scenic fountain, to the green. [Golf.com] Weekend greens fees top out at just $58 to ride.
The Wings: Cleveland meets all the criteria for a good wing town: A gritty Northeastern metro with tough winters within 200 miles of the Anchor Bar in Buffalo. Winners of various Best Wings In Cleveland lists include: The Boulevard Grille in Willoughby, Quaker Steak & Lube downtown, Wing Warehouse in Akron, and Cleats near The Jake. Other nominees include The Winking Lizard downtown, Flyers in Cleveland, Church Street in Amherst, and Kim's Wings downtown.
The Course: Play Fowler's Mill's Lake & River 9's. This typical Pete Dye design, featuring several water hazards and an array of bunkers has hosted U.S. Open qualifiers.
The Wings: You call yourself a man, yet you've never sampled a genuine Buffalo wing from the Anchor Bar (1047 Main St, www.buffalowings.com ) ? You gotta make the pilgrimage to the home of the original Buffalo wing. Among varying Anchor Bar legends, my favorite version has it that back in 1964, the owner's wife Theresa Bellissimo was trying out different preparations as a way to move an accidental over-order of chicken wings when the idea for the spicy sauce hit her. (The official story on their website says she had a moment of inspiration while making a snack for her son's hungry friends.) Her fried concoction quickly became a local favorite (it probably didn't hurt that Buffalonians can use a "winter layer" more than most) before eventually becoming the nationally-revered bar food, gameday essential, pizza partner, and $400 million food category known as the Buffalo wing. While online reviews of Anchor Bar consistently complain of parking issues, rundown décor, and bad service, you still gotta make one visit just to cross it off your bucket list. Take a bottle of their sauce home too.
If you only have time (or room in your cholestorol level) to hit one native Buffalo wing spot... Southwest Airlines Spirit mag, Ryan "The Ultimate Wingman" Hohman, and a former Buffalonian friend of mine all agree that the area's best wings are served just outside the city limits at the 60-year-old Duff's (3651 Sheridan Dr, www.duffsfamouswings.ca ) . Duff's also won 2008 Best Of Buffalo wings in local Buffalo weekly Artvoice . My buddy Pete, a fellow golf and wing aficianado, recommends the wings at McGuinn's near the airport (although I was unable to find any info on it on Google--not sure of the spelling) . To sample 'em all, attend the annual Buffalo Wing Festival , usually around Labor Day ( www.buffalowing.com ), and bring the pocket difibulator. Surprisingly, a good scouring of the internet revealed no such thing as a guided Buffalo wing tour in the city of it's origin .
More off the beaten path, locals dig the wings at La Nova , Gabriel's Gate, Buffalo Brew Pub, and Bar Bill . The Bear from the Downingtown Football website recommends P.J. Bottoms over Anchor Bar, "beats the original, hands down."
. With a rag-tag group of wing enthusiasts, Reynolds toured New York, parts of Canada, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Slovakia and Poland in search of the best wings. The journey culminated in a stop at the National Buffalo Wing Festival in Buffalo. (As of Spring 2012, Reynolds was about $5 grand short of finishing the film and asking for donations --a $40 donation gets you a digital copy of the film and Reynolds' Wing Festival-winning sauce recipe, www.kickstarter.com/projects/1377919912/the-great-chicken-wing-hunt ).
The Courses: Most of the good area golf is across the border on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. T&L Golf likes the pretty holes at Royal Niagara GC ($60-$68, 866-769-2518), play the Iron Bridge/Old Canal combo. Then head for the oldest course in North America, 9-hole Niagara-on-the-Lake GC ($24, 905-468-3424), circa 1881, claiming both a redbrick fort and one of the Great Lakes as hazards. Also try Hunters Point GC ($38-$60, 877-714-4659) for howling winds and frequent nods to the best of old world courses. Wrap it up at Whirlpool GC ($58-$67, www.niagaraparksgolf.com/whirlpool ). "A classic design by Stanley Thompson, this was Niagara Falls' first championship-caliber public course. A great value, Whirlpool is often very busy, so book early."
There you have it. Now head home and spend about 2 weeks on the treadmill to get back the 5 years of your life you just swallowed.
Tips for making wings at home: If you're too lazy to create your own sauce using the Frank's Red Hot recipe as a base, the best and only decent store-bought ready-to-eat wing sauces on the market are straight from the original sources: Frank's Buffalo Wings Sauce ( www.franksredhot.com/products , not to be confused with their original Red Hot sauce, and be careful reading the label at the store, as Frank's also makes a Hot Buffalo Wings Sauce--look for the word 'Hot' on the bottom of the label--which definitely kicks it up a couple notches from the regular Buffalo version to the point of borderline stupid-hot. The Hot version should probably be reserved for serious wing lovers and masochists); and Anchor Bar's Original Wing Sauce ( www.originalhotwings.com ), finally bottled and distributed in grocery stores nationwide, kicks it up a half-notch from Frank's regular Buffalo flavor. Tyson sells the best frozen raw chicken wings I've found, available in 10 pound bags at most bulk club stores and some grocery stores. They're flash frozen individually before packaging so they don't stick together when you go to pull a couple dozen out of the bag straight from the freezer. And throw that health kick out the window on game days. Go out and buy yourself a damn deep fryer already, preferably one that goes up to at least 400 degrees and is big enough to hold at least a dozen wings in the basket without stacking. I do mine at 375 for 11-12 minutes.
Tip for finding great wing joints: Ralph's Roadmap For Wings ( www.wingsmap.com ) is an amateur hobby site, but still the best source I've found for finding great user-recommended wing joints listed by City/State. Or check out the Canadian-based Lord Of The Wings blog ( www.lordofthewings.blogspot.com ), which also has links to about 18 other wing blogs.