Happy 185th birthday, Buffalo! Rather than celebrate with cake and ice cream, why not ring in nearly two centuries of the Queen City by digging into nine of our most iconic foods:
1. Beef On Weck
Buffalo’s longtime favorite sandwich is finally getting its due after appearing on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and in a recent New York Times Feature. Many spots in town have a delicious take on roast beef piled high on a kimmelweck roll, including Schwabl’s, Bar Bill Tavern and Charlie The Butcher’s.
2. Buffalo-Style Pizza
Friday night was pizza night at my family’s house growing up, and that meant a steaming hot cheese and pepperoni pie from Bob and John’s La Hacienda. No matter where else I lived, nothing compared to Buffalo-style pizza, a hybrid between a Chicago deep dish and New York thin slice that recently earned accolades from USA TODAY.
3. Sponge Candy
Buffalo is in the heart of the “sponge belt,” an area spanning from Syracuse to Erie where visitors can find sponge candy, a sugary confection covered in chocolate. I’ve recently taken to pairing it with sponge candy stout, a Resurgence Brewing Co. concoction featuring Buffalo’s favorite confection as a main ingredient.
4. Peanut Sticks
I’ve yet to find these anywhere else: giant frycakes covered in chopped peanuts. I’ve heard stories from my parents about the legendary Freddie’s Donuts that made these back in the day. Now, Paula’s Donuts is a prime go-to spot for them.
5. Spaghetti Parm
Another “only in Buffalo” dish: a bowl of spaghetti covered in mozzarella cheese and accompanied by a side of marinara sauce. Served at long-time Italian restaurants like Chef’s and DiTondo’s, this is Buffalo comfort food at its finest.
6. Charcoal Broiled Hot Dogs
It wasn’t until I moved elsewhere that I realized how rare it was to find restaurant hot dogs grilled on an open bed of charcoal. Ted’s Hot Dogs, which turns 90 next year, is the go-to spot; ask for your Sahlen’s “extra charred” and with the works (including Buffalo’s own Weber’s Mustard) to give it a little extra kick.
7. Fish Fry
It’s a Buffalo tradition: a massive slab of beer-battered haddock, complete with French fries, cole slaw and macaroni salad. Fish fries were a staple of the Lenten “diet” for me and thousands of other Catholics growing up in Buffalo, but thankfully can now be found year-round at a number of spots. Gene McCarthy’s in Buffalo’s Old First Ward has one of the best.
8. Chicken Wings
No Buffalo-themed food list would be complete without them. There are lots of great options around town, but a visit to Gabriel’s Gate in Allentown ranks as one of the city’s best wing spots for many Buffalonians. Aside from being a classic Buffalo pub, the wings here are, in my opinion, just the right combination of flavor and sauciness.
9. Chicken Finger Subs
Served alone, chicken fingers are as American as apple pie. But pile them onto a sub sandwich? That may very well be a Buffalo thing. The hot bleu sub at Jim’s Steakout, with fingers smothered in hot sauce and covered in bleu cheese, is the perfect post-partying late night snack.