We don’t care what anyone says, Buffalo is a foodie’s paradise. Brick oven artisan pizzas? We’ve got ‘em. Homemade southern cookin’? Yep. German bratwurst, British fish fries, and authentic Mexican? Check, check, and check. Fancy-shmancy grilled cheese sandwiches? We’ve even got those too. The only downside to having all these fantastic eating options is trying to decide which one to try first. With limited hours in the day/room in our stomachs and new (amazing) restaurants popping up every time we exhale, the eating game is getting a little stressful. What is a Buffalonian to do?
Lucky for you we’ve compiled a list of essential restaurants you’ve just gotta try. This list is comprised of restaurants that have opened within the last few years and have continued to wow us again and again. So if you’re looking for some guidance in expanding your gastronomic horizons, want to impress your friends/family/significant other, or just want to see taste what the heck everyone is talking about, we present to you our List:
Five Points Bakery is great for any season and reason, whether you’re looking for a cozy cafe atmosphere or a snack like none you’ve ever experienced in WNY. Grab your coolest friend, head to the West Side, and explore their toast and sides menu with a tiny fork in hand. Enjoy relaxing in their calm, aesthetically appealing bakery while contemplating what goodies you’ll take home from their fridge for the toast you’ll make out of their very own Five Points bread the next morning. It’s truly the gift that keeps on giving.
The new gastropub is a collaboration among chef Dino DeBell, craft beer enthusiast Mike Shatzel, and professional rock musician Johny Chow and the triangulation of those three things – food, beer, and music – is what brings people though the doors of ABV. With 24 craft beers, including one made especially for them by Community Beer Works called ABV IPA, wine on tap, and a range of canned craft brews beer lovers have only dreamed of, Allen Burger Venture tops our Must Try list.
As if there weren’t enough exciting things happening in Allentown, the neighborhood has snagged another restaurant with a lovable food concept – poutine. And not just any poutine, authentic poutine made by Canadians. With an 8-step process to ensure they produce the best poutine you’ve ever had, they use small Idaho potatoes to create bite sized fries, fry ‘em twice, and top it off with their own homemade gravy. Healthy isn’t exactly what they’re going for, but big flavor is.
Ballyhoo’s unique drink menu uses a variety of tea syrups and English jams as sweeteners aka a very old style of making cocktails. Their cocktail list reads like a 95 year old grandma’s Sunday afternoon: Hibiscus-n-Tequila, Earl Gray-n-Rye, Chamomile-n-Gin…and it tastes like anything but. Their Jam Session menu prompts you to pick a jam, pick a liquor, and enjoy, simple (and delicious) as that. Ballyhoo also makes their own sausages in-house with meat from JH Dodman, a locally owned butcher just down the street. Rest assured, you really can’t go wrong with anything here.
With Buffalo’s beer renaissance in full swing, Big Ditch Brewing Company has opened its Tap Room and given their fans food and an experience to match. The Tap Room also features a menu that’s beer-focused including sandwiches, shareable appetizers, flatbreads, entrees, deserts, and some entrees made with (what else?) beer. Basically, really good beer, really good space, really good food, really good time.
A tribute to the steel industry, the Black Iron Bystro is a creative, funky little joint on South Park in Blasdell. If you like the artistry of food and creativity of combinations and cooking, you’re gonna like this place. We really can’t say enough good things about Black Iron Bystro (casual, creative, comfortable, reasonable, great food, and attentive service are all synonyms). We suggest you get here soon before it gets too crowded, if it isn’t already too late.
The current trend in American dining is “go casual but bring the big flavor”. Cue Bourbon and Butter, the latest redo of Mike A’s @ Lafayette. The concept is casual with small plates to sample and/or share at a reasonable price (this just might be the best value in Western New York). Sparknotes: Mike Andrzejewski and his talented staff opened up a brand new restaurant, and they have done the fine food in casual comfort genre to perfection.
It all started when owners Damian and Vicky Parker started the English Pork Pie Company in 2008, which, notably, they’ve received awards for that proclaim them the Best British shop in America and the World. No big deal. Their fish fry is promoted as “proper fish & chips”, which is made using special British frying oils, their own secret batter from a 146 year old recipe, and free and wild cod caught on their own fishing boats off the coast of Iceland. If you’re a homesick Brit or a fish & chips fan (or a person who has taste buds) you should go here immediately…and don’t forget to grab some pies to try at home.
Dining at Buffalo Proper is a little like a trip to Disney World as a 10-year-old. You enter with a mixture of anticipation and wonderment, not exactly sure what to expect but pretty certain you’re in for something exciting that will probably blow your socks off. The flavors, the combinations, the ingenuity, the artistry – eating at Buffalo Proper is an adventure, an education, and fine dining all wrapped into one. The food is not just something you may not have tried before, it’s likely something you have not even considered. Expect your senses to be challenged.
Elm Street Bakery started as (plot twist!) a bakery and has since quickly grown to become one of the most popular breakfast/coffee/lunch/pizza/dinner/dessert spots in town. Elm Street Bakery has been serious about organic and locally sourced products from the beginning and has evolved into a whole foods bakery/café specializing in brick oven artisan breads, scratch pastries and desserts, in-house roasted coffee, seasonal soups, salads, & sandwiches, and wood-fired pizzas. With the hire of one of Buffalo’s most promising young chefs, Charles “Brad” Rowell, Elm Street Bakery is writing a new chapter in their short but glorious book on how to satisfy hungry customers.
They’ve made our Best New Restaurants of 2014 list, our Best New Bars of 2014 list, our Brunches You Should Put on Your List list, our Cocktails That Will Put Some Spring in Your Step list, and our Reasons You Should Go to Food Truck Tuesday list. So what are you waiting for?! Between the wood oven-fired pizzas, newly opened beer garden, awesome collaborations with other local restaurants/musicians/artists, and that perfect bar of theirs, Hydraulic Hearth is a no-brainer.
Somehow cheese just tastes better when melted. This tiny shop on Allen Street serves up some of the most ingenious/delicious grilled cheese sandwiches we’ve ever seen. The twelve variations of grilled cheese (not including your plain old/excellently simple GC for $1.99 or 6 for $9.99) feature a range of cheeses from cheddar, Monterey, provolone, and Swiss to upscale cheeses like gouda, smoked gouda, chevre (goat cheese), brie, ricotta, and fresh mozzarella. The rest of their menu is laced with intriguing ingredients that will pique your curiosity: sweet cherry tomato jam, house pickled beets & jalapeños, balsamic glaze, and candied bacon (to go with the Nutella, of course), among so many others. No, you’re drooling.
The old-world style space that Moor Pat resides in was originally built in 1836 and at one point served as an old shoemaker’s home and business, so you can imagine how cool it looks inside. In keeping with the crafted ambiance, Moor Pat has a custom made tap tower with custom made tap handles plus a beer plan with constantly rotating American Micro and European imported drafts and bottles. The tempting (albeit limited) food menu consists of artisan sausages from Spar’s European Sausages Shop and hand cut French fries with dipping sauces one only dreams of. Great beer, fries, and Spar’s sausage; sounds like a grand slam to us.
The menu here changes regularly and draws inspiration from the building’s past as home to a Waldorf-Astoria lunch counter in the 1940s and also from the name Oshun, which was the voodoo goddess of love. Talk about #foodinspo. With Afro-Caribbean, Caribbean, North African, and Asian influences infused in each dish they serve, Oshun takes seafood to the next level without taking the price along with it. Plus the space itself is gorgeous and they have a pretty Awesome Happy Hour Deal with some Must-Try Cocktails.
Known for their nose-to-tail mentality and high quality ingredients with “aggressive local sourcing”, The Black Sheep team constantly works to serve interesting, delicious food. The menu provides just enough options to drive you crazy for the first five minutes of your visit, and we truly believe they have the best brunch around. We’re talking a super diversified menu, great atmosphere, no-nonsense dining area, endless Joe Bean coffee, $5 brunch drinks, and $3 sides. You should go. Like now.
“If you’re looking for a typical ‘neighborhood grill’ type of place, keep looking”. This is no average pub with average bar food, and after one meal at Griffon and you’ll see that they put just as much effort into the food menu as the beer list, not to mention training their staff. If you’re looking to venture slightly outside your comfort zone (think Duck Wings and Banh Mi Burger), this is your kinda place. Want a unique experience full of beer, original food, friendly service, and a great atmosphere? Head to The (new) Griffon Gastropub.
If we gave stars, this would be a 10. In our opinion Toutant is among the best restaurants in the city, joining the Buffalo classics and a few 2014 startups shuffling in what we hope is a new era in WNY. The focus here is food, and Toutant fills a southern cuisine niche that has does everywhere below the Mason-Dixie line proud. The foundation of southern food stems from influences that include French, Spanish, South American, and African (to name a few), and Toutant is so much more than a restaurant that serves fried chicken. The best food takes time to prepare, and at Toutant there is no substitute.
Considerable time and effort went in to restoring the old tavern, and although it’s been cleaned, spruced, and upgraded the beauty and patina of the wood work and stained glass remain. Ulrich’s has historically been known as a German restaurant with an Irish Pub, and now you get all of that and more plus a new hint of Italian influence. If you’re in the mood for some Buffalo history, bone-sticking old-world food, or just a cold brew with friends we really can’t think of a better spot.
These are the best tacos we’ve had in WNY. Period. Valle of Mexico has quite the selection of un-Americanized dishes and preparation styles that this area has been lacking, with beef, pork, chicken, lamb, and even tongue (an authentic and popular Mexican dish) gracing the pages of their menu. No matter what you get here you’re going to be satisfied (and probably have leftovers), and while the location itself isn’t the fanciest the presentation and quality of the food (seriously, try the tacos) more than make up for it.
Don’t be fooled by the uninspiring exterior, Winfield’s Pub is a gem where it counts. This is the type of place you want to tell only your closest friends because you want to keep it all to yourself. Their website states “From the bacon we smoke ourselves to the original potato bun recipe; we guarantee you a meal that will leave you full and feeling fantastic.” That pretty much sums it up for us.
So, you’ve made it to the bottom of the list BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE. Meet our #SOBFoodBucketList Challenge. All summer long we want you to try at least 10 restaurants from our list up above and post a photo of each one on Instagram with the hashtag #SOBFoodBucketList. Then you get a free Step Out Buffalo t-shirt. Here’s how it works:
- Try at least 10 of the aforementioned before September 8,2015
- Each person who uploads 10 pictures from at least 10 restaurants mentioned above with the #SOBFoodBucketList hashtag will get a free Step Out Buffalo t-shirt
- On your 10th photo, tag us and tell us you’ve completed the challenge! (This one is uber important…)
That’s it! Yes, it is that easy. AND as an added bonus each person who completes the #SOBFoodBucketList Challenge will also be entered to win a $100 gift certificate to one of our favorite restaurants (which will remain a surprise until the end of the contest).
What are you waiting for?! Ladies and gentlemen, let the first ever #SOBFoodBucketList Challenge begin! And may the hashtags be ever in your favor.
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