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Best Organization Taking Over What Used to be a City Function
…and the difference is night and day: the Olmsted Conservancy. In the dismal era for the parks when the city ran them, the work was largely done from gin mills. Every year they looked a little worse. If a tree fell, there was one less tree. The Olmsted Conservancy took over and now trees are replaced, grounds are tended, leaves raked and composted, natural wild areas staked out. Every year the parks look a little better. No, a lot better. Park workers actually work.
- jack foran
Between his wheat-pasted public murals in every quarter of the city, inclusion in group exhibitions, pop-up shows and art events, solo exhibitions and exposure this past year in nearly every media outlet in town, this honor has to go to the affable muralist and photographer Max Collins. In this case, the fact that his work continues to show up everywhere (it’s been described in the press as “practically unavoidable”) is a good thing because he is multitalented and his boundless enthusiasm for the potential of public artistic activity in the city is infectious. So, if you don’t know Max or his work that he’s called his contribution to “local visual culture,” thankfully you will eventually.
- gerald meadWorst Road Planning Idea in Consideration of Bicyclists
The vegetation islands in the middle of Main Street through North Buffalo. They narrow up traffic lanes by about three to four feet on each side. The cars just moves over that much closer to any unlucky biker trying to share the road, who had only as much roadway as he or she absolutely needed anyway.
- jack foran
Sometimes Buffalo feels like a little village, sometimes it feels like a big city. At the Saturday outdoor vintage and antiques market called the Peddler, at the corner of Elmwood Avenue and West Ferry, it feels a little of both. Odds are you’ll recognize one of the dozens of vendors peddling collectibles, clothes, old bikes, rare books, vintage jewelry, and all manner of tchotchke to captivate the curious. You will certainly know some of the shoppers among the tables and tents. The Peddler has just opened for the season, Saturdays 9am-2pm, with the occasional Sunday thrown in for good measure. It’s the perfect place to while away some time. Check it out this weekend.
- geoff kellyBest Bike Route
With its flat topography and declining population, Buffalo is an ideal city to navigate by bicycle, year-round with proper attire. Despite 20th century infrastructure mistakes like route 33 and the Scajaquada expressway—which carved up our renowned Olmsted park system as a sacrifice to the almighty automobile—the more traditional street grid is being gradually reinvented to support bikes as well as cars, trucks, and busses. Thanks to the efforts of Justin Booth at GObikeBuffalo and an increasingly enlightened public works department at city hall, recent years have seen enhanced lane markings for Seneca and Chippewa Streets; Porter, South Park, Fillmore, and Elmwood Avenues. I pick Linwood Avenue as this year’s Best Bike Route because it demonstrates how radically traffic can be calmed with the informed use of lane markings, signage, and traffic signals—creating a safer environment for all travelers and improving our quality of life. Look for projects on Pearl, Ohio, and Niagara streets coming soon, as we move closer to an intelligently designed bicycle infrastructure that will encourage more and more urban commuters to save money and get healthier by leaving the car at home.
- buck quigley
UB cutting-edge trumpet guy Jon Nelson and his wife Lazara opened Pausa Art House (19 Wadsworth Street) in March, in a small, completely renovated former storefront at the foot of Allen Street. The small venue offers an intimately ideal way to hear music, Thursday through Saturday nights, in widely diverse styles, ranging from avant-garde classical, through contemporary jazz to the ultra-cool sound paintings of the reAUnance trio, featuring the vocal wizardry of Istanbul-born singer Esin Gunduz.
- jan jezioroHardest Cache of Stolen Goods to Try to Fence
The eight stone plaques engraved with city and Parkside neighborhood historical information, intended to be inset into the Main Street sidewalk near the PCA office, around Main and Oakwood, Main and Dewey, when they disappeared. Another two dozen or so were successfully installed. One theory on why whoever took them only took eight: The plaques, about 20 inches square by a couple inches thick, must be pretty heavy.
- jack foran
Niagara Seafood is a Vietnamese restaurant and fish market at the corner of Niagara and Rhode Island, serving great steaming bowls of seafood soup that deserve laurels of their own. But here and now I’m celebrating the Bánh mì, a sandwich that reflects the French colonial influence on Vietnam: a baguette, roasted pork, cold cuts, pickles, spicy mayonnaise, cilantro. Unbelievably good and cheap. Thanks, RG, for introducing me to it.
- geoff kellyBest Eclectic Malbec
2009 Viña 1924 De Angeles Malbec. With so many drinkable wines on the market there are few that are for me “must tries.” Not because of price or vintage or celebrity winemaker are they so memorable, but rather because of their story and, of course, extraordinary taste. This malbec is one such rarity. Self-described farmers, modest grape grower Alberto Comarin and his brother have tended this nearly 100-year old vineyard for the last 40 years. Alberto is a vine specialist; so attuned is he to the needs of his vineyard that he intuits vine labor practices, explaining, “The vines talk to me!” For years, grapes from the Viña 1924 vineyard have been highly coveted by some of the most exclusive wineries in Argentina (Cheval Andes, Michel Rolland). Persuaded by the international acclaim of these producers, in 2006 the brothers decided to build themselves a minuscule winery. I visited the winery this past February with wine importer VOS (with whom I was then employed, although I am no longer). Alberto is not kidding when he states that they may have the smallest winery in the country! It is no bigger than the size of a two-car garage. Their first wine was made in 2007 and clearly expresses the individuality of Vistalba, a sub-region of Mendoza, with unparalleled purity. The wine is made from grapes grown on original rootstock brought from France a century ago. This bit of vinuous history is in itself extraordinary as virtually all wine grapes are now harvested from grafted vines. Less than 700 cases made. It retails for around $20. The following tasters were savvy enough to recognize the quality and may have a few bottles left for sale: Premier Wines, Brighton Liquor (which also purchased the amazing grand reserve), and, for dining out, Bistro Europa.
- paula paradise
Buffalo said goodbye to the iconic Mohawk Place this year, as well as the suburban venue Club Infinity, but what may have flown under the radar for some is Soundlab’s indefinite hiatus. Soundlab has been essential to the electronic, experimental, and indie rock side of the Buffalo music scene, but the venue has recently stopped booking shows. Bands like Animal Collective, the Books, Grizzly Bear, Do Make Say Think, Ariel Pink, Tortoise, and many other notable acts have graced the stage of Soundlab. They were bands that couldn’t or wouldn’t fit anywhere else. Granted, many of these bands came through Buffalo in their infancy, but which some-day indie rock giants will we miss out on if Soundlab is gone? It’s hard to say. There will be a massive hole to fill if the loss of the venue on Pearl Street is permanent.
- cory perlaBest Place to Get Coffee if You’re Kind of a Character
There is a coffee shop on nearly every corner of the Elmwood Village, but if you’re looking for a true, locally owned spot to lay down that $2 for coffee, Café Taza is the place. The coffee is exceptional, but Café Taza also provides a warm, welcoming atmosphere right in the heart of Allentown.
- cory perla
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