By Bill Foley, OCT Contributing Writer
OSWEGO, NY – Greene’s Ale House and Grille chicken wings are no secret in Oswego.
After all, the local establishment for the last three years has earned the “Best Chicken Wings” in Oswego. But, owner Sean Ohnmacht, better known as Jabber to all who know him, wanted to try something different.
So the ultimate stop for his wings was the annual National Chicken Wing Festival in Buffalo.
He said, “You have to be invited to participate. I applied a couple of years ago. We have been the best in Oswego and I wanted to do this. Two weeks before this year’s event they contacted us to invite us to participate.”
When Jabber and his team returned to Oswego on Monday they brought home the coveted “Rookie of the Year” trophy as well as two third place trophies in two of the four “creative” categories.
Imagine more than 70,000 people overflowing the entire field of one of the top minor league baseball stadiums in the nation. At the same time those thousands are roaming like free range livestock devouring an unimaginable variety of chicken wings.
Every year on the Saturday and Sunday of Labor Day Weekend the annual national chicken wing festival is held in Buffalo.
For years the founding father of the buffalo chicken wing the Anchor Bar has been joined by renown wing palaces from Western New York as well as invaders from such places at Arizona, Wisconsin, Rhode Island, Georgia and even the United Kingdom.
This year Oswego, NY, was added to the list of invited chicken wing connoiseurs as Greene’s Ale House made its presence known in award winning style.
Jabber said, “When we arrived they pointed us to our assigned place. We were right next to the business that created chicken wings…the Anchor Bar.”
Logistics are difficult, but he noted, “The festival organizers are great. They provide the tent, serving trays, napkins and even cook the wings. All of the booths are along the warning track and they drive around delivering cooked wings and they you have to make your wings right there.”
He estimated that during the two days that more than 10,000 Greene’s wings were devoured by festival-goers.
On Saturday, after the first day awards were presented and Jabber said, “We had three of us working the booth and an official came over and said that we needed to have someone at the stage as we were getting an award. I walked halfway across the field and suddenly realized he said we were getting an award.”
And it turned out it wasn’t one, but two awards.
The bee sting wing received third place in the “creative sweet” category. Jabber noted, “Terry Thompson, who was working with us all weekend, created the original recipe and I just tweaked it a bit. The bee sting is honey with sribacha and sesame seeds. We also received third for our El Diablo which has fresh habanero, Frank’s Red hot, cayenne extract and Satan extract.”
Two other flavors were entered including Louisiana Lightening which includes garlic, Cajun BBQ sauce and Bloody Mary made from Bloody Mary mix.
“Going to the festival I had a desire to finish in the top three in one category,” the local owner said.
While on stage he saw the “Rookie of the Year” trophy and it is usually presented that evening, but Jabber said, “The officials weren’t ready to give it out yet.”
Eventually, that treasured rookie hardware ended up coming back to Oswego.
Jabber explained, “During the day on Sunday it was noted the award was going to be given that day, but at the end of the event officials said it might be Monday before the recipient was determined. “
Continuing he said, “It was over and we were the last people in the stadium cleaning up and they gave us the rookie award in front of an empty stadium.”
The awards usually have thousands of people watching, but not in this case. He said, “I don’t care. It’s mine and we brought it back home.”
The “we” over the two days saw almost non-stop action with crowded of 20 people at a time always patiently waiting to try their wings.
Jabber said, “it was overwhelming and an humbling experience. Everyone was so nice. It was just so professional.”
It was noted that the various booths would trade wings and sauce as well as other items throughout the weekend as there was a unique flavor of fellowship and professionalism.
It was two nine-hour days in 100-degree heat, but the adrenaline was flowing among the Greene’s servers.
Jabber said, “We have been invited back next year and we have a plan for a special type of sauce.”
Greene’s Ale House has always been known for a huge variety of draft beers. However, Jabber explained, “We have had the kitchen open for twelve and a half years and I think some folks don’t know we have food.”
Like any food junkie Jabber said, “I really would like to see us get on Diner, Drive-Ins and Dives sometime. We plenty of unique food places in the Oswego area and they are also deserving of recognition.”
When it was over Terry Thompson, Travis Hall, Kim Van Schaack, Charmaine Boyer and Ohnmacht were exhausted, but satisfied.
Jabber said, ”Many people came over to our booth and said they had never heard of Oswego.”
Well, those folks have heard of Oswego and chicken wing conniseurs will have a reason to stop in when driving through town.
During Labor Day weekend in Buffalo there was the Anchor Bar, Duff’s, Quaker Steak and Lube, Dino’s Bocce Club Pizza, Booty’s (Arizona), Boneheads (New England), Brick House Tavern, Buffalo Angel Wings, Buffalo Wild Wings, Danny’s, Falletta’s, Hard Rock Café, Hot Rod Café (Connecticut), Just Pizza, LaNova’s, Legend Larry’s (Wisconsin), RuChuDa (Atlanta), Scallywags, Sliders (Connecticut), and Wing Street along with others including Randy’s Wing Bar from the United Kingdom and now added to that illustrious list for chicken wing fanatics in none other than Oswego’s own Greene’s Ale House and Grille.