Staff Restaurant Reviews
Want to know the hottest new restaurant in town? Looking for something off the beaten path? Need the lowdown on where to find the best beef on weck? (Or wondering what the heck a beef on weck is?) The Visit Buffalo Niagara staff is here to help. Here are some of our Buffalo restaurant reviews.
Rhode Island Street’s Rarified Restaurant
My wife and I celebrated our anniversary at one of Buffalo’s chicest eateries, Left Bank. It’s a cozy place, somewhat hidden on a side street on the West Side, but worth finding. Known as one of the “in” places to eat, Left Bank has an eclectic menu, ranging from Italian and seafood to steak. When I go out to eat, I like to try things that neither of us would make at home, so I started with a scrumptious seafood chowder, and then had the Pasta and Seafood, a delightful combination of linguine, artichoke heart and fresh seafood in a delicious shellfish-tomato broth. The broth was so good, it could stand alone as a first course soup. My wife, God love her, is definitely NOT one of these dainty “Oh, I’ll just have a salad” type of ladies, so she dove into one of the specials, a 14 oz. New York Strip covered in frizzled onions and served with green beans and chevre cheese mashed potatoes. She didn’t come close to finishing it (it was HUGE), so I got the best of both worlds as I finished her leftovers. I don’t have anything to say about the dessert menu, unfortunately, because we were both too stuffed to even consider it.
Left Bank, located at 511 Rhode Island Street in the city, isn’t the kind of place you just drop in on – I had to call for reservations two weeks in advance, which is unusual in Buffalo, so plan ahead. But it’s definitely worth the effort. Call 716-882-3509.
Best Italian Food in Buffalo
by Kathy Benzel
Just the title of this blog seems like “fighting words” if you live in Buffalo. Great Italian food is in abundance, from Buffalo’s Westside to North Buffalo to our suburban areas.
I am Italian, and of course the best Italian food I have ever had is made by my own family members, especially my father’s meatballs. My favorite dishes include eggplant Parmesan, manicotti, lasagna and cannoli for dessert.
It would be impossible to choose a favorite restaurant, though, because many offer a delicious variety of food, with plentiful servings. So I thought it would be a good idea to solicit our reader’s choices.
Here are just some of my favorites:
- Chef’s and DiTondo’s in downtown Buffalo
- Marco’s and Santasiero’s on the Westside
- Casa-Di-Pizza on Elmwood Avenue
- Ristorante Lombardo and Frank’s Sunny Italy Family Restaurant in North Buffalo
- Carmine’s in Williamsville
- Campobello’s Cucina Italiana in East Amherst
- Salvatore’s Italian Gardens in Depew
The rest is up to you. I invite you to comment on your favorite Italian food and/or restaurant in Buffalo!
Merriment at Morrissey's, or the Craic in the Cobblestone
by Matt Steinberg
If you're headed downtown for a Sabres game or a concert or other event, a good place to stop for dinner or drinks is WJ Morrissey's. Located on Mississippi Street in the Cobblestone district, Morrissey's is an authentic Irish pub designed and built in Ireland by a leading pub designer in Dublin. It's a warm and comfortable place serving all of the northern Atlantic comfort food you'd expect, like fish and chips, shepherd's pie, bangers and mash and Guinness Irish stew. It's a popular place, especially on event nights, and doesn't take reservations. You won't mind waiting, however, as the bar is inviting and you instantly feel like a regular. Tip back a pint or two of "the black stuff" (you're not really going to drink lager at an Irish pub, are you?) and share a story with the other patrons while you wait for your table. The last time I was there, I indulged in the stew, and it was wonderful - rich, meaty and covering some wonderful mashed potatoes. I finished with another pint of Guinness, then went on my merry way to First Niagara Center, belly and spirit full of the warmth that only the Irish can provide.
Seriously Scrumptious Samplings
by Allison Wilton
Allentown offers a plethora of dining options that are unique to this neck of the woods. Sample Restaurant seems to fit in just right in this neighborhood of eclectic tastes. Chef Adam Goetz, who is one of the Nickel City Chefs, turns out a bevy of gourmet entrees in miniature appetizer-like portions.
I started things out with the Honey Lavender Martini, a perfect mix of honey lavender syrup, fresh lemon juice, and gin. I can see why Artvoice named it the Best Cocktail of 2010.
Since I wanted to get a taste of a little bit of everything that Sample had to offer, I decided to try the Chef’s Tasting, a flight through most dishes on the menu. Each of the six courses that I tried were so artfully presented in the tiniest little samplings that I have ever seen. Some of the more memorable dishes that I tried were the Mediterranean Plate with hummus, spicy eggplant, pickled red onion, black olive tapenade. The Beef Stew in the soup course was a rich light broth with the most tender piece of beef I have ever tasted. The Crispy Jambalaya Cake, Turkey Cuban Sandwich, Bok Choy Burger and Steak Frite were all beyond delicious. By the time the dessert course arrived I was stuffed, but still managed to taste the Berry Crème Brûlée, and house-made Brownie.
The unique concept behind Sample, the flavorful and beautifully presented menu, and the modern atmosphere all make this a gem of a restaurant in Allentown that’s worth a try.
Steinberg’s Seafood Selections
by Matt Steinberg
Being the parents of a pre-schooler, my wife and I don’t get a chance to eat out as much as we used to (which is a shame in a restaurant-rich city like Buffalo). So when we do, it has to count. We both love seafood, and two can’t-miss locations are Hayes Seafood House and Seabar.
Hayes Seafood House, in suburban Clarence, is not a fancy place (think cafeteria), but the food is extremely fresh and delicious. But what they lack in fancy restaurant atmosphere is more than made up for in food quality and portion size. It’s a good choice for a dependable, reasonably priced meal from the deep.
At Seabar, you can’t go wrong with the sashimi, (especially if the Spanish mackerel is available) and their special ramen noodle bowl, followed by any of their delicious rolls. If you’re looking to save a little money (and who isn’t), go between 4:30 and 6:00 for a 20% happy hour discount.
One more place to try that isn’t a dedicated seafood place, but that does have one delightful fish item, is Kentucky Greg’s (two locations – Depew and Orchard Park). Try the fried catfish with fried okra as a side – it’s so good that you’ll want to order a second helping.
What a Brat!
by Peter Burakowski
Fall is the definitely the wurst time of year in Buffalo.
So, grab some brat, krat and a beer and celebrate Oktoberfest!
Each September, head 20 minutes south of Buffalo to a village that has a perfect Oktoberfest name – Hamburg. From 3 p.m. to 11 p.m., check out the German car show, feast on food from two German restaurants and hear some great music.
Pre-Sabres Supper Selections
by Matt Steinberg
That collective roar you hear in the distance is Buffalonians cheering for their favorite time of the year – hockey season is almost here! Heading downtown for a Sabres game is one of our favorite ways to spend a night out. There are certain unchanging parts of the trip – tickets, blue and gold jersey/t-shirt (please, leave the red and black home – that design is best forgotten), throaty “Let’s Go Buffalo!” chant, etc. But a persistent question always seems to be “Where to eat before the game?” If you’re like me, you try to avoid expensive and boring stadium food, and downtown Buffalo has many cool non-chain places to choose from.
There are two traditional choices – Chef’s and Pearl Street Grill. They’re both excellent choices, both for cuisine and location. But for those very reasons, they’re very, very crowded on game night. So if you’re looking for a place that’s a little less busy, here are a couple to try:
Ulrich’s Tavern – Buffalo’s oldest continuously operating tavern/restaurant (established in 1868), it’s a German restaurant with an Irish pub, featuring homemade German-American food and a great draught beer selection anchored by Buffalo’s home town brewery, Flying Bison. Try the wienerschnitzel and homemade chips.
674 Ellicott Street (corner of Virginia)
Century Grill -A warm and inviting place with an expansive menu and terrific woodwork, this is a tavern with a capital T. Definitely stop in on Saturday nights for baskets of bacon at the bar! (Be aware that no one under 18 is allowed in.)
320 Pearl Street (across from the Hyatt Regency Hotel)
Irish Times – Right across the street from Coca-Cola Field and walking distance to First Niagara Center, this is the place to hang out with the locals. Corned beef and cabbage and an excellent pint of Guinness is a truly Buffalonian way to dine before watching the coolest team on ice.
38 Swan Street
Bounty of Buffalo Wings
by Margaret Healy
If you’ve ever dreamed of “bobbing” for chicken wings in a huge vat of blue cheese, donning a giant wing-shaped hat or engaging in a super-spicy wing-eating competition (and lets be honest, who doesn’t dream of these things?), Buffalo has got an event for you. The National Buffalo Wing Festival, taking place this Labor Day weekend, is now in its ninth year and provides an incredible bounty of chicken wings and wing-related activities. It is bound to fulfill your every chicken wing fantasy.
While the contests, huge crowds, performances and even the occasional wedding are obvious draws to this event, the real reason to stop by is pretty obvious: the food. The wing fest literally has tons of wings to choose from — not only in traditional Buffalo sauce but also in a wide variety of other flavors. My advice is to try them all — but make sure you have drinks on hand to wash down the “suicidal” variety.
The festival kicks off this year on Saturday, September 4 at Coca Cola Field, running from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday hours are 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. No self-respecting food-lover should miss it!
by Denise Drews
I always love to come home to a surprise.
Recently, my husband received a gift card for the Walden Galleria. We hadn’t been there in a while (Hey, when it’s summertime in Buffalo, we tend to try to do everything outdoors), but since this summer has been so blazing hot outside, we didn’t mind heading to the mall.
We hadn’t eaten yet, so we started our evening at Bar Louie. This casually cool neighborhood restaurant & bar features warm, upbeat surroundings with contemporary photography, mosaic tiling and wood-paneled walls.
My husband loved the many plasma televisions and – how perfect – the Yankees game just happened to be on. No matter which seat he took, he had a clear view of the game.
We opted to take advantage of the happy hour specials, including 1/2 priced appetizers, as well as beer and drink discounts. We ordered the Chicken & Cheese Quesadilla, Crispy Calamari and Boneless Wings. Everything was so tasty and fresh, especially the calamari, which was lightly flour-coated and served with a mild cocktail sauce. The serving size of all the items worked out perfectly for the both of us.
The service was excellent and the staff was super friendly. It was hard to leave. We did, however, have to continue on our way to spend the rest of the gift card, so off to the stores we went!
by Margaret Healy
I have a tendency to get stuck in a restaurant rut — if I’m eating out, chances are I’m at a Greek restaurant or diner ordering the usual feta omelet and Diet Coke. However, something about the warm, sunny evening this past Friday inspired my friends and I to seek something new — preferably something with an outdoor patio. We found exactly what we were looking for at Saigon Café. (located on Elmwood Ave near Forest). The Thai and Vietnamese menu offers an array of spicy and flavorful cuisine — I chose a potato dish in yellow curry sauce with coconut milk that was absolutely delicious. My friends were equally enamored of their choices, which ran the gamut from vegetarian to chicken and beef dishes in a variety of interesting sauces. We left completely and happily stuffed. Saigon Café may have made its way into my list of regular restaurants. Its unique menu, lovely atmosphere (including a patio that is great for people-watching) and reasonable prices make it a perfect place for a casual dinner out.
Saigon Café is located at 1098 Elmwood Ave.
4 Days to Honor the Family Name – D’Agostino
by Karen Huefner
I’m a descendant of the D’Agostinos. I live for Italian food. In my 100% biased opinion, there’s no better cuisine out there and the Sorrento Cheese Italian Heritage Festival brings it all to my plate each July.
My festival foodie hit-list rarely changes from year to year.
- APPETIZER: Arancini – fried rice balls filled with tasty goodies
- SOUP: Pasta fagioli
- SNACK: Stuffed Banana Peppers (cheese-filled)
- DINNER: Hot Italian Sausage from Mineo & Sapio
- DESSERT – Ricotta-filled cannoli with chocolate chips
If you’re mouth isn’t drooling by the time you pull up to Hertel Avenue, maybe you ate too much at the Taste of Buffalo the week before.
by Matt Steinberg
If you’re craving Italian food, Buffalo has you covered. From Chef’s downtown to Cecelia’s in the Elmwood Village to Lombardo’s in North Buffalo, there are a ton of places here where you can satisfy your pasta jones. This is also community that loves mom and pop places – we are serious locavores. This being said, there is a chain place out in the ‘burbs that you should seriously consider trying. Bravo! is located on the ground level of the Walden Galleria in Cheektowaga, and I had a fantastic lunch there recently. My friend, who is an Italian cuisine connoisseur, recommended that we go there, and I wasn’t disappointed. She started with a delicious tomato bisque, followed by a perfectly pressed mozzarella, tomato and pesto panini, while I had salad and a wonderful plate of lasagna that seemed to be homemade. The decor is a fun, family friendly Romain ruin, and the menu had something for everyone’s taste.
I know what you’re thinking – it’s a chain, and it’s in the mall. But don’t let that stop you – Bravo isn’t your typical mall eatery. It’s definitely worth a trip.
Pasta Parmesan Perfection
by Matt Steinberg
My family and I had lunch recently at Chef's, my favorite restaurant in Buffalo, and one of the city's landmarks. Open since 1923, Chef's has served generations of Buffalonians understated but exquisitely prepared Italian fare like lasagna, veal parmesan and chicken cacciatora. However, on your first visit, one of your party must order their signature dish, spaghetti parmesan. Pasta doesn't come with simpler ingredients or preparation - a plate of lightly sauced spaghetti covered in mozzarella, then baked, and served with a cup of their famous tomato sauce for dipping. I'm not sure what the secret is (I sure can't replicate it at home), but decades of practice has perfected their technique. Combined with a loaf of warm bread, a meatball or sausage and a glass of wine, this is a classic (and filling) meal that I order almost every time I go. Aside from it's delectable dishes, Chef's is also where many of Buffalo's movers and shakers congregate to make deal or just share a meal, so you never know what CEO, media type or ballplayer you'll see in the dining room. One caveat - reservations are highly recommended any time, but are an absolute necessity whenever the Sabres or Bandits are in town; without one, you won't get in.
Take a trip to the corner of Seneca and Chicago Streets and taste it for yourself. This trip was my son's first experience, and judging by the smile on his face, it won't be his last.
by Karen Huefner
Upon completing my final essay in graduate school, I pretty much vowed that my schooling days were over. That was until Wine School came into my life. Gone are the days of sitting in the back of class, doodling in my notebook waiting for 9th period to end. At Wine School, it’s chair closest to the teacher, arrive ten minutes early and ask as many questions as I can.
Bacchus restaurant located in downtown Buffalo on Chippewa Street offers Wine School every other Wednesday for those who want to have an intimate lesson on a grape’s most valued byproduct. Taught by a certified sommelier, each class touches on a specific type of wine from a specific region. The class I attended focused on Pinot Noir’s of California. Mmm...
There were 12 of us in the class and they sat us at a table right in the main dining room. With a set of wine glasses in front of each of us, we had a chance to sample 4 wines ranging in price and taste. Mike, the sommelier, gave a down-to-earth approach to the lesson and gave us a blow-by-blow as to what makes a Pinot Noir a Pinot Noir. It was fantastic!! The wine tasting also includes two food pairings. The leg of lamb and sea bass they served were incredible and the wine truly complemented the food beautifully. Mike answered everyone’s questions and provided personal suggestions and tips on wine buying. The class lasted about 2 hours and for a girl who used to only drink Riesling, I was rather impressed and left eager to sign up for the next one! Something different to do on a Wednesday night, especially if you time your trip to Buffalo right!
by Karen Huefner
The Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives caught my attention from day one. While some of us don’t want to admit it, some of the best local food joints are the tiny neighborhood hole-in-the-wall establishments that ooze charm and character. Those two qualities are exactly what I found when I bellied up to the counter at Lake Effect Diner – a recent stop for Guy Fieri and his “Triple D” crew. This old-fashioned dining car-style diner offers a hearty menu of homemade classics. Not being a regular consumer of this type of fare, I felt that in order to get an authentic experience I was going to have to opt for a meatloaf and mac-n-cheese entrée. That was until I opened the menu, and the chocolate chip pancakes were staring me straight in the eye. I don’t typically break the traditional dinner boundaries by ordering breakfast in its place, but today was the day.
With my first bite of the triple stack, my decision was confirmed as a positive one. The pancakes were incredible. Extremely moist and not overly-chocolatey (which is typically a downfall of adding chocolate chips to pancakes). The best part of the entire meal was the side of maple butter positioned at the top. Between the butter and the natural sweetness of the pancakes, no syrup necessary! The pancakes were THAT good that I needed to call our server over to ensure the compliment got back to the line cooks. She revealed that they cut their batter with a bit of 7Up to keep them fluffy – go figure! The side of ham I ordered was equally as tasty with just the hint of honey to tickle the tongue. I topped the meal off with a cup of Lake Effect’s coffee and my experience was complete.
If you’re looking for a nostalgic dining experience back to a time when life was as simple as pancakes and coffee, swing by Lake Effect Diner next time you’re in town.
Sublime Sushi at Seabar
by Matt Steinberg
My wife and I decided to hit downtown for dinner this past weekend, and chose Seabar to satisfy my sushi jones. Chef Mike Andrzejewski's two locations (Ellicott Street downtown and Main Street in Williamsville) serve the best sushi, sashimi and rolls in town, in my humble opinion. My wife ordered the seared steak special, while I, being very hungry, got the sashimi special, ramen bowl, spicy tuna roll and one of the most unique (and delicious) dishes you'll ever have - Chef Mike's Beef on Weck roll. The only thing it has in common with an ordinary sushi roll is it's shape. A center of rare beef is surrounded by rice, another slice of rare beef, and finished off by coarse salt and the requisite caraway seeds, served on a plate with a drizzle of horseradish sauce. In spirit, it's just like a bite size beef on weck sandwich, but so much more in this form. I can't emphasize the following point enough - if you go to Seabar, GET IT. Don't think about it, just order it. You wouldn't go to the Anchor Bar and not get chicken wings, would you? ORDER IT.
As incredible as the beef on weck roll is, the other parts of our meal were equally delightful. My wife's steak was extremely tender and tasty, and it was accompanied by a serving of delicious spinach and herb noodles (which she liked even more than the steak). I started with a small plate do sashimi, containing five different selections, including a wonderful Spanish mackerel. A bowl of ramen noodles was next, but this isn't anything like the packets you ate in college. A rich broth contained hearty noodles, shrimp, and vegetables, and was very filling. I shared the aforementioned beef on weck roll with my wife, and then finished my meal off with a divine spicy tuna roll.
It being Lent, we skipped dessert, but I've had the tempura banana split in the past, and highly recommend it. If you're looking to save a little money (and who isn't), go between 4:30 and 6:00 for a 20% happy hour discount.
Simply San Marco’s
by Karen Huefner
When an occasion comes about that involves a dinner out, I always try to check out a restaurant I haven’t been to. Buffalo is blessed with a diverse array of culinary experiences and while I have my favorites, it’s fun for my taste-buds to venture into something new. This time the occasion was a friend’s birthday and she was in the mood for Italian. Instantly I’m thinking about Sinatra’s, Chef’s, Ilio DiPaolo’s, DiGiulio’s, etc. but was craving something different. I had heard of San Marco Ristorante but didn’t know much about it. Did a little research on-line and thought it was worth a try.
You know a good Italian meal is in your future when you can barely make out a lick of English from the gentleman who answers the phone! San Marco Ristorante is located northeast of downtown Buffalo. San Marco's quiet, understated interior allows diners to fully focus on the stellar northern Italian cuisine. The coziness of your first step into the restaurant is so welcoming, which is a feeling that carries over to the staff as well. Our waitress was the absolute sweetest thing and was so helpful with the menu. She read off the list of specials and San Marco’s had a lobster ravioli appetizer that I couldn’t get out of my head. She knew I was crazy about it, so before I even asked, she offered to turn that appetizer special into an entrée for me. When the plate was set down before me, I was in awe. It was eight very plump lobster ravioli covered in a blush cream sauce and sprinkled with baby shrimp. It was this seafood lover’s dream! Couple that meal with a glass of their house Reisling and I was smitten.
If you’re looking for an upscale Italian dining experience while you’re in town, San Marco’s is worth the visit. Grazie!
by Denise Drews
I had the chance to have some cocktails and appetizers with some fellow hospitality industry members at the 31 Club in downtown Buffalo. I have to say this place is impressive.
From the stylish bar, to the intimate dining rooms. The classic name made famous in the 1940’s returns to its original, rightful home with a fresh, fashionable face.
We all had a chance to meet with Anthony Caggiano the owner, who was a very gracious host.
I learned a few things I’d like to share about this place that would be helpful for people to know:
- They are open 7 days a week for dinner. Menu offers delicacies from the land and sea and an extensive wine list.
- Going to the theatre, concert, or sporting event downtown? They offer a delicious Prix Fixe dinner and complimentary shuttle service to Kleinhans, Shea’s and First Niagara Center. You can leave your car in one of their parking lots and you won’t have to worry about additional parking at the venue.
- They offer a Late Night Happy hour at their bar every Thursday, Friday & Saturday. Sample their late night menu and receive 20% off all food and drink.
- Private dining rooms are available for small groups and banquet rooms for up to 120 people.
I encourage you to make plans to have dinner and drinks at one of the newer establishments in the Buffalo area. They are located on the corner of South Elmwood and North Johnson Park. Contact telephone number is 716-332-3131.
It will be worth your time and I’m sure you will make it one of your favorite places to dine.
by Carolyn Batt
Unquestionably, I had heard the rumors, seen the lines out the door and listened to the dozens of praises I had heard about Amy’s Place. Admittedly though, it took some persuasion to actually get me into this hole-in-the-wall diner in University Heights.
Amy’s Place is not your typical restaurant. It’s an anything goes kind of place—some days the sounds of Ray Charles play softly while you’re dining, and other times Queen and Nirvana are blasting while you’re sitting along the counter. The wall art is a collection of local talent along with the place mats of customers that have sketched while dining, and the people watching- well, that’s almost as big of a draw as the food. You never know whether you’ll be seated next to college students, an artsy family or a young city couple.
I always start off my morning (or afternoon or evening—Amy’s Place is open all day), with a Johnnie Ryan soda—locally made root beer, cherry soda, or cola, made with 100% pure cane soda. There’s something about drinking a soda out of a glass bottle in a diner that makes me feel like I’m suddenly not in 2009 Buffalo.
Then it’s on to the lentil soup. Lentil soup in itself isn’t always the most exciting first course, but at Amy’s Place, their homemade soup is a chunky mix of fresh lentils, seasonings and pasta for an added originality. Their menu contains a mix of Middle Eastern, vegetarian options and dishes created by their own staff. Despite the more than 50 items you can order, I’m pretty partial to the Simply Salim—a mix of fresh tomatoes, feta cheese, fries and hot sauce in a pita with a side of tabouli. It’s definitely one of those “tastes better than it sounds” must-try foods.
Amy’s Place has caused me to have an addiction to an offbeat restaurant that at first glance, may not be your first choice. However, after one meal there, instead of people trying to persuade me, the roles have reversed and I’m the one now suggesting Amy’s Place—for the third time in a week.
Buffalo: You’ll Eat It Up!
Food lovers rejoice, because while we are justifiably proud of our chicken wings, there is so much more to the Buffalo culinary scene than hot sauce and blue cheese dressing. Start with enormous ethnic diversity, add in a profusion of local farms and orchards and a microclimate in nearby Niagara County that is ideal for fruit and grape growing and what do you get? You get great restaurants, delicious local specialties, wine trails, farmers markets, gourmet food shops, cooking classes, and more.
Partake of Pano’s
by Karen Huefner
Pano’s Restaurant on Elmwood Avenue has been a Buffalo icon for over 30 years so I stopped in the other night for a bite to eat. Parking isn’t the easiest thing to come by on Elmwood Ave so I was thankful Pano’s had a lot. The restaurant is pretty big which means my stomach and I were thankful there was no wait. We got a seat right by the windows (which open up during the summertime to treat guests to some coveted patio dining). The menu at Pano’s is quite extensive and my options all sounded tasty. After seeing entrée after entrée pass me by, I knew I would not be disappointed no matter what words came out of my mouth. I went with the greek pasta. It was penne with artichokes, feta, goat cheese (my new favorite ingredient of all time), roasted red peppers and olives. The meal was steamy hot and so scrumptious. The portion they give you was bigger than my tummy could handle and I’m happy to report I got two meals out of it later in the week! Pano’s atmosphere is warm and inviting. Located in the Elmwood Village it has that neighborhood feel that for some reason just makes your food taste that much cozier. This successful business has continued to evolve from its original concept to the dynamic restaurant it is today and it’s worth a visit. Open to 1am daily it’s ideal for that late night snack after a show or to satisfy your hunger after a couple adult beverages on Elmwood. Eat Up Elmwood today!
Buffalo’s Bodacious Barbecue
by Matt Steinberg
Buffalo’s annual autumnal celebration of “low and slow”, the deliciously titled Oinktoberfest, will be fired up this weekend. Held in conjunction with the Fall Festival at the Great Pumpkin Farm in Clarence, this year’s Oinktoberfest is happening during the festival’s opening weekend, September 26 & 27. Saturday is once again a Kansas City Barbecue Society sanctioned event and one of New York State’s Championship contests. Sunday has two events: The Outdoor Cooking Contest & a Chili Cook-off. This year’s theme is “Las Vegas Style,” and visitors can indulge in all manner of smoky goodness from a number of barbecue jockeys. If you want to sample lots of pork and brisket in one place, along with beer and the blues, Oinktoberfest is where to go.
Outdoor Dining at The Roycroft Inn
by Doug Sitler
With summer still in full swing, there are numerous restaurant outdoor dining experiences waiting for you in the Buffalo-area. One of my favorite places to go no matter what time of the year is the historic and charming Roycroft Inn in East Aurora. However, in the summertime months, there is outdoor seating on The Peristyle – which is a columned porch that surrounds an internal courtyard garden. The serene, open-air setting creates a blissful three-way encounter between the guests, the food and the natural beauty of the Roycroft campus grounds.
After ordering off their delicious menu (psst…try the French Onion soup, it’s amazing!), you will become consumed by the landscape from the Peristyle’s raised vantage point. On one side, you receive a panoramic view of The Roycroft Campus, including The Copper Shop boutique. On the other side is the courtyard garden that features a small, babbling fountain set amongst a stone path and a small hedge. You certainly receive a strong feeling that you are at a place that is unique, inspiring, and relaxing. It is the perfect setting for a romantic dinner, or a leisurely long weekend lunch with friends and family. The combination of The Roycroft Inn’s exquisite food and garden setting will make any visit a memorable one.
The Roycroft Inn restaurant is open year round for lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch.
Russell’s Rolls Out the Red Carpet
by Karen Huefner
Russ Salvatore truly turned up the heat on his latest restaurant endeavor. Russell’s Steaks, Chops & More opened back in the Spring and after a few months of passing it by on Transit Road, I finally made a reservation. My family and I deemed that last Saturday was going to be a night to indulge ourselves. We started out with cocktails at the bar. Considering it was August 1st and the start of a new month, I deviated from my typical drink-ordering path and asked for a mojito (phew, they had fresh mint). After warming up the evening with a pre-dinner cocktail, Russ personally walked us to our table. I have a feeling Russ is there every night to make sure everything is running smoothly. To Buffalonians, Russ is somewhat of a local celebrity.
As soon as the menus opened, I felt like we bombarded our waitress with orders of everything. We were firing off orders of stuffed banana peppers, seared ahi tuna, crab cakes and the tomato bruschetta bread. Each of these appetizers left us wanting more…I’m talking plates licked clean and looking for the next round. The bruschetta bread was incredible. It’s cut into bite-sized pieces I think for a reason but I helped myself to about 5 or 6.
For dinner our table was a sea of goat cheese crusted filet mignon, Chilean sea bass served over lobster ravioli, 2 lb. lobster tail, king crab legs, and osso bucco. The menu is a la carte and the sides serve 1-2 people. As I’m contemplating a side of the lobster mac ‘n cheese or the jumbo sweet potato, I leaned towards the starch with the famous last words of “How big can a jumbo sweet potato be?”. When Russ means jumbo, jumbo it is. This veggie was the size of a small football so beware!
Every thing that came out of that kitchen was to die for. We didn’t have one complaint from the food to the service to the ambiance. First class all around.
Russ Salvatore outdid himself again. Our family splurged a bit on this meal but there’s a dinner for two option ($35 per person) that may fit more into your budget. Or take advantage of the ultimate deal that includes an overnight in his new Salvatore’s Grand Hotel and dinner for two.
Fanning the Flames of Flavor at Fiamma
by Matt Steinberg
When my wife and I were looking for a special place to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary, the idea of going to Fiamma Steak kept coming up. (Apparently we weren’t the only people to have that thought that evening. A friend and his wife of three years were there, along with another couple commemorating 34 years of wedded bliss, all of us within 40 feet of each other.) It’s a somewhat new steakhouse along Buffalo’s new “Restaurant Row”, Hertel Avenue, and has been getting a lot of positive buzz lately. And when I mentioned to some colleagues that we were going there, the universal response was “Oh, that place is SOOOO good!”. So our hopes were understandably high when we walked in on Saturday night.
The atmosphere is a comfortable combination of white (actually tan) tablecloth elegance and urban cool, with minimalist, streamlined wall and table accents. However, the emphasis here is definitely on the food. We started with what seemed like an entire squid worth of calamari that came with 3 very tasty dipping sauces, the best of which was a creamy, lemon-dill concoction, followed by a big shared bowl of Classic Onion Soup. This was not your typical French Onion soup - the broth had been reduced to maximize it’s beef flavor, the sauteed onions added an interesting hint of sweetness, and it was topped by a thick slice of interesting Gruyere cheese. I had considered getting a salad for myself, as I had heard that they were outstanding. But not wanting to let my eyes get bigger than my stomach, I passed, so I could concentrate on the entree. In hindsight, that was a very good idea. Fiamma, like most steakhouses, sells each item à la carte, but the trade off is portion size. We ordered the creamed spinach and lobster and crab mac and cheese, both of which more than enough for two people. A word about the mac and cheese - if you go to Fiamma, get it. The kind we had was a special that evening, but I’m sure the main menu version is just as good. It’s shell pasta covered in a tangy cheese sauce, with a crispy chipotle pepper topping that adds an unexpected (and divine) spiciness to it. Kraft dinner it ain’t.
But all of these delightful starters and side dishes are merely warm-up acts to the evening’s main event, the steak. All of Fiamma’s beef is wet aged and then marinated, giving it a depth of flavor that’s hard to match anywhere else. My wife ordered the 12 oz. Goat Cheese Crusted Filet Mignon, and I chose the 18 oz. Cast Iron Ribeye, both of which were grilled over a woodburning fire. From the first bite, I could tell that all of the hype is warranted. My steak had a thin, flavorful crust, just enough marbling to keep it very juicy, and it was topped by a thick cream and herb sauce, while my wife’s filet was melt-in-your-mouth tender. This was the best steak I have ever had - I tried to eat it slowly and savor every bite, but that was simply impossible. I’m glad I had the foresight to skip the salad - as it was, I couldn’t finish my meal, but that just extends dinner into lunch the next day.
Fiamma is not an everyday type of place, as the prices are what you’d expect at a high-end steakhouse. But if you’re looking for a place to celebrate a special occasion with a meal you’ll remember for weeks, located in a cool neighborhood, try Fiamma. You won’t be disappointed.
Confection Perfection at The Chocolate Bar
by Kelsey Bradbury
Although I’ve never been a chocolate fanatic, I found myself infatuated this weekend when I visited The Chocolate Bar, located on East Chippewa Street, in the heart of downtown Buffalo.
Not only does The Chocolate Bar serve chocolate, but the atmosphere is as indulgent as the name implies—from the warm wood paneling, to the background of melodic R&B songs, to the red rose petal that adorned my plate of cheesecake. The wall facing Chippewa Street is made of glass panels, and from a table inside, the view of Buffalo’s street life is delightful.
My companions and I all chose desserts off the menu. I ordered the “NY Style Cheesecake,” a rich round serving of cheesecake with strawberries and chocolate shavings on the side. Two of my friends ordered ice cream sundaes; the servings were gigantic and perfectly decadent in large stemmed glasses with whipped cream on top. The “Dip Your Own Berries” was another popular choice at my table, featuring a martini glass filled with warm chocolate and a plate of strawberries.
For patrons over 21, The Chocolate Bar boasts a selection of both classic and dessert themed alcoholic beverages, and has been voted the best martini bar in Buffalo, with a variety of classic and dessert martinis, including Raspberry Truffle, Swedish Fish, and Jolly Rancher. The Chocolate Bar also serves several flavors of “Alp’accinos,” which are milkshakes made with espresso and liquor. Perhaps the most unique offering at the bar is the chocolate shot glasses filled with the liquor of your choice.
And despite a name that implies a focus on specialty desserts and drinks, The Chocolate Bar delivers a fine selection of delicious sandwiches, paninis, soups, and salads.
Musical selections such as “Ooh Child (Things Are Gonna Get Easier),” “Beat It,” and “Don’t Stop Believing” helped set a relaxing, playful mood throughout the restaurant. Those who visit The Chocolate Bar on a Tuesday night can enjoy live music by Sax Man Slim from 8–11 PM.
The Chocolate Bar is open daily for lunch and dinner and can be accessed from inside the Hampton Inn, or from the street entrance at 114 Chippewa Street.
It’s Time to Mangia!
by Karen Huefner
No matter what language you speak, your mouth has to start watering at the sound of the word “Mangia!” (meaning “eat” in italian). That’s exactly what happened to me leading up to my visit to Mangia Ristorante & Caffe in Orchard Park this past weekend. Twelve of us made the 15 minute drive south of Buffalo to the town of Orchard Park (Also the home to the stadium for the Buffalo Bills). Complimentary valet parking greeted us at the front entrance to the restaurant. While waiting for our table in the dining room, we stopped at the bar to sip a little vino. With twelve of us approaching the bar at once and all relatively undecided on our wine selection, the bartender set up a mini wine-tasting for us to sample their organic wines. Molto Buono!
We hung at the bar long enough to finish our first glass of Reisling and then proceeded to our seats. The combination of dim lighting, soft music and endless laughter gave the room such a cozy feel. Eager to see what Mangia had to offer, we dove into the menu and started firing our order of appetizers to the waiter. Antipasto Lisa, Calamari, Bruschetta, and the caprese salad all made their way around our table of 12. Grabbing a bite here and there, all were very tasty and not to mention plenty for each of us to all get a taste. The thought of trying to recall the 12 entrees that were served is next to impossible (thanks to that glass of Reisling) but I’ll never forget the tasty choice I made for dinner. I went with the Veal Florentine. Two hearty slices of veal sautéed with artichokes, cherry tomatoes, red onions, & spinach in a roasted garlic cream sauce over rigatoni pasta. The list of adjectives to describe this meal is endless so I’ll resort to one word: Wow.
In fact “wow” describes everything about our experience at Mangia. Their menu is one of the most impressive menus I’ve seen for an Italian restaurant. From the atmosphere to dessert, Mangia is sure to please.
Unique and Independent Owned: Allentown Restaurants
by Carolyn Batt
One of the most eclectic neighborhoods in Buffalo is the Allentown Historic Preservation District. Home to some of Buffalo’s best architecture, shopping, and nightlife, Allentown is also home to one of the nation’s largest outdoor art festivals. One of the biggest attracting points of visitors to this Bohemian neighborhood though is its offbeat restaurants that you can’t find in other cities.
Allentown offers a variety of creative dining options that are unique to this neck of the woods. Start off by stopping by Betty’s, Buffalo’s best kept secret. Located in a beautifully restored century old house in the middle of a residential neighborhood, Betty’s boasts homemade breakfasts, lunches and dinners with a variety of vegetarian and local foods. This secret is quickly catching on as Sunday brunches oftentimes finds people lining up around the corner for spinach potato pancakes or the scrambled tofu hash.
Try the Falafel Bar for lunch. This newest location of the popular Buffalo Mediterranean eatery features authentic falafel, hummus and other popular Middle Eastern foods. The tabouli is not to be missed here! Grab a fresh fruit smoothie or fruit juice made to order before antiquing or checking out one of the dozens of art galleries around the neighborhood.
Catch dinner at Sample Restaurant—where you can literally sample a variety of gourmet cuisines. Try the carrot ginger soup, served in a shot glass or the steak frite—seared sirloin steak and Worcestershire aioli served atop a house made french fry! If you’re still hungry, don’t worry, Sample also serves a variety of small plates and desserts to compliment.
Allentown offers more than two dozen restaurants within a one mile radius—all independently owned.
Good things are brewing at Pearl Street Grill & Brewery
by Carolyn Batt
Last night I went to Pearl Street Grill & Brewery, a popular hangout for before, during and after First Niagara Center sports events. Arriving at 5pm before a Buffalo Sabres game, I found the place packed wall-to-wall with enthusiastic sports fans. Some were catching a quick bite to eat in the restaurant, while others headed upstairs for a pre-Sabres game buffet. Pearl Street offers a no-wait buffet before major events at the arena.
My friend and I started off at the bar, deciding between a chalkboard list of interesting brews. Pearl Street is known for its signature beers and is one of only two breweries in Buffalo that brews its own beer. I had the Blue-Eyed Blueberry Blondie, a light blueberry ale while he had the Street Brawler, an Irish-style oatmeal stout.
After being seated, we started off with the Buffalo Chicken Dip before looking over the dozens of dinner choices. From sandwiches to shepherd’s pie, Pearl Street’s menu offers a little bit of everything.
Pearl Street Grill & Brewery has an old-world charm and feel to it, from the hardwood floors and bar to the antique belt-driven fans that line the restaurant. Pearl Street is truly a unique restaurant (it is also becoming quite the place for wedding receptions) and a great place to grab a bit before a game, enjoy an appetizer while watching on their big-screen tvs, or grab a micro-brew post-game.
Burchfield Penney And Brodo: The Perfect Combination
by Doug Sitler
One of my favorite activities in Buffalo is attending a Friday evening art opening and then enjoy a nice dinner in one of the city’s amazing restaurants.
Last Friday I did exactly that, as I grabbed my friend and we headed over to the new Burchfield Penney Art Center for the opening of the intriguingly-titled “20,000 Crickets” exhibition. The arts center was abuzz with hundreds of art patrons sifting through the incredible gallery space - a scene that emphatically states that Buffalo is a major arts city. While there are numerous exhibits simultaneously hanging in the center at any one time, last week’s event was to celebrate the opening of “20,000 Crickets” - an interesting, walk-through installation that brings you into undetected world of bugs.
A Finger-Licking Pursuit of Buffalo’s Best Wings
by Doug Sitler
Here are some of my favorite places to get wings:
The Anchor Bar - the original birthplace of the chicken wing. This downtown pub serves up wings to aficionados, morning, noon and night. It is a “must see” destination for visitors who want to experience the place that started it all.
Duff’s Famous Wings - my favorite destination before a University at Buffalo sporting event. This Sheridan Drive pub cranks out the wings - which many consider the best in Buffalo. For the brave wing eater, try Duff’s hottest style of wing titled “Death Armageddon.”
Gabriel’s Gate - for years, “The Gate” has been serving up the perfect wings - crispy and saucy. Some people claim that this funky Allentown restaurant’s wings are hard to beat. You won’t find any argument from me!
Grover’s Bar & Grill - this East Amherst restaurant is known for its burgers, but to me, the wings are top rate. Great place to bring the family or watch the game with your friends.
The Place - tucked away a block off the Elmwood Strip, this neighborhood pub serves up wings nice n’ saucy. Friendly bartenders and patrons provide a fun atmosphere to chow down some poultry delights.
Hungry? Hit Up Hertel!
by Karen Huefner
Hertel Avenue, the main commercial strip of North Buffalo, has been reborn and rejuvenated in recent years as Buffalo’s “Little Italy” and the center for restaurants, antiques and home furnishings. This time around, hunger is what sent me to Hertel. Living in North Buffalo, Hertel is the perfect location to fill the void in my stomach.
Options are plentiful on Hertel Avenue. Here’s just a few:
However I personally landed at a table inside La Dolce Vita at 1472 Hertel Avenue this past weekend. Being a Friday night during Lent, I safely assumed that an Italian restaurant would have plenty of non-meat options and I was right. To start we noshed on Sfogliatelle de Spinace (harder to say than it is to eat). “Wow” is all I can say about this tasty appetizer. It’s a combination of spinach, mozzarella and roasted red peppers wrapped in filo dough, then drizzled in pesto cream sauce. Just incredible. For an entrée, I went with the Pasta alla Julianna - a macaroni dish packed with sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes, goat cheese and olive oil. The hearty portion they give you allows for leftovers the next day. Now while I was stuffed full of Italian goodness at this point and eventually passed on dessert, does not mean that the list was not impressive. From homemade Italian cookies to tiramisu, their namesake says it all..”The Sweet Life”!
All is well on Elmwood Avenue
by Doug Sitler
Two men stood in front of Elmwood Avenue’s Urban Surf & Snowboard Shop talking about last night’s Buffalo Sabres game. A few storefronts down, students with yoga mats tucked under their arms walk into East Meets West yoga studios, while next door, customers stroll out of the eclectic Globe Market with a delicious take-out order. Across the street at Spot Coffee, two college-age girls eat their lunch on the patio, while a few feet away hipsters soak up the warm sun with lattes in hand. As two joggers glide down the sidewalk, what appear to be long-time friends huddle around a baby carriage to see the new arrival. It’s a Saturday afternoon in February on Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo, New York. I’d be remiss if I didn’t say, much to the dismay of national critics, that it was 25 degrees outside..and no one seemed to notice.
Feast Your Eyes on Wegmans
by Karen Huefner
Yes, Wegmans is a supermarket. But mention Wegmans to most Buffalonians and you’ll hear words like “amazing”, “oasis” and even “grocery store on steroids”. Plain and simple, Wegmans is just awesome. My weekly shopping excursion typically falls during the week but this time a Saturday stop was imperative. Wegmans is no secret around town so you come to expect a packed parking lot and willingly take the first spot you eye up, no matter where it is. I timed my trip perfectly since the clock just struck noon making it lunchtime. Typically you wouldn’t expect to dine at your neighborhood supermarket for lunch but Wegmans puts a whole new spin on this. Their lunchtime popularity is incredible. From sushi to subs, soups to salads, the size of their dine-in area proves that Wegmans is confident about their community popularity.
After a quick sushi stop, I weaved in and out of aisles one by one, half the time picking up necessities and the other half succumbing to the sights and smells of items NOT on my list. The bakery department, prepared foods, olive / cheese bar and so on..all make you want to jump in the kitchen and prepare a feast. And for those who do not have any of the skills necessary for a feast preparation, Wegmans salutes you with prepared meals that resemble homemade.
If you’re in town to visit family and friends, stop by Wegmans to pick up some prepared appetizers or a dessert for your hosts. If you’re in town just to see the sights, stop in for lunch or dinner. Some locations are open 24 hours.
For you Piggly Wiggly, Publix and Ralph’s lovers, feast your eyes on Wegmans today.
A Friday, or nightly, Fish Fry
by Carolyn Batt
What makes a good fish fry? My friend and colleague Denise, who is somewhat of a fish fry connoisseur tells me it’s all about “fresh, not frozen (haddock or cod/beer battered or cornmeal)” and “all homemade sides.”
Denise has traveled all throughout Western New York in search of a good fish fry, and her favorites include:
- Johnny Yanni’s Half Moon Bay, 126 Wheatfield St., North Tonawanda NY 692-3171
- Polish Villa, 2954 Union Road, Cheektowaga, NY 683-9460
- Jades Restaurant, 4495 Broadway, Depew NY 683-5054
- Rodney’s Restaurant & Lounge, 4179 Lake Shore Rd. Hamburg NY 627-5166
- Michael’s Town Shanty, 2400 Clinton St. Cheektowaga, NY 824-6775
“All of these places are casual, family restaurants,” she tells me. “All include homemade sides, with a macaroni salad, potato salad, coleslaw, rye bread and tartar sauce.”
Many of these restaurants also feature a nightly fish fry, rather than your standard Friday night fry. So if the weekend doesn’t work, you’re still in luck.
Best part of a Buffalo fish fry, other than the taste, freshness, and homemade sides? It won’t break the bank. An entire fish fry won’t cost you more than $10 and includes all of the above.
Do you have a favorite place for a fish fry or feel that you’re an “insider” on the Buffalo Niagara fish fry scene? Feel free to share your discoveries and opinions on the best places out there.
Pan-Asian Pleasure at Papaya
by Matt Steinberg
My wife and I had dinner at Papaya (118 W. Chippewa Street, downtown Buffalo) on Saturday night before attending Mamma Mia at Shea’s Performing Arts Center (I think I’m the last person on Earth to have seen this show, by the way). I won’t keep you in suspense as to my opinion - it was one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time. The dining room ambiance is quiet and sophisticated, just the right environment for lingering over a fine meal with a good companion. The menu is Asian-based, featuring standards such as sushi rolls and Pad Thai, but also has unexpected items like Indian Clay Pot and calamari.
We began our meal with Thai calamari, served with a slightly sweet tamarind sauce, and a crab and avocado sushi roll. Both were delightful and just enough to tease our palates for the main course. My wife ordered a filet mignon from the special menu, and I selected the Papaya Fresh Catch, their fish du jour plate, which this particular night was salmon. It was a tough choice, as many of the options sounded good, but I was intrigued by the roasted pepper basil relish description on the menu. And once both plates had arrived, I realized that I had made a good choice. The salmon was delicious, and the pepper relish’s slight spiciness complemented the fish perfectly.
As good as my dish was, my wife’s was even better. It was filet as it should be prepared - medium rare, crusted slightly, and melt-in-your-mouth tender. She was very generous in sharing two bites with me, which I don’t think I could have done. The beef was steakhouse quality in what’s essentially a seafood restaurant, and if it’s on the special menu when you go there, order it - it’s worth every penny. And if you go on a holiday, like we did (Valentine’s Day), you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the absence of that scourge of diners everywhere - the “special holiday menu”.
Papaya isn’t the type of place you drop in on - reservations are recommended - but if you can do a little advance planning, you’ll be rewarded with a fantastic meal.
$20 dollar Tuesdays at Cecelia’s
by Karen Huefner
This past Tuesday I grabbed a friend and headed out to Cecelia’s Ristorante in the Elmwood Village. Cecelia’s, known for their martinis and stuffed banana peppers among other things, is a favorite summertime hangout thanks to their roomy patio overlooking the trendy Elmwood Avenue. But on a chilly January evening, their Dinner for Two Tuesdays lured me in. The deal is a drink of your choice from the bar for each of you (that means one of their famous martinis or glass of wine), an appetizer or salad for each and an entrée off their regular menu for each of you.all for $39.99 plus tax and gratuity. There is a minimal amount of entrees that are not part of the promotion, but the best of the best is still left as options. Twenty bucks for such a bundle of Italian goodness is incredible.
After our glasses of wine arrived at our toasty corner table, we decided on the Stuffed Banana Peppers (obviously) and their Caesar salad. The banana peppers are to die for. I first sampled them at Cecelia’s booth at the Taste of Buffalo a few years back over a July weekend and knew I’d have to check out the restaurant for what else they had on the menu. The Caesar salad was the perfect portion too so we didn’t fill up before our entrees appeared. Ten minutes later, what an entrance our entrees made! We ordered the Chicken Bruschetta and the Taste of Italy. I assure you these two selections will never let you down. Dave Barbara, the owner, won’t let it happen either that’s for sure.
Cecelia’s also boasts Midnight Martini Madness on Friday nights starting at 11pm and Live Jazz from 7-10pm on Thursdays. The Elmwood Village is full of quaint shops, trendy bars and great restaurants. Eat up Elmwood anytime!