2014 was arguably the best year for Buffalo restaurant openings since the Brits burnt the place to the ground over 200 years ago. Here are our picks for the best new restaurants of 2014. Some good, new places might be more suited to Best New Bars of 2014 -stay tuned. Food is obviously a key factor in choosing the best new restaurants, but not the only one. We also consider style, creativity, and the overall dining experience.
(716) Food & Sport
This Vegas style sports bar is true to it’s Buffalo Roots. One of a kind in these parts they offer a first class operation with food that is largely house made using a long list of products originating in the 716 area code. They have a huge video screen playing sports 24/7, really good “Buffalo” food and one of the best beer lists this side of Brooklyn. This place is a showcase for the future of Buffalo. Bring your visiting friends/relatives and show off. Try not to gloat too much.
Black Iron Bystro
This place is an eclectic set up in an odd ball area with really good creative eats and seating that will keep you wondering. Bryan Mecozzi was the sous Chef at Vera but the cuisine is more like early Mecozzi. The name and decor are testament to the blue collar neighborhood, and make for interesting table talk. They have recently added craft cocktails to the mix. The menu is hard to pin down because much of what they offer is on the daily special list. Regulars say the burger is great, lately on the regular menu, but ask for an extra napkin. The scallops are our favorite and the frog legs are a must try if you’re lucky enough to see them on the specials board.
The Black Sheep
With WNY roots Steve Gedra (chef/owner) and his wife Ellen (bread, desserts/owner) take local sourcing of products seriously. They closed down Bistro Europa and spent much of the summer restoring the old Golden Key Tavern on Connecticut. Customers now have room to spread out, a cozy bar upfront, and a patio out back. Unchanged is the neighborhood feel and the creative, full flavored cuisine of the Gedras. It won’t be easy but make sure to save room for dessert. The Sticky Toffee Pudding is our favorite – along with everyone else in Buffalo.
Bourbon & Butter
This place is only sort of new, but different enough to make the list. Located in Holtel Lafayette, the room served as the hotel/Mike A’s Restaurant bar. “Mike A’s” the people moved over and became Bourbon and Butter. All you really need to know is the food is outstanding. Based on the concept of “fine dining in a relaxed atmosphere with reasonable prices” this place pitches a shutout. The art deco decor works well with the creative cuisine. The craft cocktails, neat hotel, and valet parking are all gravy… or maybe it’s butter.
Bringing together two of Buffalo’s top talents (food & drink) it’s hard not to get excited about this place. Jon Karel of Vera and The Revelry fame is hands-on offering craft cocktails that are second to none in WNY. Edward Forster is in the kitchen concocting all sorts of funky dishes that are sure to please the discerning diner. The beautiful old Laughlin’s building is a cool setup with two stories, porches galore and an open second floor where diners who don’t mind bar chatter can feel part of the action.
OK, we know this is not a Buffalo original, and they were founded in a vastly inferior part of the state, but the place is cool. We’re not saying it’s the best BBQ in town, we’re not saying it isn’t (yet). We are saying that they offer darn good food, a neat side patio, a great location in the Theater District, and nice bar space with a good buzz. Our favorite is the BBQ Platter because you get a lot for your buck. The beer program is pretty sweet too with 18 on tap, a bunch by the bottle and tasting flights of beers.
Another crown jewel of the Larkin success story, this place has an awesome bar running the length that welcomes drinkers, diners and the after work happy hour crowd. The brick oven pizzas are creatively crafted and wood fired to casual dining perfection. Try Mushroom or Spar’s Sausage. Tack on a flight of Community Beer Works brews, a unique appetizer like Swedish Meatballs or Cheese “Fondue”, and you can’t go wrong. The restaurant and bar, built by the Zemsky Family who orchestrated the rebirth of everyone’s favorite new district and food truck roundup, will soon showcase an outdoor beer garden to boot. This is simply the kind of cozy, neighborhood place you don’t want to leave.
Brought to you by Jim Guarino Chef/Owner of Shango Bistro & Wine Bar, this place celebrates fresh seafood. Continuing with the 2014 theme of fine dining in casual comfort, Oshun offers a great downtown location, a terrific bar space, and fresh Oysters all day long- perfect for the weekday lunch, happy hour or romantic date. These guys aren’t afraid to bring the flavor or hang out over the edge of the culinary cliff. They offer interesting wines and some excellent turf with the surf. If you haven’t done the oyster sampling/comparison you haven’t lived, but we also loved the Jerk Chicken.
Located in the rapidly evolving west side neighborhood, Pho Dollar is the blood, sweat and tears of Vietnamese native William Mai. Restored by hand this proud entrepreneur, don’t let the humble exterior fool you, it shines from the inside. The staff is very helpful if you’re not sure what what is what and the food is not only authentic but regarded by many as the best Vietnamese in western New York. Try the Ban Xeo, Banh Mi Thit Heo Nuong or the Pho Tai, we promise you won’t regret it.
Trattoria Aroma @ North French
The Aroma Group rarely if ever fails to please. They know atmosphere, wine, good food and generally how to satisfy the customer. This stylish decor is their spin on the modern Tuscan Farmhouse with spectacular wood accents, and an open balcony, offering a truly unique dining atmosphere. The bar offers a good vibe, they have an outstanding wine selection and the food is of the type that people get on a plane to find. This is a top pick for the special weekday lunch. Any of the house-made pasta dishes are good, but it’s hard to beat the Lamb Shank.
Sure this is the oldest something-or-other bar in Buffalo, but it’s new again. In desperate need of some TLC preservationist Tom Eoannou bought the building, leased it to Sal Buscaglia of Snooty Fox, and they restored it to its former glory. Just what the doctor ordered. “A German restaurant with an Irish Pub” how could anyone resist? They still offer fine traditional German fare, good pub eats, an excellent beer selection, and maybe the best pub setting in town. Located at the edge of the booming Medical Campus the place is sure to have a good buzz most nights. We like the Oktoberfest (potato & sausages) with a side of potato pancakes.
Valle de Mexico
This place may not be for everyone. Maybe not for anyone over the age of 30. It’s located in South Buffalo in a neighborhood with a bright future, and the service end got off to a shaky start. However the food is authentic Mexican, not easy to find in these parts, and darn good at that. The tacos are simple yet extremely flavorful. The salsa verde impresses and the Mole Poblano Enchilada is surprisingly delicious in it’s rich flavor and texture. Bring good company or a book and expect the unexpected. If you love Mexican, this stop is a must.
On the opposite end of the age spectrum this place is more suited to the mature Bridge playing demographic. They too have suffered some reports of time lapse, but much of their clientele has all day. On our visit the pace of service was adequate and the food outstanding. The northern Italian cuisine is top notch with some not-often-seen choices.
This is a perfect place to impress your mother-in-law for her birthday dinner.
If you’re not hanging out in Allentown you might not have noticed this little gem tucked away in the corner. You might think that grilled cheese sandwiches might not sound like they qualify for best of 2014 status but you’d be wrong. Try taking a bite out of No. 28 Brie, Gouda and Cheddar with Granny Smith Apple, Caramelized Onion, and a drizzle of Honey; or NO. 3 is your choice of three cheeses: cheddar, monterey jack, swiss, gouda, smoked gouda & provolone for $5. These guys have cheesy-goodness down to a science, and everyone loves a grilled cheese- especially at 4:00 a.m. The little shop is expanding so clearly we’re not alone in our appreciation.