Photos by kc kratt
To see the full list at a glance, click here.
The Frank Mi & hand-cut fries and dipping sauces from Frank Gourmet Hot Dogs, winner of Best Hot Dog (City) + Best French Fries (City)
Best French Fries (City)
Frank Gourmet Hot Dogs
EXPO Market, 67 Main St., Buffalo; 218-8989 or findfranknow.com
You may be tempted to go on about the mayo-based dipping sauces that come with the fries. There's a choice of three that vary from day to day, like the creamy Sriracha-laced variety, the spicy and catsupy "Cane," and the salt and vinegar concoction, which is serioulsy killer. But, focus! The fries that Frank serves are magical. Through some super secret deep frying transmogrification, potatoes are rendered into the perfect golden dream of themselves. Ultra crisp on the outside and tender and light inside. How? And don't go with that friend who always says, "Do you want to split an order of fries?" You do not. You want them all to yourself.
Best French Fries (Northtowns)
78 E. Spring St., Williamsville; 810-9957 or moorpat.com
Great fries require great commitment. Considering the miniature kitchen tucked behind the bar and the limited menu offerings, Moor Pat is 100 percent devoted to its fries. Hand cut, soaked, dried, low temp blanched, chilled, and rested before flash frying á là minute, they are golden, hefty, and satisfying. Truffle Parmesan is available for those who need to adulterate their purity. And you won’t miss the ketchup when you opt for house made blue cheese sauce or chipotle mayo for dipping.
Best French Fries (Southtowns)
JuiCy Burger Bar
1 Buffalo St., Hamburg; 648.3200 or juicyburgerbar.com
This burger joint, located smackdab in the middle of Hamburg, gets a lot of things right. A lot. But the fries might be one of JuiCy Burger Bar’s most spectacular feats (FTW: the sweet potato version is equally smashing). Handcut, cooked to perfection, dressed with salt and pepper, and not overly greasy, JuiCy’s fries are noteworthy.
Steve’s Pig and Ox
951 Ridge Rd., Lackawanna; 824-8601 or facebook.com/Steves-Pig-Ox-Roast
Steve’s Pig & Ox Roast is best known for its beef on ’weck, but its fries have our attention. Handcut curly fries have a special place in our hearts, and a bountiful pile of Steve’s twirly, crisp potatoes are the perfect accompaniment to any of its classic sandwiches.
Best Hot Dog (City)
Frank Gourmet Hot Dogs
EXPO Market, 67 Main St., Buffalo; 218-8989 or findfranknow.com
Frank Gourmet Hot Dogs started as a food truck in 2015, and opened a brick-and-mortar at EXPO Market in downtown Buffalo this year. All of its dogs are preservative, nitrate, and artificial ingredient free, and that commitment to quality shows on the plate. Spree named Frank the best hot dogs in the city last year, and we still can’t top their perfectly done links, creative toppings, and addictive fries. With pork and beef blend, all-beef, and vegetarian dogs topped with everything from chili to guacamole and fried jalapeños to blueberry BBQ sauce and fried onions, there’s something for everyone at Frank.
Best Hot Dog (Suburbs)
Ted’s Hot Dogs
Multiple locations; 691-3731 or tedshotdogs.com
Ted’s has been firing up the grill for its charcoal-broiled hot dogs since 1927, so they know a thing or two about quality dogs. In 1913, Greek immigrant Theodore Spiro Liaros, or “Ted” as he came to be known, landed in Western New York with little money and no English. He started with a horse-drawn hot dog cart before buying a Massachusetts Avenue shed in 1927. Today, Ted’s has locations all over WNY, and even Arizona, so a great smoky hot dog is never far away.
Best Basic Burger (City)
Marble + Rye
112 Genesee St., Buffalo; 853-1390 or marbleandrye.net
Calling Marble + Rye’s hamburger “basic” is doing it a disservice; it’s the best expression of what beef, lettuce, onion, and special sauce on a bun can be. The patty is a blend of brisket, chuck, short rib, and bone marrow, ground in-house and always cooked perfectly to the requested temperature. The bun competes with the patty to be the star of the show. M+R makes its own rolls—rich, buttery, pillowy things (topped with sesame seeds, of course).
Allen Burger Venture
175 Allen St., Buffalo; 768-0386 or allenburgerventure.com
Come hungry. Be prepared to wait for a seat. Ask for extra napkins before the burgers hit your table. These are the cardinal rules of an Allen Burger Venture adventure. Here the menu features a wide range of creative burgers, each made of grassfed Angus beef. Lamb, sausage, and chickpea burgers are available as well, so there’s something for everyone. Its killer beer selection and housemade tater tots don’t hurt it either. (You’ll thank us for the extra napkin tip first bite in.)
Best Basic Burger (Suburbs)
New York Beer Project
6933 S. Transit Rd., Lockport; 743-6927 or nybeerproject.com
After a highly anticipated opening, followed by crowds settling down to a manageable size, it seems as NYBP has finally found its comfort zone and is hitting its stride. Hefty burgers made from premium ground sirloin have an intense beef flavor that results from the quality grind and the hearty crust laid down by the grill. Built into one of six configurations listed on the menu, they are well balanced compositions, with Instagram-worthy presentation.
Best Alt Burger (City)
Tokyo Burger at Thin Man Brewery
492 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo; 923-4100 or thinmanbrewery.com
Served on Texas toast and sitting in a slathering of beef sauce, an eight-ounce beef-and-bone-marrow patty finds itself encased in spicy mayo and Gruyère cheese, followed by layers of glazed pork belly, caramelized onions, and a fried egg. In this case, the cherry on top is a hefty onion ring with a side of pickle slices. Don’t worry—a fork and steak knife are provided.
Best Alt Burger (Suburbs)
JuiCy Burger Bar
1 Buffalo St., Hamburg; 648.3200 or juicyburgerbar.com
Chef Andrew Murtha of JuiCy Burger Bar believes the perfect burger is a work of art, and it shows. All of his creative burgers showcase perfectly done beef first, creative toppings second, and accompanying fries that are always hot, crispy, and perfectly salted, third. The town that (allegedly) birthed the burger needed a solid spot, and JuiCy fills that niche with aplomb. Try the Big Poppa, which features a stuffed banana pepper on top, for a real Buffalove experience. If you want to go big before you go home, challenge yourself to the Grilled-Cheese-Burger, which employs a grilled cheese sandwich for the bun.
Best Buffalo-Style Pizza (City)
1035 Abbott Rd., Buffalo; 825-3636 or imperialpizzabuffalo.com
Located in an unassuming building off Abbott, Imperial might not look like the bastion of some of the best pizza in WNY. Sans a marketing budget, mascot, loud sports bar, famous name, or posh dining room (there’s no dining room at all, frankly), you can rest assured accolades earned by Imperial are solely for its slices. Never been? Go cup and char pepperoni and cheese on your first round, just to see how it ranks. Notice the crispy edges? The not-too-sweet-but-still-sweet-enough sauce? The tender dough that’s never underbaked? The pools of spicy oil resting in the bottom of your perfectly bowed pepperoni? This is Buffalo-style pizza as God intended it, and it’s been coming out of this little spot, fast and hot, all this time. What are you waiting for?
4175 Bailey Ave., Buffalo; 833-1344 or bocceclubpizza.com
Considered the birthplace of Buffalo-style pizza by many, Bocce has aged well since its humble beginnings in 1961. Go for the classic cheese with cup and char pepperoni (add green olives if you want to try the pie beloved by Spree founder Larry Levite) and an order of medium wings, and it’s easy to see how this style of pizza gained a sizable foothold here. Bocce set the standard and has managed to maintain it all these years. Want to gloat? Take advantage of its nationwide delivery options and show your out-of-state friends what they’ve been missing.
Best Buffalo-Style Pizza (Suburbs)
Multiple locations; picassospizza.net
Picasso’s may come closer to the Platonic ideal of Buffalo-style pizza than 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 a little something that puts this pie over the top.
Multiple locations; francospizza.com
Buffalo-style pizza may not have a huge following outside of the region, but there’s no doubt that it rules the roost in our area. Franco’s didn’t invent the stuff, but it sure has perfected it. With five locations, capable delivery service, decent wings, and over twenty specialty pizzas on offer, it’s easy to see why it’s become the go-to pizza choice for so many locals. Unlike some other pizza chains, Franco’s quality and reliability has not diminished with its growth.
Best Thin-Crust Pizza (City)
O. G. Wood Fire
Various locations; 258-0725 or facebook.com/ogwoodfire
An unassuming food truck churns out ten-inch pizzas made with carefully selected imported flour, cooked via wood fire at 900 degrees. Traditionally made Neopolitan-style pizza has an art that sets it apart from Buffalo-style pizza. With a focus on impeccably fresh ingredients and craft honed to perfection, owner Jay Langfelder is dedicated. Flavors include marinara, margherita, quattro formaggi (fresh mozzarella, provolone, Gorgonzola, and Parmigiana), the famous original (tomato sauce, light garlic, cheese blend, oregano, EVOO), and more. If you’re lucky, you can get a Killer Bee (fresh mozzarella, tomato sauce, spicy salami, and local honey) or a carbonara-inspired pizza (featuring pancetta and egg). Fortunately for us, the brick and mortar location is set to open in September on Delaware Avenue in Kenmore.
Best Thin-Crust Pizza (Suburbs And Beyond)
Romeo & Juliet’s
Multiple locations; rjcaffe.com
Romeo & Juliet’s has been bringing authentic Italian cuisine to Western New York since 1998, and its DEK oven-style pizzas still stand up as some of the most satisfying thin-crust around. With ingredients imported from the old country, owners Vito and Susan Semeraro take their food seriously. Their crusty, scratch-made pizzas feature old standards, including the Spree Ultimate Pizza Challenge-winning pepperoni and mozzarella.
Best Wings (City)
145 Allen St., Buffalo; 886-0602 or Find it on facebook.com
While the debate rages between Anchor Bar and Duff’s, Gabriel’s Gate continues to serve consistently great wings in its unassuming, dimly lit dining room. They’re always large, crisp, and properly saucy, and that consistency goes a long way.
Best Wings (North)
Judi’s Lounge Bar and Grill
2075 Military Rd., Niagara Falls; 297-5759 or judisbarandgrill.com
Judi’s has been serving consistently excellent wings to those in the know for decades. The tender meat shrouded by crispy, perfectly spicy skin comes away from the bone easily. The sauce has a very slight tomato essence, which adds a bit of depth and sweetness to the traditional wing recipe. An added accolade is that diners don’t have to specify that they want the wings cooked “crispy.” Judi’s already knows. Prepared with obvious care, the bats are crackling and succulent and the flats are moist inside with the outside uniformly crisp.
Best Wings (Southtowns)
185 Main St., East Aurora; 652-7959 or barbill.com
If you haven’t visited Bar-Bill yet to experience its wings, it is time. Its wooden interior, massive marble bar, and pub style atmosphere are cozy and welcoming. This warm, casual setting is perfect for downing a dozen wings and a cold beer. If you’re a wing purist, these wings are everything you want—meaty, crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, and saucy. If you like to try more than hot sauce, you’re in luck. Bar-Bill has a selection of sauces, including honey dijon, teriyaki, honey butter BBQ, and hot and spicy BBQ. Whatever you choose, enjoy—they’re addictive.
Blackthorn Restaurant & Pub
2134 Seneca St., Buffalo; 825-9327 or blackthornrestaurant.com
The secret is out! Not too big and not too small, crisped just right and sauced perfectly, Blackthorn’s wings are something to behold, admire, and set as the gold standard for anyone aspiring to a phenomenal Buffalo-style wing experience.
Best Tacos (City)
128 Genesee St., Buffalo; 331-3869 or casaazulbuffalo.com
It should come as no surprise that Victor Parra Gonzalez’s taco joint stands above the competition. Born in Acapulco and trained in French cooking technique in Montreal, the chef brings together both elements of his life at Casa Azul. The tacos have ingredients one may expect, but with quality and presentation that's rare. Consider going adventurous with tongue or sweetbread tacos, two of the strongest on the menu.
1503 Hertel Ave., Buffalo; 863-9781 or whereslloyd.com
When the sight of a lime green food truck elicits a Pavlovian response, its tacos must be good. Lloyd’s Hertel Avenue Taco Factory and ubiquitous fleet of four trucks slings fresh, locally sourced, and wildly creative street food tacos like the classic Old School (choice of braised beef, grilled chicken, slow-roasted pork, or stewed local black beans; Colby jack; shredded cabbage chimi and roja sauces; fresh cilantro) and the Dirty South (buttermilk fried chicken, baby kale, bacon aioli, waffle pieces, maple syrup). Served on four-inch corn tortillas scratch-made on a mesmerizing contraption parked next to the restaurant’s cash register, Lloyd tacos’ size and $3 price mean you can try several.
Best Tacos (Suburbs)
Taqueria Los Mayas
3525 Genesee St., Cheektowaga; 906-3730 or facebook.com/TaqueriaLosMayas
Considering the Great Taco Pandemic that spread across Western New York this past year, there are plenty of great new taquerias to talk about. But one spot in Cheektowaga is inspiring the hottest salsa-induced fever. Taqueria Los Mayas, with its no frills taco menu loaded with the classic range of fillings supported by a well-stocked condiment station and a full-service bar with several ice-cold Mexican lagers on tap, is just what the doctor ordered. Standouts include the seductively charred al pastor, buttery lengua, and fiery chorizo served on fresh and warm corn tortillas that are incredibly sturdy yet silky smooth.
1010 Niagara Falls Blvd., Tonawanda; 836-5858 or facebook.com/Koreana-buffalo
From the best bibimbap in town to the braised pork shoulder or the garlic pepper chicken, Koreana’s twelve-item menu may be small, but it’s mighty; there’s not a loser in the bunch. Trays of excellent banchan provide diners the ability to skew a dish’s flavor profile to their liking. Long on charm and short on looks, Koreana is a family-run operation where cleanliness and good food rank higher than variety or decor. Counter service and no liquor license mean amenities are few and far between, but once you’ve tucked into one of Koreana’s homestyle offerings, you won’t mind a bit.
Crispy, delicate falafel on pita, hummus, and fried veggies from 755 Restaurant & Lounge, winner of Best Middle Eastern/Mediterranean (North)
Best Middle Eastern/Mediterranean (City)
Shish Kabab Express
1207 Hertel Ave., Buffalo; 447-1207 or facebook.com/Shish-Kabab-Express
Shish Kebab Express is a hidden gem in the ever-growing Middle Eastern section of Hertel east of Delaware. It’s one of the few Iraqi restaurants in the area, offering not only its namesake shish kabab, but also a handful of salads, large plates, and sides including some of the best housemade hummus around. The sandwiches are the real menu standout though. $5 gets you a heavenly, warm samoon roll stuffed with your selection of shawarmas, tikkas, and more.
Best Middle Eastern/Mediterranean (North)
755 Restaurant & Lounge
755 West Market Street, Niagara Falls; 205-8969 or 755westmarket.com
This year, we covered 755 in our vegetarian issue, but make no mistake, if you’re remotely flexible in your dietary habits or just love good food, 755’s Middle Eastern offerings are sure to please. Family-owned and operated, the service is gracious and adept. A newer menu option, The Feast ($35), allows diners to enjoy everything we love: hummus, babaganoush, falafel, fried cauliflower and eggplant, tahini, your choice of tabouli or fatoush, and two meat offerings, from kafta to kabob. It’s a feast, all right, and one you shouldn’t deprive yourself of any longer.
Best Middle Eastern/Mediterranean (Southtowns)
3860 McKinley Pkwy., Hamburg; 464-3857 or eatrachels.com
From the original Rachel’s in Williamsville to its four fast casual spin-offs, Rachel’s is paving WNY with top-notch tzatziki. Go pita, rice, or salad. Next, add shawarma, souvlaki, gyro, or falafel. Finally, dress it up with a broad range of delicious sauces and super fresh veggies. Rachel’s is Buffalo’s Mediterranean answer to Chipotle—fast, fresh, flavorful, and friendly.
Best Pho (City)
99 Fast Food
3398 Bailey Ave., Buffalo; 836-6058 or facebook.com/99fastfood
Long the standard bearer for city pho aficionados, 99 Fast Food continues to churn out Buffalo’s best bowl of noodles. A well-balanced broth not lacking in either beef flavor or warm spice notes, it’s a perfect antidote to a sloppy Buffalo winter. Pros know to order extra meat by the dollar and to keep an eye out for long sprigs of fresh and peppery cilantro that occasionally grace the side plate. Don’t forget to start your pho with a couple of cigar-shaped Vietnamese spring rolls, and finish with an avocado shake.
Best Pho (Suburbs)
1574 Eggert Rd., Buffalo; 833-3632 or phovana.com
At less than a year old, Phovana is the new kid on the block, but we like what we’ve seen so far. Its bowl of pho starts with a simple and light broth with enchanting floral notes. Lighter broth calls for lighter noodles, and Phovana fills its bowls with vermicelli instead of the standard wide noodles. A bountiful condiment bar allows diners to dress their pho any way they like. And with additional options like hot pot and a pho-burrito, there are plenty of other options to keep coming back for.
Best Ramen (City)
739 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo; 931-9146 or satobuffalo.com
3268 Main St., Buffalo; 835-7286 or sato-ramen.com
Chef Satomi Sakai Smith knows ramen. After growing up in a restaurant family in Fukui, Japan, Smith took her Fukui-style ramen to Buffalo to open SATO. Her pork tonkotsu, chicken bone torigara blend and balanced, hearty broth were so popular that she opened SATO Ramen in University Heights in 2016. Smith’s commitment to housemade noodles, fresh ingredients, and authenticity are available at both locations. Sato Ramen is the place to go for the best selection, including the classic rich and hearty tonkotsu, locally focused Buffalo chicken ramen. For the most authentic taste, try the family recipe Sato Ramen.
Best Ramen (Suburbs)
3332 Sheridan Dr., Amherst; 835-8088 or taisho-bistro.com
A neon-lit and family-friendly Japanese izakaya, Taisho Bistro serves sushi, yakatori, hibachi, and noodles, noodles, noodles! Tuck into a bowl of the spicy miso ramen or dial it back and order any one of the restaurant’s iterations of the popular noodle soup—you won’t regret it.
Cured salmon, whipped dill cream cheese, hard boiled egg on vollkornbrot at Lait Cru Brasserie, winner of Best Brunch (City) + Best New Chef (City)
Best Brunch (City)
Lait Cru Brasserie
346 Connecticut St., Buffalo; 462-4100 or laitcrubrasserie.com
Buffalo’s favorite cheesemonger, Jill Gedra Forster, tickled our fancies when she moved Nickel City Cheese & Mercantile from Elmwood to a larger space on Connecticut Street where she expanded the shop into a full-service, French-inspired brasserie. Culling from some of the best cheeses in the world, expect anything ordered off the menu to be delightfully lush. The grilled cheese is a beautiful balance of crunchy, sweet, and savory. Opt for pork belly or hash and eggs for a fuller meal. And if you like a bit more control, try the egg sandwich, which you can build with multiple options. It’s also worth looking out for Lait Cru collaborations, as the pop-up brunches there are a real treat.
370 Virginia St., Buffalo; 362-0633 or bettysbuffalo.com
This is a brunch you can rely on. Whether you're a basic eggs and toast kind of guy or a scrambled tofu hash-type girl, there's something on the menu for everyone. Hungover folks enjoy the spicy, cheesy, chilaquiles casserole, along with a make-your-own Mimosa, maybe, from the fully stocked bar. Many items are or can be made vegan and gluten free, too. Whatever you get, it will be scratchmade, fresh, delicious, and delivered to your table by friendly and knowledgable staff. Plus, the colorful, plant-filled dining room makes you feel sunny, no matter the weather.
Best Brunch (Suburbs)
Elm Street Bakery
72 Elm St., East Aurora; 652-4720 or elmstreetbakery.com
Elm Street Bakery’s vaulted ceilings, large windows, and wood accents provide an ideal backdrop for brunch. In winter and fall, the bustling location feels cheerful and cozy, in summer it emanates a hum of vitality. In its kitchen, farm-sourced ingredients are transformed into vibrant homestyle fare, hearty enough to please the ravenous, fresh enough to thrill the most conscientious consumer. Bread and baked goods shouldn’t be skipped either, regardless of how full you might be; take them home if you must!
4840 N. French Rd., East Amherst; 688-8848 or aromanorthfrench.com
The Aroma group of restaurants has long been known as a go to for terrific Italian dinners, but do yourself a favor one weekend morning, and treat yourself to an Italian twist on brunch favorites. Old standbys like hotcakes and biscuits are elevated to decadent but light lemon ricotta pancakes and savory "Caprese biscuits" (buttermilk biscuit, sunny-side-up egg, fresh mozzarella, arugula, basil, tomato aioli). You can still order your favorite salad, burger, or bolognese, too. The special brunch cocktail menu is full of unique offerings like the Rising Sun bloody Mary with sake, wasabi, cucumber, soy, and ginger.
Best Steak (City)
200 Delaware Ave., Buffalo; 319-1090 or searbuffalo.com
SEAR is everything you want in a steakhouse. An array of raw and cold bar items, and small plates like tuna tartare, whet your appetite for the main course. The classic sides are well executed, from garlic creamed spinach to millionaire mashed potatoes to truffle fries. Steaks and chops include house prime and USDA prime beef, as well as Wagyu beef. There are signature and dry-aged options, and you may add lobster butter, blue cheese, béarnaise, or other sauces, not that the steaks need sauces. The chic atmosphere adds to the restaurant’s appeal, but the focus on perfectly prepared steak sets it apart.
Best Steak (Southtowns)
Rick’s on Main
687 E. Main St.; East Aurora; 652-1253 or ricksonmain.com
Rick’s doesn’t advertise itself as a steakhouse because its offerings are more extensive than a traditional, veg-on-the-side, baked-potato-in-foil steakhouse, but if you’re in the market for a great steak in the Southtowns, Rick’s is a solid bet. Go for the dry-rubbed NY strip, the garlicky ribeye, the gorgonzola encrusted sirloin—or skip the steak altogether! You can’t do that at other steakhouses, but at Rick’s everything is delicious, not just the beef.
Best Steak (Northtowns)
Russell’s Steaks, Chops & More
6675 Transit Rd., Williamsville; 636-4900 or salvatoresgrand.com
Ask any local about Russell’s and you’ll hear three things: hospitality, steak, and hospitality. Or is it steak, hospitality, and steak? Either way, you see what we’re getting at here, right? Russell’s steaks are seasoned with a deeply flavored veal demi and cracked black pepper; you’re sure to be satisfied whether you order the filet mignon, porterhouse, NY strip, or (foodie fave) bone-in ribeye.
Best Gluten-Free Options
7770 Transit Rd., Williamsville; 632-0800 or pizzaplant.com
If you think you won't find an array of gluten-free choices at a pizza joint, you’d be wrong. Pizza Plant developed its own proprietary gluten free flour mix to make as many gluten free items in house as possible one day a week (Wednesday) to avoid cross contamination. GF treats include nachos, pizza, pastas, burgers with Brian’s Best GF Bun, and even gluten-free beers like Bard’s Dragon Gold, Redbridge, and Green’s Gluten Free. If you are going to be visiting on a day other than Wednesday, call ahead to make sure the restaurant has the specific items that you want.
1002 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo; 886-2233 or ashkersbuffalo.com
Buffalo suddenly has an array of new options when it comes to juice, but Ashker’s has held its ground as a mainstay. Check out fresh-pressed favorites like Upbeet (beet, apple, carrot, celery); Good Beginning (orange, carrot, banana, apple); or Green Machine (spinach, cucumber, celery, apple). The case in front of the register offers a rotating selection of colorful juice-filled Mason jars nestled in ice, and the berry and watermelon juices are especially refreshing in summer. If you’re hungry for more, there are breakfast, lunch, and dinner options, as well as snacks and warm beverages.
Multiple locations; squeezejuicerybuffalo.com
A cold-pressed juicery, Squeeze serves Williamsville and the Elmwood Village smoothies and juice drinks with amusing monikers. Customers have come to expect Good Vibrations (orange, cranberry, pineapple, apple), Groove Is in the Heart (apple, raspberry, ginger), Sweet Child o’ Mine (kale, spinach, kiwi, pear, cucumber), and other song-inspired favorites.
Best Vegan (City)
160 Allen St., Buffalo; 725-6300 or facebook.com/grindhauscafe
It can be tough to find great vegan food on many menus, but at Grindhaus Cafe, it’s impossible not to. The Allen Street cafe and coffee shop’s menu is a vegan playground, with a solid sandwich menu that won’t make anyone miss meat. The VLT is a smoky, satisfying answer to the classic BLT, which makes a beautiful barbecue meal with a side of cranberry and edamame-packed BBQ slaw. Try the lentil and brown rice mujadara topped with cucumber salad for a fresh, filling plate, and don’t forget the chocolate avocado mousse for dessert. At Grindhaus, the casual, cozy atmosphere feels like a family kitchen, one where animals are not on the menu.
Tempeh Bacon Apple Wrapple from Grindhaus Cafe, winner of Best Vegan (City)
Best Vegan Menu Options (Suburbs)
7770 Transit Rd., Williamsville; 632-0800 or pizzaplant.com
This pizza place makes a real effort to provide a wide selection of vegan dishes—more so than many of the restaurants that bill themselves as vegetarian, we found. Pizza Plant takes care to make sure its vegan foods contain no animal products, dairy, or honey. And the list goes beyond salads with oil and vinegar. Try nachos with vegan cheese; vegetarian chili and soups; white, sesame, garlic, and spinach dough and rolls, soy sausage; and vegi burger and vegi chicken. Aside from the specifically vegan dishes, many menu items can be made vegan.
Kentucky Greg’s Hickory Pit
2186 George Urban Blvd., Depew; 685-6599 or kentuckygregs.com
As the OG of WNY smoked meats, Greg Englehart has watched more than one barbecue chain come and go during his reign in Cheektowaga. But his purity of style with a simple salt and pepper rub and an assertive dose of hickory wood smoke is what wins the day. Some purists may scoff at the lack of brisket, but we find the smoked beef sandwich, with it’s hybrid roast beef qualities, to be a menu high point. Next to a basket of fried okra and a pool of fiery vinegar sauce, it’s as close to heaven as you’ll get on your lunch break.
Best Barbecue Sides (City)
301 Franklin St., Buffalo; 880-1677 or dinosaurbarbque.com
Despite its growth to nine northeast locations, Dino has maintained a high level of quality that should make other chains—and even local BBQ joints—jealous. When it comes to sides, all the usuals are on the menu, and they’re all really, really good. The mac and cheese and coleslaw are classic pairings done right, but consider the Cajun corn or Asian cucumber salad if you’re looking for something different.
Fat Bob’s Smokehouse
41 Virginia Place, Buffalo; 887-2971 or fatbobs.com
Squirreled away on Virginia Place in Allentown, Fat Bob’s may seem like it flies under the radar a bit, but, pop in on any weeknight, and you’ll see it’s just as busy as it was when it opened eons ago. Quick, satisfying, and affordable, Fat Bob’s ticks a lot of boxes for diners looking for a family dining experience in the city. With a great selection of cans and bottles, friendly service, and a comfortable back patio, Fat Bob’s is also prized by warm-weather happy hour enthusiasts.
Best Barbecue Sides (Suburbs And Beyond)
Smoke on the Water
77 Young St., Tonawanda; 692-4227 or sotw77.com
Smoke on the Water boasts traditional sides, such as coleslaw, sweet potato fries with honey butter, and cornbread. Also available are sides with fun twists: grilled potatoes are marinated in Chiavetta’s prior to grilling, French fries dusted with Creole Voodoo Powder provide a nice Cajun kick, the savory macaroni and cheese is topped with crunchy Goldfish crackers, tater tots are smothered with hot-sauced nacho cheese, and the baked beans are dotted with mandarin oranges and escarole.
Best Seafood Restaurant (City)
226 Lexington Ave., Buffalo; 881-3800 or kunisbuffalo.com
Many Buffalonians know Kuni’s for its fantastic sushi, but its fresh and authentic Japanese seafood excels beyond the roll. While the sushi menu is broad and almost universally excellent, its entrees and specialties are also worth a look. At Kuni’s, both grilled and fried fish selections offer timid diners an opportunity to branch out. Specialties and entrees like whole grilled squid, hot (and they mean it) fish salad, and taco-su or ebi-su, which features thinly-sliced octopus or shrimp over cucumber and wakame, make more exotic seafood shine.
475 Ellicott St., Buffalo; 332-2928 or facebook.com/SEABAR
Diners have long depended on Seabar for the best traditional and nontraditional sushi and sashimi, as well as a changing array of fish and shellfish apps and entrées. Chef Mike Andrejewski's commitment to sourcing the freshest fish available remains unwavering.
Best Seafood Restaurant (Suburbs)
184 Sweeney St., North Tonawanda; 362-2802 or remingtontavern.com
The full name of this restaurant gives you an idea of why it’s won this category. Remington Tavern and Seafood Exchange boasts a seafood-centric menu and one of the area’s best raw bars. A daily selection of fresh raw oysters and clams of varying provenance top the list, which also includes grilled, broiled, and steamed versions for those who’d rather chew than slurp their bivalves. The menu frequently features whole Maine lobsters, as well as calamari and the ever-popular yellow pike fingers—kind of like the best fish sticks you’ve ever had. With a long list of daily features and happy hour specials, Remington has something to offer seafood lovers every day of the week.
Muliple locations; bageljays.com
Jay Gershberg and his brother Bob brought New York bagels to Buffalo in 1976, serving happy customers at more than two dozen Bagel Bros locations throughout the region for nearly a quarter century. Jay opened his first Bagel Jay’s location in 2001 and now has three stores. Bagel Jay’s is a true New York bagel; dense and chewy inside and baked crackling outside, Jay’s does not compromise on the quality of its products. The dough is made fresh daily, and the bagels are boiled, seasoned, and baked at each location. While delicious on their own, the bagels are also excellent vehicles for the scores of fresh toppings and schmears on offer.
Best Artisanal Bagel
402 Connecticut St., Buffalo; 980-5623 or breadhive.coop
BreadHive uses a long-ferment sourdough process for their bagel (and all) dough, which makes them easier on the gut and helps them stay fresher longer, and then finishes with the traditional boiling and baking to produce its dense, chewy bagels. Almost more than the taste, which is amazing, the texture of BreadHive's bagels will convince you that these are the real deal. Is there a happier site on the West Side than row upon row of warm shiny bagels lined up on the pegged wall at BreadHive Cafe?
Best Restaurant Space (City)
250 Delaware Ave., Buffalo; 290-0600 or patinagroup.com/Patina250
It's rare for a new locally owned restaurant to work with local curators in choosing site-specific artwork for its space. It is absolutely unheard of for an incoming corporate restaurant group to do so. Nonetheless, Patina 250, a subsidiary of Delaware North, has gone further in collaborating with local artists than any restaurant in Buffalo. There is a mural, a sculptural installation, and many individual works in various media, all chosen with the participation of those who know Buffalo art best. In addition, the restaurant is divided into several spaces, each with a different mood and feel. Patina 250 manages to be both elegant and fun, thanks to the care and planning that went into its design.
Best Restaurant Space (Suburbs)
The Grange Community Kitchen
22 Main St, Hamburg; 648-0022 or grangecommunitykitchen.com
Anyone who frequented Tina’s Italian Kitchen during its 34-year tenure remembers the fake grape leaves, black and white family photos, Italian memorabilia and stuffed chef mannequin. Perhaps what makes The Grange Community Kitchen’s transformation of the space so spectacular is the stark difference between the two. Its bright white palette shouts “fresh start.” The portly white wood-burning stove, subway-tiled back bar, giant windows and blonde wood tables define clean and modern. Its minimalist mood is a sharp departure not only from its predecessor, but the Brooklyn-esque exposed brick and Edison bulb aesthetic that has dominated recent openings. Best of all, chef Brad Rowell’s plates are as beautiful as the surroundings, making The Grange Community Kitchen a restaurant to watch and visit, again and again.
Best Charcuterie (City)
The Black Sheep
367 Connecticut St., Buffalo; 884-1100 or blacksheepbuffalo.com
Hand Steve Gedra and his crew an animal to butcher, and they’ll hand you back a board chockfull of rillettes, pates, and links cured over months. More reserved eaters will appreciate conventional cuts done right, including hams and sausages. Those with more adventurous palates will be impressed by the offal cuts and sous chef Caleb Erb’s terrines. Paired with Ellen Gedra’s housemade bread, it’s really hard to go wrong.
Best Charcuterie (Suburbs)
Aro Bar de Tapas
5415 Sheridan Dr., Williamsville; 631-1000 or arotapas.com
Aro has thoughtfully curated a roster of some of the best cured meats (and a phenonmenal selection of cheeses) from near and far from which to compose your version of the perfect charcuterie board. The small chef’s charcuterie board ($15) and large ($25) are a deal, especially if some of the items are new to you. At the top of the list are the jamón Serrano, delicate cured white ham; jamón Ibérico de Bellota, the world’s very best ham from acorn-fed, black-hoofed pata negra pigs; cinco jotas 5J Ibérico de Bellota, the “rolls royce” of jamón ibérico, from free-range, 100 percent pure ibérico pigs; choirzo de Bellota, mildly spicy sausage, dry-cured paprika pata negra pork sausage; and Lomo de Bellota, herb- and spice-cured pata negra pork loin.
Best Dessert (City)
2095 Delaware Ave., Buffalo; 877-9662 or oliverscuisine.com
The most tempting dessert menu is found at Oliver’s, thanks to its rotating plates of expertly crafted sweets—each with an unexpected twist. Blackberry mascarpone cheesecake sounds lovely, but add strawberry tuille, lemoncello sabayon, tarragon pebbles, and blackberry granita, and you have a decadently creamy masterpiece. The chocolate whip tart is a medley of honey and hazelnut mousse, caramel, and charred orange coulis served with smoked ice cream. The ice cream is vibrant with the rich honey, caramel, and chocolate, while the orange brightens up the deep flavors. The showstopper is Baked Alaska, featuring an impressive balance of almond marzipan cake, soufflé glace, cherry, pistachio, oat crunch, and lemon balm. Paul and Mary would be proud.
Best Dessert (Suburbs)
5110 Main St., Williamsville; 650-5566 or giancarlossteakhouse.com
Few restaurants boast a from-scratch dessert menu. At Giancarlo’s, pastry chef Camille Le Caer creates an array of Italian classics, like tiramisu, and French favorites, such as profiteroles. Hailing from Brittany, France, the young pastry chef can execute a picture-perfect macaron and clearly enjoys playing with traditional flavor combinations. Favorites include the religiouse éclair, composed of pate choux filled with pistachio and white chocolate ganache, amarena cherry confit, and finished with almond and vanilla crust; and the rotating gelato selection. The menu changes seasonally to utilize fresh ingredients and keep patrons excited about the imaginative offerings. Le Caer’s talents are worth sampling.
from top left: The Peanut Cream, the Vanilla Dip, Chocolate Frosted Angel Cream, Headlight, Strawberry, Honeydip, Coconut, Red Velvet, Frosted Jelly Paula’s Donuts, winner of Best Doughnuts
Multiple locations; paulasdonuts.com
Paula’s Donuts has won best doughnut before and for good reason: they’re just that good. Paula’s large-and-in-charge confections have a cult following in Western New York, and, ever since it opened in 1996, Paula’s has made its doughnuts onsite using only fresh ingredients, and the quality is evident. The expansive menu includes more than thirty flavors (including seasonal varieties), as well as other breakfast favorites.
Best Artisanal Doughnut
Various locations; butterblockshop.com
When Butter Block emerged on the Buffalo food scene, pastry bakeries seemed to be an endangered species. Its handcrafted doughnut recipe—airy dough, dusted with sugar, and packed with filling—stays interesting, thanks to the inspired choices: Blueberry lavender. Peanut butter caramel. Passionfruit orange guava. Strawberry and cream. The possibilities are as unlimited as the chef’s imagination. You’re in for a treat when you score a doughnut from Butter Block.
Best Sponge Candy
Multiple locations; watsonschocolates.com
A perennial favorite, Watson’s has successfully satisfied the sponge candy urges of Buffalonians—pat, expat, repat, and newpat, milk, dark, or orange—for seventy years. Demand for Watson’s take on Buffalo’s favorite confection is so great, the family business makes and sells over thirty-five tons of sponge candy each year.
Best Coffee Shop (City)
128 Fargo Ave., Buffalo; 331-3954 or tipicocoffee.com
Jesse Crouse’s Tipico Coffee lives up to everything a modern coffee shop should be. Its sparse, clean design wouldn’t be out of place in Seattle or Brooklyn. The menu includes small plates and supports local vendors. In the summer, the giant windows open to blur the line between outside and in, while in the winter, the Kachelofen stove keeps the space toasty. But most important, the coffee is really good, and it’s prepared by people who know just what they’re doing.
Best Coffee Shop (Suburbs)
51 Canal St., Lockport; 727-0701 or steamworkscoffee.net
Located in the Locks District of downtown Lockport, this small batch artisanal roaster and coffee purveyor is brewing more than coffee. In addition to a selection of superior quality house-roasted coffee beans and beverages, fresh fruitades, an interesting assortment of hot and iced teas, and more matcha than you can shake a stirrer at, Steamworks gets in the community spirit by hosting several events a week, including paint nights, morning music series, and evening performances. Pour over a book in this well-appointed shop while sipping your fine pour-over beverage. Or get it to go for a stroll along the nearby Erie Canal.
Best New Restaurant (City)
The Dapper Goose
491 Amherst St., Buffalo; 551-0716 or thedappergoose.com
When we heard Philly bar star and Olean native Keith Raimondi was returning to WNY with staff in tow to open a restaurant, we assumed we’d have another place to get great drinks. Little did we know this team was packing a Swiss Army knife of skills and passion to create a restaurant with which Buffalo immediately fell in love. From the chef’s modern but comforting farm-fresh fare to the adept cocktails, refreshing decor, eyeball-popping wine list, and the kind of service that people gush about online and with friends, well, welcome home, Goose Mafia. We Buffalove you.
385 Rhode Island St., Buffalo; 807-1141 or facebook.com/LasPuertasBuffalo
What do you get when you take a chef born in Acapulco and give him classic French training in Montreal? You get Las Puertas. Chef and owner Victor Parra Gonzalez has brought something to Buffalo that it has never seen before: the vibrancy of authentic Mexican cuisine with subtle European nuances. The menu and restaurant space reflect each other perfectly: intimate, friendly, thoughtful, and inspired. Las Puertas houses an open kitchen and ceviche bar, and the chefs serve the diners personally to better ensure a most wonderful experience. Noteworthy are the seafood dishes, ramen with fresh housemade noodles, bone marrow, and the tasting menu.
Best New Restaurant (Suburbs)
The Grange Community Kitchen
22 Main St., Hamburg; 648-0022 or grangecommunitykitchen.com
It should come as no surprise that Brad Rowell, chef and owner of The Grange and previous Spree Best Chef winner, has put his hometown Village of Hamburg on the map as a must-dine-in Buffalo suburb. On the menu, you will find in-house charcuterie, produce from almost a dozen local farms, daily housemade breads and pastries, twenty-four- to forty-eight-hour fermented pizza doughs, homemade sauces and condiments (except ketchup), and so much more. Chef Rowell’s palate and technical expertise ends up as home run on every single plate. Not to miss: pepperoni pizza, charcuterie, beef on weck or Reuben (call for availability), and the Swiss roll for something sweet.
61 Buffalo St, Hamburg; 649-2121 or carteblanchehamburg.com
The newest effort from Chef Andrew Murtha puts Hamburg on the map and Western New York on the plate, with his dedication to fresh, local ingredients showcased.The phrase carte blanche translates to “the freedom to act as one thinks best,” and at Carte Blanche, diners are encouraged to sample and explore. Murtha’s menu features the best ingredients from Butter Block, Native Offerings, Plato Dale Farms, Buffalo Cheese Traders, T-Meadow Farms, Flat 12 Mushrooms, Hudson Valley Foie Gras, and many others, in an effort to introduce Southtowns diners to the food being grown and raised right in their backyard. At Carte Blanche, visitors can find both familiar dishes done excellently and new adventures to elevate their experience, all in a comfortable, welcoming atmosphere.
Housemade noodles, Cracked Potatoes, and Pig Chaufa from Lomo Lomo, winner of Best Food Truck
Best Food Truck
341-3299 or lomofoodtruck.com
Lomo Lomo is a truck you're happy to stand in line for. It’d be impossible to play favorites with any one particular dish, because everything is just off-the-charts amazingly flavorful with flairs leaning toward Latin American and Asian street food. Standouts: the cracked potatoes, any of the fried rice dishes, anything with chimichurri, and the staff’s enthusiastic personalities.
Best Chef (Established)
Ross Warhol at Oliver’s
2095 Delaware Ave., Buffalo; 877-9662 or oliverscuisine.com
A native of Hamburg who spent his twenties cooking all over the world, Ross Warhol landed in Buffalo in spring of 2016 and is seemingly here to stay. Taking up the mantle at Oliver’s, arguably Buffalo’s most revered and iconic restaurant, Warhol transformed the restaurant’s offerings while being sure old favorites remained to keep longtime diners happy. To be honest, they’d be wise to sidestep the familiar Chicken Milanese and give Warhol’s tasting menu a whirl. After stints in the kitchens of the French Laundry, Ubuntu, elBulli, and Frantzen Lindeberg, to name a few, if Warhol’s resume and invitation to prepare a second meal at the James Beard House in June isn’t enough proof that the kid can cook, you may as well stay home and crack a can of SpaghettiOs.
Best Chef (New)
Will Petersen at Lait Cru Brasserie
346 Connecticut St., Buffalo; 462-4100 or laitcrubrasserie.com
A graduate of the Niagara Falls Culinary Institute, Chef Petersen earned his chops and honed his skills in some of Buffalo’s best kitchens like Seabar, Park Country Club, and The Black Sheep. Now as head chef in the Horsefeathers Building at Lait Cru Brasserie, his thoughtfulness, attention to flavor profiles, and respect for ingredients make him a welcome force in Buffalo’s dining scene. As a young chef, the amount of self-control he has in his dishes rivals that of a veteran chef, and his career is certainly one to watch.
Best Restaurant For A Family Gathering
Salvatore’s Italian Gardens
6461 Transit Rd., Depew; 877-456-4097 or salvatoreshospitality.com
Taking a dozen people to dinner? Not every restaurant excels at feeding large groups. With a menu sure to satisfy most, attentive staff, and a kitchen comfortable with high-volume meal preparation, Salvatore’s is a go-to for large family dinners or office get-togethers. And, if like us, you and your family or coworkers occasionally run out of things to talk about, Salvatore’s over-the-top décor is sure to provide hours of conversational fun.
1198 Hertel Ave., Buffalo; 873-4291 or ristorantelombardo.com
In another restaurant, the amount of attention lavished by Lombardo's abundant waitstaff might seem oppressive, but that never happens here. The service is attentive, skillful, and warm—but never overpowering.
Best Small Wine List (Bottle)
33 Virginia Place, Buffalo; 882-2989
The list is simple: white on one side and red on the other, but take another look. There are none of the mass-produced and over-priced chards and cabs that plague other, similarly sized lists. Instead, find crisp sancerres, spicy Rhones, and other, lesser-known varietals for prices that are the best in town. Those in a mood to splurge (modestly) can peruse the stash and sparkling wine lists.
Best Large Wine List (Bottle)
2095 Delaware Ave., Buffalo; 877-9662 or oliverscuisine.com
This carefully curated twenty-five-page list includes excellent choices from all the major wine-producing regions. The restaurant also offers half price bottles on Sundays and other specials that make it easier to splurge. For special occasions, there are decently priced magnums (given their quality). Watch the restaurants website for notices of special wine events.
Best Wine List (By The Glass)
491 Amherst St., Buffalo; 551-0716 or thedappergoose.com
New kid on the block Dapper Goose flew into town last fall and has been wooing fans of good food and great wine ever since. With a wide range of young and exciting wines (some of which are available on tap) on its BTG list, the Goose has certainly set itself apart with its selection, but it’s the service associated with the wine we can’t get over. Know a lot about wine? You’ll love it here. Know nothing about wine? You’ll love it here. Want to explore your palate? You’ll love it here. Just want a sparkly rosé with brunch? You’ll love it here. There’s a wine for everyone and the team at Dapper Goose are here to make sure you’re comfortable, engaged, and truly enjoying your optimal wine drinking experience, whatever that may be.
Best Use Of Local Ingredients (City)
228 Allen St., Buffalo; 331-3047 or billyclubbuffalo.com
Billy Club’s chef Scott Crombie is as committed to his ingredients as the staff is to excellent service, and it shows both on the plate and in the overall experience. While many restaurants around the area now take advantage of Western New York’s wealth of local meat, produce, bread, and vegetables, Billy Club makes sure each ingredient shines on its own and works in harmony with the rest. The curated menu often features offerings from Flat #12 Mushrooms, BreadHive Bakery, and Nickel City Cheese & Mercantile, all showcased beautifully.
Best Use Of Local Ingredients (Suburbs)
Elm Street Bakery
72 Elm St., East Aurora; 652-4720 or elmstreetbakery.com
On a recent spring visit, we were moved by a savory strawberry gazpacho that was studded with berries poached in oil—distilling them into their jam-like essence—and tasting dramatically better than anything sitting in plastic in a grocery case. Equally impressive was a crunchy salad, bursting with delicate mint and snap peas with “just picked” vitality. With a seasoned crew headed by Chef Jen Boye, and its proximity to some of Western New York’s most cherished producers, Elm Street Bakery is the spot to experience the best in local ingredients 365 days a year.
Best Local Winery
Arrowhead Spring Vineyards
4746 Town Line Rd., Lockport; 434-8030 or arrowheadspringvineyards
For decades, this winery has maintained its reputation for serious wine, using grapes that, until recently, had rarely been successfully grown in the Niagara region. It is deservedly famous for its Pinot Noir and red blends, but all the Arrowhead varietals reward the winery's thoughtful viticulture and its respect for low-intervention, low-impact winemaking.
Best Local Brewery
Big Ditch Brewing Company
55 E. Huron St., Buffalo; 854-5050 or bigditchbrewing.com
Big Ditch, named after the Erie Canal sobriquet, started out with two guys homebrewing in a garage, simply because they loved beer. Fast forward six years, and that love of beer has propelled Big Ditch to be one of the best craft breweries in the state of New York, earning multiple awards and country-wide recognition. Always respectful of the process and ingredients, Big Ditch’s quality control is top notch—an independent tasting panel regularly ensures that its beers maintain integrity batch after batch. To say Big Ditch produces really great beer would be an understatement; your best bet would be to go to the brewery and try them all. You're sure to walk out with a couple favorites.
Community Beer works
15 Lafayette Ave., Buffalo; 759-4677 or communitybeerworks.com
This tiny, irreverent brewery offers big reasons to love it. The beer is really, really good, with an established roster of solid, true-to-style mainstays interspersed with frequent releases of inventive and well-executed seasonals and test batches. The “community” in the name is an apt nod toward their constant collaborations with other local breweries and restaurants, and their signature Friday “Be Like Frank” crowdfunding events that direct $5 from pints of their flagship American pale ale toward non-profits like Planned Parenthood, Hospice Buffalo, and Buffalo-Niagara Riverkeepers. With expansion plans in the works, CBW will be spreading their special brand of beer geekery even further later this year with a new location.
Best Local Distillery
500 Seneca St. #110, Buffalo; 312-1252 or tommyrotter.com
The star of Tommyrotter’s limited portfolio is its American gin with bright fruit and spice notes. It’s good enough to sip on its own, but it mixes excellently into a cocktail, especially a Negroni garnished with orange. There’s also a tasty vodka, of course, and a really special barrel-aged gin. Bottled at cask strength of 122-proof, it’s got a burn, but the six months spent in whiskey barrels provide a welcome complexity.
Sakura Gin from Lockhouse, winner of Best New Release
Photo courtesy of Lockhouse
Best New Release
Sakura Gin from Lockhouse
41 Columbia St., Buffalo; 768-4898 or lockhousedistillery.com
Lockhouse was a pioneer in the increasingly crowded marketplace of local distilling. It’s managed to stay ahead of the game by launching and operating the area’s most successful distillery bar and also by diversifying its offerings. In partnership with the Buffalo Cherry Blossom Festival, Lockhouse released a limited run of blossom-infused gin in 2017, and it’s one of the best local spirits we’ve sampled thus far. Lockhouse has an assortment of unique offerings in its current catalog; we can’t wait to see what 2018 brings!
Angelica Tea Room
517 Washington St., Buffalo; 259-9025 or angelicatearoom.com
To walk from the entrance to the back wall of Angelica is to embark upon a voyage of discovery. It includes flamboyant floral wallpapers, patterned tiles, elegantly upholstered stools, framed and backlit shelves of liquor, mirrors, and, finally, at the end, a spectacular wall of beautiful drawings by Buffalo's master of witty nostalgia, Mickey Harmon. Enjoy the drinks, tea sandwiches, and the view.
716 Swan St., Buffalo; 248-2216 or hydraulichearth.com
Whether your group plays a rousing game of outdoor shuffleboard, orders a few brick oven pizzas, or just enjoys the spacious beer garden, Hydraulic Hearth is a beautiful spot to enjoy a warm evening outdoors. As part of the historic Larkin District, Hydraulic Hearth has made itself a destination since opening in November 2014. In partnership with Community Beer Works, the restaurant offers both in-house and rotating guest taps to complement its brick oven specialties, and also hosts live music in the beer garden, weather permitting. Western New Yorkers love to get outside once the weather breaks, and the hearth is a gathering space made for just that.
Frankie Primo's +39
51 W. Chippewa St., Buffalo; 855-3739 or frankieprimos39.com
Chippewa is changing, thanks in no small part to restaurant owners like Jay Manno. He has owned Soho forever and recently opened Frankie Primo’s on the corner of Franklin. Excellent renditions of simple Italian favorites and a casual-yet-professional vibe make FP an easy choice on any night, but the patio, while modest in size, has been gracefully appointed and provides a lovely European-style oasis in an unexpected downtown locale.
Best New Hotspot (City)
204 Allen St., Buffalo; 464-3903 or falleyallen.com
In the heart of Allentown, where Rust Belt Books and La Tee Da used to reside, sits Falley Allen—a contemporary, open-concept fifty-seat restaurant and bar. With more than a dozen craft cocktails and a food menu that truly does have something for everyone, it’s a great place to meet with people who have varying tastes in both food and beverage. And, if the prospect of finding a parking spot is daunting, the restaurant offers valet parking. Highlights: Billy Ogden’s stuffed banana peppers, Poké bowl, pear and gorgonzola flatbread pizza, Falley Negroni.
Best New Hotspot (Northtowns)
Share Kitchen & Bar Room
5590 Main St., Williamsville; 906-3400 or sharekbr.com
Every restaurant that’s opened on this corner of Main Street has struggled to find purchase, but not Share, which seems to offer just what Williamsville needs–casual and very approachable fare made from fresh ingredients in a laidback environment. Large windows, an outdoor patio, and a long bar augment the restaurant’s more traditional dining room, providing guests a variety of ways to enjoy the village’s newest hotspot.
Best New Hotspot (Southtowns)
Bica e Vinho
261 Mill Rd. #2, East Aurora; 714-9298 or facebook.com/BicaeVinho
Bica e Vinho specializes in carefully selected wines and a modest menu of plates suited to share. Who knew East Aurora needed a Portuguese wine bar? We’re glad owners Lisa DeCarlo and Dan Buscaglia did. Can we have more of these, please?
Best Sports Bar (City)
(716) Food and Sport
7 Scott St., Buffalo; 855-4716 or 716foodandsport.com
While there’s a lot to be said for watching the game at a low-key bar with a few friends, there’s no arguing there’s something special about experiencing the big plays on an even bigger screen. The thirty-eight-foot screen over the bar is the star of the show, but it’s complemented by more than seventy TVs located everywhere from the booths to the bathrooms. (716)’s menu is a bit more adventurous than most sports bars, but it has the basics like wings and burgers, too.
Best Sports Bar (Suburbs)
Amherst pizza and Alehouse
55 Crosspointe Pkwy., Getzville; 625-7100 or amherstpizzaandalehouse.com
Polished in appearance and offering a menu of approachable food and drink, Amherst Pizza & Ale House is a great place to catch a game. Plenty of large screens and a friendly, efficient staff means lingering here to watch your favorite team win (or lose) is comfortable and easy.
Best Irish Pub
Conlon’s Bar and Grill
382 Abbot Rd., Buffalo; 725-6072 or conlonsbarandgrill.com
Buffalo loves its Irish pubs, as evidenced by how many great choices it has. This year we’re claiming Conlon’s as our favorite. Head to this SoBo location for a menu of pub classics like a hearty reuben, pot roast worth Yelp-ing about, and that cozy-casual vibe Irish pubs do so well.
Best Craft Cocktails (City)
333 Franklin St., Buffalo; 783-8699 or buffaloproper.com
220 Lexington Ave., Buffalo; 551-6262 or verabuffalo
Vera opened in 2011 a Buffalo’s first dedicated craft cocktail bar and, over the years, its bar program has retained its high quality and creativity. Ingredients are precisely chosen with equal attention paid to science, beauty, and fun. The seasonally changing drink menu is one of the most innovative in town.
Buffalo Proper's Jon Karel, a Vera alum, continues to bring flare and dedication to the classics, staying true to Prohibition-era standards, while riffing on their basic themes. Proper's selections rotate seasonally, but there's a reason the Ginger Baker has remained on the menu since day one.
Gintonic with cucumber, lemon twist, apple, and elderflower from Aro Bar De Tapas, winner of Best Craft Cocktails (Northtowns)
Best Craft Cocktails (Northtowns)
Aro Bar de Tapas
5415 Sheridan Dr., Williamsville; 631-1000 or arotapas.com
A place that has over 100 varieties of gin and divides its menu of fifty-plus gintonics into four different categories ought to get some credit. There are non-gin cocktails as well, but Aro bears away the prize for offering WNY its one and only chance to revel in the gintonic craze.
Best Craft Cocktail (Southtowns)
1213 Ridge Road, Lackawanna; 821-0700 or winfieldspub.com
Which comes first, the exciting and quirky craft cocktail menu or the knowledgeable and creative bartender? At Winfield's, bar manager Thomas Daulton makes it happen simultaneously. For instance, if the thought of mixing yogurt into an alcoholic beverage makes you queasy, you must have missed the lovely specimen we saw in a recent Facebook post: “Moo-nage Daydream. A Lockhouse vodka and Ibisco bitter cocktail using White Cow dairy farms citrus berry yogurt along with Lillet Rouge, lemon, simple syrup, and house orange bitters.” This drink is representative of Daulton’s focus on using fresh, local, and housemade ingredients to create cocktails that please both the eye and palate.
Best Taps (City)
211 South Park Ave., Buffalo; 240-9901 or buffaloballyhoo.com
You could go to Ballyhoo every day and find something different on tap. At a glance, the draft menu appears simplistic, but it’s actually quite thoughtful with twelve taps, daily changes, and a variety of styles always available. Equal attention is paid to breweries both locally and across the country. (Bonus points for being one of the most accommodating dog-friendly patios in WNY.)
Best Taps (Northtowns)
2470 Military Rd., Niagara Falls; 236-7474; 5445 Transit Rd., Clarence; 580-3701 or griffonpub.com
Griffon’s Clarence pub boasts 100 taps—yes, 100—that change daily. While the quantity and variety could be daunting, the menu’s arrangement by beer style helps narrow selections. Drafts include old standbys (Stella Artois, Guinness), small-batches from local breweries, offerings from quality American craft breweries (Avery, Brooklyn, Bell’s), ciders, and imports from every corner of the earth. Beer lists are posted on Griffon’s website, a rarity for a pub with so many ever-changing options, and flights of six-ounce pours are a great way to sample several beers in a sitting. Two more locations are in Niagara Falls (fifty taps) and the original pub in East Aurora (seventy-two taps).
Best Taps (Southtowns)
World of Beer
1 Walden Galleria, Cheektowaga; 683-0947 or worldofbeer.com
It used to be that having more than six taps meant a bar had a wide selection of draft beers. But in this new beer-centric age, it takes at least twice that to pass muster. World of Beer has six times that number, not to mention an exhaustive selection of micros, imports, and beer-snob-worthy bottles and cans.
Best Bottled Beer Selection
The Lenox Grille
140 North St., Buffalo; lenoxgrill.com or 884-1700
Walking down the steps into the Lenox Grill, located beneath the 120-year-old Lenox Hotel, can feel like a descent back in time—dimly lit, low ceilings, stately wooden back bar, and a handful of regulars with designated seats at the bar. At first glance, it doesn’t look like a beer-lovers hangout; the shelves are stocked with liquor, but there’s only three or four taps. Until a bartender hands over what they call a beer list, but others could classify it as a beer novel. It boasts pages and pages listing over 500 bottled selections of craft beer, cider, domestics, shandy, imports, mead, gluten-free beers—if you can swig it, they probably have it. Better yet, the bartenders know the list and can help direct selections..
Best French Fries (City) Frank Gourmet Hot Dogs findfranknow.com
Best French Fries (Northtowns) Moor Pat moorpat.com
Best Hot Dog (City) Frank Gourmet Hot Dogs findfranknow.com
Best Hot Dog (Suburbs) Ted’s Hot Dogs tedshotdogs.com
Best Basic Burger (Suburbs) New York Beer Project nybeerproject.com
Best Alt Burger (City) Tokyo Burger at Thin Man Brewery thinmanbrewery.com
Best Alt Burger (Suburbs) JuiCy Burger Bar juicyburgerbar.com
Best Thin-Crust Pizza (City) O. G. Wood Fire facebook.com/ogwoodfire
Best Thin-Crust Pizza (Suburbs And Beyond) Romeo & Juliet’s rjcaffe.com
Best Wings (North) Judi’s Lounge Bar and Grill judisbarandgrill.com
Best Tacos (Suburbs) Taqueria Los Mayas facebook.com/TaqueriaLosMayas
Best Korean Koreana facebook.com/Koreana-buffalo
Best Middle Eastern/Mediterranean (City) Shish Kabab Express facebook.com/Shish-Kabab-Express
Best Middle Eastern/Mediterranean (North) 755 Restaurant & Lounge 755westmarket.com
Best Middle Eastern/Mediterranean (Southtowns) Rachel’s Mediterranean eatrachels.com
Best Pho (City) 99 Fast Food facebook.com/99fastfood
Best Pho (Suburbs) Phovana phovana.com
Best Ramen (City) SATO satobuffalo.com; SATO Ramen sato-ramen.com
Best Ramen (Suburbs) Taisho Bistro taisho-bistro.com
Best Steak (City) SEAR searbuffalo.com
Best Steak (Southtowns) Rick’s on Main ricksonmain.com
Best Steak (Northtowns) Russell’s Steaks, Chops & More salvatoresgrand.com
Best Gluten-Free Options Pizza Plant pizzaplant.com
Best Vegan (City) Grindhaus Cafe facebook.com/grindhauscafe
Best Vegan Menu Options (Suburbs) Pizza Plant pizzaplant.com
Best Barbecue Kentucky Greg’s Hickory Pit kentuckygregs.com
Best Barbecue Sides (Suburbs And Beyond) Smoke on the Water sotw77.com
Best Seafood Restaurant (Suburbs) Remington Tavern remingtontavern.com
Best Bagel Bagel Jay's bageljays.com
Best Artisanal Bagel BreadHive breadhive.coop
Best Restaurant Space (City) Patina 250 patinagroup.com/Patina250
Best Restaurant Space (Suburbs) The Grange Community Kitchen grangecommunitykitchen.com
Best Charcuterie (City) The Black Sheep blacksheepbuffalo.com
Best Charcuterie (Suburbs) Aro Bar de Tapas arotapas.com
Best Dessert (City) Oliver’s oliverscuisine.com
Best Dessert (Suburbs) Giancarlo’s giancarlossteakhouse.com
Best Doughnut Paula’s Donuts paulasdonuts.com
Best Artisanal Doughnut Butter Block butterblockshop.com
Best Sponge Candy Watson's chocolates watsonschocolates.com
Best Coffee Shop (City) Tipico tipicocoffee.com
Best Coffee Shop (Suburbs) Steamworks steamworkscoffee.net
Best Food Truck Lomo Lomo lomofoodtruck.com
Best Chef (Established) Ross Warhol at Oliver’s oliverscuisine.com
Best Chef (New) Will Petersen at Lait Cru Brasserie laitcrubrasserie.com
Best Restaurant For A Family Gathering Salvatore’s Italian Gardens salvatoreshospitality.com
Best Waitstaff Risorante Lombardo ristorantelombardo.com
Best Small Wine List (Bottle) Mothers 882-2989
Best Large Wine List (Bottle) Oliver’s oliverscuisine.com
Best Wine List (By The Glass) Dapper Goose thedappergoose.com
Best Use Of Local Ingredients (City) Billy Club billyclubbuffalo.com
Best Use Of Local Ingredients (Suburbs) Elm Street Bakery elmstreetbakery.com
Best Local Winery Arrowhead Spring Vineyards arrowheadspringvineyards
Best Local Distillery Tommyrotter Distillery tommyrotter.com
Best New Release Sakura Gin from Lockhouse lockhousedistillery.com
Best Décor Angelica Tea Room angelicatearoom.com
Best Patio TIE Hydraulic Hearth hydraulichearth.com
Frankie Primo's +39 frankieprimos39.com
Best New Hotspot (City) Falley Allen falleyallen.com
Best New Hotspot (Northtowns) Share Kitchen & Bar Room sharekbr.com
Best New Hotspot (Southtowns) Bica e Vinho facebook.com/BicaeVinho
Best Sports Bar (City) (716) Food and Sport 716foodandsport.com
Best Sports Bar (Suburbs) Amherst pizza and Alehouse amherstpizzaandalehouse.com
Best Irish Pub Conlon’s Bar and Grill conlonsbarandgrill.com
Best Craft Cocktails (Northtowns) Aro Bar de Tapas arotapas.com
Best Craft Cocktail (Southtowns) Winfield's Pub winfieldspub.com
Best Taps (City) Ballyhoo buffaloballyhoo.com
Best Taps (Northtowns) Griffon Gastropub griffonpub.com
Best Taps (Southtowns) World of Beer worldofbeer.com
Best Bottled Beer Selection The Lenox Grille lenoxgrill.com
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