The buffalo wing goes global
The American bar staple is finding an audience abroad.
Tel Aviv has experienced a culinary explosion in the last decade. Once a town focused on traditional Mediterranean fare, with the occasional Italian eatery mixed in, the city now boasts a global palate.
Enter Wings, which serves an American favorite, chicken wings. On a recent Thursday night, the shop, located in a busy part of Tel Aviv, was packed and buzzing. A party seated around a table covered with wings and beers exclaimed “Finally!” when asked what they thought of the place.
Josh, a big, bearded guy from New Jersey who has been living in Israel for 18 years, said it was his first time at Wings, but definitely not his last. “It’s so awesome to finally have a decent plate of wings in Israel,” he said.
The shop is the brainchild of Eytan White (pictured at left in red), a 29-year-old from New Rochelle, N.Y. “When I moved to Israel seven years ago,” he told From The Grapevine, “I really missed Sunday nights watching football, drinking beer and eating buffalo wings. So I started inviting friends to my place to watch the games, and I made wings because you couldn’t order them from anywhere. After a couple of years, there were about 40 guys in my living room and I am frying wings in my kitchen like crazy.”
But the guys didn’t just eat the wings White was frying; they encouraged him to open his own place, too. “People started telling me, 'If you are opening a place, I’ll invest.' That got me thinking.”
The tipping point came when White was introduced to Robert Ben Or (wearing the Durham Bulls shirt in the same picture), a wing aficionado from St. Louis, who was also interested in the idea. But deciding to move forward still came with uncertainties. Not until he spent time with Leon Alkalai to help build the menu was he totally sure of himself. That's because Alkalai, a well-known food consultant in Israel, told White he had always wanted to help open a shop specializing in wings.
Wings offers 12 different sauces. About half of them are spicy, like the "Chicago" with sriracha, thyme and honey; "New Orleans" in the Cajun style; and "Texas," a smoked barbecue flavor. The other sauces tend to be sweeter. Some of these flavors include "Mumbai" with coconut milk, curry, apple and mango; "Hong Kong" with sesame and honey; and "Korea" with soy, ginger and brown sugar.
White said that while it makes total sense that Israelis would flock to Wings – they love chicken, especially if it's fried – he's amused by the fact that he had to tone down the spiciness of the menu. “Israelis love to brag about their ability to eat spicy, but when some of them came to my football Sunday nights, their faces would turn red when they ate my wings," he said with a chuckle.
Customers enjoy some chicken at Wings in Tel Aviv. (Photo: Courtesy of Wings)
That's not to say his spicy wings aren't really good. A couple of weeks after Wings opened, a girl from Buffalo, where the spicy buffalo wing originates, stopped by and gave her approval, telling White the wings were comparable to those served in her hometown. "That felt good,” White said.
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