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The AV Local Restaurant Guide
Local Restaurant Week begins October 15, offering great dining deals and shining a light on our region’s food culture. Of course, we all eat 52 weeks in a year, and Western New York’s great wealth of locally owned and operated restaurants deserve steady appreciation and patronage. You spend a dollar at these places, and by and large that dollar stays here, rattling around our local economy; this is especially true at the growing number of restaurants whose chefs try assiduously to source their produce from local farmers and artisans.
With that in mind, we offer this survey of some of the region’s finest establishments, with something to fit everyone’s taste and pocketbook.
800 Maple has found fame by combining fine dining with a fun atmosphere and a very popular happy hour, often featuring live music. The Williamsville restaurant is noted for a well-stocked bar and extensive wine list as well as its outstanding menu. Savory starters such as prime short ribs and Portuguese-style pan roasted clams can be paired with any wine or cocktail for a fine happy hour snack. Like Oliver’s, Siena, and Rocco’s, 800 Maple has an assortment of decadent wood-fired pizzas, including the Charlooch, a crispy pie topped with BBQ chicken, bacon, blue cheese, caramelized onions, and scallions. The menu also allows patrons great options with a build-your-own “meat, steaks, chops, and lobsters” listing, allowing choices in cuts and preparation.
Not your typical Greek restaurant. While Acropolis has all the traditional favorites like spanakopita, baba ghannouj, tzatziki, souvlaki, gyos, etc. the restaurant’s design is a departure from other established Greek restaurants. A successful family-owned restaurant, it has been transformed more than once over the years. Now Acropolis is casual, hip, very comfortable, and appealing to a young urban crowd tuned in to social networking and good food. They have a full bar and a lively nighttime crowd, as well. There is, of course, a wide selection of fine non-Greek dishes, too, like steak, fish, pork chops, pastas, and a large breakfast menu. Sunday brunches are jammed, so get there early.
Well known bar/restaurant veteran Mark Alfieri, who has spent his entire life in the business, manages Armor Inn. With a hearty menu of soups, gumbos, wings, salads, steak, chicken, pasta dishes, and so on, the Armor Inn will satisfy anyone’s appetite. The unique thing about the Armor Inn Tap Room is the top-notch music that Alfieri brings to the dining room stage. Exceptional national acts and the very best local bands are what you’ll hear at the Armor Inn. They also have a 10-foot flat-screen for Sunday game-day brunches and provide a bus shuttle to the stadium. The Armor Inn is more than a dining experience, rather, it provides a full package of dining, entertainment and the best beer selection you’ll find anywhere.
Bagel Jay’s has been voted Buffalo’s Best Bagel for an astounding seven years straight by Artvoice readers. Faceless chains like Dunkin’ Doughnuts and Tim Horton’s have tried to muscle into the bagel market but their product can’t compare. You won’t find a more authentic New York Style bagel than Bagel Jay’s unless you drive to the Big Apple. It’s all in the process, and Bagel Jay’s has the secret New York recipe down to an art. Bagels are freshly made daily and the selection of spreads is endless.
Bob and John’s La Hacienda has the distinction of being the oldest continuously running restaurant on Hertel Avenue, and with good reason. Celebrating their 40th anniversary, this locally owned and operated restaurant is the best-known pizzeria on Hertel. Besides having an endless selection of delicious toppings, Bob & John’s will customize a pizza to anything your heart desires—extra sauce, light sauce, no sauce, double cheese, light cheese, no cheese, topping on one or two slices, whatever you dream up. Other Italian and American menu items are available, too. Bob & John’s is also famous for their all-you-can-eat pizza, soup, and salad bar lunch and all-day deliveries. If you’re looking for good pub fare, the same owners have the Wellington Pub right next door, which is well known for its reuben sandwiches, daily specials, reasonable prices, and friendly atmosphere. Both businesses provide top-notch catering.
Buffalo Brewpub is the oldest and friendliest brewpub in New York. Opened more than 25 years ago, the colonial style building and warm natural wood interior offer a comfortable atmosphere. With 34 beers on tap Brewpub also has one of the largest import and microbrew selections in Western New York. They have a “Mug Club” with over 9,200 members, have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for local culturals and charities, and are truly integrated into the local community.
Coco is all about community. It was conceived on the premise of sharing the best and worst of the day with colleagues, friends, or even people you don’t know. A warm, inviting atmosphere is enriched with murals by local artists, and by bartender Destiny Rogowski beckoning customers to enjoy drinks in either of two comfortable lounge areas. A community table in the dining room seats up to 14. The TV at the bar is usually off as customers tend to prefer conversation over diversion. Even the food at Coco is about sharing. Pots of mussels come with a choice of seven preparations, accompanied by rosemary frites. The menu features eight gourmet pizzas and, like the moules, are popularly shared at the bar, in the dining room, or in the lounge areas.
Colter Bay opened more than 25 years ago on the corner of Delaware Avenue and Allen Street and has become an integral part of Allentown’s character. In addition to busy lunches, dinners, and happy hours, it is social headquarters during events like St. Patrick’s Day and Allentown Art Festival. You won’t find a friendlier atmosphere anywhere, an atmosphere established by the amiable Dennis Brinkworth, Jr., who personally greeted everyone. Dennis passed away at 77 a few years ago, but the top-notch restaurant and the spirit of good service he established continues at Colter Bay. You can find 35 handcrafted beers on tap, a wide selection of whiskies and spirits, and a menu of salads, soups, hearty sandwiches, burgers, and fish fry Fridays. Plus, with seven flatscreen TVs, Colter Bay has become the unofficial “sports bar” in downtown Buffalo, featuring all local and national sporting events.
Bringing New Orleans to Grand Island is the goal at Dick & Jenny’s. A warm friendly staff and a “Plate on the Wall” welcoming atmosphere greet you as you sample some real Southern cooking. Whether it’s a bowl of the best creamy tomato basil soup you ever had, island chicken or a delicious filet mignon, you will be in heaven. If it is real New Orleans’ style cooking you want, try some jambalaya, crawfish etouffee, or shrimp creole. Finish the night with a hurricane and some homemade bread pudding to complete authentic Bourbon Street experience.
Dolci Italian Dessert Bakery and Gelateria, an Elmwood institution for more than 25 years, is now a full-service wi-fi café with an abundant espresso menu. In addition to its delectable deserts and vegan cupcakes, Dolci’s is now serving savory homemade soups, salads, and sandwiches (with vegan selections), hummus plates, pizzas, and more. Enjoy their upstairs parlor, downstairs window seating, or sidewalk café tables. Students receive 10 percent off with student ID and Dolci’s will also be accepting Buffalo State Bengal Bucks soon.
Voted Best Middle Eastern Restaurant by Artvoice Reader’s Choice Awards nine years running. The award-winning cuisine mixes traditional Greek and Middle Eastern favorites with innovative fusion dishes that boast the freshest ingredients in-season. Daily happy hours from 4-7pm at the fun and funky bar feature craft microbrews on tap, specialty cocktails, and martinis. Outdoor patio dining and private party room options round out the choices in the artfully designed 4,000-square-foot space. Local art and artists as well as local musicians and bellydancers are featured in the monthly lineup.
Fat Bob’s Smokehouse has been locally owned and operated for over a decade. Since its birth in the late 1990s, Fat Bob’s has strived to bring Allentown and the Buffalo area delicious Southern-style BBQ at a competitive price. Their meats are slow-cooked in a custom smoker for that authentic taste you won’t soon forget, whether you’re a BBQ enthusiast or the occasional carnivore.
Family owned and operated, Frank’s Sunny Italy is known for their generous portions, personable service, and great Italian-style veal, chicken, and pasta dishes. The linguine with clam sauce is the best you’ll find anywhere, and there’s a nice choice of pizzas, too—New York thin crust, thick Sicilian, or New York style white pizza. These are family recipes handed down from generation to generation, so they’re unique to Frank’s. Everything is available for take out and they also do banquets and funeral breakfasts.
If you’re searching for a seafood dining experience that goes beyond a Friday night fish fry, then Hayes Seafood is your best bet. Since 1877, Hayes Seafood House has been providing customers high-quality seafood and the Cape Cod atmosphere of the restaurant and building add to the sense of a dining getaway. They offer haddock, salmon, tilapia, scallops, shrimp, clams, and calamari just to name a few, and their lobster rolls and clam chowders are legendary. If you’re accompanied by someone who is not a seafood lover, there are grilled steaks, burgers, chicken, salads, and so on. You might also take advantage of the in-house market at Hayes and bring some of their delicious fare home.
Back in April of this year, Jewel of India became part of Buffalo’s popular Hertel strip. The Indian eatery has quickly earned a stellar reputation for its authentic food and attentive service. This is no surprise to Buffalonians who are already familiar with Jewel’s sister locations, Taste of India (Sheridan Drive) and India Gate (Elmwood Avenue). As anticipated, Jewel of India’s menu includes such staples as samosas (spicy fritters stuffed with beef or lamb) and sizzling tandoori dishes (marinated main courses such as lamb, chicken, shrimp and lobster cooked in a clay oven). Vegetarian options featuring lentils, chickpeas, and paneer in zesty sauces are also available. All three locations have varieties of naan and variations on kebab, masala, jalfraize, and vindaloo specialties paired with basmati rice. Jewel of India stands on its own with offerings and atmosphere that embody genuine the bold colors and the undeniable flavors that can be found in Indian cuisine.
Kaydara is a stripped-down Asian steakhouse and noodle bar with an open kitchen in a large, lovely atmosphere. Locally owned and operated. Chef 2/2 has worked at Osaka, Blue Bar, and O Restaurant and Lounge. Kaydara’s menu items include noodle-based dishes prepared in-house with a distinctive Southeast Asian flare, with vegan and vegetarian options. Kaydara is open seven days a week for full service or takeout. They will accommodate your dining needs from an intimate dinner for two to a party up to 200.
The Left Bank is one of Buffalo’s fine dining jewels with delicious food, a great patio in summer, and a warm romantic atmosphere inside. Located on Rhode Island Street, a few steps from Richmond Avenue, it has been a dining destination for distinguished palates for years and regularly appears in the top tier of best restaurant lists. The restaurant features a menu of creative dishes of salads, pastas, seafood, grilled meats, and an extensive wine list. Sundays feature live jazz with a very popular brunch. Ther tag line states it best: “Simple, Elegant, Tasteful.” Reservations are strongly recommended.
Named after the famous three-million-year-old skeleton discovered in Ethiopia, Lucy Ethiopian Cuisine is Buffalo’s first intro to Ethiopian fare. Lucy opened earlier this year on the corner of Amherst and Grant Streets in the increasingly eclectic Black Rock neighborhood. Featuring traditional East African dishes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Lucy maintains a welcoming atmosphere and menu inviting to both Ethiopian connoisseurs and to novices of Ethiopian dining. Several dishes are wrapped in injera, a spongy flatbread similar to a pancake, which can be torn off and used to grasp meat and vegetables. They also brew traditional Ethiopian coffee called bunna. On Saturdays, bunna is served free during a customary coffee ceremony. Once you try what Lucy has to offer, it’s easily understood why fans give the restaurant so much praise. Lucy’s wholesome dishes are made with much care and this eatery is a perfect addition for a city that has a soft spot in its heart for good food.
A staple of the Lancaster-Depew area, Magruder’s Restaurant and Pub has been operating more than 20 years as a sports bar, popular restaurant and a banquet facility for up to 250 guests. Owned by founder Matt Dombrowski, and operated by granddaughter Shannon Buono, Magruder’s features great bar specials like $5 appetizers and $2 drink specials. They carry more than a dozen beers on tap, and offer live music on Friday nights and a comedy night the first Friday of every month. Be sure to try their famous “Homewrecker” burger or their signature French onion soup. The charming Dombrowski, though semi-retired, is still active there every day and loves to socialize with the patrons.
Merge may be in Buffalo but it has a New York City feel reminiscent of the small social hot spots in Greenwich Village. Merge recently started an organic garden on what was once sister owners Sarah and Eliza Schneider’s grandparents’ farm in Lake View. Attuned to the environment, Merge instituted a composting system to take kitchen scrap and turn it into fertile soil for their organic gardens, where they’ve planted fruit trees and vegetables. They harvest golden Roma, San Marzano, and cherry and grape tomatoes for their caprese salads, made with fresh mozzarella, baby arugula, and freshly picked blueberries from Awald Farms in North Collins for a blueberry balsamic glaze. Another homegrown favorite are Hungarian wax peppers stuffed with queso fresco, goat cheese, cheddar, and corn tortilla crumbs for a gluten-free dish served with a San Marzano puree and mango salsa. Contrary to word on the street, merge serves more than just vegan and vegetarian fare. Already offering organic chicken and wild fish, merge will soon be offering specials made with locally raised grass-fed bison from Maple Ridge Farms. Patronizing this restaurant clearly has a ripple effect throughout the local area.
Mighty Taco has to be the quintessential example of a locally owned restaurant having a significant impact on the community. Founded in 1973 on Hertel Avenue, Mighty now has 18 locations, employs hundreds of people, and contributes to charities of all sorts all year. The menu of tacos, burritos, fajitas, roastitos, salads, and gluten-free options is endless and inventive. In addition to the consistent food and convenient hours, part of Mighty’s success can be attributed to their ridiculously creative advertising campaigns done by Paragon Advertising. Returning Buffalo natives make a Mighty Taco visit a must, and with good reason.
Miller’s Steak and Crab House offers high-quality food for an affordable price. Family owned and operated, Miller’s brings a casual atmosphere to its customers, while offering a fine dining menu. They offer a variety of steaks, cooked to perfection and complemented with fresh, locally grown vegetables. Their delicious seafood is exceptionally fresh, affordable, and authentic. Do you like crab cakes? Miller’s crab cakes are the best in the Buffalo area. Enjoy them as an appetizer, dinner, or as a complement to your steak.
Housed in the former Royal Pheasant with a great view of Richardson Towers, MIXology is one of Buffalo’s newest and most eclectic hotspots. MIXology is a welcomed addition to a neighborhood known for its diversity and the interior of the bar is diversity gone wild. With a décor of lava lamps, steer skulls, paintings, cowboy hats, art lighting, odd statues, and knickknacks, the place is so visually entertaining you can go through a case of beer just taking it all in. They offer a truly original cocktail menu of their own inventions that also includes long forgotten favorites like rusty nails, sidecars, Harvey Wallbangers and other blasts from the past. The kitchen puts out assortment of small-plates and finger foods, including some of the best wings in town. MIXology is an excellent choice for those looking for something different for their neighborhood pub.
The website for Oliver’s Restaurant proudly states “one of the best restaurants from Buffalo to New York City.” No one has ever disputed that. One of Delaware Avenue’s most elegant restaurants, Oliver’s provides daily specials and consistently delicious menu items. Since re-opening in 1983, Oliver’s dishes have been applauded for applying creativity without pretension. All of Oliver’s appetizers and specialties are made with quality ingredients and delivered with perfect presentation. Starters such as grilled octopus and main courses such as roasted free-range hen will satisfy anyone’s gourmet appetite. Oliver’s pizzas include avant-garde toppings like orecchiette and chicken livers and their linguine and clams will nourish even the fussiest diners. Oliver’s Restaurant also exclusively caters some of our fair city’s best venues, including the Albright-Knox, Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society, Kleinhans Music Hall, the Burchfield-Penney Art Center, and Shea’s Performing Art Center.
An Amherst family dining tradition, Pizza Plant’s creative “pods” have nourished kids who normally wouldn’t eat their vegetables for at least two generations. Their menu is probably the largest and most varied of any restaurant in WNY, and their prices are pretty much unbeatable. You can take the whole family, eat anything from soups, salads, pizzas, souvlakis, pastas, gluten-free dishes, etc. and still have gas money to get home. And their list of beers on tap is as extensive as their food menu. You can’t go wrong at Pizza Plant. They have just opened a new location on Transit Rd., which can only be a good thing for Amherst.
Established in 1975 as a mom-and-pop Italian restaurant and bar, 37 years and three generations later, Ristorante Lombardo is proud to be serving the Buffalo community and proud of its evolution into one of the region’s best and most authentic locally owned Italian restaurants. The seasonal menu features original creations made in the true Italian tradition with an eye for ingredients purchased from local, predominately organic farmers and friends. They make pasta by hand, smoke their own meats, and cure their own salumi.
Rocco’s Wood Fired Pizza has a casual atmosphere but its menu meets the same standards as the highly regarded Siena, which has the same ownership. Located on Transit Road, Rocco’s caters to both big sports fans and big families. Rocco’s serves up appetizing pizza pies along with wood-fired marinated wings and sandwiches that are stuffed to the nines, such as the Italian-style tuna and the chicken cutlet Milanese. If you are just going for a bite or for some fuel to cheer on your favorite team, you can sink your teeth into traditional or specialty wood-fired pizzas that satisfy the strongest craving for victory.
Siena takes its name from the Italian city in the Tuscany region, which has long been an important center for arts and learning. The Snyder restaurant channels Italy’s western coast region with dishes that are dense and delectable. With a menu that is split into salumi, antipasti, pastas, insalata, wood oven pizzas, and secondi, Siena adheres to traditional Italian standards and their brick oven pizzas are beyond compare. Take a nibble of the osso buco or hot pepper fettuccine to taste how Siena has wedded creativity with tradition. What the Tuscan-inspired eatery has to offer goes beyond the simply putting a contemporary twist on authentic Italian cuisine, they’ve taken great care that everything tastes fabulous.
Whether you’re at a SPoT Cofee in Buffalo (Elmwood, Delaware, Hertel), or in Williamsville (Main Street or Transit Road), you’ll find their locations jam-packed with regulars of all ages, all year round, getting their daily dose of java and socializing. There are several reasons SPoTs have been spreading over Western New York. They’ve thrived on serving excellent coffee, teas, cold brew, blender drinks, and a variety of café fare. Daily foods are made from scratch at their Hertel Avenue location and fresh coffee beans are craft-roasted at their Delaware Avenue roastery. SPoT’s menus include breakfast sandwiches, hearty wraps, appetizing paninis, ample-sized salads and brick-oven pizza made with homemade dough. You can also satisfy your sweet tooth with lavish cakes, rich brownies, home-style cookies and ’smores. Local artists and music acts are featured monthly at SPoT cafes, and their participation in local events and charities have established SPoT as a beating heart of whatever neighborhood they operate in.
Family owned and operated since 1941, the Place is one of the best-loved restaurants in Buffalo. Customers, whether they’re regular patrons or new visitors, feel like they’re visiting old friends and family. Owner Ken Moriarty just completed a renovation that upgraded everything yet maintained the familiar character of the restaurant. Their soups are delicious and the Meatloaf Mondays make you feel you’re at Grandma’s table. Friday and Saturday they offer lobster tail specials, and Sunday brunches sitting in the warm light looking onto lovely Lexington Avenue can’t be beat. Come Christmas season you can get their famous Tom & Jerry drink.
You won’t find a greater champion for restaurants using local produce and livestock than Trattoria Aroma owner Dave Cosentino. A frequent visitor to Italy, Dave recognized the dramatic difference in taste between fresh food supplied daily by surrounding farmlands of Italian villages and the frozen foods trucked in to national chain restaurants that in America. He also seized on the economic sense of supporting area farmers and folks raising livestock. All the food at Trattoria Aroma is fresh off the farm and selected daily by Dave or his chefs, and the pastas are handmade daily. The Trattoria restaurants feature regional classic Italian dishes from all parts of Italy with the added creative interpretation of Trattoria’s chefs. A fabulous dining experience not to me missed.
Local Restaurant Week (October 15-21, 2012) is all about celebrating the local independently owned restaurants in Western New York and promoting our unique cultural scene. Whether taking in a play at Shea’s, viewing artwork at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, or enjoying a Bills or Sabres game, Western New York is full of activity and culture. Celebrate it by going out with your friends, grabbing a bite to eat, and enjoying what our fine restaurant community has to offer, too. Not only does Local Restaurant Week give consumers the opportunity to be adventurous and try new restaurants for a fixed price of $20.12, but it also encourages them to skip their go-to chain restaurant in favor of supporting local independently owned restaurants.
Giving consumers the opportunity to dine-out for only $20.12, restaurant owners experience a huge boost in sales and turn many new customers into regulars. Not only is this a win-win for the consumers and restaurant owners, but with an estimated economic impact of $4 million, the Western New York economy benefits as well. Local Restaurant Week is truly a special event for the Western New York community. Celebrate our unique cultural scene by showing your support, telling your friends, and helping us make our Western New York community even stronger!blog comments powered by Disqus
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