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And the Nominees Are...

The votes are in and tallied—2,670 completed ballots, 92,041 responses, and 183 essays on waterfront development. We keep saying it because it keeps being true: Every year, the Artvoice Best of Buffalo survey grows bigger and bigger.

Western New Yorkers are creatures of habit; we like what we like, and we walk a narrow pound. This is reflected in the voting, which celebrates many of the same restaurants and shops and people year after year.

This year, however, is notable for a relative proliferation of new names and faces. Some are businesses that have been around for a while and are now being justly recognized: Sun International Foods, for example, the Burmese restaurant on Niagara Street; Mike’s Subs, a Kenmore institution; Russell Salvatore’s classy steakhouse out on Transit; Sazon Criollo, an excellent Puero Rican joint on Hudson Street. Many more are brand new ventures, which is surely a sign that things are looking up around here: the Elm Street Bakery in East Aurora, Kaydara Noodle Bar on Main Street in downtown Buffalo, West Side Stories on Grant Street, and Ooo La La Boutique on Wheels, the region’s first fashion truck.

That’s to name just a few. In the pages that follow, you’ll find the top five vote-getters in each category, listed in no particular order. (In a couple cases, Best Latino and Best Ethiopian restaurants, there are fewer than five finalists.) As always, we will announce the winners at our annual Best of Buffalo Party, which takes place at the Town Ballroom on Monday, May 13, with food and entertainment provided by our nominees. Doors open at 6pm. It’s a grand time, open to all.

Each year we start the survey with an essay question. Last year we asked you what you would do if you were mayor of Buffalo, in the hope that your answers might migrate into the platforms of this year’s candidates. (We’ll see if that worked in the fall.) This year we asked what you’d do with the Outer Harbor, if you were unhindered by the impediments that confront those who are currently working toward some plan for that vast stretch of lakefront property. A lot of you want it to be open parkland; a lot of you favor a football stadium with a retractable roof. There were a couple votes for a small amusement park, reminiscent of the old Crystal Beach—free to get in, and you buy tickets for rides. Lots of people want to see more concerts booked there in the summer. (And that wish is already coming true.) There were calls for museums, nature reserves, soccer fields, ice rinks, swim-up bars, splashpads, piers, shopping districts—even a whole new residential neighborhood.

Given the city’s long alienation from its lake, and the long history of fruitless efforts to remedy that problem, it’s no surprise that some responses sounded a wry, cynical note. For example:

“Erect a massive sculpture of a silver bullet, which would be surrounded by a fantasy village of mixed use shopping and cultural sites: a museum dedicated to the racist emails of Carl Paladino, a graft and patronage fountain, where you throw in money and have your wishes granted by any number of willing politicians; a rollercoaster ride that takes you through a virtual tour of the history of Buffalo (halfway through, the ride is intersected by the Robert Moses express-- you’ll have to crawl out of the wreckage after that). In the shopping district, there will be a walmart, basspro, ikea and trader joes, all located on a barge in the harbor, to make it easier for out of town businesses to leave when they get bored. As an added bonus, you can watch little boats carry your local money away as you dine on the food-court’s outerharbor deck. As an added bonus, there will be a giant casino nearby, with its very own pawnshop, where you can trade in your kitchen utensils and last scrap of dignity to gamble on your own chance at becoming rich beyond your wildest dreams.”

Welcome to the City of No Illusions. You can read more responses on waterfront development on the inside back page.

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