Few Buffalo neighborhoods capture the city’s exciting rebirth quite like Hertel Avenue. An influx of new bars, restaurants and shops complement the neighborhood’s established eateries and long-tenured businesses. The North Park Theatre, a nearly century-old moviehouse, newly restored and its neon glittering once again, serves as the street’s focal point, surrounded by a supporting cast of hip newcomers like Mes Que, Pastry by Camille, Spot Coffee and Lloyd’s Taco. Hertel is also one of Buffalo’s most diverse business districts, with recently-arrived Middle Eastern chefs selling shawarma and halal alongside old school Italian delicatessens, restaurants and pizza parlors. This mix of old and new is making Hertel the neighborhood of choice for a 20- and 30-something crowd of locals and visitors.
Hip and Happening
The heart and soul of North Buffalo and another one of the city’s happening neighborhoods is Hertel Avenue. The street earned the title as Buffalo’s “Little Italy” for its collection of long-time Italian restaurants, bakeries and grocers. In recent years, Hertel has also become home to retailers selling Halal meat, shish kebabs and other Middle Eastern goods. Add to that a series of well-liked bars, boutiques, coffee houses and a theater recently restored to its original grandeur, and it’s no wonder Hertel is such a draw.
The center point of the Hertel district is the historic North Park Theatre, a classic 1920s movie theatre boasting the old fashioned marquee, painted dome ceilings and some amazing popcorn. A show at the North Park, which underwent a historic restoration in 2014 is a must – catch the latest indie film or a retro classic.
Within the “main drag” you’ll find food. A lot of it. Greek, Italian, Thai, Mexican, Indian, more Italian, American, Middle Eastern. You want it, you’re likely to find it on Hertel. Fancy: Lombardo’s, Fusion: Craving. Family-friendly: Kosta’s. Pub fare: The Wellington Pub. Dessert: Pastry by Camille.
With all this, it’s certain you won’t find a better place – anywhere – for dinner and a movie.
Staggered between all of this, you’ll also find countless pizza shops, a few delis, a great butcher shop if you want to make your own feast, and of course, drinking establishments. And if you’re a fan of the pitch, the place to watch any soccer game, at any time, is Mes Que.
Hertel Avenue has become one of the coolest places in the region to order a cone, dish, shake or sundae. From funky ice cream parlors, massive portions of frozen goodness or sundaes made from the ingredients of tons of local businesses, here are three brand new places to satisfy your sweet tooth on North Buffalo’s Hertel Avenue:
What do you get when you blend homemade locally-sourced ingredient ice cream, decadent toppings and the endlessly fun and colorful style of the team from Lloyd taco trucks and Taco Factory? Churn!
Connected directly to the Taco Factory, this super hip ice cream shop is more than just ice cream. Sure, you can get super smooth grass-fed milk ice cream like vanilla and malted chocolate, but you can also get coffee-flavored and vegan coconut ice cream. Plus their cones and sundaes are off the walls bonkers, topped with cookies, fruity cereal, golden chocolate, and churros. What’s more, the Churn team worked with the talented coffee lovers at Tipico to make sure each cup, espresso and affogato is on point. And it sure is!
The creatively Canadian minds behind Allen Street Poutine have brought not only their unique pairings of hand cut French fries and delicious toppings to Hertel, but also their monstrous sundaes and shakes, appropriately named “Freak Shakes”. We’re partial to the Chocolate Mouse and the Birthday Cake.
The first is a mason jar filled to the brim with a peanut butter-chocolate ice cream milkshake and topped with whipped cream, caramel and chocolate syrup, smashed peanut candies and adorned with two peanut butter cups resembling mouse ears. The latter is the perfect way to celebrate another trip around the sun – a vanilla ice cream milkshake topped with whipped cream and a sprinkled cupcake, lit candle and all. It’s your birthday wish come true!
When the owners of Lake Effect Ice Cream, school teachers and friends Jason Wulf and Erik Bernardi, started making ice cream as a form of friendly competition, never did they imagine their scrumptious flavors would be such a big hit. But with their second shop opening on Hertel, their popularity is the furthest thing from a fluke.
Specializing in another patented Buffalo sweet, sponge candy, Bella Mia is a Buffalo confectioner that does it right. In addition to sponge, Crystal Beach candies and a large assortment of imported candies from Europe and beyond, Bella Mia also dishes out generous scoops of Perry’s ice cream to enjoy while you shop.
Just a hop, skip and a jump from the Hertel strip, Hanna’s Frosty Treats is a classic summertime ice cream stand. Open seasonally, North Buffalonians have been flocking to get a cool treat from Hanna’s for years. Whether you’re looking for a chocolate vanilla custard twist, a plethora of local Perry’s Ice Cream flavors or traditional frozen sweets like floats and banana splits, Hanna’s will have you leaving with an ice cream covered smile on your face!
Sure, we all have our favorite days of the week. Saturday? Sunday? Maybe even Friday since it’s knocking on the weekend’s door. Not many though will proclaim that Tuesday is THE one day out of seven that they look forward to the most. Well that is until you associate one of the greatest foods on planet Earth with an otherwise uneventful day of the week. Enter TACO TUESDAY!
And where should a proper celebration of Taco Tuesday take place you ask? Hertel Avenue.
While this North Buffalo neighborhood has restaurants serving up everything from high-end Italian to quick-order Puerto Rican, its Mexican offerings are some of the yummiest and most plentiful in the city. In fact, within 9 blocks (equivalent to a 15-minute walk) there’s 4 establishments slinging tacos that’ll knock your sombrero off. Feeling loco? Set aside a few hours, grab a few amigos and tackle our Hertel Avenue Taco Crawl.
Stop 1: Gramma Mora’s, 1465 Hertel Ave. Kick off your crawl at this 20-year Hertel Avenue mainstay. Head straight to the bar and order their signature GIANT margarita. Sure you could handle it yourself, but this is a crawl, not a sprint, so grab a few straws and you and the crew can split it. Snag a table inside (or on the patio if the sunshine is luring you outside) and order away. Gramma Mora’s specializes in your traditional Mexican fare. Nothing fancy, nothing pretentious. Just classic Mexican dishes passed down from Gramma Mora herself.
Lloyd Taco Factory
Stop 2: Lloyd Taco Factory, 1503 Hertel Ave. Head a block east and you’ll see the lime green ‘Lloyd’ sign beckoning you to come inside. Now that you’ve walked 100 feet from Gramma Mora’s, I’m sure you’ve worked up an appetite anyway. Proceed to the counter and begin ordering. After 5 years and counting in the food truck biz, Lloyd opened this brick and mortar restaurant to satisfy the masses that couldn’t get enough of their creative taco concoctions. While their Tricked Out Nachos are what dreams are made of, stay focused on the task at hand here and stick with the tacos (served on hand-made corn tortillas!) The Dirty South and Big Lloyd are fan favorites and menu staples. If you need to wash it down with something other than a Jarrito, ask the bartender for a Snozzberry Mule cocktail before heading out.
Deep South Taco
Stop 3: Deep South Taco, 1707 Hertel Ave. Another 3 blocks east is the newest taqueria of the bunch, Deep South Taco. With a successful downtown location, owners opened their second locale on Hertel in late 2016. You can’t miss this colorful restaurant at the corner of Hertel and Starin. When you arrive, head in and take a breather while you peruse the menu. I know you’re slowing down a bit, but the food here is too good to throw in the towel just yet. I recommend the pescado, al pastor and carne asada as the perfect sampler platter. Chase that delicious goodness down with a shot of tequila and off you go. You can do it!
Lone Star Fajita Grill
Stop 4: Lone Star Fajita Grille, 1853 Hertel Ave. Another few blocks and you’ve landed at the final stop on this taco fiesta. This has been a Hertel Avenue mainstay for decades, and offers some of Buffalo’s most affordable tacos and fajitas in a cozy space adorned with sombreros, flags and other Tex-Mex paraphernalia. Need to top off your tacos with some salsa? Help yourself to the refrigerator filled with salsa and pico de gallo near the front counter. Lone Star is a slice of the old Buffalo and a staple of the neighborhood.