To see the full list at a glance, click here.
PHOTO: KC KRATT
Best diner breakfast (City)
504 Amherst St., Buffalo; find them on facebook; 871-1772
Sure, fancy hours-long brunches are fun, but, thankfully, Buffalo hasn’t lost the art of a good breakfast. Riverside’s Nick’s Place offers Greek diner classics in a comfortable environment. There is a wide array of omelettes and souvlaki plates, while the country special will fulfill even the mightiest of appetites with pancakes, eggs, meat, homefries, and toast. Opt for the homemade bread with your meal.
Best diner breakfast (Southtowns)
The Poked Yolk
3100 Transit Rd., West Seneca; thepokedyolk.com or 656-955
Here you’ve got everything you want in a breakfast place at very reasonable prices. Polked Yolk serves breakfast favorites like eggs, omelets, pancakes, and waffles, as well as lunch items like panini, salads, and wraps. Almost everything is made from scratch. The fun and creative daily specials, plus a special menu of seasonal items, put this diner over the top. The cinnamon roll pancakes—sweet cream pancakes drizzled with rich cinnamon and cream cheese glaze—are especially drool inducing.
Best diner breakfast (Northtowns)
8611 Main St., Clarence; facebook.com/BuffaloJoesCafe or 276-3012
Located in a strip plaza between tchotchke shops, you wouldn’t guess at a glance that this joint has some of the best breakfast eats around. It’s cozy, with a dozen or so booths, a few small tables, and limited seating at the counter. The homestyle and plentiful food is lovingly prepared by owner Joe Bald, whose basics are on point and who has also crafted a magical skillet breakfast, as well as imaginative omelets like the house specialty stuffed pepper and the oddly addictive Rueben. Offerings satisfy churchgoers and the hungover equally well.
Best brunch (City)
346 Connecticut St, Buffalo; 259-9306 or martincooks.com
Trattoria Aroma on Bryant
307 Bryant St, Buffalo; 881-7592 or aromabryant.com
While the menu at Martin’s leans more toward lunch than breakfast, its weekend brunch has some of the best options around. Try one of the signature salads, a great greasy burger, or homemade pasta from a weekly rotating menu, along with a Mimosa or breakfast cocktail. The open kitchen allows diners to get a front-row seat to production too, so you can watch your meal from fridge to fork. Two words: Pastry bar. Aroma’s food is top-notch for any meal, but add in a full Bloody Mary menu, awesome champs cocktails, and a complimentary all-you-can-eat pastry bar and Aroma is your brunch destination. Local sources and seasonal changes don’t hurt, either.
Best brunch (Suburbs)
Elm Street Bakery
72 Elm St., East Aurora; elmstreetbakery.com or 652-4720
Served à la carte from the bakery counter, Sunday brunches at ESB run from 9 a.m.–2 p.m. Pastries, muffins, scones, coffee cakes, and oatmeal are offered early with hot menu items added after 11 a.m. Fresh bialys with lox, made-to-order egg sandwiches, and soups make Elm Street Bakery a casual and fun stop whether you have to grab a bite on-the-go or have time to relax and take in the beautiful surroundings.
226 Lexington Ave., Buffalo; 881-3800 or kunisbuffalo.com
1989 Niagara St., Buffalo; 447-0202 or suncuisines.com
Kuni's has been churning out great sushi in the city for years now, and for adventurous diners willing to taste outside the classics, this is the place to try. With everything from traditional Japanese sashimi cut to perfection to offbeat entrees with top ingredients, this is not your typical takeout joint. But be warned: the dining room is small, so expect a wait, or order out for faster service.
Kevin Lin was one of the first to widen Buffalo’s sushi choices and he continues to do so with his fascinating, healthy, and delicious black rice menu, which includes a wide selection of rolls, nigiri, and sashimi, all featuring—in addition to raw or cooked seafood and vegetables—the mysterious black rice. This rare grain is considered a super food; it’s also yummy.
Best Chinese (City)
007 Dim Sum
25 Grant St. (West Side Bazaar)
Until late last year, city fans of authentic Chinese have had to make a trip to the Northtowns to get their fix. With the opening of 007 Dim Sum (West Side Bazaar), residents can now learn what the fuss is all about. The tiny counter offers a variety of bite-sized steamed delights intended to be enjoyed while sipping tea. Owner/chef Saw Maung Maung fled from Myanmar; he spent hard years perfecting his craft in Malaysia, before finally arriving in the United States. Don’t miss the Lo Mai Fan, a dome of sweet, sticky rice topped with aromatic chicken, mushrooms, and a bit of sriracha. (There is no phone or website; hours are M–Th, 11–7 ; F–Sa, 11–8)
PHOTO: KC KRATT
Best Chinese (Suburbs)
3106 Delaware Ave., Buffalo; 322-0088 or hometastebuffalo.com
As WNY grows more diverse in its authentic culinary contributions, goldmines are popping up in all corners. Specializing in Northern Chinese cuisine, Home Taste quickly became a favorite for many, thanks to its legitimate offerings of dishes rarely seen in the area. From thousand-year eggs and pork feet with fried tofu to beef tendon and a large range of dumplings, Home Taste’s distinctive, well-prepared, and authoritative menu is deserving of the accolades it has received.
PHOTO: KC KRATT
Best Mexican (City)
Deep South Taco
291 Ellicott St., Buffalo; 1707 Hertel Ave., Buffalo; 235-8464 or deepsouthtaco.com
Deep South is quickly taking over the taco scene, with one location on Ellicott and at least one more in the works. With its perfectly charred proteins, creative twists on old favorites, and the largest nachos we’ve ever seen, it’s easy to see why. Bring a friend and share those nachos. You’re welcome.
Best Mexican (Suburbs and beyond)
Jaguar at the Bistro
110 Main St., Youngstown; jaguaratthebistro.com or 745-7141
This restaurant, tucked away at the very end of Western New York in beautiful Youngstown, has been celebrated all over the news and social media lately—and every word of praise is deserved. Chef Victor Parra Gonzales, a native of Acapulco, is a master of fine Mexican cuisine—his mise en place alone is exhaustive and intricate—and his dishes are created with the freshest ingredients, loaded with flavor, and executed with finesse.
Best steak (City)
EB Greens steakhouse
Hyatt Regency downtown Buffalo; 855-4870 or ebgreens.com
Although it’s possible to get a great steak at a dozen or more other area restaurants, EB Green’s—with its vintage eighties décor, visible kitchen, and Jackie Jocko tickling the keys—is a destination. The menu offers all the traditional sides and apps and the justifiably lauded—and expansive—selection of prime meat satisfies every time.
Best steak (Southtowns)
Rick’s on Main
687 Main St., East Aurora; 652-1253 or ricksonmain.com
For a place that doesn’t advertise itself as a steakhouse, Rick’s offers quite a selection: sirloin, strip, ribeye, and filet. They easily dominated our readers’ poll in this category.
Best steak (Northtowns)
Russell's Steaks, Chops, & More
Specializing in steaks, Russell’s menu features four different cuts, multiple toppings, and no fewer than six different presentations of the classic filet of beef. Steaks are seasoned with cracked peppercorn, cooked precisely to order, and served in a pool of deluxe demi-glace. While they might benefit from a more aggressive sear, the quality of the cuts in terms of flavor and tenderness is undeniable.
Best traditional french fries (City)
Allen St. Poutine
242 Allen St., Buffalo; 883-7437
Soho Burger Bar
64 W. Chippewa St., Buffalo; 856-7646 or sohoburgerbar.com
When your restaurant’s concept revolves around a three-ingredient dish, it is important to get the main component right. Thankfully, Allen Street Poutine Company’s fries are a homerun. The skin-on spuds are cut fresh and always served hot. They’re perfectly golden brown on the outside while maintaining a soft, fluffy interior. Proper seasoning ensures they can be enjoyed alone, or finished with any of the restaurant’s creative toppings. However, for those who like their fries straight up, our reader poll demonstrated strong love for the fries at Soho Burger Bar, which are hand-cut and come in either thick or shoestring sizes.
Best traditional french fries (Northtowns)
184 Sweeney St., North Tonawanda; remingtontavern.com/wordpress or 362-2802
Why are we talking about the best French fries at a place that is known for oysters and amazing steaks? Most any deep fried starch is going to be delicious, but there’s an art to the perfect French fried potato. Remington’s fries are fresh-cut and super crisp, perfect for sopping up the juices from a steak or anything else you order. Though wondrous on their own, they come with a side of tangy aioli that can’t be ignored.
Best traditional french fries (Southtowns)
6831 Seneca St., Elma; facebook.com/roamingdees or 714-9795
Christopher and Valerie Taylor, owners of the Roaming Buffalo food truck, opened Roaming Dee’s in spring of 2015 as a more permanent home for their food truck’s Buffalo-centric menu. Both businesses have won numerous awards—primarily for their soups and burgers—but their French fries play a strong supporting role. Hand-cut fresh daily, Taylor soaks them in a secret salt solution before incorporating a twice-fried process upon ordering. The results are strong, crispy fries with soft and plentiful centers.
PHOTO: KC KRATT
Best healthy menu options
The Lunch Box
We get it. Monday morning rolls around and we vow to eat healthily—once more–after a weekend of bad behavior. Enter the Lunch Box. Given its locations in the Larkin District, the TriMain Building, and downtown, Buffalonians are never far from the lunch spot’s savory soups, crisp salads, and specialty sandwiches. Made with fresh ingredients and several pages of options, the Lunch Box will keep you on track.
Best healthy menu options (Suburbs)
4446 Main St., Williamsville; 204-0031
Located in an unassuming strip plaza, O3 Cafe has been winning over health conscious diners with its creative menu and fresh organic ingredients. Whether it’s a drink from the Organic Raw Juice Bar, a wheatgrass shot, or a make it yourself salad/wrap/sandwich; O3 goes out of its way to ensure the food will leave you feeling better than when you walked in.
PHOTO: KC KRATT
Best barbecue sides (City)
Fat Bob’s smokehouse
41 Virginia Pl., Buffalo; 887-2971 or fatbobs.com
There are two reasons we love Fat Bob’s in this category: one is mashed and the other is baked, but both are sinfully gooey and rich. We don’t know the recipe for the mashed potatoes here, but they must be lubricated with more than just butter and cream; their flavor profile is deeper than that. As for the mac ’n' cheese here, there is actually a menu that includes different toppings, but the real star is the cheese sauce, with sharp cheese flavor and pasta that stands up to it.
PHOTO: KC KRATT
Best barbecue sides (Suburbs)
Smoke on the Water
77 Young St., Tonawanda; sotw77.com or 692-4227
As the name implies, this barbecue place is located right on the water (Ellicott Creek), so ordering up some slow smoked brisket dockside is no problem. If you’re sans watercraft, there’s plenty to tempt barbecue lovers inside. Although the smoker is filled with a variety of proteins daily, from pork ribs to turkey to grouper, delicious scratchmade sides vie for the spotlight. Voodoo fries, mac ’n' cheese topped with goldfish crackers, and beans and greens with the surprise addition of mandarin oranges are must-tries.
2130 Delaware Ave., Buffalo, 874-1800; Hopkins Rd. at Klein Rd., Williamsville, 639-1000 or bageljays.com
Great baked goods are not as plentiful in WNY as other food genres (think Chinese, traditional Italian, and barbecue). In terms of bagels, for years, we have depended on Bagel Jays to bring us the real thing. A bagel here is just as it should be: thin blisters show that it has been properly boiled and then baked at a high heat. It is the type of bagel that really does not need to be toasted. In addition to mastery of the basics, Bagel Jay’s offers a dizzying array of flavors, great toppings, traditional deli sandwiches made with bagels, and excellent catering (perfect for meetings). Fortunately, there are two locations.
Best hot dog (City)
Frank’s Gourmet Hot Dogs
Location varies; 440-9397 or findfranknow.com
Few people would blame the Tripi brothers, proprietors of the Frank’s Gourmet Hot Dogs, if they didn't make their own links, but the pair took a gamble and it paid off; their house-recipe pork and beef dogs are the best in town. You will find the links topped with stellar condiments ranging from ketchup and mustard to guacamole and sriracha on the food truck. They are also available for sale in retail six-packs.
Best hot dog (Suburbs)
Ted’s Hot Dog’s
Mutliple locations; tedshotdogs.com
Since serving their first hot dog over eighty years ago, not much has changed about Ted’s Hot Dogs. Sure there are more locations and the menu is slightly larger, but the dogs have mostly stayed the same, and that’s exactly why they are so good. The classic charcoal grills just add that extra level of flavor that can’t be replicated. Plus, if you find yourself in any of Ted's nine locations (plus a new food truck), you’ll get the same great dog.
Best burger (City)
Marble + Rye
112 Genesee St., Buffalo; 853-1390 or marbleandrye.net
At first glance, Marble + Rye’s ultra-lounge look might not scream burger joint, but underneath the hipster exterior lies a full-on commitment to the ultimate burger experience. Wide patties blended with a housemade mix of ground short rib, chuck, and silky/savory bone marrow, seared on a cast iron plancha, and served on an equally wide and airy bun. The basic burger is dressed with lettuce, tomato, onion, and a tangy special sauce; upgrades include cheddar cheese and a precisely poached egg.
Best burger (Suburbs)
JuiCy Burger Bar
1 Buffalo St., Hamburg; 648-3200 or juicyburgerbar.com
JuiCy’s chef, Andrew Murtha, once said, “The perfect burger is a work of art.” At this Hamburg burger joint, styled like a fifties diner, the hand-shaped burgers are an expression of what happens when a fine-dining chef explores his lower-brow passion: a delightful Southtowns discovery for burger fans.
PHOTO: KC KRATT
Best charcuterie (City)
The Black Sheep
367 Connecticut St., Buffalo; blacksheepbuffalo.com
Black Sheep chef Steve Gedra is a meat whisperer. His charcuterie is not only the most adventurous in the city—it’s also the most delicious. Reason: his dedication to and use of high quality, locally-sourced pork that usually comes from Lockport's T-Meadow Farms, which specializes in heritage pork breeds.
Best charcuterie (Suburbs and beyond)
425 Center St., Lewiston; carmelos-restaurant.com or 754-2311
Chef-owner Carmelo Raimondi is dedicated to using locally sourced ingredients and preparing them expertly in subtle and surprising ways. His charcuterie plate is no exception. The meat is often sourced from T-Meadow Farms in Lockport and Dizpensa’s in Ransomville. The menu changes regularly, so you may not be able to get this every time you go, but if it’s on the menu—grab it. The coppa di testa is life changing.
PHOTO: KC KRATT
Best pizza – Buffalo-style (City)
La Nova Pizzeria
371 West Ferry St., Buffalo; 881-3303 or lanova.com
When it comes to good pizza, consistency is key. La Nova has almost sixty years under its belt, and, in that time, it has more or less perfected its recipe. Customers can expect every pie to come out as good as the last, with a perfectly charred crust and gooey melted cheese. Small tweaks, such as the popular sesame seed crust, add to the classic combination without making it into something totally new.
Best pizza – Buffalo-style (Suburbs)
Multiple locations; picassospizza.net
Picasso’s may come as close to the Platonian ideal of Buffalo-style pizza as any other restaurant in the area. The dough is the right combination of chewy and crisp, the sauce is just sweet enough, the cheese is plentiful, and oh, those pepperoni. Perfectly curled up with singed edges and grease inside, they simply don’t get any better. A sprinkling of garlic and parmesan cheese adds that little something that puts this pie over the top. P.S. You must visit the Picasso's website and watch the hilarious video that comes up on the front page.
PHOTO: jp thimot
Best pizza – thin crust (City) / Best Food Truck
O. G. Wood Fire
Various locations; 258-0725
If seeing a domed 900-degree wood burning oven glowing inside a food truck doesn’t convince you that O. G.’s owner, Jay Langfelder, is a little obsessed about pizzas, spend a few minutes talking pies with him and all doubt will evaporate in less time than it takes him to cook one. Neapolitan pizza fans can be thankful Jay put wheels under his obsession and started driving it around. He may have limitations working out of a truck, but his oven is unique and allows him to produce authentic margherita pizzas in ninety seconds or less. They arrive with blackened blisters on the crust, a hallmark of the style.
Best pizza – thin crust (Suburbs and beyond)
3019 Pine Ave., Niagara Falls; lahaciendaofny.com or 285-2536
The crust is what really makes this pizza a standout. It’s thin, but not cracker thin, and retains a nice chew. There’s something mystical about this pizza, which is delivered to your table on a little stand. Whatever topping you order, you’re going to get a lot of that topping, but it’s not loaded down, drippy, or wet. The sauce is not too sweet, and there’s just the right amount of mozzarella. Basically, they’ve found the magic balance of all pizza elements and, if you'd gone there forty years ago, you’d have gotten the same pizza taste and quality you’ll get tonight.
PHOTO: KC KRATT
Aro Bar de tapas
5415 Sheridan Dr., Williamsville; 631-1000 or arotapas.com
We realize that Aro Bar de Tapas hasn’t been open for that long, but the Spanish desserts from pastry chef Monica Kollig are worth a visit on their own. Her blend of modern techniques and creative flavor combinations results in desserts that not only taste great but are so beautiful, you’ll feel guilty marring their perfection by eating them. Diners can get adventurous with the olive oil ice cream (each scoop crafted to order) or order something familiar like the restaurant’s excellent churros or flan.
PHOTO: KC KRATT
Multiple locations; paulasdonuts.com
Now with three locations, Paula’s Donuts boasts a menu of over fifty different doughnuts and much more—it’s a sweet tooth’s paradise! Pastry hearts, turnovers, bear claws, bagels, muffins, fritters, carrot cake, and an assortment of danish are also part of Paula’s arsenal. Additionally, there are brownie and cookie platters and the famous “Texas Donut.” Everything is freshly-made throughout the day; you might have to wait a couple minutes for your favorite, but the fresh treat will be worth it.
Best ice cream shop (City)
3208 Main St., Buffalo; 833-7540, parksidecandy.com
Today, the iconic candy shop has five locations across Western New York, but Parkside’s Main Street location—complete with pre-World War II ice cream parlor—is a charming Buffalo landmark. Parkside does not skimp on the serving sizes, which will please, well, everyone. Outside of the cone or dish, the milkshakes are thick and creamy and come with the leftovers in big aluminum tumblers.
Best ice cream shop (Northtowns)
Lake Effect artisan ice cream
79 Canal St., Lockport; lakeeffecticecream.com
More than an ice cream shop that makes artisanal small batch ice cream the old fashioned way, Lake Effect experiments with regional flavors in exciting ways. To wit: Paula's Glazed Donut, Icewine Sherbet, and Sponge Candy. Lake Effect also graciously packages its delectable creations for sale in grocery stores throughout Western New York, because how sad it would be if one were craving a bowlful of frozen heaven but didn't have the gumption to drive to Lockport?
Best ice cream shop (Southtowns)
3411 South Park Ave., Blasdell; franceilcustard.com
A classic mom-and-pop ice cream stand, Fran-Ceil’s has been serving up ice cream smiles since the early 1950s. The shop offers shakes, splits, and many other special treats, but its star is really the frozen custard. Using a family recipe, the frozen custard rotation consists of chocolate, vanilla, and one of a dozen rotating flavors of the week. While the rotating flavor doesn’t always last the entire week, chocolate and vanilla custard are always available.
PHOTO: KC KRATT
Best new restaurant — Opened in 2015-2016 (City)
437 Ellicott St., Buffalo; 342-2901 or toutantbuffalo.com
Impeccable fried chicken, rotating barbecue specials, fresh biscuits, New Orleans cocktail culture and a whole menu of Southern styled slow food—these are the reasons why Buffalonians have made this Ellicott Street eatery one of the hottest reservations in town. As its one year anniversary approaches, interest has yet to wane, so be sure to plan your reservation at least two weeks in advance. You don’t want to miss out.
Best new restaurant — Opened in 2015-2016 (Suburbs)
Aro bar de Tapas
5415 Sheridan Dr., Williamsville; 631-1000 or arotapas.com
Besides serving the best desserts in the area (see its other award this issue), Aro Bar de Tapas has brought an exciting new cuisine to Western New York. Never, to our knowledge, has someone tried to replicate authentic Spanish tapas to the degree that Aro has accomplished. It offers many Spanish sherries, imports the world’s best jamon from Spain, and possesses the longest list of gins that you’ll ever see locally. The entire dining experience revolves around sharing. A few bites into your meal, you’ll completely forget that you're a couple hundred feet away from a pet supply store.
The Other Woman catering
424-1214 or theotherwomancatering.com
Its longevity alone—thirty years in business next year—says it all about this trusted and reliable catering firm. From a staff meeting in a public park to a private formal dinner to a grand wedding celebration, the Other Woman delivers.
Best chef (Established)
Coming up on its two-year anniversary, the Black Sheep remains one of the best restaurants in town. Executive chef Steve Gedra has grown into the space in a way that food-lovers could have only hoped. Along with wife Ellen (the restaurant’s baker), he continually puts out creative dishes that showcase fresh and local ingredients in a way no one else can. Gedra elevates proteins to their ultimate potential, but his menu can also cause even the most ardent of carnivores to eat their vegetables.
Best chef (New)
Victor Parra Gonzales
Victor Parra Gonzalez has been making Mexican magic at his Youngstown hotspot Jaguar at the Bistro for a few years now, and is now hard at work on Las Puertas, a new city dining adventure. With flavors and styles seen nowhere else in Buffalo, this Mexican-born dynamo cooks better than chefs twice his twenty-seven years.
Best restaurant for a party of eight-plus (Suburbs)
Salvatore's Italian Gardens
6461 Transit Rd., Amherst; 683-7990 or salvatores.net
It’s hard to keep elegance in the mix when there is a large family party or other big group involved, but Salvatore's knows how to keep everyone happy in a timely fashion, while dishing out sophisticated high-end apps, entrées, and cocktails. No wonder it's been in business for almost fifty years. This is the perfect place to host a shower or other celebration.
Best restaurant for a party of eight-plus (City)
6338 Ellicott St.; tappoitalian.com or 259-8130
Tappo has plenty of large tables for large parties all year, and, in the summer, the huge patio on the roof can accommodate an army. The menu, while not vast, offers delicious Italian selections for every palate and age. The staff are knowledgeable, friendly, and prompt and they won’t throw shade if the children in your party start to act like maniacs. And when they do, the large selection of $16 bottles of wine help ease the aggravation.
1198 Hertel Ave., Buffalo; 873-4291
While more and more restaurants compete with Ristorante Lombardo when it comes to the quality of the food, none can touch it in terms of service. In its fourth decade, this family-run restaurant continues to be the standard-bearer in service. The waitstaff is utterly professional and friendly, attentive without being overbearing. They make guests feel like family even on the first visit, never coming off as stuffy or uptight.
Best wine list (Bottles)
33 Virginia Pl., Buffalo; 882-2989
2095 Delaware Ave., Buffalo; 877-9662 or oliverscuisine.com
While there are other restaurants with bigger and equally thoughtful lists, two things make Mother’s an easy choice here. First, restaurants are unlikely to lure patrons back to wine drinking by employing 200–300 percent markups. Second, big lists can be frustrating and bewildering. The list at Mother’s is wisely chosen, with some unusual bottles at incredibly reasonable prices. There is also a separate “stash” list for those who really want to take advantage of the deep wine knowledge here.
Oliver’s has a near-book-length list that's full of treasures. It's well worth your time to peruse it carefully—or you might want to enlist the help of a knowledgeable staff member. If longtime server Charlie Pillau is working that night, you're in luck.
Best wine list (By the glass)
581 Delaware Ave., Buffalo; 885-1594 or tempobuffalo.com
Very few restaurants have real champagne by the glass. Even fewer have grower champagne by the glass. Tempo combines both in its offerings, as well as including several lesser known—and excellent—Italian varietals and more. It’s not a super long list. It doesn’t need to be.
PHOTO: KC KRATT
Best use of local ingredients (Restaurant)
1472 Hertel Ave., Buffalo; 883-1675 or cravingbuffalo.com
On any given trip to chef Adam Goetz’s Craving, there is likely a specials list nearly as long as the regular menu and bursting with produce and meat from myriad area farms. During the spring and summer, farms are growing heirloom varieties at the kitchen’s request to maximize variety and interest. And despite the diminutive footprint of his restaurant, Chef Goetz is a pro at dealing with the boom and bust of the northern growing season with ease, expertly turning summer’s bounty into pickles, cheese, charcuterie, and other savory treats that can last all winter long.
Best local farm
3732 Ewings Rd., Lockport; tmeadowfarm.com or 434-7206
If you’ve ever wanted to taste some of the country’s best pork, do yourself a favor and put T-Meadow at the top of your grocery list. This 100-acre farm is home to over 125 humanely raised pigs, covering six different breeds—such as Mangalica/Mangalitsa (“the kobe beef of pork”) and Gloucestershire Old Spots. You can find their product (chickens and eggs, too) at farmers markets, Lexington Co-op, on the farm (by appointment only), and prepared in some of Buffalo’s best restaurants like the Black Sheep and Ristorante Lombardo.
Best local winery
Arrowhead Spring Vineyards
434-8030 or arrowheadspringsvineyards.com
Many are called but few are chosen. That’s one way to sum up success with vinifera grapes like pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, and syrah in Western New York American Viticultural Areas (AVAs). Arrowhead accepted this challenge and experienced almost immediate success, especially with its pinot noir, and, more recently, its syrah; the 2008 was awarded 87 points from Wine Spectator magazine, the highest score ever achieved by a New York State wine.
Best local brewery (City)
Community Beer Works
759-4677 or communitybeerworks.com
Since its first kegs were released to the public, Community Beer Works has been pushing the boundaries of the Western New York craft beer scene. Even though its operation is one of the smallest, the sheer volume of “one off specials” and different styles it produces is impressive. With an expanded brewery in the works, we can’t wait to see what CBW come up with next.
Best local brewery (Suburbs)
12 Gates Brewing Company
80 Earhart Dr., Williamsville; 906-6600 or 12gatesbrewing.com
We could tell you how to get to 12 Gates, but it might ruin the intrigue. When you do find it, you’ll be rewarded with a cozy tasting bar backed by a view of the brew tanks. The regular beer lineup includes serviceable white ale, rye ale, and coffee porter, but hoppy ales are where it’s at here. 12 Gates IPAs come in three styles: session, dry West Coast (hopped with citra), and a West Coast loaded with tropical fruit-flavored hops from New Zealand.
Best local brewery – food (City)
Big Ditch Brewing Company
55 East Huron St., Buffalo; 854-5050 or bigditchbrewing.com
While the brewery scene has been expanding dramatically recently, not all breweries have made a real effort to feed their customers well. That’s not the case at Big Ditch Brewing. Their menu offers exactly what you’d want while enjoying a couple of beers after work: classic Buffalo pub food staples and some elevated burgers and classics.
Best local brewery – food (Suburbs)
42 North Brewing Company
25 Pine St., East Aurora; 42northbrewing.com or 805-7500
With an emphasis on local ingredients and sustainability that’s unique for most breweries, 42 North’s menu is diverse, ever-evolving, and loaded with surprisingly upscale and flavorful options. The First Light cheddar mac and cheese alone is a reason to keep coming back, and don’t miss the Porter braised short rib sandwich with onion jam (when it’s available). A jar of roasted beet spread looks like the most decadent black caviar; paired with chevre on Elm Street bread, it’s the perfect small plate to nosh on while sampling the brews.
Best local distillery
500 Seneca St., Buffalo; 312-1252 or tomyrotter.com
Tommyrotter’s small-batch gin and vodka isn’t just some of the best in Buffalo, it’s some of the best out there. Its spirits are made by hand in the Hydraulic District, where visitors can taste the incredibly clean vodka and complex, mixable gin. Try it in a Negroni. Trust us.
photo by Nick Vitello
Best decor (Restaurant or bar)
Lloyd Taco Factory
1503 Hertel Ave., Buffalo; 863-9781 or whereslloyd.com
When Lloyd finally opened the doors to its first brick and mortar restaurant at the end of 2015, the city’s collective wait ended up being well worth it. The food and drink are certified winners, but the Willy Wonka-inspired interior design by boxCraft is what makes this place special. Trendy Edison bulbs and reclaimed wood are augmented by bright, solid colors and graffiti art. Small details such as the “Rocket Sauce” labeling on the exposed pipes add to the fun.
photo by Kim Miers
Best outdoor patio
716 Swan St., Buffalo; hydraulichearth.com or 248-2216
Spanning over 3,500 square feet with an outdoor bar and seating for more than 100 people, Hydraulic Hearth’s beer garden sets the bar remarkably high. There is open seating, booths for more private conversation, shuffleboard, and—on many summer nights—live music. Visually stunning yet comfortable, you can easily spend many warm-weather nights here. And look for the Frank Gourmet Hot Dog Truck at HH every summer Saturday for lunch service.
Best new hotspot (City)
Lockhouse Distillery and Bar
41 Columbia St., Buffalo; 768-4898 or lockhousedistillery.com
PasiÓn Latin Cuisine
153 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo; 436-2444 or passion-restaurant.com
While most of us know Lockhouse as Buffalo’s first local distillery, it’s also found new fame as the place to be before and after Sabres games, given its Cobblestone district digs. Stop by for craft cocktails, local wine and beer and food made with all-local ingredients in a chic grown up garage-bar atmosphere.
The always-full parking lot outside the former Cozumel on Elmwood indicates that Pasión is the newest place to be for city revelry, but, instead of bright green margaritas, expect a drink menu with over thirty choices and an alluring island atmosphere. Try one of the tiki-inspired drinks or share a punch and revel in Buffalo’s newest cocktail sensation.
Best new hotspot (Northtowns)
New York Beer Project
6933 S. Transit Rd., Lockport; 743-6927 or nybeerproject.com
For everyone living and working in and around Lockport, watching the construction progress of this large brick brewery on Transit Road was almost torture. From the start, everyone was so excited to have this dining and drinking destination. When NYBP finally opened the doors to the public in late 2015, it didn’t disappoint. The building is gorgeous, a wide-open layout that’s inspired by NYC’s Grand Central Station. The pub food is very good and the space is so large that a large party can hang out upstairs and play cornhole all night.
Best new hotspot (Southtowns)
O. P. Social Tap & Grill
4247 North Buffalo Rd., Orchard Park; 662-4247 or opsocialtapandgrille.com
O. P. Social opened strong and is holding down the fort south of the city for craft beer fans and barflies alike. With a full dinner menu as well as a solid selection of wood-fired pizzas, sandwiches, and pub food, this is the newest stop for a quick bite and a beer or a night out on the town.
Best sports bar (City)
716 Food and Sport
7 Scott St., Buffalo; 855-4716
There are seventy-one bigscreen TVs here, including a thirty-eight-foot feature screen, and eight booths with their own TVs and sound systems. Add a hockey-rink bar and a full menu of pub food and you have sports bar paradise.
Best sports bar (Suburbs)
Buffalo Sports Garden
2945 Southwestern Blvd., Orchard Park; 674-4113 or buffalosportsgarden.com
Watch the big game on one of twenty-one indoor screens or on one of three massive outdoor screens. There's also a full menu of burgers, pizzas, sandwiches, fish fries and more—and they just added a new patio.
Best craft cocktails (City)
333 Franklin St., Buffalo; 783-8699 or buffaloproper.com
220 Lexington Ave., Buffalo; 551-6262 or verapizzeria.com
The cocktails are creatively and carefully assembled at both of these venues, and both feature handsome environs—though Proper is the more dramatic of the two (It's always fun to watch the barmen scale the wall to reach bottles near the top). Be sure to sample through the spring menus at both. We recommend New York Sour (Proper) and 1493 (Vera).
Best craft cocktails (Suburbs and beyond)
1213 Ridge Rd., Buffalo; 821-0700 or winfieldspub.com
Winfields' barman, Tom Daulton, takes cocktails seriously and his ingredients even more so. At only twenty-four, Daulton’s chops are far beyond his years and his focus is on true-to-style libations with creative twists that are always on point. His list changes frequently, so get there often to try it all.
PHOTO: KC KRATT
Best bar beer selection (City)
140 North St., Buffalo; 884-1700 or lenoxgrill.com
Below the Hotel Lenox, Lenox Grill has been quietly offering the best beer selection in the city of Buffalo. We know it sounds crazy, but make your way down the stairs into this dark and deceptively large bar and enjoy their large and expansive bottle list (there are only a handful of beers on tap). Printed out on legal paper, you’ll find at least one beer of any style you can imagine, and, even better, that beer will be in stock.
Best bar beer selection (Northtowns)
78 E. Spring St., Williamsville; moorpat.com or (716) 810-9957
Moor Pat is not your average suburban bar. With twenty ever-changing taps, you wonder if co-owner Mike Shatzel isn’t some kind of hop God who can just simply command some of the finest or rarest beers available and make them magically appear. Whether you already love beer or are just starting to, the well-educated bartenders are extremely accommodating in helping you find many beers to fall in love with.
7770 Transit Rd., Williamsville and 125 Main St., Buffalo; pizzaplant.com
Pizza Plant boasts a truly huge selection of beers. You'll find a comprehensive list of regional beers on the thirty-beer-long on-tap list. And, better news, if you can't decide which one to order from the comprehensive menu, you can just order five! Pizza Plant's beer flights are a great way to try a bunch of brews and narrow down what you like best.
Buffalo Brew Pub
6861 Main St., Buffalo; buffalobrewpub.com
Buffalo Brew Pub, home of the "Beeriodic Table," a chart that places beers in a rubric of bitter to smooth and light to dark, serves a thoughtfully aggregated slew of domestic beers, imports, and house brews. There are tons of beers on tap, naturally, and a respectable selection of bottles to choose from.
Best bar beer selection (Southtowns)
World of Beer
1 Walden Galleria, Cheektowaga; 683-0947 or worldofbeer.com
After battling the crowds at Galleria Mall, World of Beer’s astounding selection of varied, unusual, and rare beers is a salve for parched throats. Its dedication to local breweries can’t be overlooked, and for large selections of good beer outside the city, WOB is it, hands down. It also runs a fun trivia night on Wednesdays.
Best diner breakfast (City) Nick’s Place facebook
Best diner breakfast (Southtowns) the Poked Yolk thepokedyolk.com
Best diner breakfast (Northtowns) Buffalo Joe’s facebook.com/BuffaloJoesCafe
Best brunch (Suburbs) Elm Street Bakery elmstreetbakery.com
Best Chinese (City) 007 Dim Sum
Best Chinese (Suburbs) Home Taste hometastebuffalo.com
Best Mexican (City) Deep South Taco deepsouthtaco.com
Best Mexican (Suburbs and beyond) Jaguar at the Bistro jaguaratthebistro.com
Best steak (City) EB Greens steakhouse ebgreens.com
Best steak (Southtowns) Rick’s on Main ricksonmain.com
Best steak (Northtowns) Russell's Steaks, Chops, & More salvatoresgrand.com/russells-steakhouse
Best traditional french fries (Northtowns) Remington Tavern remingtontavern.com/wordpress
Best traditional french fries (Southtowns) Roaming Dee’s facebook.com/roamingdees
Best healthy menu options (City) the Lunch box thelunchboxbuffalo.com
Best healthy menu options (Suburbs) O3
Best barbecue sides (City) Fat Bob’s smokehouse fatbobs.com
Best barbecue sides (Suburbs) Smoke on the Water sotw77.com
Best bagel Bagel Jay’s bageljays.com
Best hot dog (City) Frank’s Gourmet Hot Dogs findfranknow.com
Best hot dog (Suburbs) Ted’s Hot Dog’s tedshotdogs.com
Best burger (City) Marble + Rye marbleandrye.net
Best burger (Suburbs) JuiCy Burger Bar juicyburgerbar.com
Best charcuterie (City) The Black Sheep blacksheepbuffalo.com
Best charcuterie (Suburbs and beyond) Carmelo’s carmelos-restaurant.com
Best pizza – Buffalo-style (City) La Nova Pizzeria lanova.com
Best pizza – Buffalo-style (Suburbs) Picasso’s Pizza picassospizza.net
Best pizza – thin crust (City) / Best Food Truck O.G. Wood Fire facebook.com/ogwoodfire
Best pizza – thin crust (Suburbs and beyond) La Hacienda lahaciendaofny.com
Best dessert Aro Bar de tapas arotapas.com
Best donuts Paula’s Donuts paulasdonuts.com
Best ice cream shop (City) Parkside Candy parksidecandy.com
Best ice cream shop (Northtowns) Lake Effect artisan ice cream lakeeffecticecream.com
Best ice cream shop (Southtowns) Fran-Ceil Custard franceilcustard.com
Best new restaurant (Opened in 2015–2016) (City) Toutant toutantbuffalo.com
Best new restaurant (Opened in 2015–2016) (Suburbs) Aro bar de Tapas arotapas.com
Best caterer The Other Woman catering theotherwomancatering.com
Best chef (Established) Steve Gedra
Best chef (New) Victor Parra Gonzales
Best restaurant for a party of eight-plus (Suburbs) Salvatore's Italian Gardens salvatores.net
Best restaurant for a party of eight-plus (City) Tappo tappoitalian.com
Best waitstaff/service Ristorante Lombardo ristorantelombardo.com
Best wine list (Bottles) (TIE) Mother’s, Oliver’s oliverscuisine.com
Best wine list (By the glass) Tempo tempobuffalo.com
Best use of local ingredients (Restaurant) Craving cravingbuffalo.com
Best local farm T-Meadow tmeadowfarm.com
Best local winery Arrowhead Spring Vineyards arrowheadspringsvineyards.com
Best local brewery (City) Community Beer Works communitybeerworks.com
Best local brewery (Suburbs) 12 Gates brewing Company 12gatesbrewing.com
Best local brewery – food(City) Big Ditch Brewing Company bigditchbrewing.com
Best local brewery – food (Suburbs) 42 North Brewing Company 42northbrewing.com
Best local distillery Tommyrotter Distillery tomyrotter.com
Best decor (Restaurant or bar) Lloyd Taco Factory whereslloyd.com
Best outdoor patio Hydraulic Hearth hydraulichearth.com
Best new hotspot (Northtowns) New York Beer Project nybeerproject.com
Best new hotspot (Southtowns) O. P. Social Tap & Grill opsocialtapandgrille.com
Best sports bar (City) 716 Food and Sport harborcenter.com/716foodandsport/about/
Best sports bar (Suburbs) Buffalo Sports Garden buffalosportsgarden.com
Best craft cocktails (Suburbs and beyond) Winfields Pub winfieldspub.com
Best bar beer selection (City) Lenox Grill lenoxgrill.com
Best bar beer selection (Southtowns) World of Beer worldofbeer.com
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