During my formative years I spent countless summers in the Queen City (OK, maybe two or three, but one summer in Buffalo is plenty for any kid), but I am far from an authority on their wings. In fact, even though I like them just fine, I don't go seeking out Buffalo wings much, and at the moment I can't recall any memorable wings I have had in recent years.
Likely for any Buffalo-nian, any wing from any place outside of Eire County-- or maybe upstate New York-- will never be good enough. I, for one (no offense Uncles, I am mostly kidding--it's a great city), will take the trade-off of living many thousands of miles away from New York's second most populous city for living in Denver and eating wings at which Buffalo natives would almost certainly turn up their noses.
(Excuse the photo quality, camera died and this is what our phone can do)
It is with that long and rambling disclaimer that I introduce Willy's Buffalo Style Hot Wings in Morrison, Colorado. The first things one is likely to notice about Willy's are the things I adore about it: the lovely patio under the rocky crags of Morrison as well as the no-nonsense service, decor and all-fried menu. And every time I go to the mountains to do something that burns calories (this time it was walking in the woods while carrying babies on back), I love to go somewhere that can not only replace those calories, but add on some extra for all the effort it takes to get there in the first place--and for the babies.
I hadn't been to Willy's in at least five years so I was interested to see how it was doing. Everything looked exactly the same although I imagine the layers of grease coating the walls and haphazardly framed sports posters was just a little bit thicker. We ordered 20 wings-- "X-hot", a family order of fries and two big Cokes.
The wings came out drenched in the customary bright-red Buffalo sauce. Putting the "X" in "X-Hot" were the chile seeds, coating everything and floating in all the spaces in between. One bite and everything came back to me. These are great wings. They were big, meaty and fried until the skin had a subtle crisp. Inside they mostly stayed juicy although there were a few that were a little overcooked, a common problem in the Buffalo wing world as far as I know.
The sauce is in the tradition of its Buffalo roots: it is tangy, buttery, runny, simple and in the "X-Hot" version, just enough spice to gather up a few beads of sweat on the neck and have a lingering burn on the lips. They were served with the traditional cooling side of celery and ranch dressing.
The fries were good enough to run through the copious amount of extra sauce that was left over in the bottom of our wing basket. Towards the end of the meal my mouth had a hard time distinguishing flavors other than hot sauce or cool ranch, so just the fact that the fries were another vehicle for more Buffalo sauce was good enough.
We sat back for a few minutes after inhaling our order and sipped on our extra large Styrofoam cups each full of a individualized soda medley from the fountain. We both looked up and each met the respective gaze of one of the twins, who were still in their car seats staring back at us with a look that made it clear they had never seen two people eat quite so ravenously. Actually I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't even recognize the act of gluttony they just witnessed eating at all. But true to their thankfully mellow nature, they eventually just started to smile.
I can say without hesitation that Willy's Wings is my favorite wing-stop in the Denver area but as I mentioned above, I don't eat wings all that often and haven't really tried wings from any other Denver-area restaurant that prides itself on wing-making. I'm not sure where Willy's lies when held up to the gold-standard of Buffalo wings. I won't even pretend to know if they're the best in Denver, but it is a classic wing with a great sauce that ought to satisfy most--and maybe even a few Buffalo ex-pats.