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Apr 7, 2010 11:16 AM

What are Buffalo's "must-try" restaurants?

My husband and I are planning on taking advantage of the strong Canadian dollar and are heading south to do some shopping in the next few weeks. Normally, we get a kick out of going to the Olive Garden or something, but this time we'd like to have at least ONE truly good meal. We'll be staying by the airport/mall, of course, but we don't mind a tiny drive for dinner!

Our fantasy restaurant would:
- serve excellent food
- have fantastic value (no more than $100 for the two of us, including wine, tax and tip, ideally)
- have a cozy or romantic kind of vibe, or a bustling and energetic vibe (silent white linen tablecloth-type spots are totally not our scene)
- not have too strong of a focus on meat — we tend to eat a lot of fish and vegetarian meals, although chicken and pork are also fine

So... what are Buffalo's must-try restaurants?

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  1. Finding dinner for two for less than $100 is not difficult in Buffalo. And don't worry about traffic: Buffalo is a "20 minutes to anywhere" city. From your criteria, I gather that you are looking for an upscale experience, right?

    Just off the top of my head, with your criteria in mind, I would suggest...

    Cajun, with cozy funky ambiance, great service, fantastic value wine list.

    American Traditional, VERY popular (too popular?) with locals, need reservations. Always busy, great food.

    Trattoria Aroma:
    Italian, white linen but bustling, top-notch service, good food, some wines can get pricey. I think the city location is more "fun," the Williamsville location more "romantic"

    Mulberry Cafe:
    user callitasicit from Ontario, recently ate at Mulberry Cafe and had a great time. You may want to read that thread with his review at the end. I wrote and suggested quite a few restaurants in that thread.

    Do you like ethnic, tavern, pub fare ?

    BTW, if you are near the Airport, you should try Kentucky Greg's for good BBQ.

    Kentucky Greg's Hickory Pit
    2186 George Urban Blvd, Depew, NY 14043

    Trattoria Aroma
    5229 Main St, Williamsville, NY 14221

    Mulberry Cafe
    64 Jackson Ave, Buffalo, NY 14218

    3260 Main St, Buffalo, NY 14214

    Trattoria Aroma
    311 Bryant St, Buffalo, NY 14222

    Hutch's Restaurant
    1375 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, NY 14209

    1 Reply
    1. re: jerryc123

      I tried Kentucky Greg's last week and I have to say I was mostly underwhelmed. The ribs were good, and the deep fried okra was fantastic, but everything else I had was so-so. That includes the pulled pork (which might have been good but had cold BBQ sauce dumped on top of it), the bbq chicken (nothing special), fries (soggy, uninspired) and collard greens (very salty, soupy mess).

      Service was friendly but cleanliness was lacking and I just kind of overall felt like somebody in the kitchen doesn't like their job.

    2. Two of my faves are Bistro Europa and Merge. Merge definitely has less "meat" dishes and Bistro Europa is very small but cozy. They are probably the two most unique places I have found in far!!!!

      Bistro Europa
      484 Elmwood Ave, Buffalo, NY 14222

      439 Delaware Ave, Buffalo, NY 14260

      1 Reply
      1. re: L_W

        These places sound fantastic! Perfect, even! I love the idea of being twenty minutes from anywhere. That seems like a wonderful way to live.

        We love all kinds of food — all ethnic, pub fare — whatever's good!

      2. I would put Tempo and Left Bank on that list. Tempo consistently serves up fantastic food in a restored brick mansion, and typically has a bustling, energetic crowd while also managing to be romantic and tasteful. Left Bank has outstanding, inventive dishes and a lively, but somewhat cozy atmosphere. If the weather is nice, their patio is well worth the wait (and they don't take reservations for the patio, so there will be a wait, but the bar is a separate room off the main dining area and they are prepared to handle the crowd). Both of these places are heavy on non-red meat options. The mussels at Tempo are the best I've had fact I just returned from Belgium where I hunted for some comparable, to no avail.

        I'd love to hear L_W's review of Merge...Though I really wanted to like it (vegetarian in Prespa's old space?!?), I've had three very bad experiences there (one of which involved us walking out 50 minutes after ordering with still no food in sight, though we were one of only 4 tables in the place), and I've vowed not to return.

        5 Replies
        1. re: RosemaryHoney

          I totally agree on Tempo and Left Bank as "Must Try" while in Buffalo, but I didn't mention them in my first post, as I didn't think of them as "fantastic value - no more than $100" restaurants as Sarah Cat requested.

          I would like to hear about Merge as well. My wife was there once for lunch, and had the worst experience. We had some friends give us not so favorable reviews as well. Sounds like they have some issues to work through before I put them on my list of places to try.

          Left Bank
          511 Rhode Island St, Buffalo, NY 14213

          1. re: RosemaryHoney

            I have found service at Merge to be hit and miss. Overall, everyone is nice but food sometimes takes a while to come out. Typically, we go for the apps and split a few---the fried pickles and Buffalo "Wings" are great. Entrees tend to be a bit small and I have not LOVED any of them....but the vegan mousse is sooooo good and portions of the apps make it easy to make a meal out of three of them for two ppl. I also love the vibe there and have been when they have live performers and also movies, which is a lot of fun. It's definitely not a quick "in and out" place tho!!!

            1. re: L_W

              Yeah...I'm not so sure about Merge. It sounds like a lot of bad reviews. In addition to the poor service, I found the food to be only so-so. And at one lunch they were out of so many things our table ordered that my co-worker asked the waitress to tell us what they DID have, which was a pretty short list - all 4 of us ended up with the same meal! Kind of comical...but I hope they can turn it around, because I like the concept, and I do agree that the space is good.

              You're right, Jerry...Left Bank and Tempo both push the "value", but my hubby and I have never spend over $100 at either, which we have at Hutch's...but that probably has more to do with the drinks we select than the food.

              BTW - Have you been to Trattoria Aroma recently? I was last there in the summer of 2007, and was so disappointed (bland pasta dishes, stale bread) that I haven't been back, despite my feeling that they have one of the best patios around. But maybe it's time I give them another shot?

              1. re: RosemaryHoney

                Wow, I really can't wait to come to Buffalo!!! Maybe we should stay for an extra day just to try all these fantastic-sounding spots.

                1. re: RosemaryHoney

                  I did like Trattoria Aroma. But did not love it (was there about 6 months ago to the Buffalo location). I haven't really explored all that Hertel has to offer when it comes to Italian, although I have had some yummy things at the Italian festival. Coming to WNY from the NYC/LI area, I still long for a Italian "joint"...spicy red sauce and lotsa fish on the menu. I am a fan of Zetti's pizza cause it's the ONLY thing close to the pizza I am used to.

                  Trattoria Aroma
                  311 Bryant St, Buffalo, NY 14222