9 Classic Buffalo Foods to Be Thankful For

By Brian Hayden

Published on | Last Updated

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 been back in Buffalo for years 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.

So, while the large family dinner at mom’s house will fill me up on Thanksgiving Day, I can still show my appreciation for Buffalo’s unique eats, and support the restaurants that made them that way, by working my way through this must-eat Buffalo food checklist.

beef on weck at charlies

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.

Order from: Schwabl’s / Bar-Bill Takeout / Charlie the Butcher via Doordash

Read more here: Beef on Weck Trail

Photo by Arthur Bovino

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.

Order from: Bob and John’s La Hacienda / Bocce Club Pizza / Imperial Pizza

Read more here: Buffalo-Style Pizza Trail

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.

Order from: Watson’s Chocolates / Fowler’s Chocolates / Mike’s Candies

Read more here: Sponge Candy Trail

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.

Order takeout here: Paula’s Donuts via Takeout Taxi / DiCamillo Bakery / Eileen’s Bakery

Read more here: Paula’s Peanut Donut Taste Test


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.

Order here: Chef’s / Santasiero’s Restaurant

Read more: Classic Buffalo Spotlight – Chef’s

Photo by Michael Stern of Roadfood

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.

Order here: Ted’s Hot Dogs / Frank Gourmet Hot Dogs

Read more here: Hot Dog Trail

7. Chicken Wings

No Buffalo-themed food list would be complete without them! Just called “wings” here, there are lots of great options around town, but 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.

Order here: Gabriel’s Gate / Nine-Eleven Tavern / Duff’s Famous Wings

Read more here: The 14 Stops of the Buffalo Wing Trail

8. 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.

Order here: Gene McCarthy’s (Wednesday & Friday only) / Curry’s Pub / Joe’s Deli

Read more here: Fish Fry Crawl

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 late night snack.

Order takeout here: John’s Pizza & Subs / Jim’s Steakout / Cafe 59

Read more here: Did Buffalo Invent the Chicken Finger Sub?

Brian Hayden headshot

Brian Hayden

Brian Hayden served as Visit Buffalo Niagara's Communications Manager from 2014 to 2020 after working as a newspaper reporter and social media manager in Northern New York. Tweet to him @brian_hayden.