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Best of WNY 2011: Eat This IV

Best Comfort Food
The Delaware
The look? Modern, minimalist, loft-style elegance. The menu? A quirky take on a classic inventory sheet. But the food at the Delaware is straight-up, no-pretense tummy pleasing. The obvious evidence is the deviled eggs on the menu, but look, too, at the tomato-basil soup served with grilled cheese “fingers,” burgers on “Pretzelweck” rolls, short ribs and meatloaf with home-style mashed potatoes, and, for Pete’s sake, a fresh-fried bag of doughnuts with dipping sauces. Regression can taste so good. 3410 Delaware Ave., 874-0100


Best Steakhouse Sides
Steakhouse sides are usually meant to serve as a break from the delicious monopoly of meat, and they usually arrive in share-friendly vessels. They must, in other words, actually stand out in some way to get much regard at all. The lobster and crab mac & cheese is an easy pick, but don't sleep on the zucchini pappardelle, which picks up tomato and basil flavors that complement your prime slab quite well. Multiple visits have never revealed a bad potato among the many offered, and the creamed spinach is our favorite. And the chopped and caprese salads? Best in their class in the area. 1735 Hertel Ave., 834-2662


Best Vegan/Vegetarian
Pizza Plant
No, honestly, we’re not just trying to be contrarian. We put ourselves in the shoes of someone trying to eat out, eat with others, and eat vegetarian or vegan on a regular basis, and we arrive at Pizza Plant. There’s a goodly selection of salads, healthier and gluten-free dough and wrap options, and the menus and servers are knowledgeable about the components of every dish. And not for nothing, but the beer selection is basically the best among local casual chains, so you can take the edge off the feeling that veggie cuisine hasn’t entirely arrived in a big way yet in Buffalo. 5110 Main St., Williamsville, 626-5566


Best Meatball
This restaurant may have earned a reputation for fine dining, but some of its best dishes include homey Italian classics, such as arancini, lasagna, and pasta fagioli. Spree readers overwhelmingly selected chef Michael Sinatra’s meatballs as their favorite, followed with comments that included adjectives such as “delicious!” and “just like my Nonna’s.” The restaurant’s excellent marinara sauce, made from scratch by original owner and father to the chef, John Sinatra, is a key component to the meatball experience. 938 Kenmore Ave., 877-9419


Best Small Plates
The concept of offering small plates has really hit full stride, but in our region, Bacchus was the first to split its menu equally into “large” and “small” offerings, opening in 2003 with this innovative concept and remarkable wine list as its defining characteristics. Today it still executes this concept beautifully, appealing to the diner in search of the perfect entrée, or someone who prefers to enjoy a varied dining experience by choosing two or three items from the small plates selection. Sizing up or down isn’t an issue either. Want an entrée-sized portion of truffle-scented beef carpaccio? Maybe an appetizer of flavorful, seafood-laden bouillabaisse? Just ask. 56 W. Chippewa St., 854-9463


Best Place to Pair Wine and Food
Just Vino
Buffalo’s true wine geeks—whether industry folks or those who simply drink enough to be bored with the usual wine bar offerings—have discovered the ultimate combination of insane wine list, delicious small plates, and unadulterated passion that is Just Vino. With 80 options by the glass (not a phoned-in choice among them), make-your-own flights, and small but intensely flavorful plates of olives, meats, breads and spreads, and cheeses, vino just doesn’t get any more fun. 846 Main St., 725-0166


Best Dinner Specials
Crisp, clean, contemporary and very special. Daniel’s offers a wide array of specials, prix fixe dinners (Tuesdays through Thursdays) and—even more distinctive—food and wine pairing events (four times a year). A recent prix fixe included fettuccini with grilled shrimp, beef tenderloin, and asparagus with a horseradish cream and devil sauce—superb. 174 Buffalo St., Hamburg, 648-6554


Best Modern Italian

Since Carmelo Raimondi took the helm of the restaurant that bears his name in the Village of Lewiston he has hued reverently to a strategy with two key objectives. The first is to source the best ingredients from the Niagara Region and surrounding area for use in all menu segments—from suckling pig and grass-fed beef to Cornish hens and Niagara County fruit. The second objective is to infuse his cooking with a fresh approach to modern Italian cuisine. Try the ricotta “gnudi” (ravioli-like dumplings that are “naked” of their pasta wrapper) and you’ll toast his success. 425 Center St., Lewiston, 754-2311


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