Western Canada Hound Looking For Buffalo Recs
Hello Buffalo Hounds.
I'm in the planning stages of a short trip to your area, possibly late summer or early fall, and am looking for recommendations on the following:
foods unique/well-known to Buffalo
regional American (Southern, Cajun/Creole, etc.)
Also, if I my trip falls during Labor Day Monday, are malls/grocery stores open that day?
Thanks in advance :)
Unique to western New York: roast beef on weck. If you want the full-up, old-style experience, go to Schwabl's in West Seneca, just south of Buffalo on the East Side (yes, it looks like somebody's house. And do try the birch beer - it's like a tart root beer). I usually try to hit one of the old German-style places, but they're fast disappearing, and I have to rely on my native guides to find them.
One thing I do recommend doing: go to Niagara Falls (either one) and walk across the Rainbow Bridge.
Buffalo won't have world-class bbq until Din-O-Saur opens in October. Until then, you will find very good bbq at Kentucky Greg's in Depew (near the airport). Also fairly good (still better than Canadian—no offense but I've tasted your bbq) at Famous Dave's, a small chain-restaurant located just off Walden Ave. near the Walden-Galleria mall.
I am not a fan of either beef on weck or wings, so I'll let others guide you in that department.
One food stop that's popular with Canadians and does a somewhat homogenized version of several ethno-regional U.S. cuisines is the Cheesecake Factory, at one end of the Walden-Galleria mall. Killer desserts. Expect long waits on the weekends.
Shango specializes in Cajun/Creole and they do it pretty well and give you a fun experience, It's across the street from the University's South campus. Chester's on Transit in the suburb of Amherst does a more casual Cajun; it's a down-homey bar. Their blackened shrimp kills.
I would warn you to avoid all Mexican and Tex-Mex places, except perhaps for Lloyd's Taco Truck (you can find their location each day on Facebook--also consider hunting for Frank's Gourmet Hot Dog Truck using Facebook). For a true US guilty pleasure, head for Ted's for foot longs and burgers. Their onion rings must be sampled.
The true gems of the upscalish Buffalo dining scene are the ones that have little to do with US regional cuisine: Seabar for sushi, Bistro Europa, and Trattoria Aroma.
Enjoy your trip. If you are looking for a casual meal in the Niagara Falls area, choose the Hard Rock Cafe on the US side rather than the Canadian side. There's a big difference.
Cheesecake Factory is a national chain, specializing in re-heating frozen foods send in from corporate: I wouldn't waste my calorie allotment on them. As is Hard Rock Cafe. Sorry, I don't see traveling thousands of miles to eat something I can get near home.
Ted's is pretty good for hot dogs (and get the loganberry soda while you're at it - a local speciality). The Hatch on the waterfront is ok if you don't mind fried food - their fried bologna sandwich is a regional specialty - and at least the view is good.
There are some very good restaurants in the Buffalo area, but, unfortunately, you need a local guide to find them: they're often hidden in residential areas, disguised as regular houses. I tend to go for red-sauce Italian when I'm there, something I don't find on the West Coast. Fish fry on Friday is an old tradition, but most places are mediocre.
"Residential house" type eateries of Buffalo are fine if you want to feel like you're in a time warp, but I'm sure you will find their food very unremarkable. In this category: Schwabel's. Eckl's, Creekview.
Much more memorable in the "old-style" category is Ulrich's Tavern in the downtown. They have good German food and pub fare.
If the OP doesn't have the Cheesecake Factory or Hard Rock chains where they live, these are bona fide destinations for Canadians and other international tourists in Buffalo/Niagara Falls. Few Canadians hit the Galleria Mall (which is indeed open Labor Day, no problem) without sampling the Cheesecake Factory.
Everything will be open on Labor Day, and crowded! You will see many, many Ontario license plates.
I agree about beef on weck as a local specialty-if you don't want to venture to Schwabl's, and just want a quick lunch, then try Charlie the Butcher's on Wehrle. And Ted's hot dogs is definitely a Buffalo place and well worth a visit. If you're here on a Friday then you will see fish fry everywhere, which is also very traditional.
For Cajun Shango's is a good choice. As to Kentucky Greg's, it is ok but I am a southerner and don't think any of the barbecue in Buffalo is worth traveling for, or necessarily better than what's available in Canada. Buffalo is still a long way from barbecue country (and Cajun country, for that matter!)
I agree that there are lots of good italian places here, as well as numerous good restaurants in general. Some are certainly in residential areas and some are in buildings that were originally houses, but they certainly don't all fit that profile.
If you're interested in German/eastern European then Prosit on Main street is good and (I just noticed) now open for lunch.
Agree about Blue Monk and Seabar, haven't tried Bistro Europa. We recently tried Black Rock Kitchen and were very impressed.