Every season we round up the most noteworthy new restaurants that have opened in the past few months. Our pants are tight, our wallets slim, but there’s food to be devoured and so we trek on. Here’s a list of recently opened restaurants/bars/breweries/bakeries/cafes/you name it to add to your must-try list this fall.
1. Unapologetic Coffee
1375 Main Street Buffalo, NY 14209
A few years ago, twin sisters Alisa and Alicia Officer tossed around the idea of opening a café — but maybe when they retire, or at least when they were all set financially. You know, someday.
Then COVID hit and like many people, the sisters reassessed their priorities. Maybe, they thought, there isn’t time to slowplay their dream of having a café.
While COVID may have inspired the Officer sisters to accelerate their plans, the pandemic also made opening a brick-and-mortar kind of a bad idea. The company pushed hard into roasting its own coffee beans and establishing a wholesale coffee operation. Something a bit more pandemic proof.
Alisa Officer says, as a Black woman, researching the coffee roasting and café industries became an eye-opener. Ultimately, the prospect of owning a coffee company took on a lot more meaning.
2. Mint Cocktails & Kitchen
1225 Niagara St Buffalo, NY 14213
The next time you walk into a local restaurant, or any restaurant for that matter, take a minute to look at the staff; working away at mostly thankless jobs. For many of these people, waiting tables, tending bar, or chopping vegetables is just a stop-gap until they start their “real job”.
But for some, this is their real job. Every day, they work toward the idea that someday, this will all be theirs. They will have a bar or restaurant of their own. They will happily write checks late into the evening, then heroically smoke cigarettes alone in a darkened, deserted kitchen because it’s the culmination of lessons learned over years of hard hospitality living.
For co-owners Alison Clancy and Chris Mendez, the new Mint Cocktails and Kitchen on Niagara Street in Buffalo is that kind of dreamy culmination. The result of countless hours on the clock; grinding away for someone else’s vision. Most notably, the partners have each worked for local hospitality luminaries in Mike Shatzel and Mike Andrewjewski.
3. Blue Cave
128 Genesee St Buffalo, NY 14203
Made out of repurposed shipping containers, the restaurant space at 128 Genesee Street in Buffalo has rarely had a dull moment and now it is home to another unique concept: Blue Cave, a European-Sicilian bistro.
First, it was Rocco Termini’s whimsical Dog e Style – a fancy wiener spot. Next, it played host to a rotating cast of owners, ultimately becoming the very successful Casa Azul for four years. And now, the restaurant hopefully has another long-term tenet in the form of chef-owner Mario Bianca and his bistro concept.
4. Gypsy Kitchen Espresso Bar
272 East Ave Lockport, NY 14094
Many modern coffee shops feel like sacred temples to the coffee bean: where we the faithful queue up for meditations on things like bean selection, roasting technique and which one tastes most like glass.
As seen in the hit TV show Friends – which I believe is a documentary – cafés weren’t always so serious. They used to be quirky little places where people did quirky little things. You might walk into Spot Coffee during the 90s and see people reading poetry at an open mic or playing chess at a table in the corner as hints of patchouli waft through the air.
The new Gypsy Kitchen Espresso Bar in Lockport is a bit of a throwback to those idiosyncratic old cafes. As she talks about her café, owner Madison Greenwald gradually describes it like a mixtape of personal preferences that somehow all make sense together.
5. Ghada Have It!
2117 Military Road Niagara Falls, NY 14304
In July 2021, restaurant owner Bashar Srouji walked into his Niagara Falls Mediterranean restaurant Ghada Have It! and found heavy rains had flooded it. He then made the painful decision to shut it down.
But after reopening at a new location in February, Srouji says the flood and closing were actually a blessing in disguise.
6. BriarBrothers Brewing
50 Elk St Buffalo, NY 14210
While some new breweries get air-dropped into the Western New York landscape by property developers and restaurateurs, others are more grassroots affairs founded by people who fell in love with homebrewing.
That’s the story behind the new BriarBrothers Brewing in the Old First Ward. After trying out homebrewing on a lark, brother-owners Joel and Dylan Betti recently opened their nanobrewery thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign and Beer Mile fundraising stunt.
It all started with Joel Betti giving his brother a homebrew kit as a last-minute Christmas gift. As with many homebrew newbies, those first few batches were barely drinkable, and for many people, that’s where the homebrew journey ends. But the brothers, especially Dylan, persisted.
7. One-Eyed Cat Brewing
5893 Main Street Williamsville, NY 14221
Maybe you’re really getting into mid-century modern furniture, 90s hip-hop or old episodes of Seinfeld. It’s helpful to remember that these things got pushed off our radar at some point; outdated by hype cycles and trends.
Something similar is happening with craft beer right now. Styles like hazy IPAs and fruited sours have such a firm grip on the minds of some craft beer drinkers, that classic styles emphasizing malt are mocked as “old man beers”. But as any hipster with a mullet and a fanny pack will tell you, things that get mocked eventually become appreciated again.
One-Eyed Cat Brewing on Main Street in Williamsville is a new local brewery carrying the torch for classic styles like amber ales and English bitters. Whether they are ahead of the craft beer curve or behind it is kind of beside the point. The new brewery is doing its own thing.
8. Three Stories Coffee Company
1021 Broadway Buffalo, NY 14212
As the size of the neighborhood’s Middle Eastern population has increased, so have the Middle Eastern food options. Going beyond its classic Polish-American offerings, the Broadway Market has opened its commercial kitchen to include pop-ups offering everything from Filipino to Jamaican food.
The recently opened Three Stories Coffee Company is yet another feather in the neighborhood’s foodie cap, and it fills a key void in the area’s coffee options. Until very recently, the only places to get coffee were at fast food restaurants, corner restaurants and corner stores. Three Stories not only brings another coffee option, it brings good coffee.
9. South City Tavern
1345 S Park Ave Buffalo, NY 14220
Many bars and restaurants strive to be a ‘purple elephant’ — be something that stands out by offering something you can’t find anywhere else. That often translates into a destination bar or restaurant, something that offers unique takes on classic food (elevated baked potatoes!) or a concept you can’t get anywhere else (sci-fi fine dining!).
Corner bars are the glaring exception to this rule. While some of them might attract people with food or live music, the most successful are all about flexing the familiar, providing a stasis that allows the outside world to temporarily melt away. A place for strangers to share stories about shitty bosses and that time they hit a deer.
That’s the idea behind the new South City Tavern.
10. Yalleys African Restaurant
290 Kenmore Ave Buffalo, NY 14223
Full disclosure: Sometimes my “research” for these restaurant blogs involves watching Anthony Bourdain during lunch. Covering a Burmese restaurant? Time to microwave leftover Jet’s Pizza and flip on the episode where Tony goes to Myanmar.
To cover the new Yalleys African Restaurant on Kenmore Avenue, owned by Ghanaian immigrant Patrick Agyapong, I watched a No Reservations episode on Ghana from 2007. Sadly, getting a tour from the younger, edgier Travel Channel Bourdain felt cheap and distant, like the faux-maple taste in a bottle of ‘pancake’ syrup. Sure, it’s enjoyable, watching Tony crack PG-13 jokes and do shots of indigenous beverages, but I didn’t come away with a sense of the people or the place.
Conveniently, a big part of going to Yalleys is getting to meet the people and learn a bit about the culture. Communing with others is fundamental to West African food culture, but not necessarily part of restaurant culture.
11. Strong Hearts Buffalo
295 Niagara Street Buffalo, NY 14201
Many of us WNY natives think of Syracuse in terms of college basketball, college football, old college roommates and the State Fair. But Syracuse has a vibrant restaurant scene, and one of the more successful Syracuse restaurants recently opened a second location 150 miles to the east, on Niagara Street in Buffalo.
Strong Hearts is a vegan restaurant that built its reputation near downtown Syracuse, less than a mile from the iconic JMA Wireless Dome. Owner Joel Capolongo says he was partly inspired to open Strong Hearts in 2008 because of the lack of vegan options he saw in the 90s and early 2000s. But now, Capolongo noted, vegan food has gone mainstream. It’s become more of a cuisine, like Italian or Greek food, than a progressive diet.
12. Waikiki Poke & Grill
914 Elmwood Ave Buffalo, NY 14222
From A Christmas Story to Seinfeld, sit-down Chinese restaurants have a storied place in pop culture, but Chinese takeout spots sadly do not. Still, they are there for you when you are hungover, stoned, or just don’t feel like cooking and pay day is still painfully distant.
In the spring, it was reported that the longtime Elmwood Village Chinese restaurant Great Wall had closed. After 27 years of serving cheap, munchies-battling, fried goodness, the owners of Great Wall had retired; their watch had ended. In their place, new owners with a new business concept: Waikiki Poke.
13. Papi’s Waterfront + Beach Bar
301 Ohio St Buffalo, NY 14204
These are crazy times. We grab on to opinions and cling to them like they are inflated dingies, bobbing in a freezing cold ocean of uncertainty. But sometimes, dear reader, it’s okay to let go, to admit when you’re wrong.
You or I may not know sports blogger Matt Verderama from a hole in the ground, but I’m pretty sure he’s ready to admit: His searing hot take from 2018 about Josh Allen being a bust may have been a bit off.
Likewise, I’m ready to admit I had the wrong opinion about the new Papi’s Waterfront and Beach Bar in the Old First Ward. Instead of it being a meat market filled with barely-of-age drinkers, the new bar and taqueria is actually a welcoming spot to chill after a long day of work or on a weekend afternoon; the latest casual option to open in the Ward along the Buffalo River.
14. Postscript Café
710 Elmwood Ave Buffalo, NY 14222
Located behind 710 Elmwood Ave., Postscript is a café and creperie that expands on the location’s other two offerings: the High Violet cocktail bar and men’s clothing store Bureau. Like High Violet, Postscript is clearly a passion project; inspired by those fleeting during a vacation when you stop and appreciate your situation.
15. Iva Ann’s on Main
29 East Main St. Cuba, NY 14727
It’s a hot, sunny Friday afternoon in Cuba, NY and after a 94-minute drive down to the Southern Tier, I’m standing in Iva Ann’s on Main—a new chef-driven restaurant in town. After welcoming me in, co-owner and head baker Melissa Halleck is telling me how the town is starting to attract a new kind of resident — the cosmopolitan remote worker.
“They just built these new modern apartments in town, and one of the guys that just moved in is from Connecticut,” she says. “He mostly works remotely, and he moved here because you can get a really nice place for cheap, compared to apartments in Connecticut.”
Small towns like Cuba are changing, and restaurants like Iva Ann’s are part of that change. When we think of chef-driven restaurants, we often think of cities, but with the concept getting more popular and “knowledge-based” remote workers trickling in, places like Iva Ann’s are finding you can serve elevated, whimsical food in a small town.
16. The Salty Chefs
11 Genesee St #103, Buffalo, NY 14203
When someone calls a restaurant ‘The Salty Chefs‘ — you’re going to expect two things: seasoning and attitude.
That’s exactly what you get with a new lunch spot on Genesee Street in Downtown Buffalo. Married couple David and Donna Viertel recently opened The Salty Chefs after a personal and culinary odyssey. The restaurant serves breakfast and lunch items that can be described as pan-American, with influences stretching from Maine to California.
With classical training from the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and decades of experience, the Viertel’s are capable and confident.
17. Taisho Hertel
1435 Hertel Ave Buffalo, NY 14216
Not too long ago, young readers, Japanese restaurants felt wonderfully alien. Like someone used a Sawzall to crudely carve out a chunk of Japan and bolt it onto the surface of Western New York. Where did these possibly-Japanese people come from? What is this food?
These days, Japanese restaurants are hardly foreign. You can get sushi at Wegmans, or at a gas station. Over the past couple of decades, Japanese restaurants have become more utilitarian: meant to satisfy parts of your brain that crave raw fish or hot noodles. But in becoming more commonplace, Japanese restaurants are also having to evolve as an American institution.
Located in a two-story space that used to be Mac’s on Hertel, the new Taisho Bistro on Hertel Avenue in Buffalo dispenses with any oriental pretense and gives the people what they want: comfort, food, booze and live sports. In English, the Japanese word “taisho” means to deal or to cope. And that’s what you should come here to do: deal with life stress.
Keep Reading: New: Taisho Bistro Brings a Japanese Sports Bar Vibe to Hertel >