BEST OF WNY 2010
On the town


On the town

Black & Blue photo by kc kratt.

Pearl St. photo by kc kratt.
Artpark photo courtesy of Artpark.
Squeaky Wheel photo courtesy of Squeaky Wheel.
Barkyard and Chestnut Ridge (below) photos by kc kratt.
Best place for a cocktail after work: suburbs
Black and Blue Steak & Crab
5493 Sheridan Dr., Williamsville, 839-2525, www.blackandbluesteakandcrab.com
You’ll feel like you walked from a suburban parking lot into a tony bar on Park Avenue.

Best place for a cocktail after work: city
Pearl St. Grill & Brewery
76 Pearl St., 856-2337, www.pearlstreetgrill.com
This downtown pub is large enough to accommodate any size crowd; its happy medium of ambiance and offerings seems to please most ages, genders, and sensibilities.

Coolest historic site
McKinley Monument
Front of Buffalo City Hall, Niagara Square
Here is an icon many locals don’t notice, but should. A symbol of national grief from a time when Buffalo was a major city.

Most exciting outdoor concert series
Artpark
450 South 4th St., Lewiston, 754-4375, www.artpark.net
From free concerts to the BPO, Artpark has something for everyone. Plus, the view is beautiful, the scene is mellow, and you can actually enjoy the music, as opposed to trying to enjoy the music.

Must-see art exhibition (2009–10)
Heatwaves in a Swamp
1300 Elmwood Ave., 878-6011, www.burchfieldpenney.org
This touring show represents the first time Burchfield’s greatest works have been installed in the magnificent new facility that bears his name. WNYers, along with the rest of the country, rediscovered an American original through curator Robert Gober’s eyes.

Best wi-fi hangout
Sweet_Ness 7
220 Grant St., 883-1738, www.grantstreetgallery.net
This comfortable café has people flocking to Grant Street.

Most interesting season of plays (2009–10)
Road Less Traveled Productions
639 Main St., 1-800-745-3000, www.roadlesstraveledproductions.org
RLTP had a diverse selection of plays last year—three out of six were original—and they have an aggressive approach in selecting them: shades of Studio Arena in the ’50s and ’60s.

Best live music venue
Kleinhans Music Hall
3 Symphony Cir., 883-3560, www.kleinhansmusichall.org
RLTP had a diverse selection of plays last year—three out of six were original—and they have an aggressive approach in selecting them: shades of Studio Arena in the ’50s and ’60s.

Best art workshops (any artform)
Squeaky Wheel Buffalo Media Resources
712 Main St., 884-7172, www.squeaky.org
From video editing to screenwriting to Flash, there’s a lot to learn, and the classes are all high-quality.

Best place to hang out with your dog
Lasalle/The Barkyard Off-Leash Dog Area
Lasalle Park, 218-0303, www.thebarkyard.org
After a few opening glitches, this clean, pleasant place has earned the dedication of many local dog-owners.

Best city walk
Norwood/Ashland
Located in Elmwood District
From Summer to Lafayette, strolling up and down these pleasant streets always yields new architectural discoveries, enchanting front yard gardens, and plenty of human interest.

Best hike
Eternal Flame (Chestnut Ridge)
6121 Chestnut Ridge Rd., Orchard Park, 662-3290, www.wnyhikes.com
Not for the faint-of-heart, this is one of WNY’s most beloved treks, and has become a rite of passage for many.


NONE OF THE ABOVE
Best Example of How We Need to Chill Out About Sports
When you take into account the amount of pressure Buffalonians put on their sports teams—win, or crush the hopes and dreams of a long-suffering community—it’s no wonder that they always lose. And this past hockey season, the beautiful, rural town of Boston, NY, did its part to psych out the Buffalo Sabres. Because Buffalo’s first-round playoff opponent was from that other Boston, local officials decided to temporarily change the name of the town and its elementary school, to “Sabre.” So when our hometown heroes got trounced by the Bruins, they had to feel more than the agony of defeat: they’ll be spending the summer knowing they made all the kids at Sabre Valley Elementary School cry.

—Joe Sweeney


Best City Neighborhood
Perfectly spaced from each other at 120º, Bidwell, Lincoln, and Chapin Parkways spin off from Soldiers’ Circle, the rotary of greenspace that is part of Frederick Law Olmsted’s parkway design. This neighborhood features gorgeous homes, historical markers, and cultural attractions.

A lovely three-mile trek around the BLC neighborhood could begin and end at Richmond Avenue and Colonial Circle, at the end of Bidwell Parkway. Head east on Bidwell past Elmwood, make a right onto Chapin, and check out yet more gorgeous homes on either side. Follow to Gates Circle, and head west again toward Elmwood. At Lincoln Parkway make a right and observe more impressive residences, including two of the neighborhood’s former Junior League of Buffalo Decorators’ Show Houses (there are three others): The Larkin House (1981, 1999) at the corner of Lincoln Parkway and Forest Avenue, and Buffalo State College’s President’s House (1997) at number 152 on the opposite side of the street.

Further along Lincoln you’ll find a pretty wooded stretch of Delaware Park (near Shakespeare Hill), the back steps of Albright-Knox Art Gallery and, across the way, steps leading down to Hoyt Lake and Marcy Casino. Head back up Lincoln Parkway, and finish where you began.

—Nancy J. Parisi

Best bike ride
Along the river from Broderick to Naval
The reasons this ride is so fabulous include the view of the always tumultuous river, and the great stops along the way.

Strangest/most unique event
National Buffalo Wing Festival
Carmelo’s and Juniper photos by kc kratt.
4595 Greenbriar Rd., 565-4141, www.buffalowing.com
Name one other city that has a regional festival inspired by a long-forgotten Bill Murray vehicle, people.

Favorite old standby (open 10 years or more)
Salvatore’s Italian Gardens
6461 Transit Rd., Depew, 683-7990, www.salvatores.net
Through all the renovations and upgrades, this place remains one of the best places for a dressed-up family gathering.

Best restaurant featuring locally produced food
Carmelo’s
425 Center St., Lewiston, 754-2311, www.carmelos-restaurant.com
Chef Raimondi has been sourcing from Niagara County farms for years.

Most promising restaurant to open in 2008 or 2009
Juniper
810 Elmwood Ave., 885-5239, www.juniperelmwood.com
Some of us have been to every one of the restaurants that have inhabited this space, starting in the ’80s, but we hope Juniper and its Sunday bottomless mimosas are here to stay.


Best Local or WNY-Related FB page
The Buffalo Punk Documentary Project
Buffalo News writer Elmer Ploetz has made it a labor of love to document the Buffalo punk and new wave music scene of the ‘70s and ‘80s. With a feature-length video now complete, the project’s Facebook page has become a growing archive of photos and other memorabilia covering a vibrant chapter of the area’s musical history.

—Bruce Eaton

Pizza Plant photo by J.P. Thimot; Oliver’s and Founding Father’s photos by kc kratt; Powder Keg photo by Joe Cascio; Garden Walk Buffalo photo by Jim Bush.
Most kid-friendly restaurant
Pizza Plant
8020 Transit Rd., Williamsville, 632-0800; 5110 Main St., Williamsville, 626-5566; www.pizzaplant.com
Let’s face it, kids want to go to chains. But Pizza Plant wins them over, and that’s rare. Almost as rare as a gluten-free pizza.

Best restaurant to see and be seen
Oliver’s
2095 Delaware Ave., 877-9662, www.oliverscuisine.com
Oliver’s may seem quiet and understated, but look around. Deals are getting made and there is plenty of discreet table-hopping (as well as great food).

Best place to eat at the bar
Founding Fathers
75 Edward St., 855-8944
The best-looking bar in Buffalo, a solid menu, and free snacks every night—Fathers knows best.

Favorite neighborhood hangout
Essex Street Pub
6 Essex St., 883-2150, www.myspace.com/essexstreetpub
Essex truly is a neighborhood bar; its West Side denizens can easily walk to enjoy a good beer selection and one of the best jukeboxes in town.

Coolest new festival (2008–10)
Powder Keg
Downtown Buffalo and at the Pearl St. Grill and Brewery, www.powderkegfestival.com
This brand-new festival boasted a Guinness world record its first year. ’Nuff said.


Best outdoor event
Garden Walk Buffalo
Over 340 locations, 879-0123, www.gardenwalkbuffalo.com
About two thirds of the national press Buffalo has received over the last two years has concerned this event. Looks like we’re slowly climbing out of the snowpile.


Best Volunteer Group
People United for Sustainable Housing broke records for volunteer action during our unusually lovely November in 2009. Television program Extreme Makeover came to town to construct a new home for Delores Powell on Massachusetts Avenue; the campaign that brought them here was headed up by PUSH. The energy of PUSH, boosted by the star power of the show, enhanced by the building know-how of David Homes, and multiplied by the hearts of WNY’s people, made for a major impact.

Over the course of six days, 6,000 volunteers helped to put in community gardens, fix light fixtures, paint, and make renovations to seventy additional homes in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods. Local innovators like Buffalo ReUse and Joy Kuebler Landscape Architect added their expertise in sustainable construction. The significant achievement was showcased with a two-hour special in January with more than 10 million viewers internationally witnessing the power of a WNY volunteer force.

—Cynnie Gaasch; photo by kc kratt


Best Weekly Band Gig
Danny Hull and Friends / Every Tuesday at Bobby McGee’s
Now in its twelfth year, drummer Dan Hull’s weekly gig at Bobby McGee’s has moved recently to a new location in Amherst without missing a beat. With a different line-up each week, Hull diligently presents the best jazz musicians from the region, even catching native luminaries like Don Menza on visits home. Hull’s unwavering commitment has turned the gig into one of the few consistent platforms for top-notch live jazz in Western New York.

—Bruce Eaton


WNY’s Most Under-Rated Public Space
The things we look at every day are often the ones that we don’t really see. The McKinley Monument is like that: sitting at the hub of Buffalo’s mangled street grid, an ornate memorial to a national tragedy that no one alive today can relate to. We find that we routinely look past it in order to contemplate our Art Deco jewel, City Hall, but the McKinley Monument was there first. The architects were Carrère and Hastings, famous today for the Main Branch of the New York Public Library—and the four lions at the base of the obelisk were sculpted by the same artist as the library’s lions, Edward Clark Potter. Buffalo’s big cats have a softer look, which befits the fact that they are in mourning, and it is pleasing to think they are cousins to the more famous downstate pair. Behind each lion is a turtle, a symbol of eternal life in the funerary art of the day. Perhaps the new federal courthouse will improve the setting for this overlooked treasure, but even if it doesn’t, the McKinley Monument deserves to be more than something that people just drive by. Visit and reflect on what Buffalo and the United States were a hundred years ago, and what they ought to be today; and see four of the greatest stone lions north of 42nd Street at the same time.

—William C. Altreuter; photo by Angel Art Photography


BEST OF WNY 2010
On the town


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