When most people think of Western NY regional cuisine, they think of buffalo wings. And for good reason – the wings in Buffalo are undeniably better than those in the Capital District. A friend recently asked me what the difference was, and it was hard to put my finger on the specific quality that separates something like Duff’s into a category of its own. Maybe the sauce is a little richer and the skin is just a little more crispy. I think it’s the sum of a bunch of tiny qualities that add up to a better wing, plus consistently perfect frying execution (after all, the main reason I think so many local wings are bad is that they are so under cooked and rubbery).
Another Buffalo dish that I think is the sum of a few perfect components and ingredient ratios is the chicken finger sub. For the unfamiliar it may not sound like much, but I’m here to convince you that you should make time to try one next time you’re in the area. It’s pretty much the only thing that I consistently need to get whenever I visit family in Buffalo. And I love wings, but it’s this sub that keeps sticking in my mind.
There are a lot of places that sell this particular type of chicken finger sub, but my favorite is John’s Pizza and Subs, which has a handful of locations. A close contender is the local Jim’s SteakOut chain. But if you’ve got time to go to “the best,” I recommend sticking to John’s.
The chicken finger sub comes with a few simple choices – type of bread (whole wheat, white, or sesame), sandwich size (12 inch or 6 inch), heat level (mild, medium, hot), and blue cheese or ranch. The standard sandwich comes with lettuce, tomato, onion, and provolone, but you can modify to your liking. I usually choose the hot spice level, which truthfully isn’t incredibly spicy, as well as blue cheese for the dressing. People that like ranch with their hot sauce foods are weird, but there’s always that option as well.
There’s nothing fancy about this sub, but everything just comes together so perfectly. The chicken has a good crispy breading that is coated with just the right amount of Frank’s hot sauce and butter. The provolone is served in thick cut slabs. And the blue cheese is the perfect tangy and creamy topping. The bread is crusty but just squishable enough to keep everything together, barely. For the uninitiated or the normally messy eaters, this sandwich can turn into a very sloppy affair.
When my family first pitched the idea of a chicken finger sub to me, I was skeptical. I mean, there’s lot of places in the Capital District to get a buffalo chicken wrap or something of the sort. But one visit to John’s had me really convinced that this was something special. It is just basic comfort food done right, with the perfect messy combination of sauces. Even writing about this now is making me hungry again.
Worth noting that I’ve never had anything else on the menu at John’s (and why would you when you’ve already discovered sandwich gold), but I’ve heard that the pizza is not the greatest. Even for Buffalo standards, which, to be honest, are low. So next time you’re in Buffalo, try to make your way here but don’t veer too far off the path. Hopefully you’ll agree with me that this sandwich is just as much of a Buffalo classic as the wings.