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Super wings for Super Bowl

The Sandusky Register

Feb. 6, 2005



The link between football and chicken wings is more than skin deep.

They're both messy activities that leave their fans with a sense of accomplishment or despair, sometimes simultaneously.

They both inspire pride, whether it's having claim to the best wings in town or having a hometown team in the big game.

They're also both big businesses, and never bigger than on Super Bowl Sunday.

An estimated 54 million pounds of chicken wings -- or 500 million pieces -- will be gobbled down today, according to the National Chicken Council. That's 14 million more than what sells in the average week.

What makes wings such an essential part of any Super Bowl party? Drew Cerza, founder of the National Buffalo Wing Festival held every Labor Day in Buffalo, N.Y., thinks he knows the answer.

"It's such a fun food to eat, you honestly can feel like you're on the field," Cerza said. "You're digging in and tearing them apart, you get tired down the line, you get that last rally ... it's almost like participating.

"You can just picture John Madden describing it: 'He's reaching for the wing, he's struggling ... No! He's going for the drummette! He's got a lot of meat on that one, but he's gonna go for it!'"

At Pub & Grub on Milan Road, orders for up to 200 wings, coming in 33 varieties, start piling in days before the Super Bowl and other big sporting events.

Owners Jeff and Kimberly Smith don't like to use the terms "take-out" or "fast food," however, when referring to the wings their reputation hinges on.

"We cook them when you order them, we make our own sauces, and we use bigger wings," Jeff Smith said. "It may take a bit longer, but you're getting better food."

It's more than a point of pride, Smith said. Good word-of-mouth is essential when you're selling an item you can get almost anywhere.

"If somebody says they got bad wings, I want to know about it," Smith said. "Every time someone says they liked their food, I say, 'Great, the chef has his job for another day.'"

Down the road in Perkins Township, Buffalo Wild Wings owner Tony Robinette said he went through about 4,000 pounds of wings the day of last year's Super Bowl, filling between 300 and 400 orders.

Since Robinette and two partners bought into the chain nine years ago, Buffalo Wild Wings has grown to 310 locations nationwide, and wings have become the country's third most-requested appetizer, according to the trade magazine Nation's Restaurant News.

Although almost every local tavern and restaurant offers up Buffalo Wild Wings' central product, Robinette -- himself an Edison High School graduate -- says his wings stand out.

"Chicken is chicken, but the sauce is the key," he said. "It's what sets us apart, and people always find one of our 14 that they like."

Diet trends and eating fads may come and go, but chicken wings will always find a place at the local tavern and Super Bowl snack platter, Cerza said.

"I honestly think it's the funnest food to eat," he said. "It's something you can eat in your own way, and it's one of the few foods you can eat and laugh about with friends. That's why it's so popular."