I’ve never been to Canada before. But I love maple syrup and new experiences. And road trips.I love road trips. So, for the long weekend, we decide to drive a circuitous route from Chicago to Toronto and back, making stops in Toledo, Buffalo, and Niagara Falls.
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Thursday evening, we pack our bags, kiss the cat goodbye, and hop in the car to drive the long, dark road between Chicago and Toledo, Ohio, where my mother lives. Our plan is to stop over for the night at a halfway point between Chicago and Toronto, so that we can be in Buffalo, New York, in time for lunch the following day.
On Friday, after we”ve eatenmy mother’s pancakes, we set out todrive the rest of Ohio, crossa smidgen of Pennsylvania, and passinto New York. The whole drive takes about five hours, but Jonathan and I are veterans of the long haul now. We can spot the good oases, the ridiculous license plates, the interesting road companions.
Anchor Bar is the birthplace of Buffalo Wings. Located on an unassuming corner in the dreary city of Buffalo, between an abandoned cathedral and a newly built hospital, the joint is larger than I thought it would be. Not as divey, though. A little like a cross between a Texas Roadhouse and an Applebee’s.
Inside, it’s all kitsch. The walls are covered in tattered maps and rusting license plates. Old motorcycles are mounted to the ceiling. A cartoonish statue of an elderly maidholds alofta plate of fake hot wings, complete with fake celery and a fake side of blue cheese. The Statue of Liberty, whose torch has likewise been replaced with with a fake wings platter, stands across from us. America,says the restaurant, AMERICA. We wait about 15 minutes for a table.
Jonathan tells me that the last time he stopped at Anchor Bar for wings he and a friend ate a hundred of the “suicidal“variety of hot and neither of them could speak the next day.
We exercise a little moderation this time. Feeling peckish rather than famished, we order ten medium and ten suicidal.
The suicidal arespicy. You can smell the pepper on them. As soon as the waitress sets the platter down, the scent wafts up, offending ournoses, tangling ourbreath. The burn is effective, but after the first wing it doesn’t matter much. The wings are accompanied by a thick, flavorful blue cheese sauce that both soothes the worst of the burn and turns the mouth a little inside out with its tang.
You’ll find better wings elsewhere, but I recommend Anchor Bar for the novelty of the experience.
From Buffalo, the Canadian side of the falls is about a half hour drive. We clear the border with relatively little trouble. Our cell service and data immediately cuts off. We”re driving blind, relying on signs and good fortune to guide us toward our destination.
Our trend of gravitating toward kitsch attractions continues. The town surrounding Niagara Falls is a strange place comprised entirely of tourist attractions. It’s ostentatious, gaudy and yet somehow inoffensive. Like a family friendly Las Vegas. Can we be head over heels in American kitsch if we’re technically in Canada? Maybe it’s Canadian kitsch. We like that, too.