Ah, springtime. The days are longer. The weather is warmer. And my favorite roadside food stands are back.
There’s something special about stopping at seasonal restaurants only open during the warmer months. Maybe it’s the aroma of char-grilled Sahlen’s and Wardynski’s wafting through the spring air. Or the experiences that accompany the food, like walking along Lake Erie or the Niagara River for a sunset.
We tend to value the experiences we can’t have all the time – they’re the stuff memories are made of. With that in mind, here are seven hot dog and ice cream stands throughout Erie County that set themselves apart through their atmosphere, location or their food (hand-cut fries and homemade ice cream, for example). Get out there and start making your own 2017 memories!
Mississippi Mudd’s, 313 Niagara St., Tonawanda
It’s a match made in heaven: a hot dog or ice cream cone from this Tonawanda institution, then a walk across the street to Isle View Park to see a sunset on the Niagara River. Some of the big draws at Mudds are the hand-cut sweet potato fries with honey and butter, dozens of flavors of ice cream and the second floor/ rooftop patio overlooking the river.
Old Man River, 375 Niagara St., Tonawanda
Just down the street from Mudds, this nautical themed stand (complete with a whale on the roof) draws its own large crowds on summer days. Grab a burger or hot dog, or head out back to their seafood shack for clams casino and steamed mussels.
Connor’s, 8905 Old Lakeshore Road, Angola
This Angola-on-The-Lake institution has been feeding beachgoers and cottage-dwellers along Old Lakeshore Road for over 70 years. Historic memorabilia, photos through the years and quirky and humorous signs like “Unattended Children Will Be Sold As Slaves” line the walls of the seating and ordering areas. It’s a popular spot after a day at the nearby beach clubs or the beaches across the street along the Lake Erie shoreline.
Louie’s, 69 Grand Island Boulevard, Tonawanda
This stand, clad in a yellow and red striped awning, has been a mainstay in the town of Tonawanda since 1951, when owner Louis Turco first introduced Buffalo to the footlong hot dog. “We recommend sticking with their hot dog, charbroiled Sahlen’s, ordered with everything (mustard, hot sauce, onions and pickle,)” Donnie Burtless of the food blog Buffalo Eats tells us. “Their freshly cut fried potato ‘buttons’ and curly fries are some of the best in the area and are cut and fried to order.”
The Hatch, 329 Erie St., Buffalo (opening May 1)
Come for the hot dogs and ice cream; stay for the views. The Erie Basin Marina was the first phase of Buffalo’s waterfront redevelopment, and still has some of the most compelling views of the Buffalo Lighthouse, downtown skyline and of Lake Erie. No Buffalo summer would be complete without grabbing an ice cream cone from the Hatch and then heading down the marina’s peninsula to its observation tower.
Taffy’s, 3261 Orchard Park Rd., Orchard Park
Milkshakes. Milkshakes. Milkshakes. Did we mention milkshakes?
All the staples of a roadside grill can be found at this Orchard Park institution. But the standout is the variety of milkshakes – over 130 in all, from a hot fudge sundae milkshake to peanut butter and jelly. If you aren’t near Orchard Park, look for Taffy’s food truck roaming around the region.
Nick Charlap’s, 9049 Erie Rd., Angola and 10 Euclid Ave., Hamburg
Nick Charlap’s has four locations in all, but these two are seasonal outdoor ice cream stands. Nick Charlap’s makes all its own hard serve and also has a different custard flavor every week. Lots of unique options here, but my personal favorite is the peanut butter royal – hard serve vanilla with real chunks of peanut butter – a relatively rare find in Buffalo.