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Nick's Picks: Windjammers

The description of Nick’s Picks on (585) Magazine’s website says that this column is not a “best of” list, and that’s usually correct. However, because the topic of this week’s article is the beloved Lake Ontario bar and restaurant Windjammers, I do have to take a side on a contentious debate. If you’ve been there even once, you know what Windjammers does better than any other restaurant in Rochester—chicken wings.

With the 585 only an hour from Buffalo, the birthplace of chicken wings, this debate has global implications. In a region with elevated standards, the best wing in Rochester may very well be the best wing in the world.

So, other than obvious prerequisites like juicy chicken and a perfectly crisp exterior, what makes the world’s best wing? Interestingly enough, a big part of the equation is peanuts. While most restaurants and bars fry their wings in canola oil or vegetable oil, Windjammers opts to pay a higher cost for peanut oil because of the rich, smooth taste it produces. Despite the extra care and cost made to produce these wings, prices remain comparable to those of other area bars.

“We could probably make more money by jacking up the price, but I would rather just make a good living while making quality food and taking care of customers,” says Lee Selover, who owns Windjammers with his wife, Marcia.

Windjammers further perfects the taste of its wings with a complex mix of sauces and spices. While Selover is reluctant to share the exact ingredients in his wing concoctions, he tells me that for a base sauce, most restaurants use a simple mix of Frank’s Red Hot and butter. At Windjammers, a secret third ingredient is present in its base sauce that sets the scene for each wing.

Some of the most popular options among customers are garlic pepper parmesan and Sweet Canadian, which earned its name because of its use of northern spices. Both wings employ what Selover describes as layered flavoring. Whereas an average wing is single-dimensional in its taste, because of carefully crafted, intricate sauces, Windjammers wings have multiple potent flavors in each bite. In the case of the Sweet Canadian, a delicate push and pull between sweet, tangy, and spicy is always present.

In an effort to sell a wing that doesn’t require a mound of napkins, Windjammers also has a line of dry rub wings. The bestseller among these flavors is the original Harbor, which uses a blend of spices to create a zesty, almost citrusy taste that pairs perfectly with crunchy, salty chicken. Again, Selover is secretive about the exact spices used.

Now in its 40th year of operation, food was an afterthought at Windjammers for the better part of its existence. Only in 2000, when Selover saw a decrease in his bar business, did Windjammers add a fully functioning kitchen. Since then, thanks to a commitment to quality ingredients and a meticulous eye on taste, Windjammers’s sales have increased yearly and its reputation as the place with the best wings in Rochester has grown. This title is one that Selover is reluctant to hold.

“I hate the word best; I’d just like to think we’re damn good.” he says.

Follow Nick’s Picks on Twitter at @Nickabreu585.

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