Buffalo Wild Wings, Weck Yeah!
Though you do read some conflicting reports on this topic, the original restaurant was absolutely opened at the corner of Woodruff and High in 1982. The address translates to 2044 N High Street now. A pair of transplanted New Yorkers, Jim Disbrow and Scott Lowery were apparently hanging out at Kent State University when they came up with the idea. However, anything stating that BW3 – then known as Buffalo Wild Wings & Weck, preposterously enough, a name which would, even crazier, last almost 20 years – initially opened up shop at Kent State, this is simply untrue.
Even as of the late 90s, when I first begin frequenting this location, there are still printed materials around the building trumpeting its status as franchise numero uno. As of 1992 there were just 8 stores, but the franchise exploded from that point forward. Sadly, just like the original Wendy’s operation downtown (shuttered in March 2007), C-bus figureheads displayed little interest in preserving this semi-seminal piece of history, and it has since bit the dust. Sure, there is something at that address now, but it’s a completely different building, and it sure ain’t BW3.
To step back in the time machine a minute, as of early 1997, Tuesdays at Woodruff and High (just like every other location in town, possibly beyond) meant twenty cent wing nights with lines literally out the door, and nary a spare seat in the house. But we were always much more interested in the Wednesdays, where they clear out the space by a front window for this open stage acoustic jam night.
Nowadays what I suppose you might call the “replacement” location sits about two blocks north, just past Lane Avenue on High Street. Representing for all intents and purposes the heart of campus – the major campus intersection, if you will – this plot of land makes sense, the design is snazzy and I’m sure it’s doing well. And time must march on. Still, with mostly flat and wide open land stretching in every direction, it isn’t as if Columbus represents limited space, an island like Manhattan where buildings must constantly be leveled in the name of progress. As such, you can’t help but lament the obliteration of these landmarks.
The one at 5240 Bethel Center Mall has also represented a healthy chunk of our repertoire, though, and still stands right where it always has. Wall to wall drunks, most of them sports fanatics, hollering in either agony or triumph with every scoring change on the big screen TVs all around us. In this relatively posh northwestern subdivision known as Upper Arlington, a notorious hub for twentysomething postgrads who either haven’t figured out where they want to move or never will. Cavernous in size and brighter and overall consistently busier than the campus version, this Bee Dubs feels more sports bar than pub, emitting far less warmth. An aircraft hanger separated by gleaming golden rails but not walls.
But the Wednesday night open stage jams at that original campus location are a fascinating animal, something truly unique they have to offer and probably, for a spot that always seems to be pretty much packed anyway, their most profitable day of the week. Swimming with women, the crowd almost becomes another instrument. Some old guy standing in the middle of the room plays an actual one, clanging spoons together with every song, oblivious that everyone considers this racket as pleasant as an ear infection. Surrounding him throughout this chainlink tight room, masses of coeds clap hands and flip lids regardless which song’s playing, making believers out of Damon and me, that we can march down here with our tidy set and clean house.
We have found one last seat in the bar half of this campus BW3, the booth most distant from its stage. Throwing on our glasses allows us to better view the bands, and automatically eliminates any chance of meeting ladies. We both run neck and neck now as biggest dorks in the room. Damon’s Buddy Holly rims are either twenty years ahead or twenty years behind the times, while my own seldom worn frames, held together with paperclips, are so bent they lean forward at a laugh inducing angle. Babe magnets we are not, not by any stretch.
Following just the one practice, the three of us feel we’ve gotten a handful of songs down well enough to serve our informal purposes. Our third co-conspirator isn’t with us tonight, but it’s as good a time as any to find out how we might crack the rotation here. Damon approaches this goofy middle aged guy who’s running the show. He looks socially awkward to a fault, at least from where I sit, standing off the side squirming in his own skin, fidgeting constantly, and at no point makes any appearance on the makeshift stage, the minuscule corner spot where a few tables have been moved aside. In speaking to him my roommate returns less informed than before, as he attempts to sort out the nonsensical explanation given him, the particulars of cracking this jam night rotation.
“He said something about how we have to come down at seven and sign up, then come back at nine and sign up again,” Damon says, eyebrows stitched together into one unbroken band of confusion.
Compounding our distress is this annoying duo currently gracing the stage, Johnny Bravo. Well dressed fratholes, they’ve thrown together just barely enough musical knowledge to justify their presence, though this doesn’t stop their brethren crowd from cheering every move the two of them make. In all fairness the guy playing the acoustic guitar is solid and for the most part flawless, unobtrusive. But his buddy with the backwards baseball hat has the most annoying smile we’ve ever seen, the smile of a bad ham actor, turning our stomachs while the ladies eat it up.
They pull out Sublime and Beastie Boys covers, but ham actor substitutes his own lines half the time with inside jokes about people we don’t know – their pals on fraternity row, most likely, as each name check is greeted with a raucous round of applause by the crowd. To their credit, most of the kids in attendance are clearly here to see Johnny Bravo, and maybe it’s just jealousy clouding our judgement. Easy to hate guys like these, who can shout out a simple, “Pete!” or an “oh yeah!” and have that sentiment met with whistles from twenty hot females. I think I’d almost rather hear the old man with the spoons solo than suffer the width of this set.