It’s possible to “fit in” in the Big Apple, even if you’re not from around these parts. Visitors might slide under-the-radar by ditching shiny white tennis shoes for more fashion-forward footwear (but uncomfortable heels before 10pm are also a dead giveaway), but they can also avoid detection by eating certain dishes in a certain way. Let us explore the humble chicken wing. Its origins are upstate in Buffalo, N.Y., but the diminutive fowl appendages have become a staple at NYC pubs — especially on game day. One way to prevent the giveaway of out-of-towner status while chowing down in NYC is to eat them the way true-blue New Yorkers do. (And we’re talking New Yorkers as in city folk, not up-staters.)
Matthew Moran, proprietor the West Village wing haven Bayard’s Ale House has served so many of them that he has done an unofficial sociological study. He can tell where a person is from simply by their style of eating them. “New Yorkers tend to dip them and bite them with one hand, and they then tend to talk and point and emphasize points with them,” he says. “The routine is point, talk, dip, eat. Repeat.” People from Buffalo, “tend to put them in their mouth with one hand and strip them in one gulp,” he says.
Then there is the tourist giveaway: “Tourists tend to eat them with two hands and nibble on them like they are Henry VIII turkey legs,” he confides. “And I can tell if someone has dental issues by the way they eat wings. They eat them with a fork and a knife.” How people order the wings can also tip-off the perceptive publican: “Locals will order wings just as ‘wings,’ just like an Irish person would order a ‘pint.’ Tourists will say, ‘I want the spicy wings.’”
Celery and carrots act as an appetizer. They also can be used as palate cleansers at the end, according to Moran. And the blue cheese is there as a bit of a safety measure: “It complements the spice and tanginess of the wing sauce. But it also cools them down and prevents diners from burning themselves.”
Bayard’s serves two styles of wings. Its barbecue wings are tossed in a homemade smoky barbecue sauce, while its spicy chicken wings, slathered in a proprietary hot sauce, are the default house wings. Locals find them finger-licking-great, as they use always fresh, never frozen, chicken along with the house-made sauces and homemade blue cheese dip. “We sell so many that we are practiced at making them perfectly crispy and succulent,” Moran says. Monday nights are especially popular at the spot, as it’s 50 cent wing night (a bowlful usually costs $9.75), all night long. Don’t forget to use your wet nap.
Bayard’s Ale House
533 Hudson St.