Buffalo's Neighborhoods


Kenmore, NY

Buffalo's First Suburb

In 2009, the American Planning Association named Kenmore one of the top ten great neighborhoods in the United States. It’s easy to see why; this turn of the 20th century village just north of Buffalo features tree-lined streets and well-kept homes surrounding a vibrant central business district. Kenmore has several long-running businesses that have become part of the fabric of Buffalo: a family-owned submarine shop, ice cream parlor and one of Buffalo’s original producers of sponge candy have collectively served the village for nearly 200 years.

Kenmore

Kenmore

Buffalo's First Suburb

Within a few blocks of Kenmore’s central business district are several eateries that are part of Buffalo food lore.

Start your day with delectable Polish pastries at Chrusciki Bakery. For nearly 30 years, the bakery has been a staple in Buffalo’s Broadway Market for paczkis, fasnacs, placek and other treats. A satellite location opened in Kenmore in recent years.

We hope you saved those pastries for later, because it’s time for a giant submarine sandwich from Mike’s Subs, which has been serving Kenmore for over 50 years. Try the royal – made with capicola   and Buffalo’s own Mineo & Sapio sausage – for a singular sandwich experience.

Then, cross the street for a sundae at King Condrell’s, which has been serving the village for nearly 50 years. The sundaes are enormous, made with the regional Perry’s Ice Cream and ranging in size from one scoop to ten. The homemade candy toppings and old-time atmosphere set a King Condrell’s sundae apart.

You’ve already had a veritable feast, but we’ve saved one of the best for last – sponge candy at Watson’s. This is the original location for one of Buffalo’s favorite candy shops dating back to 1946, and also one of the most popular spots for sponge –that sugary, crunchy regional confection covered in chocolate.

Then it’s time to work off all this food! Kenmore’s walkability makes an after-meal stroll a breeze; saunter among the village’s quiet, tree-lined streets and well-maintained homes.

This may be enough food to fill you for days, but just in case, there are several other restaurants great for a sit-down meal in Kenmore, including Marotto’s, Amici’s and Taste of India.

— Brian Hayden

Tour de Buffalo – Sponge Candy Style

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Sponge Candy is to Buffalo  as:

BBQ is to Memphis

Cheese Steak is to Philly

Beignets are to New Orleans…

You get the picture.

There are several theories on how, when and why Sponge Candy became one of Buffalo’s many claims to fame, but one thing’s for certain – there’s a ton of BuffaLove for the airy, crunchy-yet-creamy, sweet confection that Buffalonians have called their own since the early 1900’s.  And since love is in the air, and soon thousands of WNYers will be celebrating said love with the delightful combination of sugar, cocoa  and milk, it just feels right to pay homage to our beloved Sponge Candy.

As a self-proclaimed Sponge Candy aficionado, I was excited  to taste my way through some of the best chocolatiers in town. Here’s what I learned along the way:

All Sponge Candy is not created equal. It comes in all different shapes, sizes, styles, textures and flavors. Pretty much every shop that sells Sponge Candy offers the standard milk, dark and orange chocolate – so that’s where I started.  My classic milk chocolate personal favorites were Fowler’s and Antoinette’s Sweets.  Fowler’s (The chocolatier said to have started the Sponge Candy craze) offers traditional-sized sponge candy as well as bite-sized pieces.  Antoinette’s Sweets‘ take on milk chocolate Sponge Candy is nothing short of decadent, with a perfectly light and crispy candy sponge coated by an extra thick, creamy milk chocolate shell.

Watson’s Chocolates was hands down, my favorite dark chocolate variety, and the only way I can describe Parkside Candy’s Orange Sponge Candy is like being wrapped inside a velvety, orange milk chocolate blanket of goodness. I know, right?

Bella Mia Candy, on Hertel Ave. in North Buffalo also offers the milk/dark/orange trio, so I decided to buy all three and promptly devoured them all before I drove the 3 miles home. Delicious.

You CAN think outside the “chocolate box.”  Yia Yia in Depew is infamous for their peanut butter sponge candy and I quickly realized why.  Think melt-in-your-mouth, hand-dipped peanut butter and chocolate, coating a crisp candy sponge.  At The Palace of Sweets in Clarence, let your imagination run wild with peppermint, banana crème, Kahlua & coffee – just three of more than 15 varieties of Sponge Candy available. A quick chat with one of the owners of The Palace of Sweets revealed that one their secrets is to flavor the sponge, instead of the chocolate for a more intense flavor.

 Sponge Candy conversations are intense. Forget religious and political controversy. Sponge Candy debates take on a life of their own at parties and family gatherings. Some will swear by Park Edge Sweet Shoppe in South Buffalo or Village Sweet Shoppe in Hamburg, NY.  Others insist upon Condrell’s Candy and Ice Cream in Kenmore. One of my friends even swears by her own style of eating sponge candy: Chocolate first, then tackle the sponge.  It’s best to just nod and agree with them all – which leads me to my next point.

There is no bad Sponge Candy. Each chocolatier takes an incredible amount of time and care in perfecting their recipes. From the actual sponge-making to secret chocolate recipes, to hand vs. machine-dipped.  There’s careful method to the deliciousness.

Chocolate = Happiness.  Okay, so maybe this is obvious, but as I traveled from shop to shop, one common theme consistently emerged: People who buy and sell chocolate are genuinely happy people. Maybe it’s the endorphin boost or the antioxidants.   I don’t know.  But what I DO know is that I wrapped up my tour, pants a little tighter, smile a little brighter with gifts of Sponge Candy for the people I love.

Western New York Taco Roundup

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For longer then I can remember, the taco options in Western New York always came down to two options: soft shell or hard shell. We always had an inexpensive option with the local giant Mighty Taco and various Mexican restaurants around the area, but they always stuck to the formula of ground meat, shredded cheese, lettuce and hot sauce. There’s a time and a place for those tacos but for people who wanted more, they were left looking to other cities. Luckily, things have changed.

Over the last five years, the local taco scene in Buffalo has dramatically improved. Whether you are looking for authentic tacos or creative options with unique toppings, you have quite a few places to choose from. Here’s our taco guide for this summer…

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Lloyd

Lloyd Taco Truck. I think we all knew they were going to show up on this list, so why wait? No other restaurant has done more for our local taco scene then Lloyd. When they hit the streets in the summer of 2010, their California style of taco (corn tortilla, cabbage slaw instead of lettuce, pulled meat instead of ground) really threw people off. But after five years on the road, Buffalo has fully embraced all that Lloyd has to offer. In case you haven’t noticed, those tacos have lead to four food trucks and a forthcoming Hertel Avenue restaurant. Our favorite taco is the Carne Asada but their standard Pork taco isn’t too shabby either.

Cantina Loco, Elmwood Avenue and Allen Street If Lloyd opened the doors for better tacos in Buffalo, Chef Mike Andrzejewski gladly walked right through it in 2011 with Cantina Loco. Since opening the dining room in early 2012, the restaurant has been packed every night. Mike created a hip and fun location in the heart of Allentown, filled with affordable snacks and a lot of tequila. Our favorite taco is the Koreatown (Kalbi Short Ribs with kimchee and spicy sauce), which is worth a visit on its own.

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Monte Alban

Monte Alban, 507 E. Center St. Medina. Looking for blue corn tortillas? How about cornhusks to make your own tamales? How about any Jarito flavor your could dream of? Monte Alban is a great Mexican grocery store in Medina that offers all of those items. It’s also home to an immobile taco cart behind the store. The tacos are simple and traditional; corn tortillas with meat, onions and chopped cilantro. We really liked the chorizo when we visited. Warning: only open in the summer months, cash only.

El Gran Burrito. On East Center Street in Medina, just down the road a bit from Monte Alban, is El Gran Burrito, a small traditional taco cart in the parking lot of a repair shop. There’s basically no information for this stand on the Internet but if find yourself in the Medina area, it’s a must visit. Their tacos are prepared in a similar way as Monte Alban, but their homemade green avocado sauce is to die for.  Warning: they are only open in the summer time as well, cash only.

Valle of Mexico, 1586 South Park Ave., Buffalo. Looking for authentic tacos but don’t want to drive out to Medina? You’re in luck; head over to South Buffalo and visit Valle of Mexico. While the restaurant has always been known for high quality cuisine, the service was always lacking. Over the last year, the service has improved and it’s definitely the most authentic Mexican cuisine in the city. The al pastor was my favorite on our last visit.

Other Considerations: We all know Smoke On The Water is known for their BBQ, but this North Tonawanda restaurant also has a killer Pork Belly taco. Covered in a cucumber and carrot slaw and sweet chili glaze, it’s a must order. Just this year, Chef Victor Gonzalez (Jaguar at the Bistro) and Chef Carmelo Raimondi (Carmelo’s) joined forces to create “The Taco Project,” a pop-up taco restaurant. To date they’ve only held one event but I’ve got my fingers crossed that we’ll see another taco collaboration soon.

Map TK