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Buffalo Spree's Best of WNY 2017

Our twelfth annual Best Of list covering dining, theater, entertainment, shopping and more


This is Buffalo Spree magazine’s twelfth annual Best Of list, made a little more special because it’s also Spree’s fiftieth anniversary this year. The list covers dining, theater, visual art, music, sports (somewhat), politics (barely), media, shopping, services, natural beauty, and more.


As always, we have used a combination of public poll results and expert panels to arrive at the final winners. We have high expectations for our list and need to make sure that the recipients are truly deserving—not just winners of popularity contests. We hope you agree; we also hope we’ve added to your 2017 list of places you have to try and things you have to do.


The descriptions of winners were written by Spree’s freelance writers and panelists, as follows:
Bruce Adams, William Altreuter, Nina Barone, Jeff Biesinger, Holly Metz Doyle, Ess Eastmer, Bruce Eaton, Ron Ehmke, Jana Eisenberg, Nick Guy, Erin Habes, Donna Hoke, Elizabeth Licata, Jane Mogavero, Devon Dams-O’Connor, Nancy J. Parisi, Christopher Schobert, Christa Glennie Seychew, Lizz Schumer, Wendy Guild Swearingen, and Emily Tucker


Below is just a small sample of our Best Of winners. Get your issue of this month's Spree with the complete list before it's gone! (You can pick up a copy at these locations.)


Photo by kc kratt


Best French Fries (City)

Frank Gourmet Hot Dogs

EXPO Market, 67 Main St., Buffalo; 218-8989 or findfranknow.com

You may be tempted to go on about the mayo-based dipping sauces that come with the fries. There's a choice of three that vary from day to day, like the creamy Sriracha-laced variety, the spicy and catsupy "Cane," and the salt and vinegar concoction, which is serioulsy killer. But, focus! The fries that Frank serves are magical. Through some super secret deep frying transmogrification, potatoes are rendered into the perfect golden dream of themselves. Ultra crisp on the outside and tender and light inside. How? And don't go with that friend who always says, "Do you want to split an order of fries?" You do not. You want them all to yourself.





Best Ice Cream Shop

Lake Effect Ice Cream

79 Canal Street, Lockport; 201-1643 or www.lakeeffecticecream.com





Best Nature Walk

Times Beach

Coast Guard Station S. Rd., Buffalo; friendsoftimesbeachnp.org

Drive north on Fuhrmann Boulevard or take the bike ferry from Canalside to enjoy the serene beauty and abundant wildlife of Times Beach. This is one of the few nature preserves located in an urban downtown, but, thanks to the intervening Buffalo River, most Buffalonians have no idea that this refuge exists. First home to a colony of squatters, then (briefly) an actual beach, the area was used for dumping and refuse throughout the mid-century. In the seventies, environmental organizations began to advocate for the wetlands and, in 1987, it was designated a significant coastal fish and wildlife habitat. Boardwalk trails, viewing blinds, and signage were added in 2004. Over 220 species of birds have been recorded at Times Beach, including local and migratory species. Careful hikers might also spot deer, turkeys, and foxes; springtime monarch butterflies pass through on their annual migratory pathways.



PHOTO BY nancy j. parisi


Best Festival (City)



Pride festivals can be controversial, although, at this point, the controversy is largely confined to members of the LGBTQ community. Have they become too mainstream? Are they too far out on the fringe? Is it too political? Not political enough? These are important conversations for the members of the community, but if you are an ally, Pride is a glorious explosion of diversity and acceptance; a celebration of our entire community. Church groups march and so do banks. Drag queens and politicians, high schools and hospitals. Cops. Car dealers. It is easy to get caught up in political pessimism in the Age of Trump, but, during Pride, we have a glorious moment to realize that social progress is possible, and that maybe our differences are what unite us.




Best Actress

Kelly Meg Brennan, The Unfortunates

Inside the Ten Bells pub, prostitute Mary Jane Kelly tries to sell a Jack the Ripper artifact hours before she leaves for the night and becomes the serial killer’s final victim. It’s no easy task to inhabit the myriad denizens of Ten Bells, but Kelly Meg Brennan is up to it, switching between men, women, colleagues, customers, and her own no-good man with expert ease, and also weaving her own tale of woe into the mix; the stories are all the more poignant because the audience knows what poor Mary Jane does not. Never losing focus or steam, Brennan breathes humanity into the lives of the “unfortunates,” her working girl colleagues whose lives were so brutally snuffed out.





Best Boutique Wine/Liquor Store

Paradise wine

435 Rhode Island St., Buffalo; 322.5396 or paradisewinebuffalo.com

The reasons to venture west to Paradise are many: co-owner Paula Paradise’s obvious enthusiasm about the shop, the stock, and the very existence of wine is uppermost. The self-dubbed “wine nerd in residence” speaks about her wares in direct yet almost poetic language that quickly eases customers’ minds. She also tries to keep her approachable array of small-batch wines, all either sustainably, organically, or biodynamically produced, at around the $10–20 mark.


For more of the Best of WNY 2017, pick up a copy of Spree today on sale at your local newsstand. Or subscribe and never miss another issue of Buffalo Spree, which includes FREE access to our digital format (preview here).


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