Sampling Some of
by Christa Glennie
Every time I take visitors on a tour of the Queen City, as I have almost 100 times, I am filled with quiet gratification when their eyes widen at the unexpected: the tucked-away and beautiful Wilkeson Pointe beachfront park, our jaw-dropping collection of world-class architecture, the lush urban farms east and west of the downtown core, sumptuous restaurant meals and a modern art collection that wows from the outside in.
From the lowbrow to the highbrow, the modern to the historic, there are a myriad of ways to experience Buffalo. For me, its facets are as familiar as a comfortable pair of jeans. Yet, by the day, they manage to thrill me anew. Try my favorite short course itinerary.
3 to 5 P.M
Art Sets Us Apart
Buffalo’s art scene experienced the equivalent of a seismic jolt when the Buffalo AKG Art Museum (the former Albright-Knox Art Gallery) reopened its doors after an extensive campus expansion and restoration project, creating a more accessible and engaging home for its collection of modern and contemporary art. With 50,000 square feet of exhibit space now at its disposal, the curatorial staff finally has room to show off the breadth and depth of what is widely considered one of the great collections in North America, with extraordinary work by masters spanning the last 160 years of art history. But the art is only part of the show. A new Town Square features Common Sky, a sculptural installation that serves as a canopy overlooking the activity in the restaurant, book shop and a variety of spaces that are home to interactive experiences — including a Lego room created in a first of its kind partnership with the toy company — designed to be inviting, inclusive and a catalyst for community engagement. Plan to be dazzled.
Across the street, on the campus of Buffalo State, you’ll find the Burchfield Penney Art Center at 1300 Elmwood Ave. It specializes in art with regional connections and is named in part for Charles E. Burchfield, the inventive 20th-century watercolorist who spent much of his life in Buffalo. He is best known for his transcendental, mystical interpretations of landscapes and street scenes. The museum has the largest public collection of his work. In an interplay of pieces from its archives, works by local artists and select items on loan, it stages immersive, savvy and memorable exhibits.
6:30 to 7:30 P.M.
Lucky You, It’s Happy Hour!
Check into your lodgings, change for dinner and head downtown to Lucky Day Whiskey Bar at 32 Pearl St. Built around the turn of the last century as a Freemason’s temple, its sexy, dark atmosphere is an ideal backdrop for its well-curated selection of spirits, beer and wine. Lucky Day, with its beautiful, polished bar, is an excellent spot for a classic cocktail. Here, strict adherence to standards, sans fluff, is refreshing. Barkeeps are friendly without being intrusive, making it easy to pull up a stool whether you’re alone or with others.
7:30 to 9:30 P.M.
Save Room for Dessert
Three seasons a year you can easily walk the quarter-mile from Lucky Day to Marble + Rye at 112 Genesee St., even in heels. The restaurant is modern and highly Instagrammable, but you’ll forget to take pictures once the drinks and food begin to arrive. Bar manager Megan Lee offers one of the most nuanced, intellectual, vibrant cocktail menus I’ve ever seen. Her informed, food-friendly wine list matches fare that is hyperlocal, made from scratch and consistently delicious. The menu reads simply, but anything served by chef and owner Michael Dimmer has gone through an intense series of trials before making the list. Order with confidence. Whatever you do, save room for ice cream! The sweet side of the M&R menu never disappoints.
When the plates are cleared, consider staying for a drink and bar chatter. Or, walk down Genesee towards East Huron Street and the beautifully lit Electric Tower and Roosevelt Plaza. Have a nightcap close by at the Graylynn Gin Bar at 537 Main St. or Fattey Beer Company at 5 Genesee St.
8 to 11 A.M.
Coffee, Breakfast and a Farmer’s Market
Early birds should seize the chance to stroll through one of Buffalo’s bustling farmers markets. First, grab a breakfast sandwich and house-roasted coffee at Remedy House, 429 Rhode Island St., in the city’s eclectic Five Points neighborhood. Find killer cinnamon rolls and apple cake within the quirky and cozy brick environs of Five Points Bakery, 44 Brayton St. Nearby, Butter Block, a precision-driven patisserie, crafts the best croissants in the area at 426 Rhode Island St.
Then head a few blocks north to the Elmwood Village Farmers Market on Bidwell Parkway. Locavores, chefs and home cooks come early for the best selection of produce and prepared goods. Everything sold must be handmade or grown locally. Most everything is extraordinary.
From here, explore the Elmwood Village. Or follow Lincoln Parkway to the very walkable Rumsey Woods section of Frederick Law Olmsted’s Delaware Park at Rumsey Road. Soak up some nature, jog a little or wander to nearby Hoyt Lake and rent a vessel in the Buffalo Maritime Center’s whimsical and sturdy fleet: A pink flamingo, aka FLOATmingo, paddle boat or a rowboat can usually be had in the warm weather months, May through October.
1 to 3 P.M.
Tour an Architectural Masterpiece
Nestled into the city’s pastoral, tree-lined Parkside neighborhood at 125 Jewett Parkway, visitors will find the Martin House, one of Buffalo’s Frank Lloyd Wright originals. Delve into its history, feats of engineering and stunning details. Book a tour with a docent or try an audio tour.
Head back to your lodging to rest and refresh before dinner and a night on the town.
Small Plates, Big Experience
North Buffalo is a sweet neighborhood with deep Italian roots mixed with a complement of the new. The Little Club, at 1197 Hertel Ave., is a congenial place to experience some of each. Meet people of all ages, discover wines and enjoy delectable small plates and satisfying entrées. Restaurateurs Tommy and Mary Lombardo offer guests understated sophistication stitched with a warm, familial vibe.
Allentown is the place to be after dark. This bohemian, artsy neighborhood is a registered National Historic District known for embracing quirk, culture and anything offbeat. This Buffalo 101 itinerary requires that you visit haunts like the dog-eared music venue Nietzsche’s, at 248 Allen St., and one of the greatest dive bars of all time, the Old Pink, at 223 Allen St. Try the best steak sandwich ever. Be ready. Buffalonians customarily welcome out-of-towners with convivial big-heartedness—and shots!
Join the Brunch Bunch
Sleep in, check out of your hotel and head downtown to Toutant, at 437 Ellicott St. Louisiana-native and chef James Roberts shares his low-country version of Sunday breakfast with homey shrimp and grits, hearty biscuits and gravy, barbecue hash and hot mugs of chicory-blend coffee. Best known for its fried chicken dinner, also served at brunch, Toutant’s pastry is an unsung hero. Its outrageously good cinnamon roll is a sweet undertaking best shared by the table at the top of the meal.
Sunday afternoon is a perfect time to head out on the Buffalo River on a kayak, paddle board or waterbike, or take a Buffalo River History Tour. You can also rent a bike from Reddy Bikes and jump on the Bike Ferry which will take you to the Outer Harbor where there are miles of trails along the water’s edge to explore. If you’d like to see more of Buffalo’s industrial heritage, make a detour to Silo City. Once home to Buffalo’s flour and grain milling industry, it’s being transformed into a multifaceted campus featuring apartments, sculptural installations, gardens and spaces for performing and visual arts. Stop in at Duende where music is always on tap, along with a menu of light fare and cold drinks. It’s a quintessential Buffalo spot to cap off your visit. Cheers.