Classic Foods to be Thankful For
By Brian Hayden
BUFFALO HAS BEEN CALLED “THE BEST EATING CITY IN AMERICA” BY NO LESS AN AUTHORITY THAN MICHAEL STERN, THE MAN WHO WROTE THE BOOK ABOUT AMERICAN HEARTLAND CUISINE.
Stern went on to say that no city, with the possible exception of New Orleans, has as many regional specialties as Buffalo. High praise, indeed. And entirely warranted. Buffalo, of course, is the birthplace of Buffalo wings. But we’re also the only place where you can get a beef on weck sandwich, a perfect charbroiled hot dog and a Friday fish fry any day of the week. The Buffalo Food Pyramid also includes Buffalo style pizza (a delicious blend of New York thin crust and Chicago deep dish), peanut sticks pastry hearts, frozen custard and sponge candy for eaters who are looking for a well-balanced meal. Yes, go ahead and “Eat Your Way Across the USA,” as Micheal Stern suggested, but be sure to spend at least a couple days sampling the culinary delights of Buffalo.
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.
Read more here: Beef on Weck Trail
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.
Read more here: Buffalo-Style Pizza Trail
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.
Read more here: Sponge Candy Trail
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.
Read more here: Paula’s Peanut Donut Taste Test
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.
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.
Read more here: Hot Dog Trail
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.
Read more here: The 13 Stops of the Buffalo Wing Trail
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 concoction featuring Buffalo’s favorite confection as a main ingredient.
Read more here: Fish Fry Crawl
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.
Read more here: Did Buffalo Invent the Chicken Finger Sub?
This sweet delicacy — flaky, buttery, airy French pastry dough shaped into a large heart, baked and covered in white frosting — can’t be found outside the Buffalo area and has been served by Buffalo bakeries longer than chicken wings have been served at the Anchor Bar. Some of the best can found at Chrusciki’s Bakery in Lancaster and Eileen’s Centerview Bakery in West Seneca.
It may look like soft serve ice cream, but one lick and you can taste the difference: custard is creamier, richer and probably fresher. In the Buffalo metro, there are several custard stops, including Anderson’s, Frosty’s, Fran-Ciel and Churn. In nearby Lewiston, Hibbard’s has been setting the standard for frozen custard since 1939!