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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
OUT AND ABOUT
Best small music venue
334 Delaware Ave., Buffalo; 853-5483 or waitingroombuffalo.com
Two floors of cutting-edge programming. Miss the glory days of the Continental (but secretly wish it had better beer)? The spirit of that punk landmark lives on here, both in the bookings and in the decor, which is stocked with posters of classic Buffalo concerts that took place before most of the crowd was born.
Best large music venue
University at Buffalo Center for the Arts Mainstage
UB Amherst Campus; 645-2787 or ubcfa.org
The bookings at this now-venerable hall remain as reliable and eclectic as ever. Last season, it once again offered WNY the chance to see and hear old favorites (Bonnie Raitt, Colm Wilkinson, Brian Setzer) and some of the major indie acts of this moment in time (Sufjan Stevens, Scott Bradlee's Postmodern Jukebox), along with spoken-word (actor/comedian David Cross and NPR podcast pioneer Sarah Koenig) and inventive pairings (Los Lobos with a Mexican folk ballet company), all with good sightlines and acoustics.
Best bar for live music (Northtowns)
26 Webster St., North Tonawanda;
693-9309 or crazyjakesnt.com
Crazy Jake's is a great party bar destination in North Tonawanda. Located a stone's throw from historic Riviera Theatre, Crazy Jake's is a restaurant, bar, patio spot, and live music venue. Bands perform year-round on Friday and Saturday nights and the place never charges a cover. Speaking of covers, do expect a fair share of local cover bands specializing in rock and classic party tunes from several decades. Music starts at 9:30 p.m. and goes until 1:30 a.m. Between sets, listen to the deejay on duty, socialize around a firepit, and marvel at the size of this rambling, good-time establishment. Check the monthly calendar for upcoming shows.
Best bar for live music (City)
326 Amherst St., Buffalo; 874-7734 or sportsmensbuffalo.com
Owner and musician Dwane Hall has accomplished what few could have dreamed: this Black Rock honky-tonk is a national-level destination for Americana music (country/western/bluegrass/blues). The touring musicians—Dale Watson, Rosie Flores, Asleep at the Wheel—who visit always want to come back. Locally, Hall provides gigs (and audiences) for a range of groups and players; he recently launched a foundation to support music awareness and education.
Best bar for live music (Southtowns)
189 Public House
189 Main St., East Aurora; 652-8189 or oneeightynine.com
Sure, it won last year, too—but the more we see what's up at 189, the more we love this cozy, quirky two-floor-with-a-hole-in-the-middle roadhouse with the friendly music-centered vibe of a neighborhood nightclub in New Orleans. The shows—a surprising number of which are free—feature some of the best acoustic players in WNY, along with a few jaw-dropping touring acts (Iris Dement! Greg Brown!). As a bonus, it's even got a nanobrewery on the premises.
Best new hangout
716 Swan St., Buffalo; 248-2216 or hydraulichearth.com
Just across the street from Larkinville, this brewpub features an excellent wine, cocktail, and beer menu (much of the beer courtesy of a partnership with Community Beer Works), innovative pizzas, and the city's smallest art gallery (located inside a vintage phone booth). Calm and cozy in winter, it's a more crowded affair in the summer, when you can play shuffleboard and enjoy live music under the stars.
Best movie theater
Dipson Amherst Theatre
North Park Theatre
1428 Main St., Buffalo; 836-7411; www.northparktheatre.org
It is no exaggeration to say that Buffalonians are lucky to have movie theaters like the Dipson Amherst Theater and the North Park Theatre. In recent months, in addition to major releases like Spotlight, The Revenant, and Terrence Malick’s Knight of Cups, the Amherst screened Kurosawa and Spike Lee as part of the long-running Buffalo Film Seminars, mounted an ambitious Wim Wenders series, and simulcast productions from the Bolshoi Ballet and Opera de Paris. The theater also underwent an extensive renovation, resulting in the most comfortable seats in WNY. Meanwhile, the North Park continued to program a wildly diverse lineup of films, including Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Miyazaki’s Porco Rosso, and Labyrinth, that much-loved David Bowie-Jim Henson collaboration. Plus, new films like the delightful Sally Field vehicle Hello, My Name Is Doris and the Buffalo-shot film The American Side keep drawing large crowds to this Hertel Avenue gem. The future for the Amherst and the North Park is marquee-bright.
Most innovative theater production (2015-2016)
The Yeats Project (ICTC/Torn Space/LehrerDance)
625 Main St., Buffalo; irishclassical.com
Best known for the poetry that won him the 1923 Nobel Prize for Literature, William Butler Yeats also wrote twenty-six plays. Indeed, he once wrote: "We hope to find in Ireland ... that freedom to experiment which is not found in the theatres of England, and without which no new movement in art or literature can succeed." To this end, his plays sought to combine movement, song, and symbolic abstraction, and Irish Classical Theatre Company's production of two of these—1894's The Land of Heart's Desire and 1916's At the Hawk's Well—sought to give them the multidisciplinary treatment that would properly unleash their intended dramatic potential. This three-way collaboration allowed these two rarely produced one-acts a fresh presentation for WNY audiences, but also one that would surely have pleased Yeats himself.
Best production of a contemporary show
Daniel’s Husband (Buffalo United Artists)
Even though Road Less Traveled’s Appropriate and Kavinoky’s City of Conversation were top contenders for this category, Buffalo United Artists’ Daniel’s Husband—a case for marriage between any two people—eked out the title for delivering that rare night of theater that had audiences leaping to their feet in sincere standing ovations night after night. BUA recognized the power and potential of this brand new work—theirs was only the second performance after a South Florida (not New York City) world premiere—and put together a cast to realize its promise. Eric Rawski, Michael Seitz, Anne Hartley Pfohl, Timothy Patrick Finnegan, and Tyler Brown proved that honesty of performance and a symbiotic relationship between cast and audience can create something that moves hearts and minds, and goes beyond either the page or the stage—a best production.
Best production of a classic show
Of Mice and Men (New Phoenix)
95 Johnson Park, Buffalo; 853-1334 or www.newphoenixtheatre.org
When a show has been around the block a time or two, its audiences are going to be a mix of those new to the story, those who love it no matter what, and those who want to see something in it they’ve never seen before; this production delivered handily to all three groups. From Paul Bostaph’s seemingly sepia-toned Depression Era set to Chris Cavanagh’s lighting, the tragic show had the right feel, and, under New Phoenix artistic director Kelli Bocock-Natale’s direction, the ensemble cast was a seamless melding of distinct characters. But it was the two stars—Artie winners John Fredo and Greg Natale as George and Lenny—who, older than typically cast in these roles, were tasked with convincing audiences that these guys had traveled together for a long time, even when most guys don’t. Their ability to do so—Fredo by delivering equal parts frustration and humanity, and Natale by creating a difficult but lovable character who inspires nurturing—sells the show and brings the final moment home with resounding clarity.
Must-see art exhibition (Large gallery)
University at Buffalo Art Gallery’s The Visitors
201 Center for the Arts, Buffalo; 645-6913 or ubartgalleries.buffalo.edu
Albright-Knox Art Gallery’s Monet and the Impressionist Revolution, 1860–1910
1285 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo; albrightknox.org
It’s rare when an art exhibition receives universal praise from critics and the public alike, but The Visitors, by Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson, managed to do just that. If you didn’t see it, you might imagine that a nine-channel video work documenting a real-time sixty-minute seven-musician performance of a single repetitive melody sounds anything but thrilling. But the mesmerizingly languid presentation and strikingly beautiful video work was captivating. The ingenious installation had viewers walking throughout two adjoining galleries as if they were moving from room to room in the two-hundred year old Hudson River mansion in which the video was shot. Every viewer got a slightly different performance. Credit goes to curator Rachael Adams for bringing this innovative work to Buffalo.
At the Albright-Knox, equally savvy curating once again flexed the muscles of the museum’s formidable permanent collection by combining appropriate selections from it with a small (but exquisite) group of borrowed Monets. Supposedly, the Monets were the stars, but the collection pieces, many seldom seen, were equally impressive. And as if that weren’t enough, a jaw-dropping group of Panza donations upstairs provided a look at what happened after the Impressionists, as Modernism took a daring cliff dive of conceptual innovation. Exhilarating and enlightening.
Must-see art exhibition (Small gallery)
Hollis Frampton at CEPA
617 Main St., Buffalo; cepagallery.org
Named after the late pioneer of new media, art theorist, and cofounder of the University at Buffalo’s Center for Media Study, this "small venue" exhibition was actually more of an art world event. The comprehensive survey marked the first time a large collection of the artist’s photographic work had ever been exhibited in a gallery. The work paralleled the development of photographic art in the mid twentieth century, from documentary photography—including shots of other notable artists—to images Frampton used in his landmark films, to early utilization of Xerox as an art medium. Frampton’s decidedly postmodern humor was on full display in such series as Sixteen Studies From Vegetable Locomotion, in which produce was anything but still life. Something of a landmark show.
Best small concert (2015–2016)
Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber at Nietzsches (presented by Hallwalls)
Super-freaking along to the Rick James' punk-funk playbook, Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber was, for every soul-loving, booty-shaking person in attendance, one of the year's most energized smaller gigs. The improvisational soul-jazz-hip-hop ensemble hit the compact Nietzsche's stage on January 29. Fun(k) Fact: Burnt Sugar was artist at residence during Hallwalls' 2014 season. The dozen NYC-based musicians on stage played to a packed room; the previous night the ensemble had performed at Lincoln Center in the Big Apple. Burnt Sugar played two sets of mad music that melted all the snow in Allentown.
Best large concert (2015–2016)
Stevie Wonder at First Niagara
1 Seymour H. Knox III Plaza, Buffalo; firstniagaracenter.com
It was the Songs in the Key of Life tour and so much more. Wonder gave us four hours of perfection. His huge ensemble included a full choir, string section, three back-up vocalists, as well as other masterful instrumental support. The concert defined musicianship, but it wasn’t just about technique. There was heart, soul, beauty, and peace in Wonder’s powerful performance.
Best outdoor concert (2015)
My Morning Jacket at Artpark
450 S. 4th St., Lewiston; artpark.net
The boys from Tennessee made thrilling use of this venue, playing every fan's dream set of old favorites and new material that slowly grew in intensity as the sun set on the Niagara Escarpment, at which point the band's mind-warpingly psychedelic stage lighting reached its full glory. One for the record books.
Best fundraiser - long-standing
Art of Beer/Niagara Arts and Cultural Center, Niagara Falls
1201 Pine Ave., Niagara Falls; thenacc.org
Music is Art
One of the first beer-themed fundraisers in the area keeps getting bigger and better, as the former Niagara Falls High School turned community arts center plays host to twenty brewers and restaurants around the region every March.
This September will see the fourteenth annual Music is Art, a festival that started out as an outpost of another festival but has since come into its own as a fun, free mashup of concert/street fair/art show. It's got something for everyone and benefits the essential cause of music education.
Best fundraiser (New)
Arctic White Out
Buffalo Zoo, 300 Parkside Ave., Buffalo, NY; 837-3900 or buffalozoo.org
To replace its signature Polar Bites fundraiser, a massive event based on tastings from many area restaurants, the Zoo rejiggered the concept. Still hosted in the Convention Center, guests are invited to dress in all white and "come out of hibernation" enjoying a Tom & Jerry station, visits from zoo animals, auctions, dancing, and an indoor snowfall experience. We look forward to seeing how this event develops.
Most unusual cultural event
Edible Book Fest/Western New York Book Arts Center
468 Washington St., Buffalo; 348-1430 or wnybookarts.org
This nonprofit has long enjoyed uniting the literary and culinary. Fueled by dreams of winning in one of three categories (most book-like, looks and functions like an actual book; best tasting; most creative use of materials) in each division (professional, amateur, youth), contestants impress and inspire us every year.
Fundraiser with best food and drink
Taste of Paradise/Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens
2655 South Park Ave., Buffalo;
827-1584 or buffalogardens .com
Recent parties at the Gardens have seen the venerable institution up its refreshment game to new heights. This reasonably priced spring fundraiser offered fun, colorful Captain Morgan drinks, top shelf champagne, and multiple tables filled with hearty food from a wide range of local caterers. And, with rows of hyacinths and narcissus, it all smelled wonderful.
Best outdoor programming for kids
44 Prime St.; canalsidebuffalo.com or 328-0320
Activities for kids at Canalside are too numerous to name here, but for starters, planned programming includes Seuss Summer, Farmer Tom Walsh, Literacy NY, Explore and More Museum, a youth acting camp, and many other kid-friendly activities like scavenger hunts, an outdoor movie series, beach sand play area, a full collection of lawn and table games available free, including ping pong, billiards, foosball, bean bag toss, giant Connect Four, ladder toss, and much more. Bonus: parents can watch their kids play from the comfort of the nearby beer and wine garden.
Best family fun (Summer)
44 Prime St.; canalsidebuffalo.com or 328-0320
Families could spend all day at Canalside and still not partake of everything that’s offered. From free scheduled events nearly every day from Memorial Day through Labor Day to daily rentals and tours on land and sea (well, canal), kids and adults will be kept busy from dawn ‘til dusk. Activities include games, kayaking, water bikes, the Naval Park, and, of course, stands and restaurants selling ice cream and other tasty treats. At the end of the day, take a rest in a Buffalo sunset chair under The Poets. You’ll need it.
Best family fun (Winter)
With more runs than the competition (ranging from easiest to double black diamond), cross country and snowshoeing trails, tubing, and terrain parks, there are multiple ways for all family members to interact sportily and mightily with snow. Young skiers are referred to as "snow monsters" here, and there are quad chairs for the whole family to get to the top of the hills. Holiday Valley becomes an overnight or weekend destination with lodging at the Inn at Holiday Valley or The Tamarack Club–the latter a condo/hotel with plenty of room for families. There is après-ski fare served at three cafeterias in the onsight base lodges and the resort is minutes from several family-friendly restaurants in nearby Ellicottville.
Best event (Winter)
Labatt Blue buffalo Pond Hockey Tournament @ Riverworks
This annual amateur tournament has grown so popular that scores of potential teams now get turned away. For the past couple of years, the friendly competition has found an ideal home at Riverworks' spectator-savvy facility in the shadow of the Blue-draped grain elevators, giving many Western New Yorkers a reason to look forward to mid-February.
Best event (Summer)
Gardens Buffalo Niagara
This annual event has become a national garden tourism destination, a community-driven juggernaut that has no equal. Now known by its umbrella name, Gardens Buffalo Niagara, satellite events include a garden art sale, Open Gardens, and dozens of additional local garden tours. The main event is heralded by lawn signs throughout Elmwood Village—it’s pretty darn impressive seeing throngs of people strolling about with maps in their hands. Oh, and the gardens are nice, too.
Best event (Indoor)
Midwinter Drawing Rally
It’s the middle of the cold, cold winter and you are stir-crazy. You want to get out of the house for an enjoyable evening of enlightening entertainment. That’s where Hallwalls’ Midwinter’s Night Draw comes in. Held at Asbury Hall at Babeville and costing only five dollars, thirty of the most interesting artists in Western New York produce works of art live with a forty-five minute time limit. Attendees then bid on the works in a silent auction as a second batch of artists sidle up to the drawing tables. The concept is so simple and pure, it’s amazing no one thought of it before Hallwalls curator John Massier. A great fundraiser for a worthy organization, and a groovy way to spend a winter’s eve drinking, mingling, enjoying, and supporting art.
Best festival (City)
National Buffalo Chicken Wing Festival
275 Washington St., Buffalo;
Wing Fest puts one of Buffalo's culinary icons front and center. The vibe at this event is very county fair-ish and mellow, and the two-day fest is indeed all about the mighty wing: baked, fried, fruited—and devoured. This year's Wing Fest is September 3–4 at Coca-Cola Field. Eating contests, a Kids Zone, beer tent, and vendors round out the attractions. Competition among just over two dozen local and national wing purveyors is fierce, with ribbons awarded for various sauce categories such as Creative BBQ, Traditional Hot, and Craft. Other competitions include The Baby Wing Contest, the Little Miss Wing Pageant, and Miss Buffalo Wing Pageant.
Best festival (Suburbs and beyond)
Lewiston Jazz Festival
Center St., Lewiston; lewistonjazz.com or 754-9005
Where else can 40,000 jazz fans go to hear more than 150 world-class musicians perform on five stages—for free? Center Street in historic Lewiston is closed off for the event where festivalgoers can listen to every type of jazz imaginable, from bebop and bossa nova to funk and fusion. This massive street party is a three-day affair that also features a classic car show, wine trail tastings, a jewelry show, and dozens of offerings from restaurants and food trucks. But the jazz is and will always be the major draw.
Best small music venue Waiting Room waitingroombuffalo.com
Best large music venue University at Buffalo Center for the Arts Mainstage ubcfa.org
Best bar for live music (Northtowns) Crazy Jake's crazyjakesnt.com
Best bar for live music (City) Sportsmen's Tavern sportsmensbuffalo.com
Best bar for live music (Southtowns) 189 Public House oneeightynine.com
Best new hangout Hydraulic Hearth hydraulichearth.com
Most innovative theater production (2015-2016) The Yeats Project (ICTC/Torn Space/LehrerDance) irishclassical.com
Best production of a contemporary show Daniel’s Husband (Buffalo United Artists) buffalobua.org
Must-see art exhibition (Large gallery) TIE University at Buffalo Art Gallery’s The Visitors ubartgalleries.buffalo.edu, Albright-Knox Art Gallery’s Monet and the Impressionist Revolution, 1860–1910 albrightknox.org
Must-see art exhibition (Small gallery) Hollis Frampton at CEPA cepagallery.org
Best small concert (2015–2016) Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber at Nietzsches (presented by Hallwalls) www.hallwalls.org
Best large concert (2015–2016) Stevie Wonder at First Niagara firstniagaracenter.com
Best outdoor concert (2015) My Morning Jacket at Artpark artpark.net
Best fundraiser (New) Arctic White Out buffalozoo.org
Most unusual cultural event Edible Book Fest/Western New York Book Arts Center wnybookarts.org
Fundraiser with best food and drink Taste of Paradise/Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens buffalogardens .com
Best outdoor programming for kids Canalside canalsidebuffalo.com
Best family fun (Summer) Canalside canalsidebuffalo.com
Best family fun (Winter) Holiday Valley holidayvalley.com
Best event (Winter) Labatt Blue buffalo Pond Hockey Tournament @ Riverworks labattbluepondhockey.com
Best event (Summer) Gardens Buffalo Niagara gardenwalkbuffalo.com
Best event (Indoor) Midwinter Drawing Rally hallwalls.org
Best festival (City) National Buffalo Chicken Wing Festival buffalowing.com
Best festival (Suburbs and beyond) Lewiston Jazz Festival lewistonjazz.com
Best new small retail business
(Open in 2015 or later)
500 Main St., Buffalo; 381-8275 or furnishingsbflo.com
Here’s a great reason to take a drive down Main Street, now that you can. This deceptively small shop is filled with unusual wares—so much so that you’ll want to allow plenty of time to explore. Our favorites: the nifty pillows and lamps, the funky bar and coffee goods, and the space given to other local vendors.
Best new clothing boutique
3959 Main St., Snyder; 833-7000 or facebook.com/ANNARLETTE
Spree style editor Erin Habes calls this new shop the "Barneys of Buffalo," and the word on the street is that this is the place for trendy but classic pieces that you’ll wear forever.
Best clothing boutique (Established)
799 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo; 332-7069 or annagracebuffalo.tumblr.com
This Elmwood Village mainstay carries both independent designers and larger established brands. There are also plenty of goodies to complete your new outfit, including jewelry, scarves, and more.
Best shop for formal wear (Men’s)
Riverside Men’s Shop
3063 Sheridan Dr., Amherst; 833-8401 or riversidemens.com
It may have been in business for ninety-seven years, but RMS doesn’t take anything for granted. All the premier brands are here, along with free tailoring and alteration services.
Best shop for formal wear (Women’s)
3099 Sheridan Drive, Amherst; 831-0773 or mabeldanahy.com
The goods may be high end, but the atmosphere is friendly and comfortable at this boutique. Danahy’s has been in business for ninety years. It's done it by keeping up with fashions, but never abandoning good old-fashioned great service. Danahy's formal department ranges from comfortable pant-based outfits to the ultimate in full-length glam.
Best shop for handmade jewelry
Burchfield Penney Museum Store
1300 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo; 878-6011 or burchfieldpenney.org
The store, curated with designs by a wide range of artists from Western New York, is filled with eye, neck, wrist, and ear candy. Many of the styles, as befits the institution’s namesake, feature organic shapes and nature-inspired themes. Both the fashion-forward and the demure will find plenty to love, from dangly drops, delicate necklaces, and sparkly baubles to chunky and industrial-inspired metallic pieces.
Best shop for traditional jewelry
798 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo; 217-2270 or abrahamsjewelersbuffalo.com
Opened in 1982, Abraham's specializes equally in traditional and contemporary pieces. The shop is also an authorized dealer for upscale watch brands like Bulova and Wittnauer. Repairs of watches and jewelry are done onsite, and you can also sell your jewelry or have an old-fashioned piece reworked here.
Best shop for funky accessories
1005 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo, 768-0110; 4218 N. Buffalo Rd., Orchard Park, 508-8679 or shopblushny.com
Fun can still be fashionable, as you’ll learn when you peruse the wide selection of finishing touches available at this local favorite.
Best shop for unique gifts
Fern and Arrow
773 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo; 882-5858 or facebook.com/fernandarrowshop/
In a seamless and friendly transition (the new store helped the old store sell off its stock), Positively Main Street closed and Fern + Arrow opened. Just like its predecessor, this a fun and funky place to buy housewares, gifts, and more. The prices are reasonable and the ambiance is bright and airy.
Best shop for men’s gifts
1595 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo; 249-1122 or blacksquirreldistillery.com
While a gift of a bottle or two of maple-distilled spirits from here would be great, it’s also possible to schedule a cocktail party at Black Squirrel—for a very reasonable price. Forget the tie; go for the Mapleshine.
Best shop for women’s gifts
Renew Bath and Body
927 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo; 881-0177 or renewbathandbody.com
Forgo the chemicals and additives found in drugstore products; for better lotions and a better shopping experience, Renew is the place. There are several all-natural lines you’ll never find anywhere else. The staff is very helpful for gift recommendations.
Best shop for furniture
3875 Sheridan Dr., Amherst; 8394484 or ethanallen.com
From wall sconces to beddings to a complete living room, Ethan Allen makes perfect possible. The store is laid out in such a way that it’s easy to see how a certain look and flow can be created. There are also touch screens and in-person design services—all part of the service.
Best shop for vintage furniture
27 Chandler St., Buffalo; 432-6216 or coocoou27.com
3807 Harlem Rd., Cheektowaga; 424-0994 or adornmentbuffalo.com
Antique-to-modernist pieces fill every square foot of this space, but the finely crafted mid-century furnishings are the main draw. There are also classic tools, toys, church furnishings, and more. This is ground central for fans of modernist design.
Unique in many ways, Adornment refurbishes and refinishes old furniture and cabinets, in addition to other services. It also donates part of its proceeds to nonprofits that help young women.
Best interior design
Tres Jolie Maison
414 Virginia St., Buffalo; 249-7330 or tjminteriordesign.com
A relative newcomer to Buffalo’s design scene, Tres Jolie made an immediate splash with its renovations to Buffalo’s oldest house, which is its local headquarters, and with its innovative design for the 2014 Junior League Show House. The firm provides both commercial and residential design and also has offices in Naples and Miami.
Best shop for home decor
732 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo; 240 9387 or rohomeshop.com
Both new Danish-inspired furniture and home décor as well as objects made out of reclaimed materials are sold at this popular Elmwood shop. Here’s where you’ll find the simple and functional designs beloved to so many local homeowners.
Best thrift shop
Multiple locations; savers.com
Many local thrift stores provide important support for nonprofits, so we also give nods to Amvets, Salvation Army, and St. Vincent DePaul’s in this category. Savers, however, is interesting, because it helps a variety of charitable organizations and has a philosophy centered in recycling and reuse. Because of those elements of its mission, Savers is one of the very few chains we ever recognize in Best of.
Best sporting/outdoor life store
744 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo; 881-3613 or campuswheelworks.com
So much more than a bike shop, this Elmwood Village anchor has worked hard to create a community. It's even got an active cycling collective that dates back to the 1970s. Got a bike you want to tune up? This is your go-to. Thinking of expanding or beginning your foray into cycling, snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing? CW will get you geared up.
Best place for organic food
Lexington Co-operative market
807 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo; 886-2667 or Lexington.coop
Organic food is not relegated to a small section of square footage at Lexington Cooperative Market; it is in large part the raison d’etre for this much-beloved community-owned business. Local produce; organic meat, poultry, and fish; sustainable health and household supplies; popular organic packaged food brands, and a large prepared food section of fresh salads, soups, and entrees dominate the offerings here.
Best small garden store
Urban Roots community garden center
428 Rhode Island St., Buffalo; 362-8982 or urbanroots.org
This cooperative is one of only two non-big-box, all-garden stores in the city. Staff members are knowledgeable, pottery and tools are of high quality, and there is an excellent selection of native perennials, trees, and shrubs, as well as the usual perennials and annuals. Urban Roots was the first local garden center to offer heirloom tomato seedlings. UR also hosts seasonal gardening workshops and sends regular updates via their enewsletters.
Best big garden store
5799 Genesee St., Lancaster; 683-4885 or adamsnurseries.com
310 Niagara Falls Blvd., Amherst; 693-4444
Lockwood’s Garden Center
4484 Clark St., Hamburg; 649-4684 or weknowplants.com
Do Western New Yorkers realize how blessed they are in terms of independent garden centers and nurseries, many of which regularly grow their own plants? We are awarding just three excellent venues this year; if truth were told, we could add at least four more to this list. Visit any one of these three and rest assured that you will find rare varietals, healthy shrubs and trees, high-quality supplies, and expert help.
Best flower shop
949-0033 or petrichorflora.com
Maureen's buffalo wholesale market
441 Ellicott St., Buffalo; 852-4600 or maureensbuffalowholesale.com
One of Buffalo’s newest and most innovative businesses, Petrichor combines a specialized flower design service and a seasonal flower cart, called Beau Flors, that can be seen at farmers’ markets and other places where people gather during the warm months. Recently, Petrichor has started offering bouquets at Ashker’s.
For years, Maureen's has been the place to go to find exotic and unusual flowers as well as everyday favorites. Stop in any day and see the staff pulling together specialty orders for events taking place all over the region.
830 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo; 259-8141 or bureaumade.com
Custommade suits used to be one-percenter affairs, involving flights to London or New York and many thousands of dollars. Increasingly, however, average Buffalonians are finding their way to Bureau for above-average suiting. Everything here is designed from the ground up.
Best baby gifts
5520 Main St., Williamsville; 632-2246 or pumpkinschildrensclothing.com
The baby boutique here offers exquisite, adorable choices for ages from preemie to twenty-four months. Pumpkins has long been a go-to in an area where there are few independent retail choices.
Most environmentally conscious retail business
296 East Ferry St., Buffalo; 578-3782 or buffaloreuse.org
Before spending a fortune at Restoration Hardware, check Buffalo ReUse. The aisles and shelves here are filled with authentic vintage cabinets, mantels, door knobs, doors, hinges, fixtures, and much more. Outside, there is stone and brick and other supplies that are perfect for patios and other home enhancement projects. Buffalo ReUse keeps Buffalo’s historic built environment from winding up in a landfill.
Best customer service
Multiple locations; deltasoniccarwash.com
Kittinger Furniture Company
4675 Transit Rd., Williamsville; 876-1000 or kittingerfurniture.com
Car upkeep is nobody’s favorite thing, but Delta Sonic makes it easy. The technicians here cheerfully pull off inspection, car washing, detailing, and other services quickly and efficiently. It doesn’t hurt that there is a nice clean waiting room with snacks and reading material nearby.
Kittinger has kept its presidential clients happy for over forty years; chances are, your experience with Kittinger will also be satisfying. The experts at Kittinger can guide your selection from their large inventory, work with you on a custom piece, or help design a difficult space in your home.
Best place for wine tasting
City Wine Merchant
715 Main St., Buffalo; 931-9114 or citywinemerchant.com
There are different tiers of tastings at City Wine. The entry level happens on Thursday afternoons, but there are also special tasting that focus on Italy, Burgundy, and other major wine-producing regions. At these specialized tastings, expect to try the latest releases from such producers as Tenuta San Guido (Sassicaia) and Burgundy’s Faiveley, among many others.
Best big liquor/wine store (City)
Gates Circle wine and liquor
1430 Delaware Ave., Buffalo; 884-1346 or gatescircleliquor.com
This is not a huge venue, but it’s big enough to include everything you’re likely looking for, and the service is friendly and immediate. Gates has long been a favorite of the Elmwood Village and Delaware district communities; the prices are reasonable and the selection is excellent.
Best big liquor/wine store (Suburbs)
Consisting of McKinley Wine & Spirits, Global Wine & Spirits, and Colonial Wine & Spirits, this collection of megastores offers what every booze shopper needs: selection and value.
Best boutique wine/liquor store
435 Rhode Island St., Buffalo; 322-5396 or paradisewine.com
The best thing about this this charming little booze boutique? It’s not just wine. Paradise also stocks a small but absolutely top-notch selection of spirits, some produced locally. There are weekly tastings, a great newsletter, and a wine club. You’ll want to join it.
Most fun place to shop
676–694 Main Street, East Aurora; 652-0481 or vidlers5and10.com
An East Aurora mainstay since the 1930s, legend has it that old man Vidler first opened up his store because people needed a closer place to get thread than the distant city of Buffalo (sixteen miles away). Now, with a touted 75,000 items in stock, including candy, home décor, cards, candles, craft supplies and "year-round Christmas," the biggest problem may be narrowing down your selections.
Best pet-related business
Elmwood Pet Supplies
706 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo; 883-1377 or elmwoodpet.com
Park 'n' Bark
866-4425 or parknbark.vpweb.com
A local favorite for over sixty years, this friendly storefront offers friendly advice and an excellent selection of pet supplies, food, and other products. For a hint of the personality here, check out this statement from their website: Our best selling foods are in the same price category as foods like Beneful (a food with which we are not impressed) and are free of by-products, corn, wheat and dyes. We try hard to have what the pet needs—or just wants.
Park ’n' Bark's mobile service makes much of the stress out of pet grooming. Make an appointment and it comes to you, so that pets are not waiting in cages or traveling. It’s a cute and convenient concept.
Best fitness classes
Revolution Indoor Cycling
1716 Main St., Buffalo; 4685 Transit Rd., Williamsville; 908-0622 or revolutionbuffalo.com
Fitness newbies and longtime fanatics alike love the energetic spin/TRX workouts at Revolution. The new Main Street facility (relocated from Delaware) is particularly attractive, with large windows and an industrial feel. The instructors are dedicated, and their clients are gently but firmly encouraged to push their workouts to the next level.
Best dance classes
Baila Salsa Dance Company
Pucho Olivencia Center, 261 Swan St., Buffalo; salsabuffalo.com or 807-7363
With regular Sunday lessons at their headquarters and frequent salsa nights at locations all over WNY, including Falafel Bar, Gypsy Parlor, and Larkin Square, Baila makes it easy to get your salsa on. Co-founders and award-winners Calvin Rice and Fanny Olaya have been dancing together for almost ten years.
East Meets West Yoga
1738 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo; 162 Mill St., Willimasville (at Village Glen); eastmeetswestyoga.com
The vinyasa, hatha, yin, and other classes offered here get rave reviews from their students. Now settled into their beautiful new facilty on Elmwood, EMW maintains their longheld reputation for excellence.
1738 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo; 166 Allen St., Buffalo; 886-8200 or thepilatesloftbuffalo.com
Mat, tower, suspension, and reformer classes are included in this extensive pilates program; private and semiprivate classes are also available. Founder Beth Elkins has been teaching pilates since 2001; she is always welcoming and helpful.
Best new workout spot
Outdoor yoga at wilkeson pointe
Last summer, we heard about a great series of peaceful yoga workouts surrounded by the beauty of the Outer Harbor's newest park. The slow vinyasa workouts were accompanied by live cello music by Kathleen Ashwill and led by Monica Zucco and Julie Leatherbarrow.
Best new small retail business (Open in 2015 or later) Furnishings furnishingsbflo.com
Best new clothing boutique Annarlette facebook.com/ANNARLETTE
Best clothing boutique (Established) Anna Grace annagracebuffalo.tumblr.com
Best shop for formal wear (Men’s) Riverside Men’s Shop riversidemens.com
Best shop for formal wear (Women’s) Danahy’s mabeldanahy.com
Best shop for handmade jewelry Burchfield Penney Museum Store burchfieldpenney.org
Best shop for traditional jewelry Abraham's abrahamsjewelersbuffalo.com
Best shop for funky accessories Blush shopblushny.com
Best shop for unique gifts Fern and Arrow facebook.com/fernandarrowshop/
Best shop for men’s gifts Black Squirrel blacksquirreldistillery.com
Best shop for women’s gifts Renew Bath and Body renewbathandbody.com
Best shop for furniture Ethan Allen ethanallen.com
Best interior design Tres Jolie Maison tjminteriordesign.com
Best shop for home decor Ro rohomeshop.com
Best thrift shop Savers savers.com
Best sporting/outdoor life store Campus Wheelworks campuswheelworks.com
Best place for organic food Lexington Co-operative market Lexington.coop
Best small garden store Urban Roots community garden center urbanroots.org
Best tailor Bureau bureaumade.com
Best baby gifts Pumpkins pumpkinschildrensclothing.com
Most environmentally conscious retail business Buffalo ReUse buffaloreuse.org
Best place for wine tasting City Wine Merchant citywinemerchant.com
Best big liquor/wine store (City)Gates Circle wine and liquor gatescircleliquor.com
Best big liquor/wine store (Suburbs) Global group Global-wineandspirits.com
Best boutique wine/liquor store Paradise Wines paradisewine.com
Most fun place to shop Vidler's vidlers5and10.com
Best fitness classes Revolution Indoor Cycling revolutionbuffalo.com
Best dance classes Baila Salsa Dance Company salsabuffalo.com
Best yoga East Meets West Yoga eastmeetswestyoga.com
Best pilates Pilates Loft thepilatesloftbuffalo.com
Best new workout spot Outdoor yoga at wilkeson pointe
Best looking historic building
Martin House Complex
Now in the final restoration push, this magnificent piece of landmark architecture is finally looking as it must have when Frank Lloyd Wright completed it. It’s not done, but now the timeline is down to the last two years of work, finishing up with the exterior landscape.
Best looking new building
Delaware North Global Corporate Headquarters
For such a mammoth structure, it’s surprisingly inviting—and the interior is even more impressive than the exterior. In addition to the Delaware North offices on the top floors, 250 Delaware will house additional office space, a restaurant and a Westin Hotel, all expected to be online later this year. The twelve-story building fits in well on downtown Delaware Avenue, where it is joined by sizeable neighbors, and the view from the top floors offers a magnificent panorama—thanks to 2,700 glass panels. Credit goes to developer Uniland, architects Nedlaw, Diamond Schmitt Architects, local firm Hamilton Houston Lownie, and Botanicus, which created the magnificent living wall in the lobby.
Best makeover of an existing building
This complex is a huge win for the Hydraulics District, thanks to developer Savarino Companies and Frontier Group. The former F. N. Burt box-making plant (1901-27) is now the largest loft apartment space in the city and has 180,000-square-feet of office space. There is also a beautiful atrium with a magnificent sculpture by artist Shasti O’Leary Soudant.
Best sight you won’t see anywhere but here
View from Marriott Harborcenter hotel lounge over Canalside and Lake Erie
There is now natural beauty, new construction, and plenty of human activity to be seen where there was once little more than highway overpasses and parking lots. In summer or winter, these windows overlook a colorful and vibrant panorama of skaters/strollers/paddlers/kayakers, an interesting built environment, and the beautiful blue waters beyond.
Best new construction (2015)
University at Buffalo Jacob’s School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences
We never got UB downtown, but we’re getting this: a huge presence right on Main Street as an important anchor for the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. This transforms the campus as well as provides a big boost to UB’s academic profile. The 628,000-square-foot facility, designed by HOK and bult by LPCiminelli, is scheduled to open in 2017.
Best preservation project (2015)
Phoenix Brewery Apartments
In yet another important conversion of a former industrial space, thirty-one apartments are planned for this distinctive Washington Street landmark (just north of Trico). The Medina sandstone brewery was built by Philadelphia architect Otto Wolf in 1887, after the Albert Ziegle brewery burned down; its replacement was therefore named the Phoenix. Post-brewery, the building has been a gym, skate park, and La-Z-Boy furniture warehouse, among other uses. The developer is Sinatra and Company Real Estate; the architects are Carmina Wood Morris.
Best use of taxpayer dollars
Funded as it is by the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation, an entity of New York State, Canalside exists almost solely thanks to government support. Sure, there’s been private investment, but without Albany’s help, Canalside does not exist. It doesn’t matter whether you think your taxes should pay for a major amenity like this or not. You are welcome to come on down and enjoy the facilities.
Best nature preserve
Beaver Meadow Audubon Center
This preserve offers top-notch bird-watching in any season, tranquil walks in summer, a great boardwalk trail, and an arboretum. There are also fun activities for children, including a summer camp. Year after year, we prefer to recognize the efforts of Buffalo’s Audubon Society, founded in 1909, for its ongoing dedication to promoting the appreciation and enjoyment of the natural world. In addition to Beaver Meadow, there are six additional preserves.
Most sustainable project
Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper’s waterway remediation efforts
Access to the water means nothing if our waterways and shorelines are environmental dead zones. For seventeen years—initially as Friends of the Buffalo River—BNRK has continued to expand its mission, which now includes the Buffalo River, Cayuga Creek, Eighteenmile Creek, Niagara River, Outer Harbor, and Scajaquada Creek. It’s a big job, but there have been many successes. With the help of many partners, BNRK is a major force in bringing our waterways back to life.
Best wildlife habitat project
Urban Habitat Project
Five years into its installation, the project that was once—literally—seeds in David Majewski’s hands is now a three-acre ecological classroom, home to native wildflowers and shrubs, trees, birds, bees, beneficial insects, and a wide range of mammals. There are even resident toads and frogs. The site absorbs approximately 320,000 gallons of storm water and provides much-needed winter food and nesting sites for birds. Majewski has moved on to other, bigger projects, but the UHP remains as a unique source of education and enjoyment.
Best nature walk
Sargeant Mark A. Rademacher Memorial Park/Hunters Creek
This South Wales nature trail has been an Erie County park since the late 1970s and is now designated a conservation park, which makes it perfect for nature lovers. The five-point-two mile loop offers plenty of scenic beauty, including a deep gorge, waterfall, ravines, second-growth forest, as well as wildflowers and birds. The trails are clearly marked, the water is sparkling, the trees tower overhead. What more could you ask for?
Best looking historic building Martin House Complex Darwinmartinhouse.org
Best looking new building Delaware North Global Corporate Headquarters delawarenorth.com/venues/global-corporate-headquarters
Best makeover of an existing building 500 Seneca 500seneca.com
Best sight you won’t see anywhere but here View from Marriott Harborcenter hotel lounge over Canalside and Lake Erie
Best new construction (2015) University at Buffalo Jacob’s School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences medicine.buffalo.edu
Best preservation project (2015) Phoenix Brewery Apartments sinatraandcompany.com
Best use of taxpayer dollars Canalside canalsidebuffalo.com
Best nature preserve Beaver Meadow Audubon Center buffaloaudubon.org
Most sustainable project Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper’s waterway remediation efforts bnriverkeeper.org
Best wildlife habitat project Urban Habitat Project
Best nature walk Sargeant Mark A. Rademacher Memorial Park/Hunters Creek
WNY: IT'S THE PEOPLE
Best friend of the arts
The CEO of Savarino Companies has tackled the creative adaptive reuse of numerous industrial buildings, including a large chunk of the Cobblestone District. With the help of his daughter and company vice president, Julia Spitz, Savarino has turned to the region’s artists to add distinctive elements to these buildings. And in no small way. He enlisted Art Services Initiative of WNY to organize a panel to review submissions for an exterior work of art for the mixed business and residential building at 95 Perry Street. The result was Go, the five story mural by artists Bruce Adams and Augustina Droze that quickly became a Cobblestone District landmark. Then, Shasti O’Leary Soudant was commissioned to create a large-scale sculpture titled Weeping Wall that now dominates the interior of 500 Seneca Street. Savarino Companies has incorporated other local art into its buildings, and has plans to do more. Sam Savarino is also a member of the Board of Advisors for the University at Buffalo's Center for the Arts.
Best actor (Musical)
Joe Hill’s Last Will, Subversive Theatre Company
Walking into a jail cell set and knowing the play about to begin will recount the last ninety minutes of a condemned man’s life is likely going to put audiences on guard: don’t get too attached, we know how this story ends. But John Profeta, with his crooked smile, easy physicality, tender voice tinged with purpose, subtle gestures of intimacy, and captivating singing made that a fruitless endeavor—whether or not Joe Hill committed the murders he was sentenced for.
Best actor (Play)
All my sons, ICTC
Peter Palmisano has been gradually making himself indispensable on the Buffalo theater scene as the go-to leading man of a certain age. In past seasons, he’s dotted high-profile shows from Kavinoky’s Proof (Robert) to Shakespeare in the Park’s Romeo and Juliet (Lord Capulet). This year alone, he expanded his reach to play Sid in Compulsion or the House Behind at Jewish Repertory and a formidable Joe Keller in Irish Classical Theatre’s All My Sons—powerhouse roles both. With flair and commitment, Palmisano inhabited them both, but it was Joe Keller who earns him this title.
Best actress (Musical)
Desiree, A Little Night Music, Irish Classical Theatre Company
In a show that teeters on the edge of melodramatic farce (albeit one fueled by Sondheim), Jenn Stafford’s Desiree Armfeldt delivered the genuine emotion that kept it from careening over. As a fading actress yearning for romantic what-might-have-been, Stafford’s unspoken regrets were heartbreaking, and, for anyone who’s wearied of the endless renditions of "Send in the Clowns," Stafford’s sublime performance of this tired classic was enough to renew appreciation for what it was always meant to be.
Best actress (Play)
Kristen Tripp Kelley
Hester, City of Conversation, Kavinoky Theatre
Kavinoky has been good to Kristen Tripp Kelley, who—after repeated nominations—won her first Artie Award for playing Sarah in the company’s 2012 production of Time Stands Still. If possible, her turn as Washington hostess Hester represents an even more noteworthy achievement, that called upon Kelley to put forth an even greater range: unabashed frivolity, biting sarcasm, unrepentant morality bordering on martyrdom, tender inclinations, painful resignation. She hit every note.
Best character performance
Miss Texas, Pageant, MusicalFare Theatre
With the fifth revival of the 1991 Pageant at MusicalFare, some of the humor is dated, but you know what could never get old? Michael Walline’s in-the-moment, disagreeable Miss Texas. In a rare stage performance, Walline made everyone wonder why we don’t see him in the spotlight more often; his steely Southern glare and trademark upside-down smile had the audience aroar from the moment Miss Texas was introduced. No matter what else was happening on stage, it was worth sneaking a look at the southern sourpuss to see in what jealous, competitive, hilarious way Walline was having her react. And his tap dance number? Comedic perfection. Even at performances where Miss Texas didn’t take home the tiara, Walline was still a winner.
Raconteur and provocateur Bruce Jackson is a SUNY Distinguished Professor, documentary filmmaker, author, and photographer. Jackson also writes occasional columns for Buffalo alternative weekly The Public; his topics include local political lunacy, national politics, death row inmates, the Attica Correctional Facility riots of 1971, education, race relations, terrorism and more. His style is precise, intense, and—rare for academics—crystal clear.
Best reporter (Broadcast)
Focus on Education/senior reporter, WBFO
Buckley started out at WBFO as an intern in 1984. With her signature husky voice (she consciously worked to lower it as a cub reporter starting out in a male-dominated field) and ear for the news, she reported more than 1,500 stories in 2015. A multiple award-winner, she brings humanity and as much thoroughness as time will permit to her tales, whether she’s telling us about the arts, education, or a Rolling Stone sighting in North Buffalo.
Best reporter (Print)
Spina, an investigative reporter, last year took on a project of depressingly enormous proportion: sex abuse and misconduct by police officers. He doggedly compiled a database of over 700 cases nationwide. When his starkly written story was published the Sunday before Thanksgiving, it added to the national conversation; the Associated Press had just published its own deeply researched story on the topic just a couple of weeks earlier.
University at Buffalo Art Gallery
It may seem early to anoint this UB associate curator, who’s only been in her position since March 2015, but she came here with impressive experience under her belt as an independent curator who had worked all over the United States. And it didn’t take long for her to make her mark locally with two stunning exhibitions. Splitting Light started with a large installation at the Anderson Gallery by fabric artist Amanda Browder, who is now conducting a public art extravaganza, which will drape three prominent WNY buildings in fabric. Another of Adams’ projects, The Visitors, is getting a Spree Best Exhibition nod for 2016. Not bad for a year’s worth of curating.
Best arts administrator
The Dreamland Collective
387 Franklin St., Buffalo; dreamlandarts.org
In its relatively short existence, this tiny space on the edge of downtown has done everything from attention-grabbing exhibitions to queer film series to dance parties to Buffy-themed club nights. Programming and other affairs are handled by the team of Dana McKnight, Michael Berdine, Seth Girod, Pierce McCleary, and Amanda Roney, and with every bold move they make, they leave us wondering: What will they come up with next?
As Conte steps down from the position of president and CEO of Shea's Performing Arts Center that he’s held for fourteen years, he has many accomplishments to be proud of. We can point to at least three major milestones. Under Conte’s leadership, Shea’s completed a comprehensive exterior and interior restoration, from a new marquee to a sparkling renewal of the ornate decorations that cover the walls and ceilings of the lobby, stairwells, and auditorium. Conte has also eliminated $5.2 million debt he inherited; the theater is now earning a profit, thanks to savvy programming and marketing. Finally, Conte helped save Studio Arena from demolition and reinvent it as 710 Main, which hosts traveling shows and serves local theatres as an alternative venue for bigger productions.
Best power couple
Bill and Kathy Hochul
These two are equally interesting on two entirely separate fronts. Lieutenant governor and former congresswoman Kathy Hochul travels almost constantly but makes it back to Buffalo often to tout the improvements that she has helped New York State make possible and to speak on behalf of various state initiatives, always in her signature forthright style. On the other hand, US Attorney William Hochul Jr. seems to spend most of his time putting away bad guys, including (most recently) the ringleader of a gang that tormented a comic book collector who lost his collection and, eventually, his life. Despite their high profiles—rarely a week goes by that either or both aren't featured in local media—together the two are a down-to-earth, understated pair who treasure the limited time they have to relax and celebrate family events.
Best local music act
This sextet refers to itself as "hip-hop jazz." (The name comes from sounds made by character/rock monster Schnitzel from the cartoon show Chowder.) Radarada emerged on the local club scene in 2013 and grew in popularity thanks to tight sets and dance-inducing compositions that meld word-whipping hip-hop and smooth grooves. As bass player Colin Brydalski says, "We never promote, so it’s mystifying that we have a following." But followers they do have; their closing set at the second annual Elmwood Village 20 Block Bash last September is local music legend.
Best blogger (Independent)
Updated daily? Check. Provides useful information? Check. Engagingly written? Check, though enthusiasm is often favored over grammatical purity. We’re fine with that. Spree is also grateful to Buffaloblog as a resource that made the May 2016 music issue possible.
Best blogger (Professional)
Increasingly, there is only enough time to read the facts that you need. That’s what Andrew Galarneau gives Buffalo News readers in his regular "Restaurant Notes" posts. It may not even be considered a blog by the News, but, judging by the publication times (3 a.m., 8 p.m.) this column of updates and news is posted online when the news is hot. Therefore, this is probably the first place you learned that Bourbon and Butter was closing, that The Place was reopening, and that longtime food blog (and previous Spree awardee) Buffalo Eats was shutting down.
This Twitter account is really a public service, so it may seem superfluous to reward a public servant for doing his job, but we like the way Polancarz tweets. The County Executive doesn’t hand the job off to an underling and isn’t above engaging in some political chatter while he’s at it. It humanizes the office and gives us a better sense of the man.
Ehmke (1776 Facebook friends as of April 26) has a delightfully skewed intelligent worldview, a singular aesthetic, and a belief in sharing both. His posts—which range from photos with LOL lists of hashtags, Song of the Moment/Album of the Night selections, promotions for his or other’s upcoming performances, or a full-on rants, which can range well into 600 words—are sometimes sweet, sometimes snarky, and often, to quote from his recent Beyonce critique, "epic, just epic."
Most outspoken WNYer
This election year might have been created for Buffalo Pundit Alan Bedenko. You’d think that the Trump/Cruz/Clinton/Sanders craziness would be enough to keep him busy, and, to some degree, it is. Here’s Bedenko on Trump: "I listened to a small portion of the speech and found it to be quite possibly the most vapid, Kardashian-esque, stream-of-consciousness nonsense I’ve heard since the last time I watched a Survivor tribal council or Big Brother head of household nomination ceremony." But Bedenko also has plenty of punditry to spare for local comment board posters ("thanks, Buffalo’s AM talk radio enthusiasts for your predictably shameless overt racism, and thanks to the powers that be at WBEN and the Entercom corporation for allowing your social media accounts to become bulletin boards for nihilist, eliminationist racism"), WNY Democratic and Republican party apparatchicks, school district budget fights, and much more. Follow him on Twitter @buffalopundit or in his columns for The Public.
Best activist group
IP is technically a group of journalists, but its topics are carefully chosen, including, most recently, lead poisoning, local water pollution, and toxic landfills. Clearly, the writers for the Post are interested in drawing public attention to issues that could work against the public good and prompting activism around those issues. They’re more than just gadflies; they want to provoke positive change.
Best college sports game (2015–2016)
St. Bonaventure 98/St. Joseph’s 90
What were you watching on March 3, 2016? If you’re a self-respecting sports fan, the answer should be St. Bonaventure’s 98-90 victory over St. Joseph’s. The Buffalo News called the game an "instant classic," and indeed it was. Consider Marcus Posley’s forty-seven-point performance, certainly one of the finest individual efforts in Bonaventure history. Think back to how the Bonnies battled back after falling behind in the second half. And remember the clutch performances from the likes of Dion Wright and Denzel Gregg. In final analysis, there was no competition. St. Bonaventure’s epic win could not be topped. The fun did not last, as the Bonnies were cruelly and foolishly denied an NCAA Tournament bid. But the team and its fans deserve to hold their heads high. March 3 was one for the ages.
Best player (Sabres)
No, the 2015–16 Buffalo Sabres did not make the playoffs. But they weren’t completely removed from the conversation, which makes 2014–15 seem like a lifetime ago. Those were the pre-Jack Eichel days, and they were grim. Was it worth it? Just try finding a Sabres fan who would say, "No." In his rookie season, young Eichel electrified the team like very few rookies in Sabres’ history. And while the team’s rise in the standings was modest, his offensive output and ability to make hulking defensemen look foolish made him an instant star. Eichel also came across as humble, wise, and very, very Buffalo. Oh yeah, he’s still a teenager, too. Jack Eichel will be WNY sports royalty for years to come. Let’s enjoy it.
Best player (Bills)
How will we remember the 2015-16 Buffalo Bills player? It’s difficult to say. It was the year of Rex Ryan’s defensive failures, the rise of Tyrod Taylor, and a rock-solid group of running backs. But more than that, it was the year in which wide receiver Sammy Watkins fully lived up to the hype that led the Bills to trade a first round pick the following year for the chance to draft him. It wasn’t so much the statistics—although his stats were solid—that stand out, but the way Watkins was able to dominate the game. One game in particular ranks among the most unforgettable of recent seasons: week 17, against the New York Jets. With Gang Green’s season on the line, Watkins positively embarrassed Jet Darrelle Revis. It was a performance for the ages, and gave Bills fans something missing all year long: a game to be proud of. When it comes to last season’s Bills, Tyrod Taylor was fun, but Sammy Watkins was the best.
Best local scandal (2015)
(A Sculpture—in Celoron, NY—with a questionable resemblance to Lucille Ball)
All it took was one surprisingly small statue, one surprisingly large Facebook campaign, and a whole lot of international attention, and before anyone knew what hit them, the tiny Southern Tier town of Celoron had hit the big time as the birthplace of a comedy meme.
Best local politician
Democrat Brian Higgins has been serving as representative for the 26th Congressional District since 2005. A proud South Buffalonian, Higgins is known as one of the key players behind the move toward greater accessibility to Buffalo’s waterfront, including ultra-popular Canalside. He’s also advocated for the Niagara Falls Air Force Base and the current improvements to Niagara Falls State Park, which include the partial removel of the Robert Moses Parkway. Its common to see the approachable Higgins not only at Democratic Party events but at local festivals and fundraisers, especially for Olmsted and other natural gems.