Being home to the universal drinking snack, the Buffalo wing, western New York has high standards for bar food. Buffalo wings are not just wings bathed in hot sauce; they are a snacking ritual. Subtle differences — are they served with carrots, or celery, or both? — are fuel for beer-soaked arguments in and around Buffalo.
Kelly’s Korner serves wings with only carrots. But really, condiments and garnishes are of minimal importance. What matters are the wings themselves. We like spicy sauce more than tangy sauce. We value crisp skin more than juicy meat. We want a less saucy wing that won’t give us a greasy orange mask afterwards. The wings at Kelly’s check all the boxes, although the meat does stay pretty juicy.
Kelly’s offers wings in a variety of flavors and heat options. The hot sauce spice blend is house-concocted; the difference among its heat levels is how much butter and vinegar are used to dilute the fiery chili blend. When you get them “hot,” the wings come as dry-rubbed, barely moist enough to cover the wings and drums. For us, this is just right. Sure, they are on the salty side, even for Buffalo wings, but this poses no problem for the beer-thirsty.
In spite of all this wing talk — and these are wings worth much chatter — the best dish at Kelly’s Corner is beef on weck, another Western New York icon. This is a roast beef sandwich on a “weck” (kummelweck) roll, a sandwich roll that is topped with coarse salt and caraway seeds. The split roll is dipped in au jus and filled with roast beef spread with horseradish. Like wings, it’s a salt-bomb dish meant to encourage more pints of beer. Kelly’s beef on weck gets every element right. The beef is audaciously rare and cut razor thin. It comes in a big beautiful mound. The au jus is used in balance, and doesn’t sog up the sandwich. Fries alongside are crisp and boldly seasoned.
Kelly’s Korner is not a place to rush. The food is cooked fresh and is slow in coming. Its rich, salty flavors promote many rounds of beer drinking, as do the comfortable sports-den vibes.
No matter what you’re hungry for, Kelly’s Korner is a down-to-earth dive with fair prices and friendly faces. It’s just the kind of barroom that we always hope we’ll see on the other side of a dark door. It doesn’t hurt that it has some of the best bar food in the country.