Nothing topped returning to Buffalo for Thanksgiving week during the years I lived away from home.
Sure, my mother’s home-cooked Thanksgiving dinner was second to none. But the few days at home also provided an unparalleled opportunity to eat as many of my favorite Buffalo foods as possible – and reconnect with old friends in the process.
I’m back in Buffalo now, and those foods I couldn’t wait to eat upon returning home remain some of my favorites. This city has a unique claim on each of these foods – they either originated here, can’t be found anywhere else or have a unique “only in Buffalo” twist. Here are 9 classic Buffalo foods that must be tried during the holidays in the Queen City:
1. Beef On Weck
Buffalo’s longtime favorite sandwich – carved roast beef served on a salted hard roll with caraway seeds – is starting to garner national attention. Some of the most popular spots to grab one include Schwabl’s, Bar- Bill Tavern and Charlie The Butcher.
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 earned accolades from The Daily Beast and 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, 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 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 – so much so that we even created the Buffalo Wing Trail! Just called “wings” here, 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.