Cheap Eats / World: West Side Bazaar
A one-stop melting pot of great deals
No. 21 from Thang's Family Restaurant
Photos by kc kratt
West Side Bazaar
25 Grant St., Buffalo
464-6389 or westsidebazaar.com
Hours: 11 a.m.–7 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday;11 a.m.–8 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m.–8 p.m. Saturday; closed Sunday and Monday
Thang's Family Restaurant
464-6389 or westsidebazaar.com/thang_s_family_restaurant
Bargains: shoyu pork ramen: $8.99
Spicy chicken ramen: $8.99; seafood ramen: $10.99
What we tried: No. 21: $7.99 (pictured above)
On a cold day, nothing’s better than a bevy of traditional ramen options. At Thang’s, these hearty soups come with noodles, meat or seafood, and an egg. All of them are under $10, with the exception of the seafood variety, which is still a deal given it’s stuffed with shrimp, crab, and oysters. “No. 21” came packed with protein—shrimp, calamari, and chicken—and crisp vegetables, including broccoli, carrots, and snow pea pods, all in a light yet savory sauce, with sides of white rice and a clear vegetable soup. I’ve heard excellent things about the spicy chicken ramen, which would be my choice during a second visit. Owner Kap Thang is originally from Burma but worked for a number of years at a Japanese restaurant in Malaysia. He arrived in Buffalo in 2009 and, in 2016, opened his restaurant in the Bazaar.
M Asian Halal Foods
(Indian and Pakistani)
533-8558 or facebook.com/sweetsavorycrepes
Tandoori chicken, chicken biryani, kabobs, and beef and goat curry can all be found at M Asian Halal Foods, a booth in the Bazaar serving an assortment of Indian and Pakistani foods. Dishes are served with a side of basmati rice or dosa, a type of pancake made from a fermented batter, similar to a crepe. We tried the mango lassi, a yogurt-based mango smoothie. It was thick and very filling. On a return visit, we’d definitely explore both the chicken and beef samosas, which we have since heard are phenomenal. Owner Mohammad Yaseen, originally from Burma, arrived in Buffalo in 2011 and opened his booth in 2013.
Mango lassi: $3.99
Bargains: beef or chicken samosa $1.50; fish or chicken pakora $4.99; dosa with goat curry $5.99
What we tried: mango lassi $3.99
(Puerto Rican and Mexican)
While Buffalo’s Mexican food scene is well established, authentic Puerto Rican food can be trickier to find. At Kiosko Latino, which serves both Puerto Rican and Mexican, we tried the beef and cheese pastelillo. When we broke apart the half moon shaped pocket of fried dough, a filling of picadillo—a soft, fragrant Cuban stew of ground beef and tomatoes—burst forth, along with gooey cheese. It was so rich, we were glad we split it. It would make a tantalizing appetizer. On a return visit, I’d try the Cuban sandwich—pulled pork, Swiss cheese, ham, pickles, mayo, and mustard tucked into a French roll and pressed on the grill. Owner Maria del Carmen is from Puerto Rico, and many of her recipes, she says, were passed down from her grandmother.
From top: Tostones dipping sauce: $0.75, Beef and cheese pastelillo: $2.65, and Tostones: $2.25; Green salsa: $1.25, Pico de gallo: $1.25, Gaucamole (& chips): $2.25 and Cuban rice: $2.50
Bargains: Cuban sandwich: $7.50; beef and cheese burrito: $3.50; rolled taco combo: $8.95
What we tried: beef and cheese pastelillo: $2.65
Nine & Night
541-7963 or westsidebazaar.com/nine_night
Bargains: Tom yam soup: $4.99; Thai fried rice: $6.99; pad see ew: $6.99
What we tried: Pad Thai with chicken: $6.99
A line of people waited at the Nine & Night counter when we arrived at lunchtime on a recent Friday. In retrospect, it’s clear why. The owner creates all the sauces from scratch, and the special attention shows. The pad Thai was as aesthetically pleasing as it was delicious; sautéed strips of red pepper garnished the dish, a touch I haven’t seen in other versions. The peppers were so fresh they snapped when I bit into them. Unlike some places, where the chicken tastes flavorless and rubbery, this chicken was unmistakably fresh. The green onions, fried egg, succulent noodles, and wedge of lime worked to create the most spectacular pad Thai I’ve ever had. It hit all the right sweet notes with just a touch of spicy. I’ll be back for more. The booth offers an array of other traditional Thai dishes, such as pad see ew, fried rice and soups, including tomyam, an herbal soup that is sweet, sour, and spicy. Owner Htay Naing is originally from Burma.
Gourmet Lao Foods
(Laos and Thai)
861-0834 or westsidebazaar.com/gourmet_lao_foods
Bargains: sesame cookies: $2.18; bubble tea: $3.50; fresh fruit smoothie: $3.99
What we tried: bubble tea (lychee and taro flavor) and sesame seed cookie
If you’re craving something sweet, Gourmet Lao Foods is the perfect stop at the Bazaar. The stars of Gourmet Lao Foods are the Laotian sesame cookies. These delectable desserts come three per package and resemble delicate, airy flowers dotted with black sesame seeds. They’re deep fried, and not too sweet. When you bite into them, they’re so crisp they crackle. The nutty sesame flavor pairs perfectly with a cup of coffee. Also offered is an array of bubble teas and fruit smoothies. The bubble tea we ordered was a smidgen too sweet, but still tasty. I’d ask next time for less flavoring. Owner Boulivone Serixay has lived in Buffalo for seventeen years.
Wa Wa Asian Snacks
(Thai, Vietnamese, Burmese)
310-3923 or facebook.com/WaWaAsianSnacks
Bargains: Vietnamese sandwich, pork banh mi: $4.95-$5.95; mango sticky rice: $4.95; Thai papaya salad: $6.95
Wa Wa Asian Snacks is one of the newest tenants at the Bazaar. The menu offers a colorful assortment of Thai, Vietnamese, and Burmese dishes. A popular item is the banh mi, a Vietnamese sandwich made with various grilled meats, pickled carrots and cucumbers, and garnished with cilantro. Also popular is the “som tum” or Thai papaya salad, a spicy salad made from shredded green papayas with tomatoes, green beans, garlic, peanuts, and fresh lime juice. To finish off with something sweet, try the mango sticky rice, a traditional Burmese dessert made with sticky rice, fresh mango, and coconut with a sesame seeds garnish. Owner Wa Wa Khiang arrived in Buffalo from Thailand eight years ago with her daughter, Su Way. They both worked in restaurants in Buffalo before opening Wa Wa Snacks last year.
Abyssinia Ethiopian Cuisine
563-6602 or westsidebazaar.com/abyssinia_ethiopian_cuisine
Bargains: Rice with chicken: $6.99; vegetable combo: $9.99; kitfo: $7.99
What we tried: rice with chicken: $6.99
Most dishes here come served with rice or injera, a large pancake of sourdough bread traditionally used as both a plate and utensil. Beef and chicken options are available, but vegans will appreciate the generous vegetarian combo. A cornucopia of simmered veggies tops the injera: collard greens, green beans, beets, carrots, potatoes, and red and yellow spicy lentils. We opted for the chicken and rice. The marinated chicken was meltingly tender, swimming in well-spiced sauce with peppers, onions, and tomatoes. It came with rice and a salad. Next time, we’d try the coffee, which we hear is dark, smooth, and utterly delicious. Owner Zelalem Gummed moved to Buffalo from Ethiopia nine years ago. Gummed’s sister, who still lives in Ethiopia, sends her spices, which she uses to create her authentic flavors.
007 Chinese Food
951-2535 or westsidebazaar.com/007_chinese_food
Bargains: Chinese bun: $3.50; Lo mai fan (sticky rice): $6; sayo pau: $2
What we tried: steamed shrimp dim sum: $3.50
007 Chinese Food at the Bazaar specializes in dim sum, a style of Cantonese cuisine offering a variety of foods prepared in small bite-sized portions served in small steamer baskets or on small plates. Order as many or as few as you’d like: the curious eater has much to explore here. When we removed the lid on the steamed shrimp, we found four little pouches of shrimp wrapped in translucent dough shaped like seashells. The shrimp was cooked well, and peppery flavoring gave it a kick. Other menu highlights include a puffy pork bun, equivalent in size to the American cheeseburger, and the popular sticky rice, which is dotted with mushrooms, chickens, and green onions. Maung Maung and Than Than Nu Saw, originally from Burma, have been in the United States for four years.
308-7640 or rakhapuramuteeandsushi.yolasite.com
Bargains: garlic noodle: $5.99; pennywort salad: $5.99; Buffalo roll: $7.50
What we tried: Rakhaing mutee soup: $4.50
The Rakhapura Shop, which features food from the Arakan region of Burma, is another spot to find exceptional soup. It also offers an array of crunchy, juicy salads and more than thirty kinds of sushi, with the Buffalo roll, banana mango roll, and Khaing roll most popular. We satisfied our need for warmth with the rakhaing mutee, a bowl of steaming broth with a heaping mound of rice vermicelli, garlic, chicken, and freshly chopped cilantro with fried onions sprinkled on top and plump lime wedge on the side. For under $5, we considered it a terrific value. Khaing M. Thein and Win W. Shwe arrived in Buffalo in 2004. They opened their booth in the Bazaar in 2013.
Recent repat Naomi Sakovics writes about food and other stuff for Spree.