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Find out more about Western New York’s best places to watch a game, get some wings or a slice
By Joshua Maloni
Photos by K&D Action Photo and Aerial Imaging
Looking for ideas for that big Super Bowl supper?
We’ve got suggestions!
Niagara Frontier Publications once again held a “Best Wings” contest during the course of the football season – this time adding in two more food categories. The votes are in, and here’s more about the winners:
‘WNY’s Best Place to Watch a Game’: Judi’s Lounge Bar & Grill
Judi’s Lounge is the inaugural winner of the “WNY’s Best Place to Watch a Game” category.
On the restaurant website, original owner Judi Justiana wrote, “My husband Tom and I opened Judi’s Lounge in January 1980. When we started looking for a location for our business we were immediately drawn to Military Rd. and the Town of Niagara. …
“Judi’s has been a favorite meeting spot in the Town ever since it opened. We’ve sponsored hundreds of local sports teams and participated in many organizations and community affairs over the years. Known for our famous chicken wings, our kitchen also offers daily lunch specials, homemade soups and specialty sandwiches. … It’s a great place to watch the game. …
“Success comes from many factors and I have to credit our staff as one of our major ones. In a business that has a fairly transient work force, we have been fortunate to have employees that have stayed with us for decades. Their dedication to their customers goes beyond just serving them. Bonds form and it becomes like a family.”
Justiana’s daughter and son-in-law took over Judi's Lounge around the time of the restaurant’s 40th anniversary in 2020.
Maria Cheff said, “Here at Judy's, it's all about the friendly staff; making you feel at home; the cozy atmosphere; and the good food.”
She noted, “In the last maybe five years, we've turned most of our menu to add more homemade items. Handmade, housemade items. And we cook everything to order. There's no heat lamps. There's no precooking. Everything is cooked to order. Fresh food, fresh wings. So, quality ingredients and consistency.”
Cheff explained, “Judi is my mom. She bought this bar in 1979. And she's only grown ever since. She's been a huge pillar in the community for a long time. Judi’s has been a go-to spot for locals for 40 years. And my husband and I took over, and now we are just sort of evolving into what COVID has turned us into, which is more of a lounge restaurant. And I think when you come here, you get the family, cozy and friendly experience. … Good wings; good beef on weck.”
Some of the voters’ comments included:
“I love the crowd that gathers there for the game. They add to the excitement of the game.”
“Tastiest and friendliest,” “Crispy (wings), “great owners,” “family oriented,” “good food, reasonable prices, fun place, nice people.”
Cheff said winning this contest “strikes me as amazing – especially because we have so many sports bars around here these days. But I think people know that, when you come here, you get the local feel; you get the Buffalo vibe.”
Judi's Lounge is located at 2057 Military Road, Niagara Falls; and online at https://www.judisbarandgrill.com. The eatery is open seven days a week.
A look inside Judi’s Lounge.
‘WNY’s Best Wings’: Duff’s Famous Wings (Amherst location)
For the second year in a row, readers selected the flagship Duff’s as home of “WNY’s Best Wings.”
Manager Jeff Feather said, “It's nice; it shows that we're doing what we're supposed to be doing here. We're called Duff’s Famous Wings for a reason; and we're continuing to throw out a quality, consistent product.”
To be the best wing joint in the Buffalo area – where the food was “invented” and perfected – Feather said, “We make sure what we are putting out is up to our standards. We hand-select most of our chicken wings, and we throw out a decent amount and discard them that are not to quality.”
Now, the 2020s have not been kind to chicken wing purveyors, between a restaurant lockdown and a supply chain bottleneck. As a result, prices have gone up at most restaurants and bars.
Despite these challenges, Feather said, “We were able to navigate it, once we figured it out, fairly easily, whether it was ordering extra on days that we normally wouldn't, just to make sure we had it in there for the next day when we weren't going to be able to get anything.”
He explained, “There's still struggles for all facets of the restaurant industry, and that's probably going to continue on for a little while.”
Fortunately, Feather said, “Things are looking better everywhere throughout most industries.”
For those unfamiliar with Duff’s, Feather said, “We're definitely a classic Buffalo chicken wing stop. We don't have the garlic wings, the honey wings, Cajun wings; we don't really do anything like that at this original location. We just stick to the bare bones of different degrees of spiciness, and then we throw a barbecue in there, as well, just to mix it up a little bit.”
The restaurant is known for its levels of heat, which start at mild, head to medium (which is hot), jump to hot (which is very, very hot), and end – like most things – with death (but here it’s a sauce). Wings can also be prepared with a “Super Hot Sauce,” or barbecue or spicy barbecue.
On the Duff’s website, a history section notes, “In 1946, Louise Duffney opened a corner Gin Mill at Sheridan Drive and Millersport Highway in Amherst, New York, just north of Buffalo.
“It was in 1969 that the local tavern known simply as Duff’s served up their first batch of chicken wings. Selling nearly 20 pounds of wings a week, Duff’s began to create a name for itself and a reputation for having the best wings in Buffalo. It was around 1985 that it was established that Duff’s wings were indeed famous, and the name became official. Duff’s Famous Wings in Amherst, New York still operates in the same original location.”
Duff’s defeated Anchor Bar in a 2010 episode of “Food Wars” on the Travel Channel.
The eatery is open seven days a week. It operates in different towns throughout Western New York, but the winning location is 3651 Sheridan Drive, Amherst. Visit https://www.duffswings.com.
Duff’s Famous Wings server Olivia Frys.
WNY’s Best Pizza: Imperial Pizza
You know a place has good food when its patrons vote for it as part of a contest primarily held the next county over.
In a region with maybe the best pizza on the planet (sorry, New York and Chicago), Imperial was voted in as tops.
Manager Steven Khoury said, “We're blessed first and foremost. It means a lot to us, of course, and especially because you guys are from Niagara County and we're in Erie County. It blows my mind, to be honest with you, that we won it.
He added, “People think we're the best, and we just appreciate it.”
For those who haven’t tried the restaurant yet, Khoury explained, “Imperial started 30 years ago. It was a pizzeria prior, that was in there. And then the owner, David Powers, and Jim Bouris, the other owner, they purchased the place, and they turned it into Imperial Pizza. They always had a vision to expand it – and we've expanded a couple times. But this most recent expansion encompassed the restaurant.”
“On behalf of them, it's a dream come true,” Khoury said.
He further explained, “We're able to seat a couple hundred people, and it's just a sports bar vibe. There's a ton of memorabilia; we got a lot of (Buffalo-born NHL star) Patrick Kane stuff; a lot of old-school football memorabilia, and hockey memorabilia.
“It's just really cool to be able to give back to those that love sports so much, because you can sit at our bar, or sit in our restaurant all day long, and you will catch everything – there's not a channel we don't have.
“To be able to go from a small takeout spot in south Buffalo to be recognized throughout Erie County and other counties around us – and to be able to serve those people that do want to drive a half-hour, 45 minutes or even an hour to try our food – or to constantly eat our food – it means a lot. We're just blessed, because the people around us is what has gotten us to this point.”
Khoury said Imperial offers “a thick-crust, Buffalo style. Our pizza is pretty saucy. It's very thick. It's thicker than most. And it's loaded up with ingredients. We don't put anything on sparingly – we load it up. People that come to our spot, they pay for what they get.
“And we're unlike other places where they do small, medium, large. We do quarter, halves and wholes. When you order half a pizza, you're actually getting a half of a large pizza. So, it's a little different but, those that try it, they usually fall in love the first time. They're hooked right away. Especially those that like that heavy pizza.”
Khoury noted, “the size and everything about it is just so much different than most pizzerias around us. They do not load up their toppings like we do. We take a lot of pride in our product.
“We've had employees that have been with us from day one, and they represent us beautifully. They have remained consistent throughout all these years. We're probably the only place that can stay as consistent as we do for 30 years.
“So, if there's one thing that separates us from everybody else, it'd be consistency. But on top of that, we're not just known for our pizza. We have phenomenal wings, phenomenal subs. We have a dinner menu. We can pretty much cater to anybody, any which way they need. We'll even make you a single slice any which way you want, and serve it to you.”
Imperial Pizza is located at 1035 Abbott Road, Buffalo. The pizzeria is open seven days a week. Visit online at https://www.imperialpizzabuffalo.com/.
Imperial Pizza servers Kynna and Mary.