WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? CLUCKIN’ GOOD CHICKEN

A grilled Buffalo chicken and bleu cheese sandwich from Cluck-U Chicken. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

The Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York, did the culinary world a big favor when it invented what has become a widespread favorite, Buffalo wings. Just about every eatery on the Greater Green, it seems, has a variation of the recipe on the menu, but Cluck-U Chicken in Red Bank stays pretty close to the original.

Queuing up behind a lunchtime crowd in the City Centre strip mall restaurant, PieHole eavesdropped on customers placing orders while formulating its own plan to taste a few items.

Bone-in Buffalo wingers saturated with traditional hot sauce at Cluck-U. Customers lining up for lunch, below. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

While those in front of us put in an order for the 20-piece boneless wing deal with traditional sauce, we decided to go old school and order the five-piece “Buffalo Wingers,” or bone-in-wings value pack, for $11.49, which comes with a side and a soda.

We were confused by the myriad sauce variations, but found the right guy to educate us. Manager George Anderson explained that the mild sauce is actually a hickory honey barbecue sauce, and to get true Buffalo flavor, we’d want to go with the traditional, which is considered medium in heat.

The wings were a sloppy-meaty-juicy affair that left our faces smeared with sauce and our lips tingling. Every bite was tongue-buzzing, lip-smacking gratification. We added a side of fries, which were a perfect crispy foil. The heat is enough to taste flavor, but not so hot as to bring on a sweat.

We also ordered a grilled Buffalo Bleu chicken breast sandwich with traditional sauce for $6.29, requesting a roll instead of a whole wheat wrap. Served on a large, fresh kaiser roll with lettuce, tomato, bleu cheese dressing and the hot sauce, it requires two hands and lots of napkins to manage but offers a big satisfying mouthful that’s worth the sticky fingers.

By the time we finished lunch, we understood why Anderson said that the boneless wings were the most popular item on the menu: customers who ordered them were able to eat their chicken with forks and knives, leaving with clean hands. But isn’t biting into a wing while holding it in your hand part of the appeal?

Cluck-U Chicken, on Water Street, is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday through Thursday, and until 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

SUSAN-ERICSON

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