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Welcome Back Students
This Is Your City Now
When Buffalo’s high schools and colleges resume each fall, the streets and businesses of the city teem with new-found life. But this city can be hard to know for a student from, say, Long Island, who finds himself in a dormitory at UB or Buff State or Canisius, among other students from other parts of the country who are similarly disoriented.
We’re here to help. Every week. Artvoice is nothing if not a constantly refreshed guide to what’s happening and what’s to do in this city that we love.
In this welcome-back issue, we offer just a few suggestions on how to familiarize yourself with the city, how to make this place your home. We hope you’ll come back each week for more.
Little Joints, Cheap Eats
You already know, or will know soon enough, the inexpensive pleasures of places like Jim’s Steakout and Mighty Taco. You’ll experience pies and wings and what have you from Just Pizza, La Nova, Mister Pizza, and a dozen other respectable outfits. All are fine, ubiquitous, local choices for fast food.
But it’s a big, diverse city out there, full of little neighborhood joints that richly reward a little exploration.
Let’s start with Latino food. Buffalo has a huge and growing Hispanic population, mostly Puerto Ricans and Dominicans, and plenty of restaurants and groceries that cater to them. The granddaddy of these is Niagara Cafe (525 Niagara Street, at the corner of Pennsylvania), where you can get a plate of roasted chicken or pork with rice and beans for about six bucks and a pastelillo—a hand-sized pastry stuffed with seasoned beef or chicken—for another two. (The chicken stew is worth trying too.)
But Niagara Cafe, though it is the most famous, is hardly the only Latino restaurant on Buffalo’s West Side. Just a few blocks away is Sazon Criollo (272 Hudson Street, at the corner of West), which, for our money, is one of the best in town. If you go on a Friday, and you’re lucky, they’ll be serving cuajito (a stew made of hog maws) and bacalao (a stew made of salt cod)—both cheap and delicious. A great bargain any day of the week is a cubano—a sandwich made with roasted pork and ham that will easily satisfy two hungry people.
Up near Buffalo State College, you’ll find the Puerto Rican Bakery & Restaurant (212 Forest Avenue, a block west of Grant). In addition to breads and pastries, this place also serves a heavy-hitter of a cubano, and the alcapurrias—deep-fried fritters made with yuca and plantains and usually stuffed with meat—may be the best in town.
This fare can get a little heavy, it’s true. Maybe something Asian instead? Again, you’ll become familiar with the obvious choices: Like any American city, Buffalo is dotted with little Chinese takeout places. But we’ve also got a growing Burmese population. The best examples of Burmese cuisine can be found at Sun Restaurant Buffalo (1989 Niagara Street at the corner of Austin, in the city’s Black Rock neighborhood). In addition to Burmese specialties (whatever you order, get the tea leaf salad to go with it), Sun offers a menu of Thai food, as well as rarities like black rice and eggs-nest dishes you won’t easily find elsewhere.
Sun’s prices are good, too, though cheaper still is Niagara Seafood (837 Niagara Street, at the corner of Rhode Island), a Vietnamese place that also serves some Burmese and Thai dishes. An $8 bowl of pho—noodle soup with a variety of accoutrement—is enormous and unbelievably delicious. For five bucks, you can get a banh mi, a sandwich which betrays the French colonial influence on Vietnam: a baguette with pork, cold cuts, and pate, with pickled vegetables and spicy mayonnaise. It’s one of the city’s best sandwiches. Niagara Seafood also sells fish, as the name suggests, and a limited variety of other groceries. If you’re looking to fill your refrigerator, walk across Rhode Island to the Asian market on the opposite corner. It’s cheap, too, and a good place to buy cooking utensils, as well as music and movies you’ve never heard of and can’t understand.
And then there’s the ever-popular 99 Fast Food (3396 Bailey Avenue, near UB’s South Campus), another Vietnamese restaurant. 99 Fast Food is cheap: A small entree here will run you $5 and provide you plenty of sustenance. You can, of course, spend more. And you probably will, because it’s delicious. If you are a dedicated carnivore, try a bowl of pho with raw beef and tendon.
If, on the other hand, the idea of chewing tendon repulses you, head north on Bailey and Millersport Highway to the Palace of Dosas, which specializes in vegetarian South Indian cooking. Nothing on the menu here is more than $10; dosas, which are basically Indian crepes, are $6-8; a lassi, a cooling drink made with yogurt that makes quick meal in itself, costs $2. Be warned: On every visit we’ve made, the music was loud and sounded like a child experimenting with a tiny electric keyboard. Delightfully bizarre. The food is great.
While we’re in the neighborhood of UB South, let’s hit a couple of mainstays: Amy’s Place (3234 Main Street) is also a terrific place for vegetarians, though it also serves meat-based dishes. The early bird specials, served 6-9am, have nursed many an undergraduate and post-graduate hangover: $2 will get you two eggs, home fries, and toast, or the lentils and broccoli breakfast, also served with home fries and toast, which is terrific and much healthier. In fact, anything they do with lentils at Amy’s Place is incredible: Try the lentil-berry sandwich or the pitaco. A full sandwich costs $8.50 and is good for two or three meals.
If you prefer a diner without an Amy’s Lebanese bent, try Lake Effect (3165 Main Street), a classic piece of Americana. On Tuesdays, the very good milkshakes ($5) are two-for-one with the purchase of any other menu item. Bertha’s Diner (1430 Hertel Avenue) is a good bet, too. It’s right next to the North Park Theater, a gem of a cinema being renovated by its new owners, who also have sate in Mes Que (1420 Hertel Avenue), right next door, which is the best place in town to watch soccer. Over in Black Rock, there’s Nick’s Place, too (504 Amherst Street); it doesn’t look like much but the food is solid and cheap.
Our personal favorite in the genre: Sophia’s Restaurant (749 Military Road), made famous by the Food Channel’s Guy Fieri. It’s a little of the beaten path but worth the trip.
If you want a cheap hamburger that’s also really, really good—and when we say “good,” we’re eliminating those made with thin, gray patties served on lackluster rolls—we recommend Eddie Brady’s (97 Genesee Street at Ellicott, next to the US Passport office). All four sandwiches on the menu—hamburger, sausage, chicken breast, fried bologna—cost $6. Pints of beer are $4.
If a trip to Eddie’s gives you a taste for classic Buffalo taverns, you’ll want to try these, too: Swannie House (170 Ohio Street, at Michigan, in the shadow of General Mills; the place has its own boat dock on the Buffalo River) for a fish fry, salads, 35-cent wings on Sundays, and, when they have it, shepherd’s pie; Ulrich’s (674 Ellicott Street, at Virginia, within spitting distance of UB’s planned new medical school building) for German fare in the city’s longest-operating tavern; and Gene McCarthy’s (73 Hamburg Street, in the city’s Old First Ward), for potato soup, a great BLT, and a unique selection of craft beer at good prices.
You’ll find a slightly-less-traditional corner bar in the Essex Street Pub (450 Rhode Island Street, right off Richmond), whose newly re-opened kitchen specializes in ribs and other meats that the owner, Macky, smokes himself every day in a smoker of his own creation. The food is cheap and wonderful, and there are good vegetarian options. The Tuesday night karaoke is a scene worth checking out, too.
If you’re looking for an impressive and affordable date night, try Tuesday nights at Prospero (350 Pennsylvania Street, right behind Kleinhans Music Hall). It’s good, straightforward Italian fare in a handsome setting, and you can’t beat the Tuesday night special: two entrees and a bottle of wine for $45.
The other great Italian deal in town, far less formal than Prospero, is Santasiero’s (1329 Niagara Street). An absurdly sized plate of spaghetti costs five bucks, plus $1.75 for a meatball; a bowl of pasta fasoola that you’ll eat for three days is eight bucks.
If you’re after an ice cream cone, try Mr. Kone (893 Jefferson Avenue). And if you’d like side of barbecue and collard greens with that, step next door into Mr. Bone, which churns out some of the city’s finest soul food—a commodity you can also find at Musicians Big 6 (614 East North Street) and at two of the city’s mainstays: Mattie’s (1412 Fillmore Avenue) and Gigi’s (257 East Ferry Street).
And finally, there are Buffalo’s newest purveyors of cheap, delicious eats: Coming to a campus, outdoor event, or curbside near you is a proliferation of food trucks. These include Lloyd Taco, Knight Slider, Black Market Food Truck, the Cheesy Chick, Amy’s Place, Pizza Amore, House of Munch, the Roaming Buffalo, R&R BBQ, Halal Mobile Foods, Rolling Joe Cafe, the Whole Hog, the Sweet Hearth, Square 1 Sandwiches, and Frank Gourmet Hot Dogs. By the time this paper hits the streets, there will probably be five more plying the streets. You can keep track of them here: www.bflofoodtrucks.com.
This is just a taste of what this city has to offer. There are little Jamaican places on Main Street, and on Jefferson Avenue and Massachusetts, too. (There’s a Lao grocery across the street from the place on Massachusetts.) There are Middle Eastern places on Hertel Avenue and on Grant Street. At the West Side Bazaar (25 Grant Street), among the various exciting food counters, there’s even a Peruvian place. Eat cheap—but eat well, too.
The Happiest Hours
• Barry’s Bar and Grille (277 Amherst Street) has $2 bottles of Genesee—plus, for you morning drinkers and all-night crammers, $1 well drinks, 8am-noon.
• The remarkable selection of craft beers at Blue Monk (727 Elmwood Avenue) is hardly cheap, but they knock a buck off the price Monday through Thursday afternoon, 3-6pm.
• On Thursdays, 4pm-midnight, Betty’s Restaurant (370 Virginia Street has buy-one-get one deal on slected wine, beer, and spirits. Pair that with a vegetable quesadilla at the bar, and you’re all set.
• Monday at Cathode Ray (26 Allen Street) is Big Ass Drink Night: $6.50 buys you a quart jar of a mixed drink.
• Century Grill (318 Pearl Street) serves free tater tots on Fridays and free bacon on Saturdays. That’s right: free bacon, right on the bar.
• Founding Father’s has free nachos bar every day, all night long. Free popcorn, too.
• The last Monday of each month is Stinkin’ and Drinkin’ night at the Deer Head Inn (2683 Clinton Street), when the kitchen cranks out free limberger and onion sandwiches.
• Don Tequila (73 Allen Street) serves bar patrons free chips and salsa—and on Tuesdays, margaritas are just $3.
• The tiny, innovative Bistro Europa may feel out of range, budget-wise, for the average student, but know this: Monday through Thursday, 5-7pm, is Europa Happy Hour. Buy-one-get-one beer, wine, and snacks, inlcuding the best charcuterie board anywhere, ever, and Ellen’s homemade bread baskets.
Polish happy hour
You don’t necessarily have to be Polish to enjoy a Polish Happy Hour. You just have to like Polish food, Polish beer, and Polish music. The second event in this series of happy hours happens at the Nickel Creek Café in West Seneca on September 19 and continues once a month through December. Expect free Polish food to go along with beers like Zywiec and various Polish liquors. DJ Red will be on hand to provide some Disco Polo and wave the red and white flag.
• September 19: Nickel Creek Café, (4717 Clinton Street).
• October 25: Adam Mickiewicz Library (612 Fillmore Avenue).
• November 21: LagerHaus 95 (95 Perry Street).
• December 12: Polish Villa 2 (1085 Harlem Road).
Work All Night to Get Lucky?
Locations to procure free condoms:
• Planned Parenthood (2697 Main Street, Buffalo; 240 Center Road, West Seneca; 15 Webster Street, North Tonawanda) offers free condoms to anyone.
• Buffalo State Weigel Health Center (1300 Elmwood Avenue) offers free condoms for students
• University at Buffalo Health Services (Michael Hallm 3435 Main Street, South Campus) offers free condoms for students.
• Terrapin Station (1172 Hertel Avenue)—one free condom per person.
• AIDS Community Services of Western New York (206 South Elmwood Avenue, first floor) offers free condoms to anyone.
• Kaleida Health’s Family Planning Center (1313 Main Street) offers free condoms to anyone.
Thank God It's Friday
• The first Friday of every month, art galleries in Allentown open their doors late into the evening and host receptions for their exhibits. The monthly gallery walk is a great way to get to know the city’s funkiest neighborhood—and, of course, the receptions usually include snacks and drinks for free or for a modest donation.
• The second Friday of every month, the Burchfield Penney Art Center (on the Buffalo State College campus) hosts an event—art, music, whatever. You can keep track of what’s on offer by reading Artvoice or visiting www.burchfieldpenney.org.
• On the third Friday of each month, the Buffalo History Museum (Nottihgham and Elmwood) offers free admission to the museum and select events.
• And on the fourth Friday of each month, the artists at the Tri-Main Center (2495 Main Street, fifth floor) open their studios and invite in the public. Between 5pm and 8pm, there are special events, guest artists, demonstrations, and other unique and creative happenings.
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