Pints, Pierogi & Pastelillos – A Quick Buffalo Foodie Snapshot

It’s the most critical question that every 43North winner has asked, since arriving in Buffalo…

“Where should I go to eat?”

Luckily, our fine city has some 400 independently owned restaurants and, given my current waistline, I feel well-qualified to offer the following list of faves:

Breakfast:

Five Points Bakery – quite possibly the country’s first “toast cafe,” where artisanal breads made from house-milled local wheat are coupled with fun accoutrements. Try the cheddar bread paired with hot sauce, bleu cheese and pickles or the raison bread with apple and peanut butter.

White Cow Dairy – while this is not a restaurant, it’s worth a stop to try their rich, decadent, small-batch yogurts. They’re open Thursdays-Saturdays in a super-tiny storefront – pick up their chocolate or strawberry cream yogurts, if they’re in stock.

Betty’s – bright, colorful and fresh. This is my favorite Sunday brunch spot. Ditto for a lot of other Buffalonians, so get there before church lets out, or you’ll have to wait.

Sweet_ness 7 – they have two locations – my favorite is on Parkside Ave, across from Frederick Law Olmsted’s grand Delaware Park and around the corner from Frank Lloyd Wright’s stunning Martin House Complex. They specialize in crepes – I’m partial to the apple and brie variety.

Lunch:

Sue’s NY Deli – feeling healthy? Go with the falafel roll-up with hot sauce. Need something fattier? Grab the chicken Philly. Call your order in ahead and avoid the line.

Gene McCarthy’s – once a watering hole for grain scoopers working in Buffalo’s massive, ghostly grain elevators, it’s now a cozy place to grab a burger and a beer, which they brew on premises.

Liberty Hound – located at Buffalo’s fast-growing Canalside waterfront district, this is a great pick when the weather turns warmer.

DiTondo’s – to say there’s been a red sauce battle going down on Seneca Street between this place and nearby Chef’s is an understatement. Given the longevity of these restaurants, it must be deemed a war.

Founding Father’s – Ale to the chief! Pop in at this 19th century livery-turned-pub with presidential memorabilia on the walls, trivia at the bar and – here’s the most important part – free popcorn and nachos!

Niagara Cafe – my arteries cry “No!” every time I eye up their crispy fried pastelillos, but I silence those voices with bite after delicious bite.

Casual dinner:

Hydraulic Hearth – the Zemsky family has done it again. Howard and Leslie have built Larkinville into a hip, fresh and exciting district in the last decade. Their son Harry adds to that momentum with his new restaurant, serving thin crust pizzas and creative cocktails.

Vino’s – an intimate restaurant with a concise menu written on a blackboard. To the average driver on Elmwood Avenue, this place is hidden in plain view, but you’d better make a reservation, because the food is great and a bargain.

Allen Street Hardware – located in the heart of Buffalo’s bohemian Allentown neighborhood, Hardware is perfect for a few small plates and a glass of wine.

Blue Monk – True or False: No country takes its beer more seriously than Belgium. True? Then you have a new favorite bar. False? It’s time to be educated.

Mulberry – this inviting Italian restaurant, stashed in a blue collar residential neighborhood in the shadows of the former Bethlehem Steel plant, is as consistent as they come. Try their baseball-sized meatball, parmed, for an appetizer.

Fine dining:

The Black Sheep – the husband-wife chef team of Steven and Ellen Gedra behind Black Sheep are known for butchering their own meat, baking great breads and folding handmade pierogi. Ellen’s sticky toffee pudding has a cult following among local foodies.

Sea Bar – sushi restaurant owned by Buffalo superchef Mike Andrzejewski (whom everyone calls “Mike A,” for obvious reasons). Order the beef-on-weck rolls for a quirky take on a Buffalo classic.

Bourbon & Butter – this is another Mike A-owned restaurant, housed in the lobby of the wonderfully restored Hotel @ The Lafayette and known for the cocktails mixed by barkeep Tony Rials.

Butterwood Sweet & Savory – what happens when Buffalo’s finest pastry-makers open their own restaurant? This place.

Tempo – This is where the Buffalo Bills take free agents when they try to lure them to Buffalo – hence, a steak named after Mario Williams.

Oliver’s – huge wine list. The family tree of regional chefs who began here and then started their own joints is Buffalo culinary royalty.