Downtown Buffalo has undergone a radical transformation in recent years. On the north end, Ellicott Street has seen the development of a host of new restaurants, breweries and distilleries. On the south end, new hotels, eateries, shops and entertainment options are popping up along Buffalo’s waterfront at Canalside. All this excitement is against the backdrop of downtown’s historical landmarks and architectural wonders.
Where Buffalo Began
Where Buffalo Began
Downtown is the epicenter of Buffalo’s emergence as the city where all the cool kids hang out. Developers are re-claiming vacant turn-of-the-century buildings and lots and turning them into unique business ventures that are drawing visitors far and near. The positive energy is infectious. When you’re here, you don’t just bear witness to Buffalo’s Renaissance. You take part in it.
Where you’re staying:
While you’re in downtown Buffalo you’re staying at the Hotel @ The Lafayette. Renovated to historic preservation standards, (they flew in master craftsmen from Russia) the Lafayette is old school chic. With an attached restaurant, prohibition era speakeasy turned bakery and a fireplace in your room you don’t have to leave if you don’t want to. But you will. Here’s why:
Where you’re eating:
Winter: A hearty season calls for a hearty meal. Try the vegetarian chili at The Lodge, an urban interpretation of a log cabin. If burgers are your thing head to SoHo Burger Bar and build your own gourmet beef creation.
Summer: The Liberty Hound. Grab a seat on the patio (if you can) and order up some fish tacos. Enjoy the sights and sounds of Canalside in the shade of the USS Sullivans, part of the largest inland Naval Park in the United States.
Where you’re drinking:
You mean besides the Liberty Hound? When the sun’s not out head to Buffalo Proper for a drink mixed by Jon Karel, one of the most skilled barmen in Buffalo. You know that hotel you’re staying in? It’s home to Pan-American Grill & Brewery, a pretty killer bar in its own right. Make sure you finish the night with a brew or two here before you head off to bed.
Where you’re shopping:
Remember when Spike Lee wore a red Yankees baseball cap and changed the hat game forever? So do we. That hat was made right here in Buffalo at the New Era Cap Company. Stop into their world headquarters on Delaware Avenue and pick up unique headwear you won’t find in the mall.
What you’re doing:
Summer: Summers in Buffalo are all about the water. Explore the Buffalo River and the blossoming Canalside development in a kayak or stand-up paddle board provided by BFLO Harbor Kayak, or cycle on the water with a rental from Water Bikes of Buffalo. At night take a cruise around the harbor on the Moondance catamaran or Miss Buffalo. If views from land are more your style, make your way up to the top of City Hall for a breathtaking view of the city and some serious selfie scenery.
Winter: One word: Curling. In case you haven’t noticed, Canalside is the place to be regardless of the season. During the winter months have a curling session on the replicated, frozen Erie Canal on Buffalo’s waterfront, the Ice @ Canalside. Before you leave, make sure you do some ice skating and rent an ice bike for a few laps. And if you need to skate more, Rotary Rink at Fountain Plaza has free admission.
One of the major benefactors of the recent Buffalo restaurant boom has been the Theatre District. For years, locals have enjoyed getting dressed up and seeing the latest national show at Shea’s or a homegrown production at the half-dozen other theaters on and around Main Street. Until recently, however, their dining options were limited to just a handful of restaurants. Luckily, the list of places to grab a bite and drink before seeing a show has grown exponentially. Here are some of our favorites:
Buffalo Proper, 333 Franklin St. Whether you are looking to have a couple cocktails or a full sit-down meal, Buffalo Proper can accommodate you. Edward Forster is one of the most talented chefs in Buffalo and combines local products and creative culinary techniques in all of his dishes. His food will satisfy your hunger pains but it won’t leave you in a coma by intermission either. Pair dinner with Bar Manager Jon Karel’s fun and interesting cocktails, and we guarantee you won’t leave disappointed.
EXPO Market, 617 Main St. A recent addition to downtown (they just opened last week), Expo Market is the most versatile option on the list. With a large group of people and not sure what to eat? This newly opened food hall has several vendors that offer anything from gourmet sandwiches, build your own pastas and even Burmese sushi. Don’t worry; they also have a bar on site too.
Toutant, 437 Ellicott St. I know I sound like a broken record, but there are plenty of great reasons to visit Toutant and going to a show in the theatre district is another one of them. Like Buffalo Proper, it’s another wonderful combination of top quality food and excellent bar service. Chef James Roberts and crew are knocking out Southern classics while Bar Manager Jeff Yannuzzi’s evolving cocktail menu and excellent whiskey selection will help get the night off to a great start.
Oshun, 5 E. Huron St. For starters, they have one of the biggest dining rooms in downtown Buffalo. So if you are planning a last minute visit and don’t have a reservation, they are a great option. They have a dedicated Oyster Bar (my favorite seat in the house) and a long list of modern takes on fresh seafood. Not to mention the décor alone is worth seeing firsthand.
Bacchus, 56 W. Chippewa St. If you want to get dressed up with your date and really go all out with a night in the theatre district, there might not be a better place within walking distance than Bacchus on Chippewa. With one of the best wine lists in the area and a menu from Chef Brian Mietus that emphasizes small plates and dishes to share; it’s a great place to have a conversation with your friends and loved ones before a show.