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Best of WNY: Out & About Part IV

Most promising restaurant to open since 2009
Bistro Europa
Ever been jealous of those smug chefs/TV hosts, who get to travel the world tasting gloriously weird stuff? If so, we suggest this intimate foodie find. Since new ownership took over last year, Bistro Europa has kept the hearty Eastern European fare on the regular menu, while going absolutely wild with their specials. We’re talking entrées like whole-roasted pig’s head, prepared in a way that’s both comfortable and adventurous. 484 Elmwood Ave., 884-1100


Favorite old standby (open 10 years or more)
Institutions become institutions by having the strength of their convictions. Oliver’s is fashionable because it has never tried to be trendy; it is classic because it has always known that an ice cold martini is made from gin, that a perfectly broiled lamb chop is medium rare, and that the best part of crème brûlée is when we crack the caramel crust with the back of our spoon. Oliver’s knows that when we are dressed up and out on the town, flattering lighting is the final ingredient of a successful evening, and that we are out to have fun. And we always do. 2095 Delaware Ave., 877-9662


Best restaurant featuring locally produced food
Trattoria Aroma
A single trip to Italy was all it took to convince Aroma owner Dave Cosentino that year-round access to the best and freshest ingredients played an integral role in Italy’s remarkable food heritage. Upon returning, he discovered that WNY’s agricultural ability was also impressive. Since that moment, his focus has been to have each of his restaurants supplied with as much local food as possible. Over the course of the last three years he’s built strong relationships with several farmers, working with them to raise the ingredients his restaurant relies so heavily upon—be it cannellini beans, Tuscan kale, veal, or whole milk mozzarella curds. Trattoria Aroma has longterm, mutually beneficial partnerships with its growers in a way no other local restaurant has. www.vinoaroma.com


Favorite neighborhood joint
The Place
Buffalo abounds in spots that give off a cozy neighborhood vibe, but the Place is special even in a city full of taverns, saloons, and gin joints. Part of what makes it great is location—the Elmwood Strip is a block (and a world) away. Another part is clientele; you can look around and see people who have been coming here since their parents used to bring them in a carriage, and there are frequently people who are there for the first time. The Place belongs in any discussion about the best fish fry, which means it is part of a long-standing Buffalo culinary and conversational tradition, but we like the "thinny flynny"—a sort of proto-panini made with ham, thin swiss, and Bermuda onion with Thousand Island on wafer-thin rye, grilled. 229 Lexington Ave., 886-9180


Best place to eat at the bar
800 Maple
The perfect casual evening out could include a couple glasses of wine (or an expertly blended cocktail) and a thin-crust wood-fired pizza at this spacious, curvy bar. Try it on a weekday—Fridays and Saturdays are packed here.
800 Maple, 688-5800


Most kid-friendly restaurant
Kentucky Greg’s/Lake Effect
The phrase “kid-friendly” makes adults cringe, but here are two places that the entire family can live with. From the blues-and-barbecue-joint vibe to the friendly waitstaff, Kentucky Greg’s Hickory Pit is a comfortable eatery that just happens to serve arguably the best barbecue in the area. With Junior Wells blowing some blues harp in the background and an assortment of food that demands to be eaten with fingers, your kids may forget all about Chuck and Ronald. We also love the Lake Effect Diner's cool ’50s vibe, twenty flavors of hand-dipped shakes (two-for-one on Tuesdays), and kid-friendly standards like pancakes, sundaes, and banana splits. 2186 George Urban Blvd., Depew, 685-6599/3165 Main St., 833-1952


Best spot for a bridal/baby shower
The Roycroft Inn
Buffalonians wanting to create a destination event for both local and out-of-town guests have it made thanks to this historic spot, which offers gathering spaces of various sizes (both indoors and out), a special menu tailor-made for showers, and oodles of photo ops—all without breaking anyone’s gas budget. As a bonus, the Roycroft campus is right across the street, and any kids in attendance can be rewarded for their patience with a trip to Vidler’s later. 40 S. Grove St., East Aurora, 652-5552


Best place for a stag party
Pearl Street Grill & Brewery
This is a great place to have a party, period. But it’s especially ideal for a stag party. There are a variety of “happy hour” packages ideal for smaller groups, and the staff is very accommodating should your group need more food or a shot of liquid courage. But perhaps Pearl Street takes the crown for the sheer size and set-up of its interior. It’s huge, and so is the beer selection. It's a stag party choice that can't fail, and if you’ve ever sat through a fire-hall striptease, you know this is a risk. Plus, countless bars and clubs are a short walk or limo ride away—if the groom hasn’t suffered a panic attack yet. 76 Pearl St., 856-2337


Best restaurant to bring a large group
Salvatore’s Italian Gardens
When we say large group, we mean large—say, fifteen or twenty out-of-town guests here for a wedding and ready to dine somewhere memorable that doesn’t specialize in wings or weck. If you want to impress, Salvatore’s can’t be topped. For starters, it’s one of WNY’s most visually renowned restaurants, as well as one of its most beloved. But it’s also huge, with large spaces that can accommodate a big group, and a wildly diverse menu. Quite simply, you know Salvatore’s will treat your gang right, no matter the size, and that means a lot. 6461 Transit Rd., Depew, 683-7990

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