When I was a toddler, I developed a love of spicy foods, and this passion has only intensified since reaching adulthood. Growing up in Dallas, there was no shortage of fiery condiments at the dinner table. Bowls of chunky salsas filled with fresh peppers and small bottles full of blazing sauces turned up the heat in various entrées. Moving to North Carolina four years ago brought its fair share of adjustments. Perhaps one of the most challenging culinary changes I faced was suffering from constant disappointment when restaurant labels inaccurately described the spice level of their dishes. A few months ago, some of my friends told me about Heavenly Buffaloes, a wing joint whose medium wings were apparently too hot to handle. I was a bit skeptical of this claim, but I knew I had to add this spot to my list of future restaurants to try. After my recent visit to Heavenly Buffaloes, I can tell you that this place fulfills its promise of providing the hottest wings in the Triangle area.
On any given evening, hungry diners stand in front of a small neon green and orange wooden house, which purportedly is the home of Durham’s best wings and fries. The restaurant provides a no-frills sort of atmosphere, supplying only the front porch and a handful of picnic tables for people to eat their wings on-site. However, I now can say that kicking back with friends in such a casual setting only added to the fun of eating such a messy dish. Customers place their orders with the friendly employees behind the takeout window and wait for their food under the colorful lights that adorn the porch of this cute establishment. I was slightly anxious about the minimal seating arrangements, but most people decided to take their orders to-go, as the summer sun was hotter than the wings themselves the night of my visit.
When my friends and I received our orders, we set up shop at one of the picnic tables, placing the various types of wings and fries we ordered in the middle of the table. Heavenly Buffaloes offers 19 different wet sauce options and seven dry rub options. I knew I had to order the boneless Bernie Zass-hoff wings ($6.99 for 7 wings), as this sauce was the hottest on the menu. I had to order another seven wings because I was so impressed with the variety of flavors that I could not settle for just one. I ordered an additional seven sweet Thai coconut chili wings ($6.99 for 7 wings) to provide a contrast to the heat from the first batch. Both types of wings delivered an incredible flavor, and I especially was impressed with the spice level of the Bernie Zass-hoff wings. Though not the hottest wings I have ever consumed, this sauce definitely serves as the hottest I have enjoyed in the Triangle area. If you cannot tolerate spice, these wings are not for you, but if you appreciate a good burn like I do, you will not be disappointed. I also welcomed the sweeter taste of the Thai coconut sauce and appreciated the pieces of peanuts that adorned these wings to add a subtle crunch. Some of wings were a bit overcooked, but this was the only issue I had with my Heavenly Buffaloes experience.
Although Heavenly Buffaloes masters their signature dish for the most part, their fries are just as enjoyable as the wings themselves. Diners can choose between Idaho and sweet potato waffle fries, but my two friends and I avoided this difficult decision by splitting half orders of each type ($2.99 for half an order). Portion sizes of the wings and fries are quite large, so I returned home with leftovers of both. We also decided to add dry rub to each order of fries, which made these potatoes irresistible. The sweet mesquite barbeque rub perfectly complemented the sweet potato fries, while the heavenly buffalo rub did the same for the Idaho variety. Along with the fries, the wide selection of beer serves as another ideal side. While I have a deep appreciation for local craft beer, I settled on a 24 oz. Dos Equis lager ($5 per can), as I did not want my beverage to interfere with the flavor of the wings. Additionally, the hotter wing sauces may also prevent one from experiencing the full flavor profile of one of the delicious IPA options.
Heavenly Buffaloes also offers a delivery service, but I sadly live too far away in Carrboro. I already am looking forward to my next visit, so I can try new sauce options and potentially the unique vegan wings made of local soy protein. With (hopefully) only one more year in graduate school, I am so thankful to have found a place that supplies actual hot wings.
Amy Sentementes is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Political Science at UNC Chapel Hill, where she studies political psychology and public opinion. She has managed to cope with the stress of graduate school by developing a love of cooking and “procrastibaking” for her friends and students. Additionally, Amy enjoys visiting local restaurants and breweries, and she hopes her research regarding group identities and stereotypes can help her evaluate cuisines from a unique perspective. A native Texan, she also loves visiting friends and family in the Lone Star State and cheering on her TCU Horned Frogs and Dallas Cowboys. You can follow her on Instagram @gradschoolfoodie.