In 1964, a man named John Young started a restaurant called John Young’s Wings and Things in Buffalo, New York. Young, a farm boy from Alabama, started cooking with his father on a riverboat before relocating to Buffalo. Young had heard of a restaurant in Washington D.C that served chicken wings, so he decided to venture into his own version which included his popular “Mambo” sauce.

The Jamaican-born sauce recipe would make culinary history for Buffalo wing lovers. Although there are several people who claim invention of Buffalo wings, Young’s name is part of the starting lineup. After running a food truck in Decatur, Illinois, Young returned to Buffalo, opening several Wings and Things locations in the Buffalo area.

Young’s biggest rival is the popular Anchor Bar in Buffalo, with a history that also starts in 1964. But preparation methods of the two ‘wing kings’ is quite different; the Anchor Bar’s wings were chopped, fried and dipped, while Young’s wings were whole, breaded then dipped in his Mambo sauce.

The late Teressa Bellissimo, The Anchor Bar’s owner, prepared the dish for her son and his friends for a late-night snack and the trend caught on. Since 1977, July 29th has been official Chicken Wing Day in Buffalo. The annual National Buffalo Chicken Wing Festival happens there every Labor Day weekend.

This year’s festival will convene on August 30th at Coca Cola field in Buffalo, NY and the late Young’s Mambo wings will be inducted into the festival’s “Hall of Flame.’ In years past, the festival has entertained hundreds of thousands of wing-eaters and hosted a wedding.

The Young family, particularly Young’s brother, Paul, his widow Christine and his daughter, Lina retain ownership of the Mambo sauce recipe, which is a Jamaican inspired flavor. Paul’s Taste of Soul on Fillmore Avenue continues Young’s legacy and dream of owning a full-scale restaurant.

(Photo by Bitslammer)

11 thoughts on “Little Known Black History Fact: John Young and Mambo Wings

  1. Brian Stanton on said:

    Ate at Johnny Youngs Wings & Things when I was a 16 year old garbageman with the City of Buffalo back in 1966. The “Boss Sauce” was the best.

  2. Charles L. Davis Sr. on said:

    Amon, I have to respond. I talk with your child’s great grandfather all the time. Matter of fact Paul watch my children grow up to be young adults. And I talk with Paul Jr. & Paul Sr. all the time. You have a wonderful and blessed Family. Take care. Charles Davis Sr.

  3. The wings look very delicious. I have a challenge for you. I have no TASTEBUDS nor my sense of SMELL. I would like the recipe for your wings. Maybe, the ingredients may trigger some of my TASTEBUDS for the first time in years. HAVE A HEART!!!!!

  4. Scrap Iron in Texas on said:

    Well, I grew up in the Tonawandas, and I never heard of this place.
    Just for the record, the “traditional” wing, made famous by the Anchor Bar, are my favorite, but I like them from Duff’s.

    • Jaydee on said:

      Well if you didn’t venture out from the Tonawandas you may have never heard of it BUT you can’t discredit because you only heard of the Anchor bar. Give credit where credit is due is all I’m saying. My family worked hard to make a name for itself and if you go around and ask…people know the Young family and the food we produce. The article gave credit to Anchor bar as well but also stated that they were DIFFERENT. Hopefully one day you can go to the restaurant and taste it for yourself.

      • Charles L. Davis Sr. on said:

        Scrap Iron, A little History. Do you find it strange that the Anchor Bar is located on the east side of town, and Mr. Young could not put his Business in the suburbs, nor Tonawanda. I must remind you that we are talking about the 60’s, It does not surprise me that you never heard of Mr. John Young. You have to expand you knowledge of the area, not just the Tonwanada’s, or Amherst. Little known fact.

  5. Charles L. Davis Sr. on said:

    I would like to Thank the Tom Joyner Morning show for helping me set the record straight regarding the Chicken Wing. John Young and his Family should differently get there due. My Brother worked under John Young in the early 60’s, and our community supported John Young’s Wing and Things Business! And any body that lived in Buffalo around that time ate at his restaurant!

    • Ms Saunders on said:

      Thanks Charles L Davis !!

      My father worked with John Young for years before and after my birth. He was instrumental in helping with the Mambo Sauce Recipe, and my great aunt shared her recipe for sweet potato pie which my father made while working with them ..we have had this talk many times …
      You may remember him he was from Virginia.

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