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Buff's Honey Hot Wings. [Photograph: Elizabeth Bomze]

OK, sports fans. If you haven't filled out your NCAA bracket, this is your call to arms. The March Madness tourney starts tonight, so get crackin'. Get to the bar. And if you're in the general vicinity of Buff's Pub, get some wings.

Before I go any further, I should make clear that this post falls more into the vein of guilty pleasures than other topics I've covered—and not just because Buffalo wings are really bad for you. In fact, I had no remorse about polishing off a basket of Buff's famous hot sauce-slathered fried chicken until I learned what was in the sauce. Or, rather, what wasn't in the sauce.

The West Newton pub is pretty unremarkable if you don't know anything about it. It's easy to miss when you're driving by, and the atmosphere inside is nothing special. There's a dark wood bar that runs the length of the long wall, a row of booths, a cluster of tables, and a few flatscreens always showing whatever Boston game is on.

The menu is just what you'd expect for a local watering hole: burgers, nachos, grilled chicken sandwiches, and steak tips are the heavy hitters. The beer selection is slightly above average, and the staff is friendly, if slightly apathetic. In other words, it's your classic neighborhood dive.

Other than the crowd of little league soccer players and their parents after Saturday morning practice, Buff's biggest claim to fame are their wings ($4.95 per half order; 8.95 per whole)<. You can get them on or off the bone, and doused with one of 10 different hot sauces. It's not actually the variety that impresses me; call me a curmudgeon, but Buffalo wings are Buffalo wings, and I start to wonder about a place that offers as many different flavor varieties as Baskin-Robbins.

That said, I'm also a total hypocrite, because I don't order the straight-up Buffalo wings (of which there are four versions: mild, medium, hot, and X-hot). My favorites are the Honey Hots. The red stuff's still got some bite, but it's a bit runny and predictably sweeter than the regular sauce. (If I get a side of the sauce and mix it with the chunky blue cheese dressing as a dipping sauce for the celery, the combo reminds me of the Buffalo chicken pizza we used to order at 2 a.m. in college. Oh, youth.)

The kicker is that I've held a romantic notion for years now that the folks at Buff's cook up this special, top-secret sauce, and that someday I'd find out how they do it.

Last time I was in, I asked, figuring I'd have to really charm the answer out of the server. Hardly. He didn't hesitate. When he blurted out the formula, I felt pretty silly actually. "Frank's and honey!" he said, pointing to the bottle of Frank's RedHot that was sitting on the table. Then he poked a little fun at me for downing the side of sauce I'd ordered, which made me feel even cooler.

I'm still trying to convince myself that I cracked the code to the Buff's wings. After all, the classic version usually mixes the hot sauce with melted butter, so that's, like, a huge discovery. But I don't wanna get too hyped up on glory just yet. I'll save the celebrating for when Temple or Nova wins the championship.

Buff's Pub

317 Washington Street, Boston MA 02458 (map); 617-332-9134
buffspubofnewton.com

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