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 spring.
1. Left Coast Taco
54 Elm St, East Aurora New York 14052
Think of Mexican-style food in Western New York, and you’ll probably be thinking Tex-Mex: platters of tacos or burritos with lots of melted cheese and refried beans. What we don’t have much of ‘round these here parts is Cal-Mex, a lighter and fresher cousin of Tex-Mex.
Left Coast Taco in East Aurora is one of the few places in WNY that you can get your hands on Cal-Mex. With more people trickling into the area from Out West, it only makes sense that we’d start to see more of that reflected in our food.
Owner Nathan Root was born and raised in San Diego. When he was 25 years old, he moved to Los Angeles, where he met his wife, an Orchard Park native. The couple moved to WNY a few years ago to raise their children.
Noticing a lack of Cal-Mex options in the area and having a background in hospitality, Root decided to launch Left Coast Taco. The taqueria got its start in the kitchen at 42 North and eventually outgrew that space, moving the takeout-only operation to the nearby Oakwood Plaza. Success at that location led to the recent opening of a new, bigger location on Elm Street.
2. Dopest Dough
695 Main St, East Aurora NY 14059
You might have started baking sourdough bread during the early days of the pandemic, but Joe White was doing the sourdough thing a bit earlier, and now he’s set to open a retail space for his pandemic-raised bakery – Dopest Dough.
After spending years on the road as a touring musician with the local band Made Violent, White developed severe carpal tunnel syndrome in both wrists. The band was put on hiatus in 2018, and White underwent surgery on both wrists. In the fall of 2019, he started kneading (and baking) sourdough as part of his physical therapy.
“At that time, if anyone was getting into sourdough, people would be like, ‘You okay bro? You all right man? You need to talk to somebody?’” he says with a laugh. “But once COVID hit, I was like, ‘Ooooh, you guys want to mess around with some sourdough now? Lemme drop some knowledge on you real quick.’”
3. SZN BFLO
1516 Military Rd, Buffalo, NY 14217
Tierra Josey had a good thing going in Atlanta, making a living as a senior IT tech with Apple. But while IT paid the bills, it wasn’t her passion.
After years spent developing recipes, Chef Josey decided to start an underground restaurant out of her Atlanta apartment called SZN, and now the Buffalo re-pat has come home to open a legit takeout version of SZN at Kenmore Kitchens, a ghost kitchen complex just off Sheridan Drive in northwest Buffalo.
Having to sell food illicitly out of her Atlanta apartment wasn’t an ideal situation, but for Josey – it was a way to dip her toes in the water of doing what she really loves – cooking.
4. The Hoagie Stop
220 Allen St, Buffalo, NY 14201
A lot of restaurants that open in Buffalo open “the right way” — People with a few bucks invest in building out a space, hiring a staff, getting the paperwork done and buying product. Maybe they went to culinary school. Maybe they didn’t.
The Hoagie Stop is not one of those restaurants.
Before the Hoagie Stop was a sit-down steakshop in Allentown, it was an underground pop-up in the backyard of owner Byron Cogdell. Thanks to a conspiracy of circumstances, hustle and a willingness to do whatever it takes, the Hoagie Stop is now a legit business.
5. Jacks Corner Cafe
111 Genesee St, 100 Buffalo , NY 14203
For every corner bar filled with regulars ordering their usual, there’s a small cafe that serves up the same daily latte orders to their usuals. That might sound mundane, but every corner bar and cafe has their own personality, their own story.
At the new Jacks Corner Cafe in downtown Buffalo, the story of co-owner Leah Alles starts in the Southtowns, shifts to Puerto Rico, then comes to Western New York. Look just under the surface of the little cafe, and you can see shades of Latin influence, especially on the menu: red beans and rice, acai bowls and breakfast burritos. There are also cafe classics like quiche and avocado toast.
6. The Llama Dive Arcade
26 Virginia Pl, Buffalo, New York 14202
Having opened in 2019, The Quarter spent most of its existence toiling under COVID decrees, and sadly, the pandemic came to define the New Orleans-themed restaurant’s identity.
But now with the pandemic set to recede, the Allentown restaurant is closing and splitting into two new, separate concepts: an arcade and an upscale restaurant.
Taking over The Quarter’s location at 26 Virginia Place, the new Llama Dive Arcade is the causal side of the original concept. Focusing on the late-night crowd, the bar-cade opens at 9 p.m. There’s a small stage that will feature live music, an open mic night and karaoke. There’s also a slew of vintage video games and TVs.
242 Allen St, Buffalo, NY 14201
Just do what you love.
It’s a mantra we’ve all heard and told ourselves 5,000 times when trying to figure out what to do with our lives. Sometimes, it can seem like pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking, but following your passion can also bring incredible meaning.
The new Bidwell restaurant on Allen Street in Allentown exists because of the passion of co-owners Matt and Courtney Gunther. Born and raised in Buffalo, the couple moved downstate a few years back and while living in Brooklyn, started throwing nine-course tasting menu parties in their apartment. Through word of mouth, their dinner parties started getting more and more popular.
“It was that really cool, semi-underground kind where we started off serving our friends,” Courtney Gunther told us. “People started telling each other, and eventually, we were serving friends of friends, and people we’d never ever met before. It was one of those cool things that people wanted to spread the word on. We saw the appeal and thought it would be cool to transition to a brick-and-mortar location back in Buffalo.”
8. Queen of Tarts
378 Hinds St, Tonawanda, NY 14150
If you went to Canada as a kid, there are two foods you probably remember eating: those weird-good hamburgers and butter tarts.
Butter tarts haven’t really caught on on this side of the Niagara River, but that doesn’t mean we don’t love them and want them. Thankfully, the new Queen of Tarts cafe in Tonawanda is here to meet all our butter tart needs.
Owner Kim Boyd told us that when her Canada-born dad was craving butter tarts during the pandemic, she looked up a recipe and made a few for him to try.
“He absolutely loved them,” she said. “Then I gave it to a couple other people and they absolutely loved them!”
Apparently she stumbled onto the secret to a good butter tart. So, what is it?
9. Days Park Tavern
253 Allen St, Buffalo, NY 14201
When you think of Allen Street, you probably think of party bars, but before Allentown bars were arming Jägerbombs for the suburban soldiers of #SundayFunday, they were mostly pouring cheap afterwork pints for their neighbors.
OK, so, it’s a bit of a stretch to say the new Days Park Tavern on Allen Street is a corner bar, what with its baby grand piano and elevated comfort food. But owner Michael Jacobbi has created a vibey space that seems to be attracting Allentowners, West Siders and Elmwood Villagers.
“I’ve had some people come in from the Days Park neighborhood and they love the place,” Jacobbi told us recently. “We want to embrace the neighborhood and welcome everybody.”
10. Ike and BG’s Restaurant
56 Niagara St Buffalo, New York 14202
Takeout soul restaurant Ike and BG’s has been getting rave reviews since the late 90s, and now, the restaurant is kicking off a massive expansion plan that includes a new location one block from city hall in downtown Buffalo.
The original location sits in the gritty Genesee Moselle neighborhood, and likely because of that, it didn’t develop a big fanbase beyond the East Side of Buffalo. But good food sells itself, as they say, so when owner Steven Butler bought a food truck and took his soul food and barbecue flavors to the people, the word started to spread.
“We were coming down to Larkin Square throughout the summer and I saw how they were receiving us,” he said. “Every time we pulled up, people would just flock to our truck.
“I think it just allowed people that would never visit our Genesee location to actually get a taste of our food,” he added. “It was a way for us to come to them.”
Keep Reading: New: It’s All About the Ribs At Ike and BG’s Restaurant Downtown >
11. The Grange Outpost
4236 North Buffalo Rd, Orchard Park, NY 14127
Ever since The Grange Community Kitchen opened back in 2016, the Hamburg eatery has been a smash hit, and recently, that success culminated in the opening of a small takeout cafe in Orchard Park called The Grange Outpost.
Recently, co-owner Brad Rowell told us he and his partner Caryn Dujanovich have been thinking about expanding culinary operations for the past two years. The need to expand was made more urgent when Rowell and Dujanovich opened a resort town restaurant concept in Ellicottville in 2019 called West Rose.
So, in addition to being a smaller satellite of the main Grange, the Outpost has a large production kitchen dedicated to making baked goods for the other two restaurants.
12. The Banshee
257 Franklin St, Buffalo, NY 14203
Inexplicably, “being Irish” was everywhere in the US during the 90s: from theme pubs in Williamsville to the Dropkick Murphys on the radio.
Until it closed, D’Arcy McGee’s was a holdover from that 90s Irish-American revolution, and while it was good for what it was, it didn’t exactly transport you to Ireland, or even South Buffalo for that matter. Sure you could get a shepherd’s pie and a pint of Guinness, but the music on the speakers was usually Tragically Hip and the TVs showed more college football from the SEC than football from the EPL.
All that recently changed when a group including Ireland-born owners took over the old D’Arcy McGees and reopened it as The Banshee. Instead of being an Irish backdrop for an American bar scene, The Banshee is more focused on bringing authentic Irish pub culture to Buffalo’s Theater District.
13. Hen House (@ The Dome)
200 Main St, Tonawanda, NY 14150
In the world of restaurant concepts, just about everything gets ground down underneath the unforgiving wheels of time. The Olde English steakhouses of the 60s and 70s (see: Scotch and Sirloin) became the Irish-themed pubs of the 90s (D’arcy McGee’s), which are now the brick oven pizza spots of today.
But there is one concept that keeps crawling, cockroach-like, in the face of passing trends: the townie bar-restaurant. In Tonawanda, an iconic townie bar located on Main Street is The Dome Stadium (which is neither a dome, nor a stadium). Many a Tonawandan has chanted, drunkenly, at one point or another: “Dome before home!”
The Dome has mostly resisted the passage of time. There’s still the bar-on-one-side, dining-room-on-the-other layout. But it has occasionally received an update and the newest update is Hen House – a Nashville hot chicken concept operating out of the Dome’s kitchen.
Keep Reading: New: Hen House Serves Drool-Worthy Nashville Hot Chicken Out of The Dome
14. Rakhapura Mutee and Sushi
301 Main St Buffalo, NY 14202
While there are a few different options, dining on Main Street in downtown Buffalo tends to fall into the category of ‘useful’.
Office workers need places to grab a quick bite. Fans on their way to the arena or theaterneed something to fill their stomach.
The new Rakhapura Sushi and Mutee is a happy exception. Born in 2013 out of a small kitchen in the West Side Bazaar, Rakhapura is a one-stop shop for the most popular Americanized Asian dishes. If you want a California sushi roll, Thai-inspired papaya salad or chicken fried rice, you can have it all on the same plate.
15. Candyman Pizza
92347 Sheridan Dr, Tonawanda, NY 14150
If you grew up in the Town of Tonawanda, you probably remember sitting in the back seat of your parents’ minivan as it drove past Caputi’s Pub on Sheridan Drive – dreaming of the day you’d be able to walk in for a beer.
About 4 years ago, Vinny Caputi took over the family business from his father. More recently, he and his brother Derek expanded the operation with the new Candyman Pizza. Located in a former private event room that is attached to Caputi’s, Candyman offers wood-fired pizzas, craft beer, wine and a wide selection of whiskies.