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Cross-border grocery shopping picks... (moved from Ontario board)

I do the occasional cross-border shopping trip. What's a cross-border adventure without a stop at a Wegmans grocery store. As I was at the gym this morning watching an episode of Rachel Ray (sorry - it was the only cooking show on at the time) whilst on the elliptical, I noticed Rachel was using "fire-roasted canned tomatoes". They looked so good, I could almost taste them, but I've never seen them here.

Are there any Chowhounders who go cross-border grocery shopping? If so, are there any American product favourite not available in Toronto (or Canada) that are worth the drive? The bonus question is, which restaurants do you recommend in either Niagara Falls, NY or Buffalo, NY.... Thanks, eh.

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  1. I will literally pay you to please bring me back some Fage yoghurt - OMG, it's the best. Who ever thought I'd contemplate a trip to Buffalo just to buy some yoghurt????

    1. oooohhhh....Vosges chocolate bars....mmmmmm......so deeeee-LISH-us!
      Wegmans usually has some flavours, but I so desperately miss the main store on Spring St in NYC

      2 Replies
      1. re: mac n cheeze

        Hey mac, there are several places in Toronto that you can get Vosges chocolate bars if you have a craving. Summerhill Market for sure, and I know many others were listed in another thread.

        1. re: TorontoJo

          OMG!! Really!!?? I truly had no idea - TorontoJo - I thank you, thank you, thank you!!! I had forsaken all hope after leaving NYC and was pleased about Wegman's - but this is better!

          This will NOT be good for my waist line :)

      2. I will add my two cents..before this thread gets moved to another board...

        Nathan & Hebrew National Hot Dogs
        Bacardi Frozen Mixers Rum Runner & Fuzzy Navel flavors
        Snyders of Hanover multi grain lightly salted tortilla chips

        2 Replies
        1. re: ParsleySage

          What do you mean, "moved to another board"?

          1. re: Moimoi

            Allow me to answer your bonus question: namely, where to eat in the Buffalo/Niagara Falls, N.Y. area. Every time I get to Buffalo, I make it my business to go to Mother's, a lively, casual, imaginative resto in Buffalo's Allentown district. Interesting menu, exceedingly well-priced, very low markups on the wine list, which is one of the best medium-sized lists I've ever run into. Open quite late, lots of action at the bar, good, friendly service. Very, very popular with the locals, so if you go you'd better reserve first.
            As to what "moved to another board" means, what I suspect ParsleySage is referring to is that it's possible this query might be bounced from this (Ontario) board, because - strictly speaking - it has not much to do with Toronto eats. Similar queries have in the past been moved to the board that encompasses Buffalo. But I think an argument can be made that, in the way you've phrased your question, this subject deserves to stay on this Chowhound board. It's a judgment call by whoever judges these things.

        2. my cross-border shopping always revolves around going to a beer store in buffalo now, premier gourmet. they have a huge selection of liquor, wine and other gourmet tasty treats too.

          plus a drop into anchor bar... there's just nothing like their wings in toronto.

          i'll put in another vote for fage, but i find that liberte is a nice substitute though it's hard to go less than 8%mf with them.

          6 Replies
          1. re: pinstripeprincess

            Liberte goes all the way down to 0% bf, but boy that 8% stuff is good.

            1. re: embee

              but it's the 8% that seems to be remotely comparable to fage! of course... unless you strain the yogurt yourself.

              i do limit myself to only a couple spoonfuls at a time though.

              1. re: embee

                Wait, there's 8% yogourt to be bought up here??? Where???

                (By the way, I can eat half a 750mL tub of 6% in one sitting...I'd hate to think of the damage I can do with 8%...)

                1. re: gijoeanne

                  Liberte makes yogurt with 8% and even 10% butterfat. Most of these are labeled Mediterranean style. They are widely distributed, but Liberte (and Western, which is a related company that makes 30% sour cream) apparently look after their own products on the supermarket shelves and depend on the store managers to contact them when stocks are depleted or stale. We've got a lot of incompetent dairy managers in Toronto supermarkets.

                  I got a carton of plain 10% Liberte today at the Vic Park and Gerrard Loblaw's. Every Loblaw's and Superstore should have a supply. Dominion also has it listed. I don't know about Sobey's.

                  If you can't get it ordered at the store level, Id recommend calling (not emailing) the company. These are great products. They sell out regularly but don't get restocked reliably.

              2. re: pinstripeprincess

                There's apparently now another good beer store in Buffalo: Village Beer Merchant at 547 Elmwood Ave. which is close to Buffalo's best beer bar, Cole's, at 1104 Elmwood.

                As for wings, I'm probably in the minority, but while I like the wings at the Anchor Bar, I don't think they're all that much better than at a lot of other (less famous) places in the area. My usual wing joint is Gagsters in Niagara Falls (NY) at 708 E Market St. As a bonus, they've also got pretty great pizza and it's all dirt cheap.


                1. re: detritus

                  I spent many many nights at Cole's when I was in college, over 20 years ago........

                  We always bring back Sahlen's hotdogs, Weber's mustard, and loganberry drink concentrate - those are our must haves.....

              3. Bring back some Nathan's or Hebrew National hotdogs for embee.

                1. When I go to Buffalo, I usually hit the Tops near the outlets, and I stock up on some of the following. Cake and muffin mixes....they have TONS of flavours that aren't available here like Cinnabon Cinnamon Strusel Muffins, or Ghirardelli Brownies with caramel sauce. They have lots of cookies and chips (basically junk food) that we dont have available here. This past weekend, I actually went to Target to stock up on their Archer Farms line. I was very surprised at the quality of the products. This time I bought their Pecan Sticky Bun Granola Cereal (in a resealable freshness saver container!) their organic mango cashew trail mix bars, as well as their cranberry peanut, maple walnut, and caramel pecan granola bars, and several flavours of their chips like wasabi mustard, sea salt and black pepper, traditional, and maple bbq. (2 for $4!) And I find that the Lindt bars at Target are much less expensive that here in Canada, and are actually less expensive than at the Lindt store at the outlet malls. I didn't get the Nathans hot dogs though because we forgot our cooler. In the past, we have also brought back frozen pearl onions and artichoke hearts that I haven't been able to find in Toronto. Hope that helps! Happy Shopping!!!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: icey

                    Glad you mentioned cake mixes. Whenever I have friends or family come visit, I always ask them to bring me a couple of boxes of butter-recipe yellow cake mix. I have a ridiculously good cookie recipe that uses it, and they just don't turn out right if you use regular, oil-formula mix. I have yet to find it up here, and every time I go into a new grocery store I check the cake mix shelves to see if it might be lurking...

                  2. Wegmans. You want to go to Wegmans. I'm surprised there are 11 of these supermarkets in the Buffalo area, because I didn't think a city like Buffalo could support such an upmarket chain. It's like a larger, hopped-up Loblaws or Whole Foods. I have friends in NYC that pine for a Wegmans in their area.

                    Last time I was there, I brought back a dozen cans of Muir Glen organic fire-roasted canned tomatoes, along with all sorts of snack foods in flavours not found in Canada. I draw the line at the buffalo wing-flavoured cheese, though.

                    Tops is not as fancy as Wegmans, but if you happen to come across one, I'm sure you can find your fire-roasted tomatoes there as well.

                    1. I was shopping in Buffalo on the weekend, but only managed a very quick stop at Tops. I prefer Wegmans but ended up in a Tops last year since it was after 10pm and they were open 24 hours. I was pleasantly surprised by their health food section. Things I often buy are: Lotus Brand rice for 3.39 - sells for 10.00 at Whole Foods! Imported butter that you can't get here, King Arthur Flour, health-food cereals for way cheaper and whatever else I can find that looks interesting. I find the restaurant selection dismal around the Galleria in Buffalo and the Outlet Mall in Niagara though - tried many over the years.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: bigos70

                        There's a great BBQ place near Galleria called Smoky Bones...has the real goods, I loved the food at the one in Albany, and Buffalo location must be the same..

                      2. The cream cheese coffee cake by Entemanns!! I was actually daydreaming about this earlier today! warmed up it is SO good.
                        Also, Total cereal..never seen it here!

                        1. Kosher meat and 409 cleaner. What a combo!

                          1. I do cross state shopping! (I live near NYC)- I get logenberry(they even have diet), mustard & chicken wing. sauce.I never miss a stop at andersons ( roast beef on weck & ice cream, bocce pizza, and duffs wings. Premier is the best wine & goourmet store. Zabars with wine & no lines!!! Have fun.

                            1. For us, definitely the big Wegmans in Niagara Falls across the street from the Fashion Outlets, Sam's Club (the one in Cheektowaga is much bigger with better selection than the one in Niagara Falls), and the Tops on Niagara Falls Blvd.

                              If all you care about is price, try Aldi. There's nothing like it in Canada. All house-label stuff, ridiculously low prices, with a few national brands (like, 12 pound Butterball turkeys for $10). I stock up on their Red Thunder energy drink which is a very close Red Bull clone -- 4 cans for $2.99. You won't see so many Ontario plates at these because they're so unknown on our side of the border. Locals on a budget shop there. Think of a tiny Loblaws No Frills that sold nothing but PC products. That's Aldi.

                              If you want booze, we love Supermarket Liquors and Wines (intersection Niagara Falls Blvd and Military Road). This place puts the flagship LCBO stores to shame, both in price and selection. Make sure to get on their mailing list, they'll actually send you discount coupons (and real ones too, not the lame "$1 off a $30 bottle" crap LCBO likes to pull). You won't even have to bother with duty free, these guys even beat their prices. We haven't stepped into an LCBO in years, on principle.

                              Where to eat -- yes, can't go wrong with the Anchor Bar for wings, I hate the Duffs version, made me sick (those in the Toronto board know this already). If you want to try Sahlen's hot dogs before you buy a huge Sam's pack of them, go to Ted's Hot Dogs (regional chain). I know, sacriledge for Chowhounds, but if you want to do as the locals do, try Mighty Taco...

                              Products you can't get at home, definitely the hot dogs (Nathans, Hebrew National, or Sahlens), certain soft drinks (I like Mountain Dew Code Red), grits (my wife is American).... If you use American recipes and bake a lot (like my wife!), consider buying American flour as Canadian flour just doesn't work right in American recipes (more gluten in Canadian flour).

                              If you like the Louisiana pre-mixed stuff (Zatarains, Tony Chacheres, etc) which are terribly overpriced in Canada, stock up on these, you'll see a wider selection at 1/2 the price at either Wegmans or Tops. Many variations of Buffalo Wing sauce. And of course the breakfast cereal aisle. I'm certain Tops sells five times more varieties of cereal than Loblaws.

                              1. Oh yes, if you want good BBQ in Buffalo head to Kentucky Greg's Hickory Pit:


                                Definitely beats all the BBQ places in Southern Ontario except Camp 31 (although some are reporting they've gone downhill lately; haven't been in awhile).

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: TexSquared

                                  Do you ever have problems bringing food over the border? Can you bring meats, cheesecake and vegetables? I thought there were restrictions.

                                  1. re: caitlink

                                    It depends on the item, but in general, it's not a big deal - my parents generally have a philosophy of "have produce, will travel" when they come up here, and I don't think they've ever gotten their home-grown tomatoes and peppers taken away, or any provisions they might pack for a camping trip. Produce should be declared, as well as meat and dairy products, but unless they're coming from somewhere other than the U.S., they usually get through no problem (although I did see a fellow traveler get his apricots confiscated going the other direction because he had no proof of where they were from). Baked goods, dry goods, etc. are no problem. I've been known to bring back containers of my dad's homemade BBQ....there's nothing quite like going through customs at Pearson and having the following conversation:
                                    "Are you bringing anything into the country? Food, alcohol, tobacco, firearms?"
                                    "Just some cooked pork and a bottle of bourbon, sir."

                                2. Man, where to start. Anchor Bar is considered by locals in Buffalo as a tourist trap. Yeah, I know wings started there but somewhere along the line they lost their way.
                                  If you like Wegman's, go to the one in Blasdell - 3740 McKinley Pkwy (the best!) and if you want food recommendations, use the local guide at http://www.cse.buffalo.edu/restaurant....
                                  My personal favorite for wings, as well as the local delicacy Beef on Weck, is BarBill's in East Aurora (and if you have kids, you can visit the Fischer Price factory Store there, too).
                                  Premier's wine selection is vast, Rosie's Loganberry is unforgettable, and by all means, try Redlinski's, Wardynski's or Zweigle's dogs - or better yet, go to Spar European Sausage & Meats on Amherst. If you want an excellent grilled dog, by all means visit Ted's!

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: houdini

                                    I like to go to Walgreens for their candied/spiced pecans - can't even recall the brand name - in a green foil bag - they're great for tossing into pear/blue cheese/greens salad. I also like to pick up some Choxie bars at Target - I'm pretty sure it's the packaging because the chocolate is just ok, but the packaging is so great it gets me every time!

                                  2. I live near Montreal and often times (once a month) cross into upstate NY to hit Pricechoppers (Grand Union and P&C are defunct, Topps and Food Lion somewhat budget).

                                    I concur:
                                    Hot Dogs (usually Nathans, but sometimes those ridiculously red ones)
                                    Chips and Pretzels not available here like Snyders extra spicy
                                    Cheap Beer
                                    Huge Turkeys <$10

                                    Maple Grove Farms of Vermont Fat Free Vidalia Onion dressing (possibly the best lo cal dressing in the world)
                                    Smoked pork neck bones
                                    Freezer Queen frozen sliced turkey and gravy
                                    Shady Brook Farms ultra lean ground turkey (I appreciate the irony of buying cheap beer, hot dogs, and chips as well as fat free dressing and extra lean ground turkey...)
                                    Skin-on Haddock fillets (you can only get skinless in Canada)
                                    Cheap catfish
                                    Frozen Crawfish
                                    Cabot habanero cheddar cheese (quite spicy, puts jalapeno Havarti to shame)
                                    Ultra cheap corned beef around St. Patricks day
                                    House brand italian sausages
                                    Cheap dog food (well at least before we lost good 'ol Bogie...)
                                    Gas before returning to the border ($4/gallon is still a bargain for Canadians)
                                    Snows clam chowder (both new england as well as manhatten)

                                    well, I can go on, but....

                                    As for Buffalo, we were there last fall, stayed in Williamsville for the Oinktoberfest Rib Festival. Wasn't too impressed with Teds, but was later told it was because we didn't have their special topping...
                                    Anchor Bar, yes, touristy but I felt well worth it.
                                    Enjoyed another place in Williamsville called Carmines Italiano on Transit Rd. What do you Buffalo people think about this joint?
                                    BTW, had a few drinks in the evening down the street. Don't know the name of the joint (they featured indoor, virtual golf), but they built a large bonfire outdoors and people sat around it, enjoying the fire (it was october). I was impressed that they'd have such a fire in town limits, at a bar no less!

                                    1. I was fretting about bringing a pound of smoked turkey across the border thinking those agriculture pups would sniff it out, yet here you are bringing major meat groceries across the border. It is okay to bring smoked turkey into Canada? Will they ask about it at the border?

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: meinNYC

                                        I just figure its a god given right to smuggle stuff across the border...
                                        "What are you bringing back?"
                                        "How much?"
                                        "I dunno, 100 bucks."
                                        "For the two of you?"
                                        "No alcohol, no tobacco?"