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Winging It

Woodbridge restaurant chain opens outlet in Springfield Plaza.

While Buffalo wing decisions were once just a matter of dipping sauce choices — bleu cheese or Ranch — the new Buffalo Philly's in Springfield Plaza has nine sauces to choose from, not just "hot."

The sauce list includes mild, known as "kid friendly," medium, or "just right," hot is "sizzlin," extra hot is "atomic blast," and plain barbecue is "American." In addition, there is honey mustard, teriyaki, Cajun and lemon pepper.

Decked out in a fast food motif, franchise owner Chris Roth is banking on the sauces, made from a family recipe, and the time factor.

"We're fast and casual," Roth said, noting the wing popularity these days. "Buffalo wings are a staple now, that's why you see so many of them."

The Buffalo Philly's at Springfield Plaza, the second in a franchise chain, opened Friday, April 15, to a smattering of customers, some coming in out of curiosity. Sarah Jami is a stylist at the Hair Cuttery next door, and got an order of wings a few hours after the doors opened. She dashed in and out, like Roth predicted customers would.

"I like it, it was delicious," Jami said, though she couldn't remember the particular sauce she ordered.

Stephanie Dunstan, a senior at Robert E. Lee High School, works at the book store a few doors down. She looked at the Buffalo Philly as a potential gathering place after Lancer football games.

"I don't see why not. I would go there, I like Buffalo wings," Dunstan said.

In addition to the wings, Buffalo Philly has steak and cheese subs on Amoroso's bread, another facet "that makes this unique," said Roth.

Eric Escueta manages the franchise with his wife Nel, using fast food skills he obtained managing McDonald's and Subway restaurants in the past. Roth started the chain four years ago, opening a store in Woodbridge that is now a thriving institution at that location. Escueta visited the Woodbridge store and set his sights on an area with a neighborhood feel to open a second store, and worked it out with Roth. Both liked the revitalizing efforts that are going on in Springfield Plaza, with the improved façade at the plaza and surrounding streetscape efforts.

"This is a very good shopping center, it has a good mix of residential and business," said Roth.

Jeff McKay, chief of staff at Supervisor Dana Kauffman's (D-Lee) office, "supported any new businesses in the area that add to the quality of life of those in the community," he wrote, responding by e-mail. "New restaurants are always welcome in revitalization areas if they are well-sited."

Beer will be served at Buffalo Philly's as well, but in accordance with county regulations and the Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control board, the restaurant is getting established first before an alcohol license is granted, Roth said. Although this isn't a rule, as McKay pointed out, the licensing portion does take time and "patience," Roth noted.

ON OPENING DAY, the interior was sparsely decorated but Roth is in the process of collecting memorabilia from the early days of Buffalo Wing history, linking it back to the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, N.Y., where, as legend has it, Buffalo Wings gets their name. There are no connections to buffalo's that once roamed the open plain. As one version of the story goes, Teresa and Frank Bellisimo invented Buffalo Wings in 1964 when son Dominic came in with some friends one night, looking for a quick snack. "Mother Teresa," as she's known on the wing circuit, was preparing to make chicken stock for soup and put some wings under the broiler, sprinkled them with hot sauce, threw on some celery sticks from the antipasto dishes, and served them up with a side of bleu cheese salad dressing.

Another version involves son Dominic serving some Catholic patrons, who were abstaining from meat during lent; and still another version of the wing story, as reported in the New Yorker Magazine in 1980, involves John Young, an African-American, who invented a "mambo sauce." Once he served up the sauce on chicken wings, it became a staple of his restaurant, John Young's Wings and Things, an institution in mid 1960s Buffalo. The truth lurks somewhere in the mix, but either way, the City of Buffalo proclaimed July 29 "Chicken Wing Day."

In Springfield Plaza, Roth's memorabilia includes Anchor Bar literature, and material about the Philadelphia angle from the cheese steaks as well.

"We build our restaurants around the history of that food," Roth said. Roth hasn't been approached about the upcoming Springfield Days festival, some of which takes place right outside Buffalo Philly's doors in the plaza parking lot, but he was open to participating.