2019 in Review: Where We Ate
SPREE critics tried Pinsa Romana, hay-smoked potatoes, traditional barbecue, and more
Misuta Chow’s made Spree’s 2019 Best Of list in the hotspot category.
MISUTA CHOW's Photo by Stephen Gabris; Remedy house PHOTO BY LUKE COPPING; FAT BOB’S PHOTO BY KC KRATT; TERRACE, DANIELA., and PRESCOTT's PROVISIONS PHOTOs BY ERIC FRICK
In foodie terms, 2019 had some ups, but too many downs. We lost quite a number of restaurants, including Seabar, Buffalo Proper, Cecelias’s, and Rowhouse, just to name a few major casualties. We were especially saddened to learn that Yey’s Cambodian, which we reviewed in May, closed in August after only ten months in operation. It was Buffalo’s only Cambodian eatery.
Prescott’s Provisions won kudos for its crispy Brussels sprouts, tossed with walnuts and bacon bits.
There are some peaks among the valleys. The popular West Side Bazaar, home to nine ethnic food outlets, is building on success by moving to larger headquarters on Niagara Street. Chandler Street now hosts the long-awaited Waxlight, Tappo Pizza, Barrrel + Brine, and a Thin Man location, as this Black Rock restaurant and entertainment district takes shape. Buffalo’s brewery scene continues to grow without so much as a hiccup. And the smart money is on suburban locations that hadn’t previously been known for their restaurant scenes—like the Tonawandas and Hamburg—to grow as dining destinations. Prescott’s Provisions, which opened last year, was the subject of a March review by Spree food critic Jeff Biesinger. Biesinger was impressed by the Tonawanda eatery’s wide selection of small plates and adept use of wood fire and hay smoke, but also applauded its traditional cheeseburger: “It towers on the plate, with two gooey cheese-topped patties, lettuce, special sauce, and a delightful bun (somewhere between a crisp, seeded kaiser roll and pillow perfect Wonder Bread).”
The small plates at the Terrace were included in a May feature (read here.)
Further to the east, Williamsville has long been known for diverse and interesting restaurants. In 2019, it welcomed Jazzboline (reviewed in Spree 11/19) as well as Hooked, Cheesy Chick Café, and, Chef’s on the Go, which was practically mobbed the day it opened.
Daniela. introduced WNYers to pinsa Romana.
In August, Longtime Spree food writer Nina Barone cheered the arrival of Daniela., which opened on Forest Avenue last February (read review here.) At Daniela., pinsa Romana is the main item and Barone explains why this Roman-style pizza is different from other types: “Featuring a distinct crust that’s airy on the inside and crispy on the outside, the dough’s ingredients and a longer fermentation process make its texture different from traditional pizza.” Daniela. is also notable for its hybrid service model, which combines counter ordering, table service, bar service, and takeout. This approach and an overall casual atmosphere are becoming more prevalent throughout the WNY restaurant scene, as white tablecloth formality declines. Perhaps one of the most striking examples of how dining preferences are changing is the former location of Rue Franklin, now home to The Crabman, where boiled seafood is served in a plastic bag.
Increasingly, Spree’s food writers are taking note of informal dining spots, especially those that offer options for vegetarians and vegan. Writer Jessica Keltz, who is vegan, enjoyed the offerings at Williamsville’s Lime House (read review here), which opened a couple years ago, especially its homemade tofu, which she had as a crunchy tempura-battered appetizer along with some other items: “We tried the sweet potato sushi—a personal favorite at any sushi spot, a kind of sushi alternative to a French fry or hash brown. It delivered just what one would expect from a sushi roll: light flavors, room temperature rice, and nori wrapper with just the right amount of bite.”
Fat Bob’s consistent excellence got it a Best Barbecue award.
In spite of changing tastes and a proliferation of Asian and vegetarian-friendly menus throughout the region, certain things are constants. Buffalonians will always support hearty food and big flavors, as shown by the continuing popularity of Allentown’s Fat Bob’s Smokehouse, which has been serving ribs, brisket, pulled pork, mac ’n’ cheese, and more to happy customers for more than twenty years, and was chosen as Best Barbecue in July’s Best of WNY issue. Barbecue lovers should also consider Lovejoy’s La Verdad, reviewed—and highly recommended—by Spree’s Naomi Sakovics, who observed, “The burnt ends, nubby bits of perfectly caramelized outer edges from the smoked hunks of beef, tasted like candied meat.” (Read review here.)
We won’t attempt to predict what food trends might drift into the WNY region in 2020. As long as both meat lovers and vegetarians can rejoice in their choices and the cuisines of the world continue to find welcoming patrons in Buffalo, we’re happy to be surprised.