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Best of WNY 2011: Eat This I

Best Sandwich
Joe’s Deli
You might expect to find CIA grad Joe Lyons behind the stove in a fine dining restaurant, but he chose another path for himself when he opened a deli in the former Mastman’s location on Hertel and Colvin in 2006. Many of the sandwiches on his menu require custom housemade meats, such as the Reuben—which pairs brined and slow roasted corned beef with swiss, kraut, and from-scratch Russian-style dressing on marble rye. Other lunchtime staples just happen to be prepared expertly without fail: the perfect chicken cutlet sandwich, the classic muffaletta, and the Cuban are all good examples. 1322 Hertel Ave., 875-5637


Best Burger
Ruzzine’s Rock Bottom
Rock Bottom features a large, juicy hand-formed burger made with 80/20 ground beef and seasonings. Grilled, not fried, it is served with a touch of pink in the middle, and a delightfully crisp char on the outside. Served with chips – fries are extra, and a draft beer, it’s cheap and satisfying. This isn’t the best restaurant in the world. Service can be slow and spotty, especially on busy nights. During the summer months, they have a comfortable and popular patio area. Why is it the best? Apart from the way in which it’s prepared and served, it is unique in its excellence. Imagine your favorite meal from your favorite restaurant; the anticipation of taking that first bite of something you love. Rock Bottom’s regular grilled burger will give you that experience, except when you take that first bite, it will be exponentially better than your imagination has allowed. 6261 Transit Rd., East Amherst, 204-4004


Best Gourmet Pizza
Trattoria Aroma
Great pizza is always more than the sum of its ingredients. When the ingredients are this good, though, the pie almost has to be a winner. The toppings come from local sources whenever possible, and from interesting spots when not. (The mozzarella is Amish, for instance.) The crust is a paragon of the Roman style, and the menu listings are mouth-watering. Our only complaint? They need to bring back the item with the over-easy egg in the middle. www.vinoaroma.com


Best Chinese Take-Out
Gin Gin
To call this menu “extensive” is not in any way hyperbolic. If you’re indecisive, give yourself an hour to figure out what you want to eat, and take heart in the fact that whatever you get is going to be a step (or ten) above Buffalo’s standard take-out. 3381 Sheridan Dr., Amherst, 836-2600


Best Fish Fry
Swannie House
For their unique tempura-like beer batter, their giant, perfectly cooked haddock, and their heaping scoops of homemade sides, Swannie is a clear winner. What truly makes them our favorite, though, is their location in the Old First Ward. The Friday fish fry—that singular meal of the Buffalo tavern, that event by which so many Buffalonians cap the workweek and catch up with friends—is best celebrated at a special destination, and Swannie, as a former 19th century boarding house and a living monument to a bygone era, is as special as they come. 170 Ohio St., 847-2898


Best Tacos
Lloyd Taco Truck
It’s only been a year or so, but we can barely remember Life Before Lloyd. The combination of delectably seasoned proteins and fresh-cut vegetables nestled in a couple of corn tortillas is a winning one. The fact that Lloyd is always on the go only adds to the allure. www.whereslloyd.com


Best Place to Pig Out
TIE! Seneca Niagara Thunder Falls Buffet and Suzy Q’s
One thing you can bet on at the Seneca Niagara Casino is that the “all you can eat” Thunder Falls Buffet will never disappoint. The choices, from crab legs and steak to crème brûlée, seem to be constantly replenished and always more than a step up in quality from standard buffet fare. Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel, 310 Fourth St., Niagara Falls, 299-1100, 877-8SENECA

This seemingly endless supply of eats pulled out a tie against Suzy Q’s and its aptly named Piggie Pie. In some ways, Suzy Q’s is a no-brainer for this category. People pig out so often on their justly famous pulled pork and delicious sides that Suzy Q’s occasionally runs out of meats before their intended closing time. 2829 Niagara St., 873-0757


Best French Fries
31 Club
Call them “fries” or call them “frites,” 31 Club’s tasty truffle-scented fries, perched in a perfect paper cone, make a better shared appetizer than any fancy food we can think of. The bright idea to fry these thin and tasty potato strips in duck fat just pushes them over the edge, moving them firmly into the sinful category, but we don’t mind. Now pass the “grilled onion ketchup.” 31 N. Johnson Park, 332-3131


Best Taps
Blue Monk

Praise for “unbelievable” finds and “amazing” service is nothing new on Facebook and Twitter. But there was one week, early in 2011, when brewers, aficionados, and plain old fans of the fermented stuff pretty much lost it for the Blue Monk’s draft selection. More than 30 taps flow forth with whatever European and microbrew finds the owner likes. Obscure Belgian pale ales, seasonal German lagers, favorites from across upstate New York—anything goes, but most everything goes down oh-so-smoothly. Except the occasional triple-alcohol barleywines, which are still quite palatable. 727 Elmwood Ave., 882-6665


Best Chicken Finger Sub
Jim’s SteakOut
The late night/early morning queue outside nearly every SteakOut in town attests that the best CFS lives here. Mayo or bleu (or both), crispy shredded lettuce, tomato, and a few Frank’s Red Hot-drenched chicken tenders never tasted so good until someone at Jim’s decided to jam them into an otherwise nondescript roll, press it flat, and toast it within an inch of its life. This already delicious saucy/crispy/crunchy/spicy combination is greatly improved by its odd smashing process, and if you can stand to wait just five or ten minutes before unwrapping your masterpiece from its white deli paper, the whole mess marries together into one amazing meal. www.jimssteakout.com



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