Buffalo is movin' on up these days: downtown has luxury hotels and condos aplenty, the Elmwood Village has high-end specialty shops, even the West Side sports a vibrant multiethnic pastiche with exotic food markets, restaurants, and artists. But let the other parts of town compete to see who's trendiest. South Buffalo doesn't need to be "cool" or to put on airs. What it offers visitors is not the future but the past; a throwback to a hardworking, blue-collar, rough-around-the-edges Buffalo that's steadily disappearing.
Combine the formidable barrier that is the Buffalo River with the notorious clannishness of its residents and it's easy to see why South Buffalo seems like a city all to its own, immunized both from Buffalo's post-WWII downward spiral and its 21st-century gentrification. You won't find much here that's pretentious, just quiet streets lined with old houses and shade trees, greasy spoons turning out some of the cheapest but tastiest food in the area, old-school watering holes, and friendly, downhome neighborhood people who'll give you a warm welcome the whole time.
Sound boring? Far from it. South Buffalo lays a hard-to-challenge claim on the title of best-kept secret in the city, with plenty to interest visitors. You can try your luck at the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino, peruse the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens, learn about the area's industrial history at the Heritage Discovery Center or Waterfront Memories & More, or take a boat tour through Elevator Alley, the cavernous stretch of the Buffalo River lined with the grain elevators that earned Buffalo over 100 years of prosperity. And if you're the outdoor type, South Buffalo is the place for you: it's got a pair of Olmsted parks that are among the best-preserved in the city, nature preserves built on old industrial brownfields, golf courses, and — best of all — nearly four miles (6km) of Lake Erie shore lined with beaches, marinas, and still more parkland.
Fans of the Emerald Isle are in luck too: South Buffalo is the city's Irish enclave, with pubs lining the streets, traditional music and other cultural pursuits at the Buffalo Irish Center, and an official Irish Heritage District along Abbott Road with a handful of specialty boutiques selling imported wares. And if you're in town at the right time, South Buffalo's neighborhood St. Patrick's Day Parade is an unmissable spectacle, with the streets of the Old First Ward and The Valley turned green each year on the Saturday before March 17.
Broadly speaking, South Buffalo is bisected by the Buffalo River, which itself is the site of Elevator Alley, the world's largest extant collection of grain elevators that extend some two meandering miles (3km) inland from the harbor and were the nucleus of Buffalo's most important industry for nearly a century and a half. The neighborhoods north of the river are older than the ones to the south — in fact, the Old First Ward, which extends from downtown east as far as the old New York Central Railroad tracks just past Katherine Street, is the cradle of South Buffalo, out of which all the outer neighborhoods grew. Though it remains Irish in constitution, the Old First Ward today bears little resemblance to the crowded, crime-ridden and desperately poor slum that it was in the 1800s: today it's mostly a quiet working-class residential area in the shadow of the grain elevators. However, its innermost blocks, known as the Cobblestone District, have been given a new lease on life lately as a cluster of trendy bars and restaurants and even a casino. East of the Old First Ward, sandwiched between the New York Central and Buffalo Creek Railroad tracks (hence its name), is The Valley, a largely Polish neighborhood that's almost as old.
Outward from these areas lie Larkinville and Seneca-Babcock, a pair of neighborhoods on South Buffalo's northern boundary that are often considered to be part of the East Side. They're included here because of their history as industrial centers, their adjacency to Seneca Street (an important South Buffalo thoroughfare), and, in the case of Seneca-Babcock, its majority-Irish ethnic demographics. Seneca-Babcock is a somewhat nondescript neighborhood of working-class homes whose interest to visitors is largely due to the Niagara Frontier Food Terminal at its northern edge; for its part, Larkinville has emerged as a sort of satellite business district, with corporate offices, small businesses, bars, and restaurants occupying the former warehouses of the Larkin Soap Company, and its central focal point, Larkin Square, hosting frequent events.
South of the river, things are a little more spread-out. Lying just at the foot of the main bridge across the river, the first neighborhood you'll come to is The Triangle, a charming middle-class area of turn-of-the-century flats whose main thoroughfare is South Park Avenue. Northeast of there is Seneca Street, an imposing commercial district that dubs itself "downtown South Buffalo" even though it long ago lost the title of the neighborhood's main shopping street. Outward from there, neighborhood boundaries get murkier. Toward the city's southern borders, the thoroughfares of South Park Avenue and Abbott Road take on an almost suburban character, with strip malls and ample parking lots abundant; interspersed between them is a network of pleasant, leafy side streets lined with charming middle-class houses from the 1920s. Finally, in the southwest, separated from the rest of south-of-the-river South Buffalo by a wide swath of railroad tracks, is found the Outer Harbor, a vast expanse of lakeshore that boasts the pleasant greenery of Buffalo Harbor State Park, Tifft and Times Beach Nature Preserves, Wilkeson Pointe, and other parkland.
South Buffalo's history begins with the completion of the Erie Canal in 1825, at that time the most ambitious engineering project ever undertaken in the United States: a 363-mile (584 km) inland waterway from Albany to the sleepy frontier village of Buffalo. Though the bulk of what is now South Buffalo was then part of the Buffalo Creek Reservation, which had been set aside for the Seneca Indians at the time of the Holland Purchase in 1793, the lots immediately east of the harbor (today's Cobblestone District and Old First Ward) were not — and when the unskilled, destitute immigrant laborers from Ireland they hired to dig the canal were finished, they settled there.
The first years of the Erie Canal were a time of explosive growth for Buffalo, and the First Ward was no exception. This was among the city's lowest-lying land, and Buffalo's founding fathers had not even bothered to divide it into lots, assuming that no one would want to live on this swampy riverbank. But the digging of the canal was such a huge undertaking that there were hundreds if not thousands of Irishmen who needed housing, and the First Ward, dirt-cheap and close to the canal, was a natural place for them to make their homes. The poorest of the poor lived in the blocks south of the main drag of Elk Street (now South Park Avenue) in what was called "The Flats", which, in springtime and after heavy rains, would almost always be inundated by floodwaters from the Buffalo River. In the 1840s, during the Irish Potato Famine, another wave of immigrants crossed the Atlantic — and the First Ward became even more crowded.
In those days, when freighters filled with grain and flour arrived at port in Buffalo, the cargo had to be unloaded, divided, and sent east in canal boats by hand — a slow, inefficient process that required more workers than the First Ward had to offer. Buffalo's growth was stunted by the bottleneck of too many ships, too much grain, and too few workers. Enter Joseph Dart, a local merchant who, in 1842, invented a machine that unloaded grain by steam power, stored it in a huge silo, and loaded it later onto canal barges: the first grain elevator. In the space of less than ten years, the Buffalo River was lined with grain elevators, and the reinvigorated harbor had become so congested that many freighters could not find any place to berth. The city responded by constructing a network of feeder canals and basins, such as the City Ship Canal, the Main and Hamburg Canal, and the Ohio Basin, that crisscrossed the First Ward — and whose polluted, stagnant waters helped spread cholera and other communicable plagues among the residents. The First Ward earned the reputation as one of the nastiest slums in the country, plagued by crime and disease, where the desperately poor lived in shanties and tenements sandwiched among the shipyards and factories, working as canal boaters, grain scoopers, longshoremen, and miscellaneous unskilled laborers and shunned by their Anglo-Saxon Protestant social betters.
Meanwhile, north of the First Ward was the Hydraulic Canal, which flowed westward from the Buffalo River over a large cascade to the Main and Hamburg Canal, in an area that came to be called The Hydraulics. Reuben Heacock, a wealthy merchant who was one of Buffalo's founding fathers, built the canal in 1828 to furnish water power for the Hydraulic Business Association, a league of manufacturing concerns he founded. Though the canal eventually proved too small to bring to full fruition Heacock's vision of The Hydraulics as one of the foremost industrial centers in the United States, it was still a buzzing milling district — and together with the harbor, it cemented South Buffalo's enduring status as the city's industrial epicenter.
Even before the federal government dissolved the Buffalo Creek Reservation, the overcrowding of the Irish neighborhoods forced some residents to seek out new spaces to live near the harbor — in fact, living conditions in the shantytowns along the lake shore near present-day Times Beach and on Ganson Street between the grain elevators were somewhat better than in the First Ward proper. However, when the Compromise Treaty of 1842 sent the Seneca south to the Cattaraugus Reservation, huge new tracts of land opened to development. One of the first new neighborhoods was The Valley, just east of the First Ward on the other side of the railroad tracks. South Buffalo's lot began to improve soon after, with Bishop John Timon working tirelessly to establish Catholic schools, hospitals and charities for the Irish, who were often victims of the anti-Catholic discrimination that ran rampant in city-owned institutions. The leaders of the Irish community also proved to be expert political organizers, playing on popular suspicions of tacit anti-Catholicism in the Republican Party to turn the First Ward loyally Democratic, with droves of voters turning out each Election Day. Soon, Irishmen began to enter political office, appointing their neighbors to lucrative patronage jobs and creating a middle class among their community — they came to be known as "lace-curtain Irish", as opposed to the "shantytown Irish" of the grain mills. (It should be emphasized that political activity in the First Ward was not limited to the ballot box: the most successful of the five Fenian Raids, where battle-hardened Irish-American Civil War veterans sought to invade the British colony of Canada and hold it for ransom until Ireland was granted its independence, was launched from Buffalo in 1866; Buffalo's Fenians successfully ambushed a Canadian militia company at the Battle of Ridgeway and briefly took Fort Erie before British reinforcements drove them back across the border.)
The new Irish political class soon turned their efforts to finding a better place to live than the crowded, crime-ridden First Ward, and starting about 1875, the Germans who farmed the lands of the former Seneca reservation south of the river gradually gave way to nouveau riche Irish city dwellers. Real-estate speculators such as William Fitzpatrick (the so-called "Builder of South Buffalo") were happy to oblige them, laying out side streets off Seneca Street, Abbott Road, and other former farm lanes and filling them with houses as fast as he could build them. Frederick Law Olmsted got into the act, too — he was called back to Buffalo to design a southern extension of the park system that had grown so popular in the city's northern precincts, and when South Buffalo's parks and parkways were finally completed in 1894, they helped stimulate even more growth in the new neighborhoods.
In the midst of all this expansion, there were fundamental changes afoot at the harbor. Throughout the 19th Century, the state government continuously enlarged and deepened the Erie Canal and transformed it into a full-fledged transportation network, with feeder canals such as the Genesee Valley Canal, the Cayuga-Seneca Canal, and the Chenango Canal extending into all parts of the state. Nonetheless, the canals found it harder and harder to compete with the railroads, which could transport passengers and goods much more quickly: in the years after the New York Central Railroad reached Buffalo in 1841, passenger traffic on the canal dropped to a small fraction of its former numbers, and freight traffic declined steeply as well. As public outcry forced the city to fill in many of South Buffalo's small canals as public health hazards, the First Ward and Elevator Alley became crisscrossed by railroads instead: the lines extended right up to the elevators themselves, enabling grain to be unloaded directly onto boxcars. The railroads also engendered a local steel industry which would go on to become a major player in Buffalo's economy: iron ore arrived daily by freighter from Michigan and Minnesota and coal was shipped by railroad from Pennsylvania to be processed into steel at what was then the world's largest steel mill, set up by the Lackawanna Steel Company in 1899 on the lake shore just south of the city line. The railroad network extended into The Hydraulics as well, enabling it to continue on as an industrial center after the Hydraulic Canal, too, was decommissioned in 1883. The Hydraulics soon came to be dominated by the Larkin Company, which was founded in 1875 as a producer of soap sourced from the nearby stockyards and helmed by a group including namesake John Larkin and top executive Darwin Martin. By the turn of the century, Larkin expanded into a conglomerate that occupied about a half-dozen huge warehouse buildings clustered around the corner of Seneca and Swan Streets, where a wide gamut of products sold by mail order were manufactured.
The early 20th Century was South Buffalo's heyday, with the Irish coming to dominate the police and fire departments just as they did local politics. As its middle class continued to grow and leave the First Ward for the more spacious neighborhoods south of the river, the demographics of the older neighborhoods began to change. Italians from the Ellicott District, who were seen by the Irish as competition for unskilled positions at the port and on the railroads, began to trickle south of the railroad tracks and formed a sizable minority in the First Ward by the 1920s; at about the same time, The Valley became a majority-Polish neighborhood centered around St. Valentine Church on Elk Street. Thanks to its residents' relatively stable civil service jobs and the charitable tradition of the Catholic church, South Buffalo rode out the Great Depression better than most parts of the city, but further changes came to the First Ward in 1940 when about 300 houses on Perry Street (derided by city officials as "slums") were razed to make way for the Commodore Perry Projects, a government-subsidized housing development for low-income individuals. For the first time, there was a sizable African-American presence in the First Ward, igniting ethnic tensions that simmer to this day.
The legacy of Buffalo's first Irish Catholic mayor casts a long shadow in South Buffalo. Devoutly Catholic, rough around the edges, and loyal to his neighborhood above all else, James D. Griffin (1929-2008) was the living embodiment of every First Ward stereotype. And his plainspoken wit was as quick as his temper: he earned the nickname "Six-Pack Jimmy" when he advised locals on how to handle the Blizzard of '85: "stay inside, grab a six-pack, and watch a good football game."
Jimmy Griffin was in City Hall from 1977 to 1993, making him the longest-serving mayor in the city's history — and, in the words of the Buffalo News, "the most dominant political figure of modern Buffalo". Though he was a Democrat, Griffin was an old-schooler with little use for the liberal wing of his party, wearing his independence and iconoclast status on his sleeve. This made for a stormy tenure as mayor; he had a chilly relationship with the black community and the press and earned his share of political enemies. In true First Ward style, Griffin occasionally settled political disputes with his fists, with Councilman David Franczyk and former adviser Joseph Martin among those on the receiving end. But he kept the loyalty of the majority of city voters, especially South Buffalonians: scores of Griffin's friends and neighbors got cushy jobs on the city payroll, and the First Ward's streets were the first to be plowed after every snowstorm. Also, even when Buffalo's economy was at rock bottom, he was one of the few people who could talk developers into investing in downtown: Griffin cut the ribbon on the Metro Rail in 1985 and was also responsible for the Adam's Mark Hotel, Coca-Cola Field (which almost earned Buffalo a Major League Baseball team in 1988), and in the closing days of his administration, the First Niagara Center.
And at the end, his announcement that he wouldn't run for a fifth term was classic Griffin. Citing the old-age memory lapses that were beginning to hinder his work, he quipped "I was also forgetting to pull my zipper up. And now, I'm forgetting to pull my zipper down."
After World War II, though, the bottom fell out. Traffic at the harbor still had not reached pre-Depression levels by the time the St. Lawrence Seaway opened in 1959, rendering Buffalo permanently irrelevant as an inland port. While previously the presence of Niagara Falls meant that boat traffic on the Great Lakes couldn't go much further east than Buffalo, the enlargement of the Welland Canal in Canada made for direct access to the sea, so freighters could bypass Buffalo entirely. Within ten years, most of the grain elevators along the Buffalo River had shut down, the harbor was nearly empty, and the local economy was reeling. Furthermore, at about the same time, the railroad industry declined steeply thanks to the new Interstate Highway System, which moved passengers and freight much more quickly and cheaply. The steel industry wasn't spared either: a market flooded with cheap imported steel meant that the American-made version couldn't compete, so after shedding jobs for a few decades, the Lackawanna plant finally went belly-up in 1982.
But, even though these events were happening right in its backyard, South Buffalo rode out the downturn much better than most other areas of the city. The reason, once again, was the cushy civil-service jobs that a disproportionate number of its residents held (especially during the four mayoral terms of Jimmy Griffin, who took special care of his native First Ward and the rest of South Buffalo during the rock-bottom '80s and early '90s). As well, its residents' clannish nature and dogged loyalty to their neighborhood meant that South Buffalo did not lose nearly as many of its residents to the suburbs as other neighborhoods. And the urban renewal that wrought such havoc in places like the West Side and the Ellicott District barely touched South Buffalo, with the notable exceptions of Frank Lloyd Wright's Larkin Administration Building in The Hydraulics, which was demolished in 1950, and the construction of the Buffalo Skyway in 1953, the first controlled-access highway in Erie County, an elevated eyesore that serves as a giant wall between South Buffalo and the waterfront. Eventually, Buffalo bottomed out and slowly began pulling itself together, and today there are some parts of South Buffalo that are undergoing revitalization: the Cobblestone District is home to a handful of hip bars and a glitzy new casino, the Outer Harbor is now a state park, The Hydraulics has been reborn as a business district-cum-festival venue dubbed Larkinville, and the grain elevators are finally getting their due as engineering marvels of the Industrial Age. But, by and large, life here continues on the same as ever.
Thanks to Lake Erie, South Buffalo's climate is a little bit different than other parts of the city.
Much as in downtown, in the warmer months areas near the waterfront are noticeably cooler and windier than other parts of the city. This can be a double-edged sword: the fresh lake breezes are a godsend on a hot summer day, but if you're birdwatching at Times Beach or biking the Industrial Heritage Trail in the spring or autumn, you might want to wear a jacket and long pants.
These same winds over the lake also mean that, even more than other parts of the city, South Buffalo really gets pummeled in the winter with lake-effect snow. After the winds pass onto dry land, it takes some time for the snow to condense out of the moisture-rich air — so, curiously enough, it's not unusual for Cazenovia Park to get walloped while the Outer Harbor only sees a dusting.
Run on a volunteer basis by neighborhood residents, South Buffalo Home is a website that's a treasure trove for visitors who seek to "discover Buffalo's best-kept secret". There's plenty of slightly outdated but copiously detailed information on local attractions, activities and events; listings of restaurants, bars, and places of worship; and a lengthy section on the history of South Buffalo.
- Against the Grain: The History of Buffalo's First Ward by Timothy Bohen (ISBN 9780615620527). An engaging chronicle of the Old First Ward from its initial settlement in the 1820s and '30s to the present day, as well as the larger-than-life characters who have called it home over the years — including champion prizefighter Jimmy Slattery, newspaper magnate and political bigwig William "Fingy" Conners, World War I hero and intelligence agent William "Wild Bill" Donovan, and, of course, Buffalo mayor Jimmy Griffin.
- The World According to Griffin: The End of an Era by Brian Meyer (ISBN 1879201119). Sixteen years' worth of colorful, no-holds-barred sound bites from the eminently quotable Jimmy Griffin, four-term mayor of Buffalo and proud native son of the First Ward, as collected by the Buffalo News freelancer who worked the City Hall beat during his tenure.
Despite the bilingual street signs installed in 2008 on Abbott Road between Southside and Red Jacket Parkways — Buffalo's officially recognized "Irish Heritage District" — few if any South Buffalonians speak Gaelic, or anything other than English.
Get in and around
South Buffalo is surrounded on three sides by highways. Though the New York State Thruway (I-90) runs just beyond and roughly parallel to the city line, it doesn't provide direct access to South Buffalo. However, the district is well-served by the other two.
Interstate 190 skirts the border between South Buffalo and the East Side on an east-west trajectory from the Thruway toward downtown, then turning north and passing through the West Side on its way toward Niagara Falls and the Canadian border. I-190 serves South Buffalo via the following exits:
- Exit 1 (South Ogden Street). Following Ogden Street southbound through Kaisertown and turning right on Mineral Springs Road will lead you to Cazenovia Park and the heart of the Seneca Street business district.
- Exit 2 (Clinton Street/Bailey Avenue) and Exit 3 (Seneca Street) are the main points of highway access to South Buffalo. Get off at Exit 2 and follow Bailey Avenue north to Seneca-Babcock or south to Heacock Park in The Triangle. Southbound travellers can also turn off at Seneca Street into Larkinville, continue along Abbott Road toward Cazenovia Park, or follow the US 62 Southbound signs down South Park Avenue to access the Botanical Gardens and South Park. Exit 3, accessible from the southbound lanes only, lets you off on Elk Street a block before Bailey Avenue, where you can follow the same directions to the same destinations as Exit 2.
- Exit 4 (Smith Street) leads northward to Larkinville or southward to The Valley.
- Exit 5 (Hamburg Street via northbound lanes; Louisiana Street via southbound lanes) provides access to the Old First Ward.
- Exit 7 (NY 5 westbound), accessible via the southbound lanes only, is the northern terminus of the Skyway, described below. To get to the Skyway via the northbound lanes, get off at Church Street downtown and follow the signs for the Outer Harbor.
The Buffalo Skyway (NY 5) begins downtown at I-190 and extends southward parallel to the lake shore, providing access to the Outer Harbor and various other parts of South Buffalo:
- Take the Outer Harbor Drive exit and head north on Fuhrmann Boulevard to get to Wilkeson Pointe and the Times Beach Nature Preserve.
- The Ohio Street exit lets you off just north of Gallagher Beach. As well, you can take Ohio Street northbound to get to Elevator Alley and the Old First Ward.
- The Tifft Street exit also provides access to Gallagher Beach. Otherwise, you can take Tifft Street east to Tifft Nature Preserve, Ship Canal Commons, and, further afield, The Triangle and the Olmsted parkways.
- The Skyway ends at the Ridge Road exit, which technically is beyond the city line in Lackawanna. Nonetheless, following Ridge Road east will take you to Ship Canal Commons (via Commerce Drive), South Park, and the Botanical Gardens.
If you're visiting in the winter, keep in mind that the Skyway is often closed when there is inclement weather.
South Park Avenue is the main surface route between downtown and South Buffalo, running from the foot of Main Street somewhat south of due east through the Cobblestone District, the Old First Ward, and The Valley, then turning sharply southward at a complicated intersection with Bailey Avenue and Abbott Road where it picks up the designation of US 62. Thenceforward, it runs along the eastern edge of The Triangle, past South Park, and on beyond the city line. This somewhat confusing trajectory results from the fact that the portion of its route north of Southside Parkway was cobbled together in the 1930s from what was once Triangle Street and parts of Abbott Road and Elk Street. A GPS system or map will come in handy when navigating South Park, as there are a lot of opportunities for wrong turns. At the aforementioned confusing intersection, South Park meets Bailey Avenue (US 62), which runs north through Seneca-Babcock and into the East Side, and Abbott Road, which continues southeastward past Cazenovia Park and into the residential heart of South Buffalo.
Seneca Street (NY 16) straddles the murky, poorly-defined northern border of South Buffalo, running roughly southeastward from downtown through the Ellicott District, Larkinville, and Seneca-Babcock, through the South Buffalo business district, past Cazenovia Park, and into suburbia. Further north still, Clinton Street (NY 354) clips the northern boundary of Seneca-Babcock.
Like many other districts of the city, Frederick Law Olmsted's parkway system extends into South Buffalo. The backbone of South Buffalo's parkway system is McKinley Parkway, which begins at the Olmsted-designed Heacock Park and runs southeastward to McClellan Circle, where it intersects with the short Red Jacket Parkway heading toward Cazenovia Park. It then proceeds due south to Dorrance Avenue, where McKinley Circle sits directly on the city line. McKinley then proceeds for a short distance southwestward through Lackawanna, ending in front of the Botanical Gardens at South Park. Those who've seen Olmsted's work in other parts of the city will notice that South Buffalo's parkways are somewhat less impressive than the more northerly ones: though lined with shade trees, they are much narrower and lack a center median, bearing more resemblance to Richmond Avenue than Lincoln or Chapin Parkways. Olmsted had originally planned to link the northern and southern sections of his park system via Fillmore Avenue, Smith Street, and South Park Avenue, which were to be redesigned as a grand parkway that would have connected with McKinley Parkway at Heacock Park. However, with the exception of a few blocks of Fillmore south of Humboldt Park on the East Side where rows of stately elms were put in, his plans never came to fruition. The long-term plans of the Buffalo Olmsted Park Conservancy include improvements to those streets to better integrate the two halves of the system, but in the meantime, the Conservancy has also been hard at work elsewhere on South Buffalo's parkways: they were responsible for the construction of McKinley Circle in 2002 — a never-built feature of Olmsted's original plan — as well as installing charming period street lamps and thoroughly landscaping the parkways and circles with delightful flowers and new trees.
Though it didn't appear in his original plans, Olmsted's influence is also evident in the Outer Harbor Parkway, a three-and-a-half mile (5.6km) stretch of Fuhrmann Boulevard that runs along the Outer Harbor between Times Beach and the Union Ship Canal, which was redesigned in 2010. The Outer Harbor Parkway's design pays tribute to the grand avenues Olmsted built elsewhere in the city with all the classic features of his work: elegant roundabouts, charming antique lampposts, and a wide central median lush with trees and greenery.
Other major streets in South Buffalo include Ohio Street, which runs from South Park Avenue southward through the Old First Ward and across Elevator Alley, ending at Fuhrmann Boulevard; Tifft Street, an east-west route that links the Outer Harbor with South Buffalo proper; and Hopkins Street, which runs west of and parallel to South Park Avenue between The Triangle and South Park.
Parking in the Cobblestone District can be especially tight during Sabres games and other events at the First Niagara Center. The surface lots between Mississippi and Columbia Streets charge $2 per day, and at the First Niagara Center parking ramp on Illinois Street it's $2 per hour up to a maximum of $5 per day; naturally, both of these numbers increase sharply when there's an event at the arena. As for on-street parking, it's prohibited on Perry Street and South Park Avenues, but permitted on the side streets with some restrictions: parking meters are in effect on the southern half of Illinois Street on weekdays from 8AM to 5PM, charging $1 per hour to a maximum of 2 hours, and parking is prohibited on Columbia Street after 5PM. Larkinville is another place where parking can be a pain — there are plenty of surface lots, but most of them are restricted to workers in the various office buildings except during special events. For visitors, the best bet for parking is the Larkin @ Exchange visitors' lot on the corner of Exchange and Van Rensselaer Streets — parking is free and nominally limited to two hours, though it's not too well-enforced. There's also metered parking on Exchange Street between Van Rensselaer and Smith Streets, in effect on weekdays from 7AM to 5PM at a flat rate of $2 per day. Parking is free and unrestricted on Seneca Street, Swan Street, and the side streets, and is generally easier to find the further you get from Larkin Square.
Elsewhere in South Buffalo, parking on Abbott Road is free of charge and only subject to time limits in the vicinity of Mercy Hospital, with parking between Columbus and Alsace Avenues limited to two hours at a time between 7AM and 7PM, Monday through Saturday. Beware, though, because empty spaces on Abbott and its side streets can be hard to find, especially between Heacock and Cazenovia Parks. Two-hour parking is also in effect for the same days and times on Seneca Street between Pomona and Hayden Streets and between Zittel Street and the city line; on South Park Avenue between Abbott Road and the city line, the hours are 7AM to 7PM, Monday through Friday. However, on-street parking on Seneca and South Park is usually much easier to find than on Abbott. In the Old First Ward, The Valley, and Seneca-Babcock, on-street parking is free, unrestricted, and virtually always easily available.
By public transportation
Public transit in Buffalo and the surrounding area is provided by the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA). The NFTA Metro system encompasses a single-line light-rail rapid transit (LRRT) system and an extensive network of buses. The fare for a single trip on a bus or train is $2.00 regardless of length. No transfers are provided between buses or trains; travelers who will need to make multiple trips per day on public transit should consider purchasing an all-day pass for $5.00.
South Buffalo is traversed by a number of NFTA Metro bus routes:
To and from downtown
NFTA Metro Bus #2 — Clinton. Beginning at the Bank of America Operations Center in West Seneca, Bus #2 proceeds down Clinton Street through the far northern part of Seneca-Babcock, with service to the Niagara Frontier Food Terminal. It ends on the Lower West Side.
NFTA Metro Bus #14 — Abbott. Beginning at Erie Community College South Campus in Hamburg, Bus #14 proceeds through South Buffalo via Abbott Road and South Park Avenue, passing by Cazenovia Park, along the northern edge of The Triangle, and through The Valley and the Old First Ward. Turning north at Michigan Avenue, Bus #14 serves the Cobblestone District via Perry Street before ending downtown.
NFTA Metro Bus #15 — Seneca. Beginning at the Southgate Plaza in West Seneca, Bus #15 proceeds along Seneca Street past Cazenovia Park and through Seneca-Babcock and Larkinville. Bearing right onto Swan Street at the fork, it then enters the East Side and ends downtown.
NFTA Metro Bus #16 — South Park. Beginning at the McKinley Mall in Hamburg, Bus #16 proceeds through South Buffalo via South Park Avenue, passing by South Park and the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens Park, and proceeding through The Triangle, The Valley and the Old First Ward. Turning north at Michigan Avenue, Bus #16 serves the Cobblestone District via Perry Street before ending downtown.
NFTA Metro Bus #36 — Hamburg. Beginning in the Village of Hamburg, Bus #36 enters South Buffalo via the Skyway, exiting onto Fuhrmann Boulevard at Tifft Street with service to Ship Canal Commons (via Ridge Road in Lackawanna), the Tifft Nature Preserve, Gallagher Beach, and Buffalo Harbor State Park. Turning north on Ohio Street, the route then passes through the Old First Ward and the Cobblestone District via Louisiana and Perry Streets, ending downtown.
NFTA Metro Bus #18 — Jefferson. Beginning at the Delavan-Canisius College Metro Rail Station, Bus #18 passes through the East Side via Jefferson Avenue, then continues down Hamburg Street just beyond the western edge of Larkinville. Entering South Buffalo, Bus #18 loops around the Old First Ward via Louisiana, Perry, and Hamburg Streets and South Park Avenue, ending at the corner of South Park and Louisiana.
NFTA Metro Bus #19 — Bailey. Beginning at the University Metro Rail Station, Bus #19 enters South Buffalo via Bailey Avenue, serving Seneca-Babcock and ending at the corner of Abbott Road near the northern tip of The Triangle.
NFTA Metro Bus #23 — Fillmore-Hertel. Beginning in Black Rock, Bus #23 proceeds through North Buffalo and the East Side and enters South Buffalo near where Fillmore Avenue and Smith Street merge. Serving Larkinville and The Valley via Smith Street and South Park Avenue, Bus #23 ends its route at the corner of Bailey Avenue and Abbott Road near the northern tip of The Triangle.
By Metro Rail
The Metro Rail lies north of South Buffalo, on a 6.4-mile (10.3 km) stretch of Main Street running south and west from the South Campus of the University at Buffalo. However, the southernmost station, Erie Canal Harbor Station, is located at the corner of Main and Scott Streets, adjacent to Canalside and a stone's throw away from the Cobblestone District. As well, connections to Buses 14, 16 and 36 are also available a block down Scott Street, at Washington Street.
In early 2013, plans were hatched to extend the Metro Rail an additional 0.6 miles (1 km) past its current southern terminus. Trains would turn eastward around the back of the First Niagara Center, pass through the upper level of the former DL&W Train Shed that currently serves as the NFTA's terminal depot, and continue along South Park Avenue through the Cobblestone District, ending at a parking ramp to be built at the corner of Michigan Avenue (and across the street from the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino) that would serve commuters to the intentionally parking-poor Medical Corridor. At last check, the project had moved beyond the conceptual stage into the realm of feasibility studies and public workshops — but given the constant service delays and sharp reduction in ridership during the reconstruction of Main Street downtown, not to mention the scores of Metro Rail expansion plans over the decades that never went anywhere, the smart money says "don't hold your breath".
Buffalo has been making great strides in recent years in accommodating bicycling as a mode of transportation, with recognition from the League of American Bicyclists as a Bronze-Level "Bicycle-Friendly Community" to show for its efforts. The development of bike paths and lanes in South Buffalo lags somewhat behind more cycle-friendly parts of the city like Allentown and the Elmwood Village, but as in the rest of the city, it's steadily improving: notably, the conversion of Ohio Street into a vital link in Buffalo's bicycle transportation network — with two off-street bike lanes flanking an attractive tree-lined swath through the Old First Ward — was completed in July 2015.
The showpiece of South Buffalo's bicycle infrastructure is the Industrial Heritage Trail. Completed in 2010, this waterfront path extends 3.5 miles (5.7km) along the shore of Lake Erie, paralleling the Outer Harbor Parkway from the Coast Guard station at the mouth of the Buffalo River to Ship Canal Commons and passing by or through waterfront attractions such as Times Beach, Buffalo Harbor State Park, and Tifft Nature Preserve. Via a similar path alongside Ohio Street, the Industrial Heritage Trail is linked to the Riverwalk, which extends further north along the waterfront all the way to Tonawanda, to form a grand waterfront path dubbed the Shoreline Trail. (From Memorial Day through Columbus Day, you can also get to the Outer Harbor from Canalside via the Queen City Bike Ferry; the fare is $1.)
Aside from the Industrial Heritage Trail, South Buffalo's original Olmsted parkways are also great places to enjoy a bike ride. McKinley Parkway has a bike lane on each side of the street from Southside Parkway at Heacock Park through to McKinley Circle and onward into Lackawanna, where it comes to an end at South Park in front of the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens. Red Jacket Parkway links Cazenovia Park to McKinley Parkway at McClellan Circle, again with bike lanes on each side of the street.
A growing number of other South Buffalo streets have also been fitted with bike lanes and other accommodations. The Cazenovia Park area has a particularly dense concentration — with "sharrows" (pavement markings on roads too narrow to accommodate dedicated bike lanes, indicating that drivers should be aware of bicyclists) on Seneca Street between Southside Parkway and the city line, as well as a dedicated bike lane on each side of North Legion Parkway for its entire length — as does the Cobblestone District, where there's a bike lane on each side of Michigan Avenue between Scott and Ohio Streets, as well as one in each direction along South Park Avenue between the First Niagara Center and Marvin Street (the bike lanes also continue up Marvin, behind the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino, to Perry Street). Further down South Park Avenue, bike lanes appear again between Hamburg and Dorrance Streets. Elsewhere, the Tifft Street Greenway serves as a brief spur of the Industrial Heritage Trail along Tifft Street east to Ship Canal Parkway, with dedicated on-street bike lanes east of there as far as Hopkins Street, and a similar spur runs off the Ohio Street trail to Mutual Park via St. Clair Street and South Street. Finally, in Larkinville there's a bike lane on each side of Seneca Street between Emslie and Smith Streets, with plans in place to eventually bridge the gap between Smith Street and Southside Parkway with dedicated lines, sharrows, or some combination thereof.
Bike sharing and rental
In the Cobblestone District, the area between Illinois and Columbia Streets serves as a hub for Buffalo BikeShare. Members can sign in to the Social Bicycles mobile app to find available bikes there.
If you're planning to visit the Outer Harbor on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, the Shanty Shack (see below) rents bicycles for $10/hour from their location at the Small Boat Harbor adjacent to the Shoreline Trail.
While walking is not a feasible way to travel between the neighborhoods of South Buffalo, there are many areas within this sprawling district that are great for pedestrians. Abbott Road, especially north of Cazenovia Park, is a nice place for a stroll and some window-shopping. Similarly, if you want to go bar-hopping on Seneca Street, it's perfectly possible to leave your car at the hotel.
Buffalo's glorious past as an industrial giant is on full display in South Buffalo's range of historic museums and attractions.
- Edward M. Cotter, moored at north end of Michigan Avenue Lift Bridge (Metro Bus 14, 16 or 36). Sometimes open for tours during festival appearances. The 118-foot (36m) Edward M. Cotter is the oldest fireboat in the world still on active duty, and is inscribed on the National Register of Historic Places and as a National Historic Landmark. Launched in 1900, the boat was originally named the William Grattan after Buffalo's fire commissioner at the time. After it suffered a devastating explosion in 1928 (flying sparks from a burning oil barge entered its fuel tank), it was rebuilt from the burned-out shell of its hull at a cost of nearly $100,000. With a maximum speed of about 15 miles per hour (24 km/h), the Cotter is currently the slowest piece of firefighting machinery the Buffalo Fire Department owns, but it's indispensable for its ability to reach places on the waterfront inaccessible to ordinary fire trucks, and it has ten times the water-pumping capacity of the average fire truck. Over the years, the Cotter has seen action such as going across the lake to Port Colborne in 1960 to help fight a fire at a grain elevator complex; helping keep afloat the Buffalo Naval and Military Park's USS Little Rock after it began taking on water in 1978, and towing the Polish ship Zawisza Czarny off of a sandbar when it came to Buffalo Harbor for a visit in 1983. During the quiet winter months, the Cotter serves double duty as an icebreaker on the Buffalo River; during the summer, it can frequently be seen at local waterfront festivals and boat shows, where tours are also offered.
- Heritage Discovery Center, 100 Lee St. (Metro Bus 14 or 16). Tu, Th & Sa 10AM-5PM. Opened in 2012 on a 35-acre (14 ha) site that was formerly home to a chemical dye plant, the Heritage Discovery Center contains space for community organizations and events as well as a pair of small museums that celebrate various aspects of Buffalo's industrial history. As money from government organizations and private donors continues to flow toward the restoration of the old Buffalo Color buildings, more developments are on the way.
- Steel Plant Museum, ☎ +1 716 821-9361. Between 1903 and 1982, Lackawanna, the industrial city immediately south of Buffalo, was home to the largest steel plant in the world, which covered 1,600 acres (640 ha) and employed 20,000 workers at its height. Established in 1984, the Steel Plant Museum tells the story of the Lackawanna Steel Plant and its workforce, as well as other area steel companies such as Republic Steel and Hanna Furnace, by displaying memorabilia such as union records, safety gear, signs, tools, steel specimens, and technical literature. Donation.
- Western New York Railway Historical Society, ☎ +1 716 821-9360. The marquee attraction at the Heritage Discovery Center is the Western New York Railway Historical Society, which has been working since 1980 to preserve the Buffalo area's disappearing railway heritage, but has lacked a space to display its collection until quite recently. At this expansive site are housed over 50 steam engines and railroad cars including a 1924 Baldwin locomotive that's been carefully restored to full working order, as well as hundreds of other historic artifacts and exhibits. Railroad history researchers will be in heaven in the library, where a vast array of books and maps are available for their perusal. Donation.
- Seneca Indian Park, 129 Buffum St. (Metro Bus 15). Seneca Indian Park is a tiny, out-of-the-way patch of lawn in a quiet residential neighborhood near the city line, but the historical importance of the site is huge. During the early 19th Century, the land was part of the cemetery next to the Seneca Indian Mission Church, which was located a few steps away on what's now called Indian Church Road. Originally buried here were such Seneca luminaries as Chief Red Jacket and Mary Jemison, the "White Woman of the Genesee"; their remains were moved to Forest Lawn Cemetery and the grounds of the Glen Iris Estate at Letchworth State Park, respectively. It's said that the Buffalo Creek Reservation's longhouse was located on the site too; while that's not certain, it was definitely somewhere nearby. Commemorating the site's historical importance are a trio of large boulders, on which are placed historical plaques explaining local Seneca history.
- Waterfront Memories & More, 41 Hamburg St. (Metro Bus 36), ☎ +1 716 840-9580. Tu & Sa 10AM-2PM. Founded in 2008 and moved to the newly completed Mutual Park four years later — an opportune setting, in the shadow of the towering grain silos in the heart of Elevator Alley — Waterfront Memories & More is a neighborhood heritage museum dedicated to the history of Buffalo's waterfront, with exhibits culled from the combined personal collections of museum co-owners Bert Hyde and Peggy Szczygiel, a pair of neighborhood boosters who've been active in the First Ward Community Association for over thirty years. Displayed at Waterfront Memories & More are historic photographs, documents, newspaper clippings, school and church records, family histories, and other memorabilia that tell the story of Buffalo's riverfront, harbor, and industrial district from pre-Columbian times, to the construction of the Erie Canal, to Buffalo's advent and zenith as one of America's premier inland ports. As well, the museum hosts special events on a regular basis. Free.
- Flying Bison Brewing Company, 840 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15 or 23), ☎ +1 716 873-1557. Tours Th-F 6PM, Sa 1PM and 4PM. Flying Bison offers three tours a week of its brewery in Larkinville, where guides explain the company's history and mission, walk visitors through the beermaking process step-by-step, and furnish a glimpse of brewers in action. The atmosphere is laid-back and friendly as can be, and frankly it's almost unfair to say these tours are free — they're so liberal with the free samples it's almost like you are being paid to take the tour. (According to one reviewer, the staff, who are notorious for shooting the breeze with visitors over drinks before and after tours, "basically get you drunk on the house".) Free.
- Hi Temp FAB, 79 Perry St. (Metro Bus 6, 8, 14, 16, 24, or 36; Metro Rail: Erie Canal Harbor). The five-story brick warehouse building at 79 Perry Street is a most unusual place: the bottom stories are the home of Hi-Temp Fabrications, a manufacturer of industrial insulation and specialized laboratory countertops and work surfaces that's been in business in the Cobblestone District since long before it became the hip nightlife district it is today, while the upper level hosts artists' studios and one of Buffalo's most unusual gallery spaces. Hi-Temp FAB displays several temporary exhibitions each year of work in various media by mostly local artists (large-group exhibitions are a particular specialty) in a cavernous fourth-floor space that screams "industrial chic". Hours and admission price vary by exhibition.
- (716) GAL-LERY, 716 Swan St. (Metro Bus 15, 18 or 23). Tu-Th 4:30PM-10PM, F-Sa 4:30PM-11PM. Located at the Hydraulic Hearth restaurant on Swan Street (q.v.), (716) GAL-LERY bills itself as Buffalo's smallest art gallery. It's a repurposed 1950s-era phone booth where works from a local artist are displayed. Pick up the phone and it plays a recording that tells you a bit about the artist and his or her work. The featured artist changes on a bimonthly basis. There's also a "gift shop" that consists of a 50-cent vending machine that dispenses stickers and temporary tattoos designed by local artists.
Despite its former industrial character, today's South Buffalo is all about the outdoors, with a huge, breathtaking expanse of shoreline at its front door and many former industrial facilities that have been repurposed as green spaces.
In 1887, twenty years after the first phase of his work in Buffalo was complete, landscape architect extraordinaire Frederick Law Olmsted was called back to design an extension of his extremely popular park system to serve residents of the southern part of the city. His original design for the new sector would have been centered on a large park stretching inland from Lake Erie (around the current site of the present-day Ship Canal Commons), rivaling Delaware Park in size and boasting a beach, athletic fields, and a Venice-like maze of man-made canals for pleasure boaters extending all the way to downtown. After city leaders balked at the cost of such a park, he returned in 1894 with a second proposal that's the basis for what exists today: two inland parks, South Park and Cazenovia Park, linked to each other by a network of parkways that merge at the small Heacock Park to the north. Today, compared to the damage inflicted over the years by careless planners on the original parks and parkways, South Buffalo's Olmsted elements remain remarkably true to their original design. The links at Cazenovia Park draw golfers from all over Western New York — and, of course, locals by the thousands flock to the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens, the verdant centerpiece of South Park.
- Cazenovia Park, North side of Potters and Abbott Rds. between Cazenovia St. and the city line (Metro Bus 14 or 15). Straddling Cazenovia Creek in the southeast corner of the city, Cazenovia Park is most famous as the site of an eponymous 9-hole golf course that's arguably the finest in the city. More than that, though, this is a place of wooded walking paths, serene creekside views, and friendly games of pickup baseball on well-manicured diamonds. There's also a swimming pool and an ice rink. When the park was first built, the creek was dammed to create the large Cazenovia Park Lake, on the shore of which stood a pleasant, airy lodge (still in existence today as the Peter J. Crotty Casino) with charming views over the water from the veranda. Athletic fields, a carriage concourse, a bandstand, and gardens almost as extensive as South Park's rounded out the original offerings. In 1925, Cazenovia Park's size was almost doubled by the addition of a golf course to its east end; though not designed by Olmsted, the seclusion of the new portion from the rest of the park means that the divide between Cazenovia's two halves seems nearly seamless. Aside from the lake, which was drained in 1965 due to persistent problems with flooding and pollution (revealing the previously submerged Cazenovia Park Falls; see below), the park remains mostly true to its original design and is in better shape than many of the other Olmsted parks in the city.
- Cazenovia Park Falls (Located along Cazenovia Creek 500 feet [140m] upstream from Cazenovia Street, access via footpath; Metro Bus 14 or 15). Ask locals about Cazenovia Park Falls and you'll likely get little more than quizzical looks: even more so than Buffalo's other natural waterfall, Forest Lawn Cemetery's Serenity Falls, this is truly a hidden gem. Strange, because it's easily the more impressive of the two — by comparison with its counterpart which is little more than a series of rapids, the horseshoe-shaped Cazenovia Park Falls is a six-foot (1.8m) vertical plunge along Cazenovia Creek over a ridge of dark, oil-rich shale. The scene at the falls is a very changeable one — after heavy rains the falls might be temporarily submerged again, and during the dry summer months the flow often slows to a trickle, but come at the right time and you'll bear witness to a lively affair of trout or bass jumping up the cascade as anglers try their luck.
- South Park, West side of South Park Ave. between Nason Pkwy. and former B&O Railroad tracks (Metro Bus 16, 36 or 42). In Olmsted's 1894 plan, South Park was intended to be an expansive meadow reminiscent of an "English deer park", circumnavigated by a ring road and peppered by a pair of small ponds that would complement but not overwhelm the peaceful, pastoral views. However, meddling from city officials resulted in that plan being tweaked, and what was built instead rather resembles Delaware Park in miniature: a large lake in the middle, a small Meadow that's presently the site of the 9-hole South Park Golf Course, and an ornamental garden, greenhouse and arboretum that eventually grew into the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens, the park's marquee attraction (see below). Like Cazenovia, time has been much kinder to South Park than to most other Olmsted parks around the city, remaining true to its original design save for the intrusion of the golf course in 1915 and the construction of a turnaround loop for public buses in the 1940s. Among the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy's plans is the revitalization of South Park Lake, which has unfortunately served almost as an afterthought to the park's other features; when work is done, word is it may once again be deep enough for boating.
- Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens, 2655 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 16, 36 or 42), ☎ +1 716 827-1584. Daily 10AM-5PM. Located at South Park, the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens were founded in 1898 and today consist of several collections of plants — the Panama Cloud Forest & Epiphyte Pavilion, the Palm Dome, the Florida Everglades pavilion, the Victorian Ivy & Herb House, the Orchid House, and the Rose Garden are only a few — arranged carefully in Victorian style. All in all, 1,500 varieties of plants are displayed here to more than 100,000 visitors annually. The lovely Victorian conservatory building of the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens was designed by Frederick A. Lord and William A. Burnham, who went on to design the conservatory at the National Botanical Gardens in Washington, D.C. some years later. $7, seniors and students $6, 12 and under $4, members and children under 3 free.
- Buffalo Harbor State Park, Along Fuhrmann Blvd. between Ohio and Tifft Sts. (Metro Bus 36), ☎ +1 716 878-0027. In May 2014, the Outer Harbor became the 180th State Park in New York, and the first one to be located within Buffalo's city limits. These 190 acres (77 ha) of waterfront land incorporate the already-existing Gallagher Beach and Small Boat Harbor (see below) as well as the new Tifft Street Pier. For now, visitors to the park can enjoy all of the foregoing plus a walking trail, a free carousel and a slate of special events, but when construction wraps up in 2016, there will also be picnic facilities, improved fishing access, and a redesigned breakwall off the Small Boat Harbor with pedestrian access, reminiscent of the West Side's Bird Island Pier. Free.
- Gallagher Beach, 1515 Fuhrmann Blvd. (Metro Bus 36), ☎ +1 716 852-2356. For many decades an "unofficial" swimming hole and summer recreation area for South Buffalo residents (including inimitable former mayor Jimmy Griffin), Gallagher Beach is one of Buffalo Harbor State Park's marquee attractions. Buffalonians flock to Gallagher Beach in the summer months to walk and bike along the new boardwalk and to enjoy sunbathing, fishing, kayaking, and windsurfing. (Swimming is nominally prohibited, but enforcement is lax, and if you visit you'll likely see folks in the water. However, it's probably not a good idea to follow suit.) Gallagher Beach is easily accessed via the Industrial Heritage Trail and is also adjacent to Tifft Nature Preserve. Free.
- Tifft Street Pier, 1699 Fuhrmann Blvd. (Metro Bus 36). Inaugurated in 2014, the Tifft Street Pier begins as a pleasant bow-shaped boardwalk, beautifully landscaped with greenery and space for public art installations, that leads joggers and walkers along the Industrial Heritage Trail directly onto the shore. But the main attraction is a floating pontoon that extends 130 feet (40 m) into the water, ending in a sleekly-designed, covered observation deck with unbeatable views over Lake Erie — a perfect spot for fishing, birdwatching or just relaxing on the waterfront. There's docking space for boats at the end, too.
- Red Jacket Riverfront Park, foot of Smith St. (Metro Bus 14, 16 or 23). The crown jewel of the Buffalo River Greenway, a partially completed chain of parks and green spaces along the shores of the Buffalo River, Red Jacket Riverfront Park was established in 1997 on four acres (1.6 ha) of reclaimed industrial land in The Valley. A hundred years ago, the scene at the foot of Smith Street was dominated by railroad tracks, trains, industrial facilities, and freighters plying their way up and down the river, but the only legacy of that period left today are a couple of railroad bridges and the foundation of a traffic control tower that was demolished in the 1980s. What Red Jacket Riverfront Park does have is plenty of shady spots for fishing and picnicking, great views of the inland end of Elevator Alley (including the quarter-mile-long [400m long] Concrete-Central Elevator, Buffalo's largest), walking trails, and a boggy wetland area that's reminiscent of what was here before the encroachment of industry. Also present in the park is a monument to its namesake, a Seneca Indian chief and orator who eloquently plead his people's case before the U.S. Senate and received a medal from President Washington in return.
- Ship Canal Commons, Fuhrmann Blvd. at Ship Canal Pkwy. (Metro Bus 36 or 42). Years ago, the Union Ship Canal was a pretty crowded place: it was the centerpiece of the 70-acre (28 ha) campus of the Hanna Furnace Company, founded in 1899 by the same group of local industrialists who brought the Lackawanna Steel Company to the area. Here, freighters docked and unloaded their cargo of iron ore from the Midwest to be milled into pig iron by, at the company's peak, a workforce of 800 at a rate of 3,100 tons (2,800 metric tons) per day. Like the rest of the Western New York steel industry, Hanna Furnace went belly-up in the 1980s, but the peaceful, pleasant park that's on the site today pays homage to its predecessor in a number of ways: dense groves of trees mimic the towering buildings that once lined the canal, artificial hills recall heaps of limestone and ore, its east end is anchored by a massive ladle once used to pour molten iron into molds to harden, even the pavement design of the walking paths along the canal's edge echoes the pattern of the railroads that used to be there. Ship Canal Commons also boasts over two miles (3 km) of nature trails and a lovely footbridge over the canal, and its waters are fully ecologically restored and boast aquatic plants, waterfowl, and fish such as smallmouth bass and perch. As the southern end of the Industrial Heritage Trail, Ship Canal Commons is easy to reach by bike and on foot via the footbridge at the south end of the Outer Harbor Parkway, but automobile access is trickier: you have to take either Tifft Street or Ridge Road and wind your way through the industrial park.
- Wilkeson Pointe, 225 Fuhrmann Blvd., ☎ +1 716 852-2356. Opened in May 2013, Wilkeson Pointe is 22 acres (9 ha) of waterfront green space named for Samuel Wilkeson, the former War of 1812 hero, State Senator and Buffalo mayor who vigorously oversaw the dredging and improvement of Buffalo Harbor, which was the deciding factor in the location of the end of the Erie Canal there rather than in Black Rock. Today, Wilkeson Pointe's location between two slips at the former site of Seaway Piers makes for excellent water access: public docking is available, and the park is a stop on the Queen City Ferry's water taxi route. The park boasts a large expanse of open lawn, a gazebo, a pair of lovely, pinwheel-like rotating wind sculptures — and great views over Lake Erie, Elevator Alley, and downtown. The Shoreline Trail also passes directly through the park: the chunks of marble you see alongside it near the wind sculptures were once part of St. Joseph's New Cathedral on Delaware Avenue, dumped here after its demolition in the 1970s when this was still a derelict industrial site. You can still see architectural details in the stone, such as Ionic volutes, fluting, and dentils. Free.
In addition to those listed above, South Buffalo is also home to a number of smaller parks. Many of them are part of the Buffalo River Greenway, an "emerald necklace" of small parks and green spaces along the shores of the Buffalo River. Aside from Seneca Bluffs, listed below, and the aforementioned Red Jacket Riverfront Park, the Buffalo River Greenway includes Mutual Park, located at the foot of Hamburg Street in the Old First Ward and boasting a neighborhood historical museum, a riverfront promenade and small amphitheater, and the best views of Elevator Alley you can get outside of a boat, as well as Buffalo RiverFest Park, which, as its name implies, is the setting for a three-day celebration of Buffalo's waterfront history each June.
Other parks in South Buffalo include Conway Park, a pleasant expanse of ball fields, playgrounds and open lawns on the former site of the Ohio Basin, a vital link in the Old First Ward's 19th-century labyrinth of ship berths and canals, Seneca Indian Park, covered in the History section above, and Heacock Park, a tiny Olmsted park whose significance lies not in its amenities but in its importance to Olmsted's design, as the northern hub of South Buffalo's parkway network and planned nexus with the northern parkways.
- Seneca Bluffs, Seneca St. at Pomeroy St. (Metro Bus 15 or 19). An expanse of meadows, wetlands and forests on a natural floodplain of the Buffalo River just upstream from its junction with Cazenovia Creek, Seneca Bluffs is different from the other elements of the Buffalo River Greenway in that the site was never used for heavy industry: located too far upstream for freighters to go and away from any railroad tracks, this was originally a truck farm that went fallow in the middle 20th Century. Redeveloped in 2004 as a park and nature preserve, Seneca Bluffs has become a haven for the type of wildlife that frequented the area prior to urbanization, such as fox, snapping turtles, beaver, white-tailed deer, and birds such as kingfisher and great blue heron. It's also a great place for fishing — particularly walleye. Walking trails crisscross the greenery, but otherwise it's just you and nature. Free.
- Tifft Nature Preserve, 1200 Fuhrmann Blvd. (Metro Bus 36), ☎ +1 716 825-6397. W-Sa 10AM-4PM, Su 12PM-4PM. Operated by the Buffalo Museum of Science, Tifft Nature Preserve is 264 acres (106 ha) of greenery that serves as an important wetland habitat for native wildlife such as beaver, fox, turtle, deer, and 264 species of native and migratory waterfowl. Originally the site of George Washington Tifft's dairy farm, what is now the nature preserve was later used as a transshipment terminal for the Lehigh Valley Railroad and then as a garbage dump; by the time it became a nature preserve in 1976, it had already "rewilded" on its own to a great degree. The preserve has been thoroughly cleaned up since the days of heavy industry, and today the nature trails and wildlife viewing stations at Tifft are one of the best ways for Buffalonians to get "back to nature" without leaving the city limits. The 75 acres (30 ha) of freshwater cattail marsh are one of Western New York's largest natural expanses of this type of ecosystem. Fishing on Lake Kirsty is popular in the summer, as are guided nature walks; in winter, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are on offer. The Makowski Visitors' Center is open all year. Donation.
- Times Beach Nature Preserve, North end of Fuhrmann Blvd. Like Tifft, Times Beach Nature Preserve is situated on former industrial land that has been reclaimed and cleaned of pollutants. These 50 acres (20 ha) adjacent to the harbor were the site of coal docks and a contained disposal facility for industrial waste before its opening to the public as a nature preserve. Though no facilities are available, boardwalks, nature trails and wildlife viewing blinds are on offer at this photogenic expanse of greenery that, in addition to its role as a haven for native flora and fauna, is one of the most important stopovers on the Great Lakes for migratory birds. Times Beach Nature Preserve is also the northern terminus of the Outer Harbor Parkway. Free.
South Buffalo's main contribution to Buffalo's rich architectural heritage is the grain elevators of the former industrial district. It was in Buffalo where Joseph Dart built the first grain elevator in 1843, and today Elevator Alley is still the largest single collection of grain elevators in the world. Long derided as eyesores, these rock-solid monoliths were saved from the wrecking ball largely by virtue of how expensive it would be to demolish them. These days, though, Buffalonians have taken to embracing their scrappy industrial history, with grain elevators being repurposed for a variety of uses.
As well, South Buffalo contains a number of neighborhoods that are interesting to fans of historic architecture. In the entire city, there are nine historic districts listed on the National Register of Historic Places as well as seven additional ones that have been granted landmark status by the Buffalo Preservation Board, and although only one of them is located in South Buffalo, there are also a couple of "unofficial" ones that are notable.
- Slightly over 13 acres (5.3 ha) in size, the Cobblestone Local Historic District is bounded by Perry Street, Columbia Street, South Park Avenue, and Illinois Street, and also includes the two blocks of Michigan Avenue north of the Buffalo River, where the historic fireboat Edward M. Cotter is docked. Dating to the 1820s and '30s, in its day this was one of the nation's nastiest slums, populated by poor Irish industrial laborers and crisscrossed with a network of man-made shipping lanes that radiated out from the harbor, by which factories received raw materials shipped across the Great Lakes or sent finished products on their way to market via the Erie Canal. The neighborhood began to decline in importance around the turn of the century, when the canals were filled in, and as the Irish, with newfound political and social clout, gradually became well-off enough to move to the much safer, still-semirural lands south of the Buffalo River. The Cobblestone District's main attraction to history buffs today are the streets themselves — many are still paved with the granite blocks that gave the neighborhood its name, brought over as ballast in the hulls of lake freighters and discarded at port. As for the buildings in between, most of them have been demolished, with the exception of a collection of 19th- and early 20th-century brick industrial buildings between Illinois and Mississippi Streets (anchored by the Bendin Building, a five-story warehouse at 95 Perry Street) that are now being actively restored as bars, restaurants, office space, and loft apartments.
- Though it's not yet been named to any historic register, The Triangle is a charming expanse of turn-of-the-century homes that's well worth a visit for architecture fans. The district is aptly named: the classic boundaries of The Triangle are South Park Avenue on the northeast, Amber Street on the south, and Hopkins Street on the west, though the streets west of Heacock Park on the other side of South Park Avenue share essentially the same identity. The Triangle started out as rural farmland belonging to Reuben Heacock, a wealthy banker and industrialist, but its history really began in the 1890s, when Frederick Law Olmsted was called back to Buffalo to design a southern extension to his park system. At the time, urban development in South Buffalo lagged far behind the rest of the city, from which it was separated not only by the Buffalo River but also a series of busy railroad tracks — and in wet weather, the swamps around the riverbanks would often flood, cutting off what few roads led north. Before beginning his work, Olmsted stated that city leaders needed to make South Buffalo more easily accessible from the rest of the city and to mitigate the constant flooding problems. The city responded by building more streets and dredging the river into a concrete channel, and as soon as Olmsted's park system opened, The Triangle began developing into a classic turn-of-the-century "streetcar suburb" with South Park Avenue as its main shopping street. Today, the side streets of The Triangle are dominated by homes that date from the 1890s to the 1930s and reflect the architectural fashions of that period: wood-frame houses in the Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, Craftsman, and American Foursquare styles, many of which were partially prefabricated "kit houses" available through mail-order catalogs. Peppered among them are a few larger buildings, including some fairly impressive churches, Holy Family Catholic Church at 1887 South Park Avenue and St. Jude's Episcopal Church at 124 Macamley Street among them.
- Proposed for the National Register of Historic Places, Larkinville is centered on the corner of Seneca and Swan Streets, in a part of Buffalo once known as The Hydraulics. Named for the Hydraulic Canal, built in 1828 by local entrepreneur Reuben Heacock, this was supposed to be one of the foremost industrial districts in the world — but the canal was only big enough to support a few tanneries, slaughterhouses, and other industries. Luckily, The Hydraulics' proximity to the railroads preserved its importance as a center of industry even after the canal was filled in, and it soon came to be dominated by the Larkin Company, a mail-order giant whose huge campus of factory buildings was centered around its beautiful Administration Building, designed by Darwin Martin's close friend Frank Lloyd Wright. The company went out of business in 1943, wracked by the effects of the Great Depression combined with a decline in popularity of catalog sales, but most of Larkinville's buildings (with the notable exception of Wright's Administration Building; see below) still stand and, in many cases, have been renovated and restored for offices. These include the gargantuan Larkin Factory Complex at 701 Seneca Street and Terminal Warehouse Building at 726 Exchange Street; the U Building at 239 Van Rensselaer Street, which now houses offices of First Niagara Bank, and the Kamman Building at 755 Seneca Street, now the home of a local architectural firm. At the center of it all is Larkin Square, with pleasant greenery, restaurants and food trucks, and frequent special events.
- Remains of the Larkin Administration Building, between Swan Street and Seneca Street adjacent to the New York Central Railroad tracks (Metro Bus 15 or 18). The last remnant of the Larkin Administration Building is this 20-foot (6 m) brick and sandstone exterior wall. Built in 1906, the Administration Building was the most majestic Frank Lloyd Wright building in Buffalo and the prototypical adaptation of his favored Prairie Style to a large office building. Five stories tall and faced in dark red sandstone brick adorned with bas-relief sculptures and with two waterfall-like fountains flanking the entrance, the building consisted of offices arranged around the perimeter, with balconies looking onto a central court. The Administration Building's interior walls were of hard cream-colored brick with accents in Greek magnesite, and it boasted a state-of-the-art ventilation system and lighting and electrical fixtures designed by Wright himself. After the Larkin Company's bankruptcy in 1943, the Administration Building was left abandoned and decaying, and was eventually purchased by a trucking company who demolished it in 1950 to make room for a parking lot. The wall was restored in 2003; adjacent to it is an interpretive plaque with information on Larkin Company history and Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural legacy in Buffalo.
Festivals and events
Of South Buffalo's roster of festivals and events, by far the most interesting are held in Elevator Alley, where many of the old grain silos have been ingeniously redeveloped into innovative venues. Silo City is the larger of these: a trio of grain elevators on Childs Street (the American, Perot Malting and Marine "A" Elevators) owned by local entrepreneur Rick Smith which, after having been abandoned for almost half a century beforehand, reopened in 2012 to a growing schedule of concerts, guided tours, activities, and events within and around these majestic, weather-beaten monoliths. Hot on Silo City's heels in late 2014 came RiverWorks, the product of an $18 million restoration of the Grange League Federation Elevator complex on Ganson Street whose two regulation-size ice rinks play host to the Labatt Blue Pond Hockey Tournament and which also feature concerts and other events in the warmer months.
- Old Neighborhood St. Patrick's Day Parade. Held every year since 1994 on the Saturday before March 17 by the Valley Community Association, the Old Neighborhood St. Patrick's Day Parade lacks the massive scale and some of the glitz and glamour of its better-known counterpart on Delaware Avenue. But it more than makes up for that with tradition — its route along O'Connell and Hamburg Streets, South Park Avenue, and Elk and Smith Streets approximates that of the original St. Patrick's Day parades through Buffalo's traditionally Irish neighborhoods. Like its counterpart, the Old Neighborhood Parade features step dancing, over 100 floats, and plenty of Irish joie de vivre, but there's more of an emphasis on homegrown community pride here in the Old First Ward and The Valley. Also, after the parade, the Valley Community Center hosts a lively "Irish Hooley" where music is played, corned beef and cabbage and other traditional Irish foods are served, and the beer flows freely.
- Boom Days. The "ice boom" is a long chain of metal bars placed across the mouth of the Niagara River at the beginning of winter to prevent floating chunks of ice from damaging bridges and other structures along the river, and its removal is heralded each year as the unofficial start of spring. That's where this festival comes in. Boom Days was first celebrated in 2002, bouncing around various venues along the Niagara Frontier before settling in to its permanent home at Silo City in 2012. This day of celebration in mid-April features a lineup of local musicians strutting their stuff on the floor of the Perot Malting Elevator, along with hayrides, historical tours of the elevators, rides on the historic fireboat Edward Cotter, beer from local and regional craft brewers such as Flying Bison and the Southern Tier Brewing Company, food trucks, and a grand fireworks display at night. Proceeds go to benefit the Edward Cotter.
- Parade of Circles. The Greater South Buffalo Chamber of Commerce and South Buffalo Alive kick off the summer each year on the first Sunday in June with a morning parade that runs the whole length of McKinley Parkway: a jamboree of music, dancing and community pride passing along the tree-lined thoroughfare and snaking around the Olmsted-designed traffic circles that give the festival its name. The Parade of Circles was first held in 2001 to celebrate the restoration of the Olmsted parkway system in South Buffalo, and its grand finale takes place at Heacock Park, where there's a picnic lunch and fun activities for the whole family.
- Buffalo River Fest. Every June since 2000, the Valley Community Association, in conjunction with Rigidized Metals Corporation and the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation, has held the Buffalo River Fest. Since 2009, this celebration of the history of Buffalo's waterfront has been held at Buffalo RiverFest Park, a lovely new green space located at the foot of Chicago Street in the Old First Ward, adjacent to the Buffalo River. Events during this three-day festival include a local artists' and artisans' show, a beer garden, rides on the historic fireboat Edward M. Cotter ($10 per person), the Rigidized Metals River Regatta, live music, and a fishing contest. On display also are historical exhibits with an accent on the grain elevators, shipyards, and other waterfront industrial facilities that drove Buffalo's economy in earlier times; a historic walking tour of the Cobblestone District, Elevator Alley, and Canalside is held annually. Food and refreshments are available.
- City of Night. In 2008, the 400th anniversary of the founding of Quebec City featured a 40-minute video presentation detailing the city's history, projected right onto the walls of the massive grain elevators at the Vieux-Port. A light bulb went off in the head of someone at Emerging Leaders in the Arts Buffalo, and four years later, the first City of Night took place at Silo City. Dazzling images projected onto the faces of Buffalo's own grain elevators are indeed its grand finale, but City of Night is about a lot more than that: it's a daylong celebration of art in a variety of disciplines. For one day each year, usually in late June or early July, the elevators become temporary art galleries whose unique ambience makes a fantastic backdrop for sculptures, paintings, photographs, and mixed-media works produced by local artists. There's also an art fair for emerging local artists curated by the West Side's 464 Gallery. City of Night also features live music by local bands, historic walking tours of Silo City, and booths and presentations from a bevy of local cultural institutions, charitable organizations, and not-for-profit groups.
- Buffalo Niagara Blues Festival. A premier destination for "fans of industrial relics and the hottest blues bands in the area" (in the words of Buffalo Rising), the Buffalo Niagara Blues Festival was inaugurated in mid-July 2014 with an all-day free concert at Silo City. Spearheaded by the Western New York Blues Society, a lineup of about half a dozen blues, jazz, soul, and Cajun singers and bands played — a mix of nationally famous stars and local acts. Also onsite are food trucks and merchandise vendors of various descriptions.
- South Buffalo Italian Festival. Who says it's all about the Irish in South Buffalo? The local Italian-American community's day in the sun happens every year in mid-August at South Park, on the lawn in front of the Botanical Gardens. The South Buffalo Italian Festival features delicious food from Francesca's, Ilio DiPaolo's, and other Italian restaurants in South Buffalo and the Southtowns, as well as free-flowing Italian beer and wine. There are activities galore, too — you can play bocce ball while listening to local bands play live, and for the kids there's face painting, jugglers, and other fun stuff. Proceeds from the festival go to South Buffalo Alive to benefit a variety of neighborhood improvement projects.
- South Buffalo Irish Feis. This raucous shindig at Cazenovia Park marks the end of summer in South Buffalo, held every year on the first or second Saturday in September. A wide variety of live musical acts are the main attraction at the South Buffalo Irish Feis, featuring local bands playing a free concert of traditional Irish music, Celtic rock, and alternative to a rapt audience. Local Irish step dancing troupes like Rince na Tiarna also put on performances. As well, local restaurants in the South Buffalo area provide food, there's more beer than you can shake a stick at, and activities for kids include face painting and a rock climbing wall. The festival is capped off by a huge fireworks display over the park.
- Urban Drive-In. Held in September, the Urban Drive-In is an all-day event at Silo City that's presented by Squeaky Wheel Film & Media Art Center. Beginning at noon, a marathon of roughly half a dozen popular movies are projected onto a giant LED movie screen that's optimized for both daytime and nighttime viewing. Interspersed between the main features are a selection of short subjects produced by local directors. Food trucks, games, and historic tours of the Silo City complex round out the offerings. $15 admission, $5 for students.
- Silo City Tapped. In mid-September, Silo City plays host to this daylong celebration of music, food, Buffalo's industrial history, and — above all — craft beers. Thirsty attendees of the inaugural Silo City Tapped in 2014 sampled about two dozen brews from beermakers in the local area, like the Hamburg Brewing Company, Flying Bison, and the Ellicottville Brewing Company, as well as some hailing from further afield, such as Ommegang, Magic Hat, and the Southern Tier Brewery, to the strains of about a half-dozen local rock, blues and jazz bands. A range of food trucks and booths representing area restaurants are on hand, and guided tours of the grain elevators that make up the Silo City complex are offered. You can park downtown and take the Queen City Ferry from Canalside to the festival site for $15 round trip — but if you decide to brave the heavy event-day traffic, parking is free. Attendees under the legal drinking age are welcome but must wear ID wristbands, and those 17 and under must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. $5 admission, food and drink prices range from $1-8.
- Larkinville Ice Festival. The inaugural edition of the Larkinville Ice Festival joined the growing roster of Buffalo wintertime events in 2015, with a smattering of different events at venues around the neighborhood: a series of guest speakers on Buffalo history at The Filling Station, an art opening at the Hydraulic Hearth's pint-sized (716) GAL-LERY, special brewery tours, beer tastings and food trucks at Flying Bison Brewing, and — the marquee event — an ice sculpture competition at Larkin Square. This brand-new annual happening takes place in late January.
- Labatt Blue Pond Hockey Tournament. The Labatt Blue Pond Hockey Tournament moved to RiverWorks in 2014 after two straight years of its previous iteration at the Erie Basin Marina were cancelled due to lack of ice on Lake Erie. Thankfully, the refrigeration systems under the surface of its new home's two regulation-sized ice rinks mean that the show will always go on even if the temperature peaks above freezing, and the 50,000-square-foot (4,600m²) open-air canopy above them maintains an outdoor feeling while keeping folks dry and comfortable even if it's a blizzard outside. A fun, action-packed annual tradition for participants and spectators alike, the 2014 edition saw 120 amateur hockey teams of four to seven players each face off in a two-day, ten-division round-robin tournament in late February. The 2015 tournament is set to be even bigger, with a third day of play added as well as food and drink tents, live music, and more.
- Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper Tours, ☎ +1 716 852-7483. Check website for schedule. Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, the community organization whose mission is to contribute to Buffalo's revitalization through the remediation of local waterways, holds a series of educational kayak tours in Buffalo, Niagara Falls, and points between. The lineup of tours changes from year to year, but as an example, in South Buffalo the 2014 schedule included four tours along the Buffalo River launched from Mutual Park in Elevator Alley, where immigrant history, industrial heritage, and ecological restoration were covered. Participants can bring their own kayak or reserve one of Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper's limited supply. Free.
- Historic Buffalo River Tour (Metro Rail: Erie Canal Harbor), ☎ +1 716 856-6696. Seven tours yearly Jul-Sep, see website for details. During the warm months, the Miss Buffalo II, in partnership with the Industrial Heritage Committee, takes visitors on a two-hour educational cruise down the Buffalo River, exploring the city's mighty industrial past with a visit to the old Erie Canal terminus and Elevator Alley. Tours leave rain or shine from the Miss Buffalo's dock at the Erie Basin Marina. $18, children $12.
- Queen City Ferry (Metro Rail: Erie Canal Harbor), ☎ +1 716 796-4556. noon-8PM May-Oct. Debuting in 2011, the Queen City Ferry runs a water taxi service seasonally that takes visitors around Buffalo's scenic and historic harbor. Tours leave every hour on the hour from the main dock at Central Wharf at Canalside, heading to Buffalo RiverFest Park in the Old First Ward and then to Wilkeson Pointe on the Outer Harbor. If you're planning your cruise for the evening, pay attention to the Outer Harbor Concert Series schedule: on days when there's a show, regular service is suspended after 5PM so they can ferry people over to the concert site. $8, children $6.
- River Queen (Metro Rail: Erie Canal Harbor), ☎ +1 716 796-4556. Riverboat tours daily 10:30AM, 12:30PM & 4:30PM, Silo City combination tour daily 2:30PM, season runs May-Oct. With the River Queen, the same folks who operate the Queen City Ferry run narrated boat tours along the Buffalo River through Elevator Alley. Tours leave four times daily from the Central Wharf at Canalside just opposite the Queen City Ferry's berth; you'll feel the wind whip through your hair as you listen to the captain recount the history of the grain elevators and their contribution to the huge importance of Buffalo Harbor in the 19th and 20th centuries. The 2:30PM departure is a little different: in addition to the above, it also docks at Silo City where you'll get a brief walking tour inside three of the grain elevators themselves. Riverboat tour $17, children $12; Silo City combination tour $27, children $17.
- Pickleball. Larkin Square's retro quirkiness is a great part of its appeal — and one of the best expressions of that whimsy are the two pickleball courts located just off the rear of the square, behind the Kamman Building. A popular recreation for visitors as well as workers in the nearby office buildings who want to blow off steam after a long workday cooped up at their desk, pickleball is an old-time sport that's sort of a cross between badminton, volleyball, and ping-pong. You can play on the courts for free, on a first-come-first-served basis, and paddles and plastic whiffleballs are stored in a basket beside the courts (don't forget to return them after you're done). Those who want to brush up on the rules can take a look at the Larkin Square website, or just read the back of your paddle — they're printed right on them.
- Queen City Roller Girls, RiverWorks, 359 Ganson St. (Metro Bus 14 or 16), toll-free: +1 888 740-7274. This is not your father's rollerderby — far from the WWE wrestling-style campy sports entertainment of old, this is a fast-paced, hard-hitting sport that's been exciting Buffalo fans since 2006. The Queen City Roller Girls is actually a league of four teams which battle it out each year for the Queen City Cup, but it also fields an all-star "travelling team" that hosts other squads from around the Women's Flat Track Derby Association, of which they've been a member since 2010. After spending the previous eight years playing at the Rainbow Rink in North Tonawanda, as of the 2015 season the Queen City Roller Girls' home turf is at RiverWorks, which boasts the only purpose-built rollerderby track in the country (not to mention a 20-foot HiDef LCD screen scoreboard that's bigger than the Jumbotron at First Niagara Center). The season runs from February to June; tickets are cheap and games are family-friendly.
- Silo City Rocks, 105 Childs St. (Metro Bus 36), ☎ +1 716 983-0728. M-F 9AM-5PM. A Buffalo Spree writeup describes how avid rock climber Kevin Cullen came home to Buffalo after a stint out West as a park ranger in Colorado, and immediately began looking at the elevators along the Buffalo River, with their stout, rock-solid concrete faces, in a new light. A short time later, he's teamed up with BFLO Harbor Kayak founder Jason Schwinger and local ski instructor Andy Minier to open the world's tallest rock climbing gym at Silo City. Open since 2013, visitors to Silo City Rocks can rappel 120 feet (36 m) up the side of the Marine "A" Elevator along several routes that vary in length and difficulty, or scramble up an artificial bouldering wall located inside. As well, yoga classes are held inside a 600-square-foot (55 square meter) "round room" carved out of one of the old silos.
If you're a golfer in Buffalo, you're in the right neighborhood. South Buffalo contains two of the city's four golf courses, where you can hit the links amid a setting of impeccably manicured greenery designed by the United States' foremost landscape architect.
- Cazenovia Park Golf Course, 1 Willink Ave. (Metro Bus 14 or 15), ☎ +1 716 823-1517. Daily 6AM-5PM. Secluded at the southeast end of the Olmsted park of the same name, Cazenovia Park Golf Course is the larger and better-maintained of South Buffalo's two golf courses. An easy, flat course perfect for beginners, golfers at Cazenovia play in a simple but extremely pleasant setting, with nice wide fairways and hazards that mostly consist of the huge shade trees that are peppered here and there throughout the course. As well, Cazenovia Creek itself, which bisects the course through the middle, serves as a water hazard on the 3rd and 9th holes. Cazenovia is a nine-hole course, but those who want a full 18-hole round can play the course through twice as a discounted price: each hole has two separate tees, making for a distinctive experience for each go-round. Cart rental is available — not that you'd need one, this course is easy to walk — and there's a putting and chipping green and a snack bar. Weekday green fee $9 (9 holes) and $12 (18 holes), weekends $11 (9 holes) and $15 (18 holes).
- South Park Golf Course, 2535 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 16, 36 or 42), ☎ +1 716 609-2004. Tu noon-9PM, all other days 6:30AM-9PM. Built in 1915 on the site of South Park's Meadow, South Park is an odd little nine-hole golf course — there's seemingly no rhyme or reason to its layout, and its small size makes for a cramped, tight-off-the-tee scenario on many holes. Still, this is a pleasant course with a great pro shop and an impeccably beautiful landscape courtesy of the great Frederick Law Olmsted. The course doesn't look like much of a challenge at first glance, but don't be fooled — South Park Lake makes for a formidable water hazard on many of the holes. There's a driving range and putting green for practice, and as at Cazenovia, you can play through the course twice at a discounted rate if you want a full 18 holes of golf. $11 for 9 holes; $14 for 18 holes.
If "full-size golf" is not your thing, head to Larkinville instead:
- Larkin Links, 763 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15 or 23). Located in the empty lot just east of the Kamman Building along the south side of Seneca Street, Larkin Links is Buffalo's first "nano-golf" course (think miniature golf, except scaled down even further in size) which also doubles as a public art exhibit, with sculptures and other installations designed by local artists serving as hazards on the course's 11 holes. The course is open for play between June and September, whenever the red flag on the mailbox is raised. Putters (vintage ones, scored by course operator Harry Zemsky from a local antique shop), golf balls, pencils, and scorecards are provided free of charge. Free.
- RiverWorks, 359 Ganson St. (Metro Bus 14 or 16), toll-free: +1 844 749-2267. See website for open skating and skate & shoot schedule. Skating $5, children 10 and under free; skate & shoot $10, children 10 and under $5 (bring your own equipment).
- Timothy J. Burvid Ice Rink, 25 Cazenovia St. (Metro Bus 14 or 15), ☎ +1 716 825-9503. Open skate M 1PM-3PM, Th 6PM-8PM, F-Sa 7PM-9PM, Su 2PM-4PM, Sep-Mar; closed Apr-Aug. $3, $2 for Buffalo residents, $1 for seniors or children under 18 who are Buffalo residents.
- Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino, 1 Fulton St. (Metro Bus 14, 16 or 36), ☎ +1 716 299-1100, toll-free: +1 877 8-SENECA (736322). Daily 24 hours. Located in the historic Cobblestone District and convenient to downtown and the waterfront, the brand-new, $130 million permanent home of the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino opened with great fanfare in August 2013. 750,000 people a year come here to try their luck on over 800 slot machines and 20 table games. If you get hungry, choose from three restaurants onsite: the BC Café, which serves up light fare such as soups, sandwiches, coffee and baked goods 24 hours a day; the rowdy Stixx Sports Bar with pub grub and local brews on tap, and Buffalo Savors Grill, which features the best of local cuisine such as Charlie the Butcher's beef on weck, Franco's pizza, Duff's chicken wings, and Italian fare from Ilio DiPaolo's.
- Bowl Inn, 727 Bailey Ave. (Metro Bus 2 or 19), ☎ +1 716 824-9074. M-Tu & Th-F 4PM-4AM, W noon-4AM, Sa-Su 11AM-4AM. No one would ever call this place huge — it's not much more than a dozen bowling lanes, a tiny bar and a kitchen — but the Bowl Inn turns its small size to its advantage, offering friendly service with a personal touch. Also, the prices here are cheap — a 3-game outing usually runs between $5.50 and $7.50, and if you're a family with kids you save even more. The food is great too, and if you're a night owl, you're in luck: the Bowl Inn is open till 4AM everyday.
- Recckio's Bowling Center, 2426 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 16, 36 or 42), ☎ +1 716 823-2695. M-Tu 4PM-10PM, Th 5PM-10PM, F 4PM-midnight, Sa noon-midnight, Su noon-8PM. At Recckio's, the entertainment starts but doesn't end with bowling: in addition to the 18 bowling lanes, there's also darts, pool tables, horseshoes, and even live music from time to time. For the beer frame, there's an attached bar, Recckio's Perfect Shot, where drinks are as cheap as they come. Moonlight bowling happens every Friday and Saturday night till midnight.
Live music and performance
With the emergence of the Cobblestone District as a hip cluster of bars in the shadow of the First Niagara Center and Canalside, plus a growing slate of offerings around the Outer Harbor, the live entertainment scene in South Buffalo has exploded in size in recent years.
- Buffalo Irish Center, 245 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14), ☎ +1 716 825-9535. Aside from the scads of Irish-American not-for-profit groups who have their home offices here (such as the Gaelic-American Athletic Association and Rince na Tiarna Irish Dancers), the Buffalo Irish Center also includes a pub which, every Friday and Saturday night, plays host to live music featuring local bands of diverse genres — everything from country to hard rock to Dixieland jazz. For those in the mood for something more Irish, head down to a seisiún if you're in town at the right time: held on the third Sunday of each month, these hoedowns of traditional music, dancing, and storytelling feature Guinness on tap and plenty of merriment.
- Buffalo Iron Works, 49 Illinois St. (Metro Bus 6, 8, 14, 16, or 36; Metro Rail: Erie Canal Harbor), ☎ +1 716 200-1893. Five nights a week, this hip Cobblestone District bar hosts live music in an intimate yet appropriately gritty setting, all exposed ducts and rough brick. Shows here split the difference between major national touring groups and local acts playing rock, country, and acoustic music.
- The Church, 2325 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☎ +1 716 880-9929. The rebirth of the former St. John the Evangelist Church on Seneca Street next to Cazenovia Park, a stunning Italian Romanesque marvel shuttered by the Catholic diocese after nearly eighty years as an active parish, has begun: it's slated to be the latest in a long line of new venues for live music and events in South Buffalo. Restoration work is still ongoing, but The Church made its debut in February 2014 with Caz Tapped, an extravaganza of live local bands, food trucks, and other merriment. A full schedule of concerts and other happenings is to come in the future.
- Helium Comedy Club, 30 Mississippi St. (Metro Bus 6, 8, 14, 16, or 36), ☎ +1 716 853-1211. W-Th 4:30PM-10PM, F-Sa 4:30PM-midnight. Buffalo's scrappy clique of stand-up comics, whose acts were long shoehorned between local bands at random bars scattered across town, finally have a place to call their own. It was local comedienne Kristen Becker who convinced Helium's owner to open the third and newest branch of his national chain of comedy clubs in the Cobblestone District. Since its opening in 2013, Helium has come to do double duty: it's not only the premiere showcase for the talented and previously under-the-radar local comedy scene, but it's also the venue of choice for nationally famous touring comedians, having played host to greats like Charlie Murphy, Dave Attell, Brian Posehn, and, on opening night, Rob Schneider. This is a small club, which cuts both ways: the intimate atmosphere is perfect for comedy shows and it's pretty much impossible to get a bad seat, but they pack folks in like sardines (especially when a big name is in town). Also, you're required to order a minimum of two food or drink items from the bar, and while the menu is ample, the food is expensive and of lackluster quality. Parking is free and easily available most of the time, though, except when there's a Sabres game on at the nearby First Niagara Center.
- Live at Larkin. A favorite of such icons of the Buffalo music scene as Lance Diamond, the Jony James Blues Band, and John & Mary and the Valkyries, the Live at Larkin concert series is a showcase for local music that's been compared to the early years of Thursday at the Square. Every Wednesday evening from mid-June through mid-September, two local groups take the stage at Larkin Square for a free concert in front of ever-growing crowds that, these days, average out at about 2,000 attendees.
- Outer Harbor Concert Series. Even though it's been around a lot less time, you could call the Outer Harbor Concert Series the big brother of Canalside's Thursday at the Harbor: they're both essentially the same thing, summertime waterfront concerts in the shadow of the grain elevators and the downtown skyline, but at the Outer Harbor the crowds, the stars, and the venue are all a lot bigger. The stage at the Outer Harbor Concert Site has been graced by internationally known alternative and heavy metal bands like the Black Keys, Guns N' Roses, Marilyn Manson, Vampire Weekend, and Weezer. There's usually about a half-dozen shows each year in June, July, and August, all of which are all-ages. If you're coming by car, get there early — traffic along Fuhrmann Boulevard gets ridiculously heavy, and you're likely to end up parking as much as two miles (3km) from the stage. A good alternative is the water taxi service provided by the Queen City Ferry, with departures from Canalside every half-hour from 5PM to 8PM.
- Silo City Reading Series. The Silo City Reading Series was launched in 2014 in tandem with the weekly video-blogged performance series Silo Sessions — but unlike its sister project, these events are open to the public, and are held on a frequent but irregular basis. All through the summer, poets descend on Silo City from all over the local area and around the country to recite their art inside the ghostly ambience of the Marine "A" Elevator's hulking shell. Performances of acoustic music, enhanced by the natural eight-second reverb the concrete walls provide, have been known to accompany the poetry as well.
South Buffalo is the home of Trocaire College, a small, private Catholic junior college founded in 1958 by the Sisters of Mercy. Expanded from its initial mandate of training teachers for Buffalo-area Catholic Schools, Trocaire now offers associate and bachelors' degrees in about a dozen health care, hospitality and technology programs at its campus adjacent to Mercy Hospital.
South Buffalo Business District
Though it's been outshined in recent decades by the more suburban-flavored Abbott Road corridor, "downtown South Buffalo" still boasts its share of shops, bars and eateries.
- LADD Thrift Shop, 2280 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☎ +1 716 825-7774. M-Th & Sa 10AM-3PM. Shoppers at this small, humble little place know their money is going to a good cause — the acronym LADD stands for "Living Arrangements for the Developmentally Disabled", the charitable organization that runs this thrift shop to benefit educational and residential opportunities for disabled individuals. Though prices here are among the best you'll find at any local secondhand shop, the selection at LADD — which consists of the usual thrift-store fare such as books, kitchenware, toys, Franklin Mint-style decorative knickknacks, and above all, clothes — is usually unimpressive. It's worth trying your luck, though: interesting items do happen along occasionally. If you see something you like, don't delay, because the stuff here tends to sell quickly.
Liquor, beer and wine
- Cazenovia Liquors, 2348 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☎ +1 716 824-6415. M-Sa 11AM-midnight, Su noon-6PM. The sign facing the street says "Wines of the World", and indeed, at Cazenovia Liquors the accent has always been on imports: John Pappas opened the place up in 1943 to serve the local Greek and Italian immigrant community with wines and spirits from their homelands, and today the store stocks vintages from France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Chile, Australia and elsewhere. By reputation, Cazenovia Liquors' selection of wines leaves much to be desired, but that's hogwash — General Manager Sharon Rogers has been hard at work over the past few years amplifying the variety of wines they carry. The story doesn't end with wine, though: Cazenovia also carries a great selection of domestic and imported spirits, and even prepared cocktails to take home. All this is contained in a thoroughly updated and impeccably clean retail space, curated by a friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful staff (they even custom-create gift baskets!), and sold for fair prices.
- Seneca Liquors, 2097 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☎ +1 716 827-8676. M-W 10AM-11PM, Th-Sa 10AM-midnight, Su noon-7PM. If you're planning a get-together and happen to be passing through South Buffalo, Seneca Liquors is your place — this humble neighborhood liquor store is located right next to Buz-N-Bee snack shop, so you can get your chips, dip, cold pop, and alcoholic libations all in one go. Even if not, there's a wide variety of wines and spirits crowding the shelves here, with already-great prices frequently reduced even further with special promotions (check their Facebook page for a myriad of online discounts). Seneca Liquors also hosts wine tastings every Friday and Saturday evening.
- Corner Florist, 2067 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☎ +1 716 825-2229. M-W 10AM-5PM, Th-F 10AM-5:30PM, Sa 10AM-3PM. Since 1992, owner Clair Spinelli has been working her magic on the corner of Seneca and Yale, turning out bouquets and flower arrangements with a combination of expert skill, efficient turnaround, and reasonable prices that has kept her customers coming back again and again for years. She is known for being only too eager to tackle special requests and personalizations, and will not hesitate to offer her own suggestions to help you craft the perfect order. Most of all, though, at Corner Florist you can be assured of the highest level of friendly, compassionate service from someone who clearly cares about all of her loyal customer-friends. As well as flowers, Corner Florist stocks lots of baskets, plush toys, cute gifts, and other such items.
- Section 8 Hobbies, 2243 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☎ +1 716 824-1049. M 1PM-6PM, Tu-F 11AM-8PM, Sa 9AM-6PM. Heaven for fans of scale modeling, Section 8 Hobbies claims — believably — to boast Western New York's largest selection of model kits and supplies. Hobbyists can avail themselves of model sets of all kinds — from trains to kites to cars to airplanes to rockets — as well as peruse shelf after shelf stocked with accessories and supplies such as model knives and other tools, paints, glues and cements, and others. If there's something you need that you can't find in the store, the staff at Section 8 can virtually always order it — and if you're headed back home, they'll ship their products worldwide (exceptions are spray paint, enamel and lacquers, which can be sent to points within the continental U.S. only) and all orders of $90 or more are shipped free. Gift certificates are also available, and if you're selling rather than buying, Section 8 will pay a fair price for model collections of all kinds.
Cobblestone District, the Old First Ward, and The Valley
The latest phase of Buffalo's ongoing renaissance has seen developers set their sights on the precincts of South Buffalo closest to downtown, notably the Cobblestone District and the Ohio Street corridor. As that gets off the ground, a bevy of stores and other attractions for visitors will surely follow; however, at present there's not much here for shoppers.
- Mazurek's Bakery, 543 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 14, 16, 18, or 36), ☎ +1 716 853-7833. M-F 8AM-5:30PM, Sa 8AM-3PM. Mazurek's has served the residents of the Old First Ward since 1933, and from the looks of it, not much has changed in the past 80-some years. This is the kind of place you just don't see too often anymore, from the humble yet proud exterior with its huge picture windows facing South Park Avenue, to the friendly staff who know their customers by name, know baked goods like the back of their hand, and are always keen to help pick from among the range of delectable goodies they offer. And, of course, Mazurek's food completes the picture: genuine home-baked bundles of goodness with real, old-fashioned flavors, not the sanitized stuff you'll find in supermarkets. Polish specialties are the name of the game here — crispy, golden-fried chruściki covered in powdered sugar, delicious Polish cheesecake, and fresh pączki on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Mazurek's seeded rye bread is the closest thing to the genuine New York article you can find in Buffalo, and their donuts drive regular customers to reverie. Mazurek's serves a full range of other baked goods as well — all kinds of breads, sweet rolls, pies, cakes, cookies, and other pastries can be found inside this cheerily decorated little shop.
Liquor, beer and wine
- Lockhouse Distillery, 41 Columbia St. (Metro Bus 14, 16, or 36; Metro Rail: Erie Canal Harbor), ☎ +1 716 768-4898. Tu-F noon-midnight, Sa 4PM-midnight. Founded in 2013 and headquartered for its first two years at the old Pierce Arrow Factory Complex in North Buffalo, Lockhouse is (in the words of the motto proudly hung above the front door) "An Idea So Crazy, It Just Might Work": the first distillery to open in Buffalo since the end of Prohibition. Founder and co-owner Nike Georgiadis is a scion of the intertwined tangle of marriages and family ties that make up the core of Buffalo's Greek restaurateur community, and to hear him tell it, he's a natural for his new venture: some of his earliest childhood memories are of his father stomping grapes for homemade wine, and he was living in Woodstock at the time when Tuthilltown Spirits opened — the first new distillery to open its doors in the state after the passage of the Farm Distillery Law led to the birth of the New York craft spirits industry in its present form. In accordance with that law, Lockhouse Distillery sources at least 75% (in reality, much more) of its ingredients from New York growers, and the spirits crafted here run the gamut from barrel-aged gin, to a coffee liqueur produced in conjunction with Public Espresso, to their original flagship product and still their most popular offering: a vodka distilled from grapes grown at Freedom Run Winery in Lockport. Lockhouse's products can be purchased to take home from their small retail shop or else sampled in the form of topnotch craft cocktails in their rustic yet classy barroom; there's also a limited but creative food menu comprised mostly of panini sandwiches and personal-sized flatbread pizzas. Brewery tours are also offered on request.
The Triangle and South Park Avenue
As a shopping street, South Park Avenue is the happy medium between the historic but largely deserted Seneca Street business district, and the somewhat more upscale boutiques of Abbott Road.
- Parker's, 1176 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 14, 16 or 23), ☎ +1 716 823-3772. M-F 9AM-5PM, Sa 9AM-2PM. Perhaps even more than any other eatery or food shop in Buffalo, folks tend to talk about Parker's in superlatives: consensus holds that the pork pies this place turns out not only easily best the local competition, but come out on top even compared to the genuine article in the UK! It's not just local consensus, either: no less an authority than The Telegraph named this place the "Best British Shop in the World" not once but twice (it's also a two-time winner of their "Best in North America" prize), and Parker's has supplied its wares to British embassies and consulates across the country, and even to the restaurants owned by the famously hard-to-please Gordon Ramsay. Despite what you may be picturing, Parker's is a small shop tucked into the corner of an anonymous-looking factory complex on South Park Avenue. The stock in trade begins with homemade British meat pies — pork pies come in a number of varieties including classic, Melton Mowbray, and Stilton, but Cornish pasties, steak and kidney pies, and even chicken tikka pies are also available. Parker's success comes thanks to the obsessive emphasis on quality control exhibited by eponymous owners Damian and Vicky Parker, a husband-and-wife team of expats from West Yorkshire — Damian trained under some of the best butchers and piemakers in Britain before founding the business (originally under the simple name of the "English Pork Pie Company") in a tiny kitchen in 2007. Also in stock is a wide array of imported groceries: the bakery turns out sausage rolls and a modest range of dessert pastries such as tarts and scones, British-style breakfast sausage and real English bacon are available at the butcher shop, and imported packaged groceries such as Colman's mustard, Walkers potato chips, Cadbury and Jameson's candies, and cans of Irn-Bru direct from Scotland populate the shelves.
Furniture and home decor
- Chairs & Tables, 2085 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 16), ☎ +1 716 824-0700. M-Tu & Th-Sa 11AM-8PM. Chairs and tables, indeed — there are thousands of these things in stock in this ample South Buffalo showroom, from kitchen and dining room sets, to upholstered parson chairs, to counter and bar stools, to office chairs on wheels, to storage benches. A small variety of lamps and other decorative items are available as well. This is high-quality stuff available for ridiculously low prices — the owner takes advantage of factory closeouts, supplier discounts, and other such tricks to undercut pretty much everyone in the business. If that weren't enough, even bigger bargains can frequently be had through sales, promotions, and special discounts offered at Chairs & Tables. These folks ship all over the continental U.S., too, and they even cover shipping fees for those who buy four or more chairs or stools at a time.
- Habitat for Humanity ReStore, 1675 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 14, 16, 19 or 23), ☎ +1 716 852-6607. Tu-F 10AM-6PM, Sa 9AM-6PM. Habitat for Humanity, a charitable organization dedicated to helping low-income individuals and families find housing, operates two locations of ReStore in Buffalo. The newer one is located on South Park Avenue and has been in business since 2011. What ReStore amounts to is basically a huge thrift store for furniture and housewares: the shelves are stocked with gently used (and some new!) chairs and tables, sofas, bedroom sets, lamps, cabinetry, doors and windows, building materials, and appliances donated to them by the public. Best of all, this place operates with very little overhead — it's staffed by volunteers, so almost all the money you pay goes to help Habitat for Humanity build new homes and rehab old ones to help out the less fortunate. Prices at ReStore are great, but to sweeten the pot a little, they run sales and promotions occasionally, and offer 10% discounts to college students. If you want to give back, donations are accepted at the store during business hours, or you can schedule a pickup.
- Side by Side Antiques, 26 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14, 16, 19 or 23), ☎ +1 716 864-0130. M-F 9AM-5PM, Sa 9:30AM-1PM. Family-owned since 1980, Side by Side Antiques is headquartered at an unassuming little shop at the north end of Abbott Road. But don't be fooled: this place is a powerhouse, stocking a huge selection of antiques sold both in-store and through a thriving eBay business. The range of items sold here is mind-boggling — everything from musical instruments, to oils on canvas, to American Indian arrowheads, to vintage toys, to Steuben and Tiffany stained glass can be found at Side by Side. But if we were to define this place's true specialties, it would surely include an amazing selection of hard-to-find coins, stylish vintage jewelry, and furniture and decorative items with a tendency toward Roycroft pieces and other Americana. Everything here is sold at fair and honest prices by a staff that's second to none in friendliness, helpfulness, and knowledge of what they sell; any issues or questions customers may have are attended to eagerly. Side by Side also offers free appraisal, and will buy your antiques as well — anything from single pieces to entire estates.
Liquor, beer and wine
- South Park Liquors, 1605 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 14, 16, 19 or 23), ☎ +1 716 822-2477. M-Th 10AM-10PM, F-Sa 10AM-11PM, Su noon-5PM. For over 35 years, Rita McGoldrick and family have helmed this South Buffalo stalwart that offers some of the most inexpensive wine and spirits in Buffalo. It bears repeating: this stuff is high-quality and sold for a steal. A specialty at South Park Liquors is New York State wines, which can be sampled at the frequent wine tastings that the store hosts. Friendly and helpful service is the icing on the cake.
- First at Bat, 1928 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 16), ☎ +1 716 825-2821. M-Sa noon-6PM. This little store on South Park Avenue has a ton of stuff for the sports fan on your list, starting with trading cards of all descriptions. Whether it be newly printed box sets featuring current players, more offbeat items like NASCAR and pro wrestling cards, or valuable finds autographed by some of the greatest athletes of any sport, card collectors will be in heaven at First at Bat. Other collectibles run the gamut from lapel pins to die-cast toys to old programs and scorecards.
- Liberty Gold and Music, 1831 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 16), ☎ +1 716 821-7695. M-F 11AM-6PM, Sa noon-5PM. From the name of this place, you might assume it's little more than a garden-variety gold buyer. Old gold is indeed half of the equation at Liberty Gold & Music, but they also have vintage musical instruments available at great prices. All major brands of guitars, string instruments, drums, keyboards, brass band instruments, amps, effects pedals, and pretty much anything else you can think of are represented in Liberty's inventory. They will also buy your old musical instruments (or pretty much anything else of value, for that matter) at the best prices around, either outright or on a consignment basis. A small range of movies and games are also to be had.
- South End Floral, 218 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14), ☎ +1 716 8252-7562. M-F 9AM-5:30PM, Sa 9AM-4PM. High-end is the name of the game at South End Floral. On the outside, it doesn't look too different from any of the other little flower shops that dot the shopping streets of South Buffalo, and in some respects that's true; this is a modest mom-and-pop operation patronized by a devoted but small cadre of neighborhood regulars. The difference is the relentlessly high quality of the handiwork of Bob, the owner, and his talented staff — whatever the occasion, be it weddings, funerals, Mother's Day, or just an "I love you" to that special someone, the bouquets South End Floral constructs stand head and shoulders above the rest. Even the silk flowers are amazing — you can barely tell them apart from the real thing. Best of all, the service is the perfect marriage of well-oiled-machine efficiency and the personal touch that makes you feel as if you'd known these folks all your life. To complete the package, South End Floral also sells plush toys and other cute gifts.
- Silo Fleas, 86 Childs St. (Metro Bus 36). Six Sundays per year, May-Aug, 8:30AM-4:30PM (weather-dependent). If you've been to The Peddler, the Elmwood Village's Saturday-morning flea market, you're well aware of the range of antiques, vintage clothes, and furniture and decorative knickknacks sold there. But you're also aware of how cramped that parking lot can get, which really stymies the range of vendors that can be featured there. Solution: Silo Fleas, launched in 2013 as yet another in a growing slate of events and other offerings at Silo City. Here, with the massive monoliths of Elevator Alley as a backdrop, is a lot large enough to hold nearly a hundred vendors (and growing) selling stuff to suit all tastes: a wide range of unique and often offbeat wares that all share the same retro aesthetic as the stuff you can find at its big brother on Elmwood Avenue. Silo Fleas also features caffeinated pick-me-ups from Public Coffee, gourmet street food from the Black Market Food Truck, and historic tours of the elevators of Silo City.
- Shanty Shack, 1111 Fuhrmann Blvd. (Metro Bus 36), ☎ +1 716 880-5154. For now, the Shanty Shack is mostly a place for weekend visitors to the Outer Harbor to stock up on basic essentials such as suntan lotion, umbrellas, and cold drinks in a laid-back atmosphere whose decor plays homage to Southern California surf culture (complete with old Beach Boys tunes playing on a countertop stereo). But owner Andrew McLellan has greater ambitions for the place. In 2015, Shanty Shack began offering bike rentals for cyclists along the Shoreline Trail (which passes right behind his little shop), and in summer 2016 he plans to take advantage of his lakeside location at the launch ramp just south of the former Dug's Dive to offer charter cruises on his own sailboat to the historic 1833 Buffalo Lighthouse. Also, if you come by at lunchtime, you might find him cooking up burgers or hot dogs on the grill to sell his customers.
- Worms 'n Things, 1111 Fuhrmann Blvd. (Metro Bus 36), ☎ +1 716 824-8239. Daily 6AM-8PM, May 15-Oct 1. Lake Erie is growing in renown as a destination for freshwater fishing: no less a source than Bassmaster magazine has cited it as one of the top three bass fishing destinations in the United States, and walleye, muskie, steelhead, and yellow perch are almost as plentiful. If dropping your own line into these bountiful waters is on your Buffalo to-do list, you can find all the bait, tackle, and other supplies you need at this unassuming little shop at the Outer Harbor. Besides the wriggly creatures that inspired this place's name. Worms 'n Things has huge metal buckets with minnows, crayfish, and leeches for anglers to avail themselves of, as well as a wide variety of lures, nets, spools of fishing line, and even ice for your cooler. Best of all, the place opens up early for those serious fishermen who like to rise with the sun to catch the real whoppers.
- Logo Imprinted Sportswear, 645 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15 or 18), ☎ +1 716 855-2071. M-F 9AM-5PM. Founded in 1980 and now located on Seneca Street in Larkinville, Logo Imprinted Sportswear's main business is custom-producing jerseys and caps for local sports teams. However, even if you're not on a team, they'll also screenprint a design of your choice on t-shirts, sweatshirts, and even embroidery.
Liquor, beer and wine
- Flying Bison Brewing Company, 840 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15 or 23), ☎ +1 716 873-1557. Retail store open Th-Sa noon-8PM. Buffalo's brewing history is long and stored — around the turn of the century, it boasted 35 active breweries including regional facilities for Milwaukee's Pabst Brewing Company as well as homegrown operations like the William Simon Brewery, the Phoenix Brewery, and the gargantuan Gerhard Lang Brewing Company that slaked the thirst of a population that was about two-thirds German and Polish. The scene was never the same after Prohibition, though, and that's something Tim Herzog aims to change — when his Flying Bison Brewing Company opened in 2000 in Riverside, it was the first locally-based brewery to operate in Buffalo since Iroquois closed its doors twenty-eight years earlier. Fast-forward to November 2014, when they moved to a bigger, purpose-built facility in burgeoning Larkinville, and Tim Herzog has come a long way toward fulfilling his dream of making Buffalo a brewing center once again. Locals are nearly unanimous in praise of the solid beers produced at Flying Bison — "Aviator Red", Buffalo's best-selling red ale, the Vienna-style "Rusty Chain", and seasonal offerings like the holiday favorite "Blizzard Bock". Best of all, Flying Bison's hyperlocal focus and commitment to the community is unwavering: they donate spent grain for use as animal feed on area farms, and labeling, bottle production, and other operations are contracted to Buffalo-based companies whenever possible. There's also a retail shop on site, where beer is sold three days a week, on draught and in bottles, from some of the friendliest folks you'll ever meet. Monthly home-brewing workshops, taste-tests of new brews, and other events are held occasionally.
- Tommyrotter Distillery, 500 Seneca St., Suite 110 (Metro Bus 15 or 18), ☎ +1 716 312-1252. Retail shop and tasting room open Th-F 4PM-8PM, Sa noon-4PM. Tommyrotter Distillery is named for the Tommyrotters' Club, an early-20th Century offshoot of the Arts and Crafts Movement who according to the place's website "broke rank... to create for creation's sake, [seeking] adventure, mischief, and inspiration in nature". That joy in the creative process shines through like a beacon in the small-batch craft spirits concocted by co-owners Sean Insalaco and Robert Finan and available in a bevy of local restaurants, supermarkets, and liquor stores as well as the distillery's own retail shop and tasting room: a glass-walled space in the mezzanine of their headquarters at rhe 500 Seneca Street lofts, with a bird's-eye view over the production floor. The spirits sold here are high-end in price but worth every penny: Tommyrotter's oeuvre currently consists of two products, an 80-proof vodka distilled from a blend of wheat and corn, with a clean texture and a sweet vanilla note, and an 84-proof American gin infused with a blend of twelve aromatics for a bold, spicy flavor. Future plans include a barrel-aged gin, as well as lines of bourbon and whiskey. All ingredients are sourced from New York State growers under the provisions of the Farm Distillery Law that makes places like Tommyrotter possible, and are crafted artisanally "with back, hand and heart" in individual batches before being bottled and labelled by hand.
- Larkin Market (At Larkin Square; Metro Bus 15, 18 or 23), ☎ +1 716 362-2665. Th 4PM-7:30PM, Jul-Sep. Yet another in the many events that now crowd the weekly calendar at Larkin Square, the Larkin Market, in the words of Larkinville executive Leslie Zemsky, is all about "social shopping": the hope is that the market "will turn shopping from a chore to another fun experience in Larkin Square", where visitors can not only shop but meet up with friends, have a bite to eat, relax to the tune of live light acoustic music performed by local bands, and get to know the friendly neighborhood shopkeepers who make up the Larkin Market's vendors. What's to buy? Everything you can imagine. The market is predominated by artists and artisans — the 464 Gallery, Michael Mulley's Queen City Gallery, and John Angelo Photography have booths here, and locally handmade bath products, leatherware, pottery, and other crafts abound — but the offerings run the gamut, also encompassing vintage clothes and jewelry, farm-fresh produce, jams, jellies and hot sauces, baked goods, and even prepared meals courtesy of Buffalo-area restaurants like Jewel of India and food trucks such as R&R BBQ. The Larkin Market also holds frequent beer, wine, and gourmet food tastings.
- Uncle Sam's, 290 Larkin St. (Metro Bus 15 or 18), ☎ +1 716 852-2769. M-Sa 10AM-6PM. Located in the heart of Larkinville in the former Larkin Company Powerhouse, owner Robert Geist claims Uncle Sam's to be the largest army/navy supply store in the United States — but these days, the mix of straight-out-of-the-package surplus military equipment and previously used goods from two dozen different countries is only the beginning of the story. Under the aegis of a brand-new retail team headed up by creative director Lou Schreiber, the Buffalo location of Uncle Sam's has been completely overhauled as a showcase for R&R, or Repurposed/Reused, a newly launched exclusive brand that focuses on sustainable, environmentally friendly, and socially conscious fashion principles that will eventually be featured at the other locations as well. The second floor is the site of "Ike's Bunker", where the best of the store's old identity is retained with historic military clothing and accessories sold as-is or manipulated and reimagined in myriad creative ways. Despite all this, one thing that hasn't changed is the friendliness and helpfulness of the staff — at Uncle Sam's, they take time to find the exact item you're looking for no matter how unusual.
The closest thing South Buffalo has to an Elmwood Avenue, the section of Abbott Road adjacent to and north of Cazenovia Park is densely packed with a variety of shops and restaurants, many with an Irish theme (in keeping with its designation as Buffalo's Irish Heritage District). South of there, it takes on a more spread-out, suburban feel.
- Burkey's Sportswear, 904 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14), ☎ +1 716 826-1849. M-F 10:30AM-4:30PM, Sa 10:30AM-3PM. With an inventory composed in equal measures of jerseys, activewear, t-shirts, and other apparel on the one hand, and sporting goods of all descriptions on the other hand, Burkey's is a friendly neighborhood shop that's equipped to attend to the needs of the athletic-minded community of Buffalo. Locally owned and operated, Burkey's demonstrates its engagement in the South Buffalo community with a range of locally-themed merchandise sold both in-store and at local events such as the South Buffalo Irish Feis and the Larkin Market, and its sponsorship of local amateur sports teams.
- Impress Apparel, 313 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14), ☎ +1 716 361-1056. Open by appointment. Much the same as Hertel Avenue's New Buffalo Graphics, which in 1977 popularized "City of No Illusions" as a nickname for Buffalo, Impress Apparel is a locally owned business whose stock in trade is equal parts custom screenprinted apparel and sloganeering. The marquee product here is a line of t-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, and baseball caps — not to mention coffee mugs, tote bags, Christmas ornaments, and other baubles — imprinted with the slogan "Buffalo: We Roam All Over", an ever-present friendly reminder that although local native sons and daughters can be found all over the world, they always have a home in Buffalo. As well, Impress stocks framed prints, coasters, and cell phone cases emblazoned with iconic local scenes like the downtown skyline and the grain elevators, as well as personalized tiles that can be customized with anything from photos of loved ones to business logos. In addition to their storefront location, you can often see owners Art Pepe and Stuart Goodman peddling their wares at events and festivals around the local area, such as the Buffalo RiverFest.
- McKay's, 851 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14), ☎ +1 716 824-7900. M-Sa 10AM-6PM, Th-F till 9PM. The order of the day at McKay's is work gear, specifically Carhartt brand: their gamut of jackets, cargo pants, coveralls, neon-colored high-visibility vests, tool bags, backpacks, and other accessories earned them Carhartt's Retailer of the Year award in 2006. Work shoes and boots are also sold — both soft- and steel-toed, from brands like Georgia, Wolverine, and Timberland — as well as gloves, lab coats, and medical scrubs. McKay's has built a reputation since 1973 for their stunning selection of high-quality merchandise sold at hard-to-beat prices, but more so than that, what keeps customers coming back here is the helpful, cheerful customer service provided — the relationships Bruce and Nancy McKay and their staff foment with their customers is the kind of thing that could only come from a third-generation family-owned business over forty years running. Another stock in trade at McKay's — appropriately enough given its location in the heart of South Buffalo's Irish Heritage District — is a range of sweatshirts that feature custom-made Irish embroidery designs produced right in-store.
- Buffalo Adore, 391 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14), ☎ +1 716 602-8503. Tu-Th 11AM-6PM, F-Sa 11AM-4PM, Su 10AM-2PM. Buffalo's "Best New Shop of 2013" (according to Artvoice) is operated by Andrea Dacey, a lifelong fan of do-it-yourself crafts who opened Buffalo Adore as a way to market her own merchandise and that of other like-minded folks. The merchandise that crowds the shelves and display cases here is ever-changing, wide-ranging and unique, and almost without exception the work of locally-based artisans — over 80 at last count. Framed embroidery, wall hangings, throw pillows, posters, and decorative baubles of various and sundry descriptions — as well as t-shirts, artisan jewelry, and other items — are united by an aesthetic that's homespun almost to the point of corniness, perfect for fans of kitsch. If you're in the market for hand-knit hats in the shape of a Buffalo head (complete with horns!) or a selection of street-sign throw pillows, this is your place. The indecisive can opt for a "Buffalo Adore Box" featuring a random grab-bag of merchandise in stock. DIY aficionados can also take advantage of classes in beading, wine-glass painting, and other crafty pursuits.
- Tara Gift Shoppe, 250 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14), ☎ +1 716 825-6700. M-Sa 10AM-4PM. There's perhaps no store that better encapsulates this neighborhood than Tara Gift Shoppe — the themes uniting its wide-ranging inventory are split between Ireland, Buffalo, and Irish Buffalo. Located, appropriately enough, at the heart of South Buffalo's Irish Heritage District, the shop was founded in 1978 by Tom Heneghan, a first-generation immigrant from Ireland who named it after the famous Hill of Tara. It's proven so popular — both with visitors and with departed South Buffalo natives who come back regularly to check on their old neighborhood — that it's doubled in size since then. You can come to Tara Gift Shoppe to pick up green-white-and-orange "South Buffalo Forever" t-shirts or green Bills or Sabres baseball hats, but this place is at its best as a purveyor of authentic, unique Irish imports of consistently high quality (prices can be high, but you get what you pay for). Jewelry, courtesy of Irish manufacturers such as Solvar, O'Connor, and Shanore, comes in Celtic motifs, including some nice claddagh rings; stained glass, wind chimes, and decorative baubles feature Celtic tribal symbols and Irish crosses. Fine china and crystalware from Belleck, Royal Tara, and Waterford are also to be had. Needless to say, Tara Gift Shoppe is a great place to browse, or to pick up a gift for Mother's Day, Christmas, or St. Patrick's Day for that Hibernian on your list. If necessary, they'll ship anywhere in the continental United States.
- Dog Ears Bookstore & Café, 688 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14), ☎ +1 716 823-2665. M-Sa 10AM-8PM, Su 11AM-3PM. South Buffalo's only bookstore may be, in the words of their website, "a fun, funky place where the written word rules", but it's also an immense force for good in the community. Dog Ears Bookstore is operated on a not-for-profit basis — the money you spend here goes to fund community literacy workshops, children's reading programs, and other community initiatives that take place on the second floor at the Enlightenment Literary Center, and they also work with schools and other community organizations to help them source books for the use of their students and members. Even if you're just here to buy books, Dog Ears is no slouch in that department either. It's a bookstore/café hybrid (see the Eat section for more on the second half of that dichotomy) with a relaxing, homey mom-and-pop atmosphere, patronized by unpretentious neighborhood types and staffed by a knowledgeable team of literary aficionados who are more than happy to point customers in the right direction. There's books for everyone here, but in keeping with its mission of promoting community literacy and helping out the local schools, Dog Ears emphasizes titles for young children above all. There's also a good selection of Irish literature (this being South Buffalo, after all) and works by local authors.
- KupKates, 956 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14), ☎ +1 716 828-2282. Su 11AM-4PM or by appointment. Kathleen Cunningham has operated her namesake bakery on Abbott Road since 2010, a small neighborhood operation where the walls are cheerily decorated in bright, pleasant colors and the accent, not surprisingly given its name, is on cupcakes. KupKates specializes in custom orders prepared for weddings, parties, and other special occasions — the owner's patience and versatility in coming up with neat themes and flavors to suit all tastes is the stuff of South Buffalo legend. However, the store does stock a selection of premade varieties to take home. These include a special "flavor of the week" that's proven especially popular. These cakes are artfully prepared from scratch and use really high-quality ingredients: witness the recent flavor of the week, Key Lime Pie, which featured flavored cream cheese frosting on a cake batter infused with fresh lime zest and key lime juice and coated with crumbled graham crackers. If you're not in the mood for cupcakes, you can choose from a selection of other goodies like cookies, pastry hearts, and pies; and if you're gluten-sensitive, KupKates has you covered too. A downside is the store's opening hours — only five hours a week, on Sunday mornings and afternoons.
Chocolate and candies
- Ko-Ed Candies, 281 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14), ☎ +1 716 824-3489. M-Sa 10AM-7PM, early Oct through mid-May. It's hard to keep a small neighborhood business running for going on 70 years: it takes a special kind of relationship with the community, a personal touch that makes folks feel like friends rather than just customers. But that's exactly the kind of tradition Gary and Sandy Whitt have been keeping alive at Ko-Ed Candies since they took over the operation in 1984 (it first opened in 1947). The specialty here is sponge candy, handcrafted in the kitchen at the rear of the building and available in-store or all over the country via mail order. Ko-Ed's sponge candy comes dipped in your choice of sweet, delicious milk chocolate or rich dark chocolate, and Buffalo sweet tooths agree that this is some of the highest-quality stuff you'll find anywhere (Buffalo Spree magazine made it official in 2014, awarding them the "Best Sponge Candy" prize in their "Best of Western New York" competition that year). It's a bit on the pricey side, but worth it. Aside from sponge candy, Ko-Ed also carries a number of other confections — their chocolate-covered popcorn places a distant second on the list of candy they're famous for, and they also offer up goodies like nonpareils, Charlie Chaplins, truffles, and special novelties around the holiday season. If you're in town in the summer, keep in mind that Ko-Ed closes down between May and October, including shipping. But if you come in spring, just before they close, you can take advantage of deep discounts as they clear out their stock!
- Park Edge Sweet Shoppe, 325 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14), ☎ +1 716 824-0228. M-F 10AM-4PM. Park Edge Sweet Shoppe was taken over in 2011 by new owners — Maggie Mulvaney, a Culinary Istitute of America graduate who's now the head chef, and Anna Hartog, who handles the business end — and consensus is they've really stepped the place up a notch, retaining the Old World charm and all the longtime former owners' old recipes while adding new innovations of their own creation. Compared to Ko-Ed Candies, their vaunted competition two blocks down Abbott Road, the goods for sale at Park Edge are more diverse and come at a more reasonable price. Hand-dipped sponge candy is indeed a specialty — unlike most places around here, these folks also offer it in narrow sticks, sort of like a Kit Kat bar — but equal emphasis is also placed on other confections in dark, milk, white, and orange chocolate, goodies such as candy apples, rich butter toffee, and cookies (courtesy of Cookie Expressions), and even non-edibles like fresh-cut flowers, novelty glasses, plush toys, and cute gifts.
Tattoos and piercing
- Sideshow Images, 435 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14), ☎ +1 716 603-1517. Tu-Sa 1PM-end of last scheduled appointment. The owner of this place once described his business thus: "We may not be the 'best' studio in Buffalo, [or the] most well-known or widely advertised, but our word-of-mouth customers love us and keep coming back for more." Some might say he's being too modest with that first part: more so than at any other studio in Buffalo, at Sideshow Images the emphasis is placed squarely on the creative aspect of body art. Here, the opportunity to make a quick buck with low-quality, garden-variety rush jobs is rejected, and instead they take their time to design unique customized pieces from scratch (this place outright refuses to replicate tattoos seen online, in pictures or elsewhere!) and execute them using the latest developments in body art and tattoo procedure. Because of the time and care it takes to do business this way, Sideshow Images does not accept walk-in customers and generally is booked out far in advance (it's worth trying your luck, though; spaces do open up frequently). The environment here is low-key and relaxed without sacrificing safety — all equipment that comes into bodily contact with customers is 100% disposable and never reused. Also, while not many people come to tattoo parlors for the conversation, the artists at Sideshow Images are known for their quick wit and their odd but delightful sense of humor, so if that's your thing, this is where you want to be. Frequent promotions and deals are offered.
Since 1931, Seneca-Babcock has been the home of the Niagara Frontier Food Terminal, founded in 1931 by the Erie and Nickel Plate Railroads as an alternative to the congested Elk Market Terminal for wholesale produce vendors. Despite the demise of both railroads and the rise of suburban-style supermarkets as the dominant option for grocery shoppers, the Niagara Frontier Food Terminal continues in operation and is today the home of a number of specialty food concerns, as well as the Clinton Bailey Farmers' Market (q.v.)
Liquor, beer and wine
- Chateau Buffalo, 1500 Clinton St. #175 (At the Niagara Frontier Food Terminal; Metro Bus 2 or 19), ☎ +1 716 704-4671. Th-Sa 11AM-7PM. Local wine lovers rejoiced in 2013, when owner Carl Schmitter established a permanent home for Chateau Buffalo at the Niagara Frontier Food Terminal, several years after his former Hertel Avenue storefront shut its doors and in the wake of a couple of tough years operating out of farmers' markets and a stand at the Broadway Market. (Festival fans need not worry: either Carl himself or his food truck, The Wine Wanderer, can still be found at many local events.) The new location looks like a drab warehouse from the outside, but that appearance belies a warm, inviting, and copiously stocked store where the name of the game is local wine, cider, and other artisanal gourmet foods. Chateau Buffalo has its own urban winery, bottling a variety of white and red vintages that they produce in small batches from locally-grown grapes, and they also make their own craft cider under the brand name "Dancing Buffalo" (the German-style apfelwein is said to be especially tasty). Better still, the balance of their inventory, which also includes mead, cheese, jams, jellies, and other goods, is sourced from other New York artisans — so if you're in search of a hard-to-find craft product from elsewhere in the state, you may be in luck at Chateau Buffalo. "Charcuterie Friday" is a great time to show up at the store: $25 buys a flight of wine or cider for two plus a rotating slate of New York-made artisan cheeses and sausages; call ahead at least 24 hours in advance to reserve a plate. As for service, it's supremely friendly and knowledgeable: you can easily lose track of time while Schmitter regales you with everything from the saga of his business to the chemistry of winemaking.
- Willowbrook Beverage Center, 1500 Clinton St. #92 (At the Niagara Frontier Food Terminal; Metro Bus 2 or 19), ☎ +1 716 824-8824. M-F 8AM-5PM, Sa 8AM-3PM. Founded in 1949, Willowbrook Farms is a locally-owned and family-operated food distributor that, in addition to operating the Willowbrook Farms Cash & Carry next door, runs this wholesale beer and wine store that sells its goods not only to bars and restaurants but also directly to consumers like you. At the Willowbrook Beverage Center, you can find an awesome variety of domestic and imported beers in cans, bottles, kegs, tubs and taps, plus a modest selection of local and regional craft microbrews and wine, cold pop, snacks, and other party goods. Beer aficionados will appreciate that Willowbrook sells both refrigerated and non-refrigerated beers, the better to help keep your beer at the optimal temperature for its flavor. Depending on when you visit, you might find the already ridiculously cheap prices further reduced by the special promotions and manufacturers' rebates that are frequently in effect, and for $7.50 you can "mix and match" your own 6-pack of any combination of beers you like. Plus, if you're looking for a specific product, they'll usually special-order anything that's not in stock.
- The Sausage Maker, 1500 Clinton St. #123 (At the Niagara Frontier Food Terminal; Metro Bus 2 or 19), ☎ +1 716 824-5814. M-F 8:30AM-4:30PM, Sa 8:30AM-1PM. The Sausage Maker was founded in 1972 by Rytek Kutas, a first-generation Polish immigrant and avid home sausage maker who envisioned a resource for locals, from hunters and fishermen to garden-variety urban gourmands, who like to make their own sausage and other cured meat products. Today, the business soldiers on under the operation of sons Ben and Tom at the Niagara Frontier Food Terminal, and it's expanded its repertoire to serve the needs of other DIY food artisans such as cheesemakers, canners, and home brewers and winemakers. The Sausage Maker's voluminous store is well-stocked with a wide variety of stuff, much of which is custom-manufactured by engineers in the local area. You can find machinery such as meat grinders and sausage stuffers, electric appliances like smokehouses and dehydrators (perfect for making your own jerky!), and supplies including sausage casings, spices and curing agents. And, the ample inventory is curated by a helpful and surpemely friendly staff who is eager to answer customers' questions and help them out in any conceivable way.
If you want the most elegant fine dining Buffalo has to offer, look elsewhere. But if you want neighborhood dives brimming with local color and serving up delicious homestyle foods at shockingly low prices, South Buffalo has you covered.
Interestingly enough for a neighborhood that makes much of its Irish heritage, South Buffalo goes toe-to-toe with Little Italy when it comes to pizza. South Park Avenue especially has a wealth of pizzerias to choose from.
|This page uses the following price ranges for a typical meal for one, including soft drink:|
South Buffalo Business District
- Seneca Texas Hots, 2449 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☎ +1 716 822-7121. Daily 24 hours. Belying its unremarkable look, Seneca Texas Hots lays claim to an important place in Buffalo culinary history — it's claimed that this is the place where the Texas hot was invented, by Greek immigrant George Ladas in 1957. A staple of the local cuisine, the Texas hot is similar to the "Coney Island" hot dogs found in Detroit: it's a hot dog slathered with thick, spicy meat sauce (hence their other nickname, "slime dogs"), mustard, and onions. Though plenty of imitators have sprung up in the years since then, local consensus still holds Ladas' original recipe as among the best in Buffalo — they even ship it nationwide to local natives who've moved away. Aside from Texas hots, Seneca also serves delicious fresh-cut French fries (portions are tiny, though; you may want to ask for two orders), milkshakes, and other fast-food fare, as well as breakfast all day. Needless to say, this is a popular place to sober up after a night of South Buffalo bar-hopping. If you're especially hungry, or if you're a family with kids, you might want to take advantage of the "buy five, get one free" deal, which has been running at Seneca since 1980. Sadly, local consensus says that this place has gone downhill since the founder's retirement: though they've added a drive-thru window and table service in the dining room, the whole place has a divey ambience, and service can be inattentive and surly. Cash only, but there's an ATM in the dining room. $5-10.
- Blackthorn Pub, 2134 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☎ +1 716 825-9327. Su-Th 11:30AM-10PM, F-Sa 11:30AM-11PM. "If I had to imagine a South Buffalo Irish Pub, this would probably be it", said one reviewer of the Blackthorn, and that's a pretty accurate description: the pub food served here splits the difference between local standbys like beef on weck and chicken wings, and Hibernian specialties such as corned beef and cabbage, shepherd's pie, and beer and cheddar soup. The trend continues after appetizer time too, with a short but delightful slate of stick-to-your-ribs main courses including steaks, fried and stuffed chicken breasts, Maryland crab cakes, and "Bourbon Street pasta" in an orange bourbon butter sauce with blackened chicken, shrimp, and scallops. For those who saw the Blackthorn on the Food Network series "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives", they also offer a "Triple D Platter" featuring all the dishes sampled by host Guy Fieri (like him, most folks seem to enjoy the jalapeño tater tots!) The Blackthorn is an old-school kind of place that doesn't look like much from the outside, but venture in and you'll experience a friendly, welcoming ambience. However, service can sometimes be unfriendly and brusque, especially if you're seated at the bar rather than in the dining room. $15-40.
- Francesca's Ristorante, 2022 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☎ +1 716 381-9136. Su-M 3PM-10PM, Tu-Sa 11AM-10PM. If the name of this place didn't clue you in to what kind of food is served here, the exterior sure will: this building screams "Italy" in the heart of Irish South Buffalo, from the bright orange stucco walls up to the red tile roof. Francesca's seems to have a foot on each end of the Italian-cuisine spectrum: the inside of the building is no less elegant than the outside, with low, twinkling lights, cloth napkins, and a warm coziness, but the food is homestyle and the vibe lacks snootiness. After enjoying some of the most delicious fresh-baked bread you've ever tasted, you'll choose from a menu that starts with appetizers including clams casino with pancetta as well as the local favorite of stuffed banana peppers, then graduates to a diverse slate of main courses that encompasses a variety of steaks, chicken dishes from standards like cacciatore and marsala to more creative options, pasta dishes among which the fettuccine escargot is a standout, and a range of interesting specialty pizzas. No matter what you order, you'll surely have far more food than you can actually eat in one sitting. The downside is that the food is sometimes bland, the prices are a bit high, and service, while generally friendly, can be inattentive, slow, and scattershot. As well, the wine list is strangely short and humdrum for an upscale Italian restaurant, but that's made up for by the range of specialty cocktails artfully executed at the bar. $15-40.
The following pizzerias are located in the South Buffalo business district. Those who are interested in pizza delivery (as opposed to pickup) might want to also check listings in adjacent districts; local pizzerias will often deliver to several different neighborhoods of the city.
- Blasdell Pizza, 2368 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☎ +1 716 823-8888. Su-Th 11AM-10PM, F-Sa 11AM-midnight.
- Emergency Pizza, 1870 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☎ +1 716 362-8750. M-Th 11AM-2AM, F-Sa 11AM-4AM, Su 11AM-midnight.
- Gulino's, 2298 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☎ +1 716 826-5499. M 3:30PM-11PM, Tu-Sa 10:30AM-11PM, Su 3PM-11PM.
- South Buffalo Farmers' Market, Peter Crotty Casino, Cazenovia Park (Metro Bus 15), ☎ +1 716 851-5158. Su 10AM-2PM beginning in June. With help from South District Councilman Chris Scanlon, the inaugural season of the South Buffalo Farmers' Market kicked off in June 2014, and this brand-new institution has already earned legions of rabid devotees among the local community. Every Sunday morning in season, an ample range of sellers — about 20 as of the present writing, but growing all the time — converge on Cazenovia Park offering up lots of locally-produced goodies. Of course visitors can choose from the usual array of farm-fresh produce, meats, eggs and dairy products, as well as delicious baked goods, fresh-cut flowers, honey, and locally-brewed coffee. But the South Buffalo Farmers Market also features such offbeat vendors as Chateau Buffalo with its craft wines and hard ciders, the locally-themed photography of John Angelo, and handcrafted gifts from South Buffalo's own Buffalo Adore. Unique among local farmers' markets, the South Buffalo Market also has food trucks on hand so you can munch on a snack while shopping, and live bands perform in front of the Casino most days.
Cobblestone District, the Old First Ward, and The Valley
- Ballyhoo, 211 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 14, 16 or 36), ☎ +1 716 240-9901. Su-Th noon-midnight, F-Sa noon-2AM. Offering "links and drinks" in the shadow of the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino, Ballyhoo opened in September 2014 in the building that once housed the Malamute, but don't be fooled: in sharp contrast to that old-school gin mill, Ballyhoo would give any of the trendy cocktail bars on Elmwood a run for their money, let alone scruffy South Buffalo. Here, you can imbibe any of an impressive range of microbrews hailing from the local area and elsewhere, or perhaps a perfectly-executed specialty cocktail made with homemade mixers, while obscure British post-punk drones on the stereo — or just pick the brains of the crack bartending staff, whose encyclopedic knowledge of the products they stock and obvious passion for what they do are a big part of Ballyhoo's appeal. "Less is more" is the credo here, which describes the tastefully understated decor as well as the short but sweet menu that consists entirely of a maddeningly creative range of house-made sausages served in sandwich form (one reviewer cheekily declared "finally, someplace that is giving the saying 'it was a real sausage fest' a positive connotation!") Try the "Curry Lamb Bam" topped with the contrasting flavors of harissa and raita and served with tabbouleh on the side, the "Church Chicken" seasoned with Old Bay and dressed with whole-grain mustard and celery and apple slaw, and the "Short Round", ground Korean-style short rib flavored with ginger, garlic and scallions and topped with kimchee slaw and sambal aioli. A modest range of salads and soups are offered for sides, and ice cream sandwiches made with fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies make a delectable dessert. In summertime, the focus shifts outdoors to one of Buffalo's most interesting patios: a wooden deck facing Michigan Avenue constructed with salvaged materials supplied by Uncle Sam's Army/Navy Surplus in Larkinville (the planted boxes hanging from the rails are made from old missile casings!) $15-25.
- Milo's, 126 Michigan Ave. (Metro Bus 14, 16 or 36), ☎ +1 716 856-4342. Daily 8AM-2PM. In the shadow of the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino can be found this small, retro-styled diner where really delicious breakfasts and lunches are served in a red-and-white interior straight out of the 1960s, by a waitstaff that's friendly, funny and spunky in the way you just don't see anymore in this age of faceless multinational chains. Even the prices will make you think you just stepped off a time machine. At breakfast, served daily till 11AM, you can get an ample variety of omelettes or larger breakfast platters with eggs, home fries, sausage or bacon, and French toast. Lunchtime features a slate of 8-inch sub sandwiches on locally sources Costanzo's rolls: in addition to the usual suspects such as turkey, salami, and royal, Buffalo specialties such as chicken finger subs and fried bologna sandwiches can be had. From the grill, you can order a grilled chicken sandwich, a number of burgers, or Texas hots; for something a little more unique, try the salmon burger. $5-15.
- Lagerhaus 95, 95 Perry St. (Metro Bus 6, 8, 14, 16, 24, or 36; Metro Rail: Erie Canal Harbor), ☎ +1 716 200-1798. M-F 11AM-10PM, Sa 4PM-10PM. Buffalo's self-styled "new best restaurant", Lagerhaus 95 is a deli, stube and gastropub located in a restored warehouse in Buffalo's historic Cobblestone District, within walking distance of the First Niagara Center and also convenient to downtown and Canalside. On offer are high-quality, authentic Central European specialties such as pierogi, rösti, and a variety of wursts, along with an impressive variety of domestic and imported beers in bottles and on tap which are served with dinner and at Lagerhaus 95's heated outdoor biergarten. Wine is also available. Lagerhaus 95 also boasts an express lunch counter serving freshly-prepared European-style sandwiches and soups, and is open before and after all events at the First Niagara Center with a special menu available. $15-35.
The following pizzerias are located in the Cobblestone District, the Old First Ward, and The Valley. Those who are interested in pizza delivery (as opposed to pickup) might want to also check listings in adjacent districts; local pizzerias will often deliver to several different neighborhoods of the city.
- Carbone's, 568 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 14, 16, 18 or 36), ☎ +1 716 855-1749. Su-Th 11AM-11PM, F-Sa 11AM-midnight.
- Ricota's, 206 Elk St. (Metro Bus 14, 16, or 23), ☎ +1 716 823-7636. M-Sa 10:30AM-10:45PM, Su 10:30AM-9:45PM.
- Family Dollar, 438 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 14, 16, 18 or 36), ☎ +1 716 854-5938. M-Sa 9AM-10PM, Su 9AM-9PM.
The Triangle and South Park Avenue
- Apollo Family Restaurant, 423 Hopkins St. (Metro Bus 16), ☎ +1 716 825-9087. M-Sa 7AM-7PM, Su 7AM-3PM. Since 1992, Konstantin Mazaris and his staff have operated this friendly Greek diner in an out-of-the-way location at the back end of The Triangle. At this classic "greasy spoon", all the expected specialties such as souvlaki, gyro and Greek salad are dished out, as well as a selection of simple American favorites and a breakfast that can't be beat. Service is friendly and folksy, and the prices are remarkably low. $10-25.
- Jacobi's, 141 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14, 16, 19 or 23), ☎ +1 716 822-2780. M-Sa 11AM-midnight, Su noon-midnight. Jacobi's is a Buffalo institution, a longstanding chain of casual Italian restaurants with several locations in the area, including this one in South Buffalo. It's basically a locally-owned equivalent of Pizza Hut, with offerings much the same as what you could get with delivery, except served to you by actual waitstaff in an actual dining room. The pizza, wings, chicken fingers, subs, and pasta dishes (Wednesday is all-you-can-eat pasta night) are reliably good, if unremarkable. Service is a definite weak spot at Jacobi's, ranging from disengaged to hostile. $10-30.
- Parker's Proper Fish and Chips, 1176 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 14, 16 or 23), ☎ +1 716 823-3772. M-Sa 11AM-6PM. Part of Damian and Vicky Parker's master plan to convert this former industrial lot in South Buffalo into a British-themed complex including specialty shops, riverboat rides, and a soccer field, Parker's Proper Fish and Chips is the continuation of a storied tradition of high quality — "proper" in the place's name is not an exaggeration. Authenticity is the name of the game here: the fish in question is always cod (which accounts for the prices, which may seem high at first glance), the batter is imbued with flavor and will seem delightfully light and crispy for those used to Buffalo-style fish fry, the chips are topped with salt and vinegar upon request but otherwise come condiment-free, and it's all wrapped in wax paper with no plates or silverware in sight. In short, Parker's furnishes a fish-and-chips experience far more genuine than anything else you're likely to find anywhere on this side of the Atlantic, let alone in the local area. For those who don't like fish, you can also get a selection of Parker's own British-style pork pies and sausage rolls which come fresh with chips, and the beverage list ranges from soda to British favorites such as bitter shandy and Tetley's teas. The interior is no-frills and boasts sparse seating, but in nice weather you can tuck in to your meal while relaxing on the picnic tables outside. $5-15.
- Pete-n-Paul's Pockets, 2124 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 16), ☎ +1 716 825-6655. M-Sa 10:30AM-7:30PM. Pull up to Pete-n-Paul's and you might think you're at an old-fashioned ice cream stand or burger joint, and by all means you certainly can get a variety of burgers, hot dogs, milkshakes and frozen treats there. But appearances can be deceiving: the menu is a lot more extensive than you'd expect from a summertime drive-in, and it's characterized by a long list of sandwiches, each more delicious than the next, that all come wrapped in healthy, cholesterol-free pita bread (hence the "pockets" at the end of this place's name). Chicken souvlaki, Italian sausage, beef Stroganoff, and fried bologna are only a few of the pita-wrapped delights available here. Elsewhere on the menu you'll see wrap sandwiches, tacos, salads, and entrees including Greek souvlaki platters and a killer fish fry on Fridays. The best thing about Pete-n-Paul's, though, is that their food is not only consistently delicious, but also cheap. And the daily specials are an even better deal: for example, "Meatball Monday" sees 6-inch meatball hoagies with melted cheese sell for $3.99, and "Taco Tuesday" features gargantuan beef soft-shell tacos for $2.25. Free Wi-Fi, too! $5-10.
- Wayside Family Restaurant, 2301 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 16), ☎ +1 716 826-2279. Daily 7AM-11PM. Wayside Family Restaurant has legions of rabidly loyal fans in South Buffalo, many of whom have been swearing by this place for decades and come so often the staff knows them by name. That may be hard to fathom given what this place is — a pretty run-of-the-mill diner that serves straightforward, blue-collar American food in a sparsely decorated dining room, with somewhat cramped booths and tables under fluorescent lighting. What's the appeal? First of all, don't let the unadventurous menu fool you: this is diner food done right, with fresh, homestyle ingredients served by warm, friendly, and quick-working waitstaff that, even if you aren't one of the scads of neighborhood regulars that are here at any given time, will treat you as if you were. It's not unlikely that you'll even meet the owners themselves, who like to show up frequently to greet their customers. Wayside's menu is dominated by sandwiches — there must be two or three dozen to choose from, from favorites like BLT, ham, and tuna salad, to a variety of subs, to melts and wraps, to mouth-watering entree sandwiches like meatloaf, hot roast beef, and breaded fish, to a build-your-own burger basket that's a hit with regulars. Also, while Wayside is not a Greek diner, there are definite nods to that staple of the local dining scene on their menu, with sandwiches available on pita bread for no extra charge and a killer souvlaki entree available with chicken or beef. There's a modest selection of heartier dinner entrees, too, including beef and turkey roasts, steak, stuffed porkchops, grilled or fried chicken, and pasta. On Fridays, beer-battered fish fry packs the house, and if you come in the morning you'll get a pleasant surprise on the bill, as all breakfast entrees include bottomless coffee. Not that you'd break the bank here anyway — this place is cheap, especially given the huge portions. $10-25.
- Valle of Mexico, 1586 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 14, 16, 19 or 23), ☎ +1 716 822-8880. Daily except Tu 11AM-11PM. The recent history of Mexican food in Buffalo has been one of recurring disappointment for fans of the genuine article: much fanfare was made about Agave in the Elmwood Village, but in the end the two or three token authentic dishes there were available only a few days a week; before that, Allentown's hotly anticipated Cantina Loco was several rungs above what was available before, but their creative fusion cuisine is a far cry from what you can get in Mexico. Enter Valle of Mexico, a humble little dive in South Buffalo of all places. The strange juxtaposition of English and Spanish in the place's name (the first word is not a typo) mirrors the menu, which mixes the authentic and the Americanized. For the adventurers, there's the best mole poblano in Buffalo, birria in the authentic tapatío style, roasted nopales (cactus leaves), tacos and burritos with intriguing fillings such as lengua (tongue), cecina (a bit like beef jerky, deliciously dry and salty), and longaniza (pork sausage), and a surprising array of seafood including fish fillets in a variety of styles, shrimp and octopus cocktail, and oysters in the shell. For more timid palates, all the standard Tex-Mex dishes can be had too. Valle of Mexico really shows how bastardized the food served at other Mexican places in Buffalo is — the corn tortillas are deliciously mealy, the Spanish rice contains diced carrots that give it an interesting sweetness, and there are no bottles of hot sauce on the tables here, as elsewhere. Even the free chips and salsa are done a little differently: the salsa is thin, oily and a lot spicier than what you're likely used to, while the chips are made fresh in-house and are crispy and salty enough that they could probably be eaten by themselves. Portions are huge, too, especially for the prices — for example, don't even think about ordering the nachos as an appetizer. Valle of Mexico's weak spots include service, which is friendly but glacially slow; also, despite the air conditioner in the window, it gets uncomfortably stuffy in there during the summer. As well, those who don't know Spanish may have trouble with the menu: English translations are scanty and sometimes completely lacking. $15-35.
The following local chains have locations in The Triangle and on South Park Avenue. Descriptions of these restaurants can be found on the main Buffalo page.
- Mighty Taco, 1039 McKinley Pkwy. (Metro Bus 14, 16, 19 or 23), ☎ +1 716 939-2653. Su-Th 10AM-1AM, F-Sa 10AM-2AM.
The following pizzerias are located in The Triangle and on South Park Avenue. Those who are interested in pizza delivery (as opposed to pickup) might want to also check listings in adjacent districts; local pizzerias will often deliver to several different neighborhoods of the city.
- Big Fat Paulie's, 1775 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 16), ☎ +1 716 822-0024. M-Th 11AM-10PM, F-Sa 11AM-11PM, Su noon-9PM.
- Chick-N-Pizza Works, 129 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14, 16, 19 or 23), ☎ +1 716 823-1300. Su-Th 11AM-10PM, F-Sa 11AM-11PM.
- Gino's NY Pizza, 2412 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 16, 36 or 42), ☎ +1 716 826-5555. M-Th 11AM-10PM, F-Sa 11AM-midnight, Su noon-9PM.
- Mineo's, 2154 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 16), ☎ +1 716 800-2423. M-Th 11AM-11PM, F-Sa 11AM-midnight, Su 11AM-10PM.
- Mr. Submarine, 1977 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 16), ☎ +1 716 826-0540. M-Sa 11AM-11PM, Su noon-10PM.
Larkinville has a variety of brick-and-mortar restaurants to choose from, listed here. However, when it comes to dining, doubtless the most well-known attraction in the neighborhood is Food Truck Tuesdays, where a revolving cast of about two dozen food trucks from Buffalo, as well as visitors from Rochester and elsewhere, descend on Larkin Square from 5PM to 8PM, May through October.
- Chautauqua Café, 726 Exchange St. (At Larkin @ Exchange; Metro Bus 15, 18 or 23), ☎ +1 716 819-2880. M-F 7:30AM-10:15AM and 11:30AM-3PM. Larkinville lunchers who don't want to shell out for the pricey fare at The Filling Station have another option: in the first-floor atrium of the Larkin @ Exchange building is this pleasant full-service bistro-style dining room where the food is more reasonably priced and no less delicious. The Chautauqua Café is open for breakfast, which features a menu of egg sandwiches as well as a self-serve Belgian waffle bar with a range of toppings, as well as lunch, where the menu changes weekly but features soups, hot sandwiches, deli-style sandwiches, and personal pizzas (your choice of two each) as well as a heartier entree and salad. Full lunch service ends at 2PM, but soup and salad continues to be available for an hour thereafter. $5-15.
- The Filling Station, 745 Seneca St. (At Larkin Square; Metro Bus 15, 18 or 23), ☎ +1 716 362-2665. M-F 11AM-3PM. The Filling Station is a casual place open for lunch inside a 1930s-era gas station at Larkin Square, which has been fully restored with a pleasant, airy ambience that boasts huge picture windows looking out onto the busy streets of Larkinville. The Filling Station's menu is a short and sweet one, characterized by simple yet remarkably upscale fare (priced to match) that emphasizes the local, the fresh, and the seasonal. Lunchers can choose from a range of homemade soups including a bisque of fennel and bell pepper, a delicious taco of honey lime tequila shrimp, pureed avocado, and purple slaw garnished with smoked sour cream, a range of burgers and sandwiches, and a choice of two pizzas with prosciutto and San Marzano tomatoes, respectively. What really stands out, though, is the wine list, which is longer than any office lunch-break spot ought to be: over a dozen vintages are available. Beverage-wise, locally brewed Flying Bison "Rusty Chain" amber ale is also available, and for teetotalers, there's an extensive slate of gourmet teas and locally bottled Johnnie Ryan sodas. Parking is available a block away in the lot at the corner of Swan and Hagerman Streets, across from the AME Church. $15-25.
- Hydraulic Hearth, 716 Swan St. (Metro Bus 15, 18 or 23), ☎ +1 716 248-2216. Tu-Th 4:30PM-10PM, F-Sa 4:30PM-11PM. Described by Buffalo Rising as "one of the city's most completely thought-through" restaurant redevelopments, the Hydraulic Hearth opened for business in November 2014 in a handsome circa-1885 brick block in the heart of Larkinville, built as the Hydraulics Hotel and most recently home to the working-class gin mill Swan Lounge. The experience begins as you stroll to your table through the spacious, inviting interior, with exposed brick walls and bright picture windows looking out onto Larkin Square, and crescendoes with an upscale menu whose backbone consists of a variety of gourmet pizzas cooked with homemade dough and cheese in a brick oven imported from Italy. The selection covers a respectable range: from classics like margherita, sausage (sourced from the West Side's own Spar's European Sausages), and pepperoni, to local favorites like Buffalo chicken, to innovations like a pulled pork pizza topped with radicchio slaw and a blend of cheddar and goat cheese, and a sweet-and-savory butternut squash pizza with maple crema and balsamic craisins. But it's in the appetizers that the true diversity of the Hydraulic Hearth's oeuvre comes out to shine: there's Swedish meatballs with lingonberry jam, matzo ball soup, a cheese and charcuterie plate, and what would a Buffalo pizza restaurant be without wings — bourbon wings in this case, with a side of smoked blue cheese? Beer fans will be pleased to know that the Hydraulic Hearth doubles as a brewpub for the beloved Community Beer Works, but also represented are beers from other craft brewers around the region (and beyond; this is the place to come for West Coast microbrews that are otherwise tough to find around here), as well as artfully concocted craft cocktails and some of the best boilermakers in town. Just a few feet over from the bar is (716) GAL-LERY — see the "Art" section of this article for more on that. Minor weak points include inconsistent service, constant crowds and noise at the bar, and scant parking, but don't let that stop you: this is one of the best new restaurants in Buffalo. $20-35.
- Abbott Pizza, 1177 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14 or 42), ☎ +1 716 826-2628. Su-Th 11AM-10PM, F-Sa 11AM-11PM. The rivalry between this place and Imperial Pizza up the street is longstanding and contentious. While neighborhood consensus says that Imperial still has better pizza, Abbott has responded by transitioning from a pickup-or-delivery outfit to a full-service sit-down restaurant, with an ample dining room and a menu that has been expanded far beyond the confines of pizza and wings to include a selection of about two dozen hot and cold subs (which are also available as wraps), simple Mexican fare such as tacos, quesadillas and fajitas, and even family-sized fried chicken dinners. As for the pizza: despite the second sentence of this blurb, what Abbott serves is reliably good, tasty and not too greasy, and it comes at a decent price. There's a wide selection of specialty pizzas, including the spicy "Hot Topic" with two kinds of hot peppers, the meat-lovers' dream "Abbott Special" with ham, cappicola, salami and sausage, and a Greek pizza that's topped with a blend of mozzarella and feta, onions, black olives and souvlaki beef or chicken. Minus a couple of points for the service, which is quick but often churlish, and the astonishing fact that this place doesn't serve fountain drinks (soda comes in cans only). $10-25.
- Dog Ears Bookstore & Café, 688 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14), ☎ +1 716 823-2665. M-F 6:30AM-8PM, Sa 8AM-8PM, Su 9AM-3PM. The former location of Caz Coffee is now a vibrant café/bookstore hybrid where the money you spend goes to a whole range of community programs and literacy initiatives. At Dog Ears Bookstore Café you can get a whole range of light gourmet fare served up in a cozy, intimate setting. The cornerstone of the menu is a range of sandwiches, wraps, ciabatta and panini with names that evoke literary classics of the past: "The Dubliner", for example, features bacon, sharp Irish cheese, roasted tomatoes, and spinach on panini, and "The Walden" is one of the many vegetarian-friendly items, a sandwich of grilled zucchini, mushrooms, artichokes, red peppers, and sun-dried tomato pesto on toast. Soups, salads, and baked goods (including some out-of-this-world scones) round out the lunchtime offerings, while at breakfast they serve a slate of selections including bagels, French toast, and some pricey-but-good breakfast sandwiches. If you're here on Friday mornings, take advantage of "Free Coffee Friday"; if not, have a coffee anyway — it's ridiculously cheap on the other six days of the week too! $10-15.
- Brick Oven Bistro, 904 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14), ☎ +1 716 844-8496. M-Th 11AM-3PM and 4PM-9PM, F-Sa 11AM-3PM and 4PM-10PM, Su noon-8PM. Brick Oven Bistro stands out from the rest of the underwhelming South Buffalo dining scene with its focus on creative, upscale cuisine made with fresh, high-quality ingredients. There's a wide range of stuff on the menu, but the centerpiece is a selection of about a dozen artisan brick-oven pizzas that range from run-of-the-mill varieties like classic margherita, pepperoni, and mushroom to innovations such as a reuben pizza complete with sauerkraut and, in a tip of the hat to local cuisine, a beef on weck pizza topped with house-roasted beef, Swiss cheese, horseradish aioli (strong enough to give the taste a kick without overwhelming the other flavors), and a kümmelweck crust. Despite the local touches, what's served at Brick Oven Bistro isn't Buffalo-style pizza — the crust is very thin, so much so that one reviewer suggested they'd be better described as flatbreads. Gluten-free crust is available for a $2 upcharge. Elsewhere on the menu are homemade soups, salads generously topped with dressing and seasoning (including one of the few watermelon feta salads available in Buffalo), appetizers including a fresh charcuterie platter, and a range of main courses that are upscale takes on familiar favorites. At lunchtime are served a selection of sandwiches, the best of which, according to local consensus, is a mouth-watering Angus steak sandwich dressed with hot peppers, onions, provolone, and garlic aioli. Best of all, at Brick Oven Bistro there's 18 craft brews on tap; beer aficionados who want to sample the goods can opt for a flight. $15-35.
The following pizzerias are located on Abbott Road. Those who are interested in pizza delivery (as opposed to pickup) might want to also check listings in adjacent districts; local pizzerias will often deliver to several different neighborhoods of the city.
- Imperial Pizza, 1035 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14), ☎ +1 716 825-3636. Daily 11AM-11:30PM.
- Jo Jo's, 528 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14), ☎ +1 716 822-6000. Su-Th 11AM-10PM, F-Sa 11AM-midnight.
- Desi's Family Restaurant, 1527 Clinton St. (Metro Bus 2 or 19), ☎ +1 716 822-8630. M 10AM-6PM, Tu-F 10AM-10PM. Open since 1979, Desi's Family Restaurant serves a modest-sized menu of American and Italian standards — nothing creative or innovative, just classic favorites cooked up right. The place is run by the same folks who own Desi's Pizzeria a bit further east on Clinton Street, in Kaisertown, and true to form, other than the fact that they don't serve pizza, a lot of the menu isn't too different from what you'd find at a pizza delivery outfit: chicken wing platters in a variety of sizes and flavors, chicken fingers, deep-fried fare, and hot and cold submarine sandwiches. Desi's has built most of its reputation on its subs, and it really is hard to find better ones in Buffalo. And there's a lot of them to choose from — everything from standards like ham, salami, and royal, to specialty subs like the Reuben and the "Texas Cheese Dog" (sliced hot dogs, cheddar, mustard and Texas sauce), to mouth-watering, Italian-inspired creations like "The Godfather" (your choice of steak or Italian sausage with peppers, dandelion greens, and provolone) and "The Italian Kiss" (fried salami and cappicola with hot peppers, Italian dressing, and provolone). More elaborate fare includes a variety of pasta dishes served with garlic bread, salad, and meatballs, and a surprisingly wide variety of seafood specialties including a Friday-night fish fry whose price can't be beat. $10-25.
The following pizzerias are located in Seneca-Babcock. Those who are interested in pizza delivery (as opposed to pickup) might want to also check listings in adjacent districts; local pizzerias will often deliver to several different neighborhoods of the city.
- Bowl Inn, 727 Bailey Ave. (Metro Bus 2 or 19), ☎ +1 716 824-9074. M-Tu & Th-F 4PM-4AM, W noon-4AM, Sa-Su 11AM-4AM.
- Uncle Sam's Pizza & Subs, 1207 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☎ +1 716 822-7717. M-Tu 4PM-10PM, W-Th 11AM-10PM, F 11AM-11PM, Sa 1PM-11PM, Su noon-10PM.
The Niagara Frontier Food Terminal is home not only to Buffalo's largest farmers' market, but also several "cash and carry" markets, where you can buy groceries directly from distributors at wholesale prices, "cutting out the middleman" and enjoying substantial savings as a result.
- E.A.T. Market (Empire Agricultural Terminal), 1206 Clinton St. (Metro Bus 2), ☎ +1 716 825-0536. Sale directly to consumers by individual appointment.
- US Food Supply Cash & Carry, 1500 Clinton St. #136 (At the Niagara Frontier Food Terminal; Metro Bus 2 or 19), ☎ +1 716 825-7347. M-F 8AM-4:30PM, Sa 8AM-3:30PM, Su 9AM-1PM.
- Willowbrook Farms Cash & Carry, 1500 Clinton St. #92 (At the Niagara Frontier Food Terminal; Metro Bus 2 or 19), ☎ +1 716 824-4400. M-F 6AM-4PM, Sa 7AM-1PM.
- Clinton Bailey Farmers' Market, 1443 Clinton St. (Metro Bus 2 or 19), ☎ +1 716 822-2466. Daily 7AM-6PM May-Oct, Sa 6AM-1PM Nov-Apr. Many Buffalonians look at farmers' markets as a new phenomenon, maybe even a fad. And it's true: while a decade or so ago you were hard-pressed to find them outside the rural hinterlands, today there are a dozen or more of them inside the city limits, with more sprouting each year. The Clinton Bailey Farmers' Market is not one of the newbies, though: founded in 1930 as an outgrowth of the wholesale food distributors across the street at the Niagara Frontier Food Terminal, it's by far the oldest and largest farmers' market in Buffalo, and the only one that remains open year round (though with sharply reduced hours in winter). At Clinton Bailey, you'll find stall after stall of growers and vendors each specializing in something a little different from their neighbor: booths manned by friendly folks with a knack for service, a genuine desire to steer their customers to the products they're searching for, and above all, an encyclopedic knowledge of the goods they grow or produce themselves — whether it be fresh fruits or vegetables, flowers and ornamental plants, baked goods, or other specialty foods. There's even a small flea market on weekends in summer with jewelry and other goods. Prices are astoundingly low even compared to other area farmers' markets. No matter what time of year you come, the Clinton Bailey Farmers' Market is an enjoyable and distinctly local experience: late fall sees the lot awash with green as local tree farms come on the scene to sell fresh-cut Christmas trees, then the market settles in for the winter with just a few diehard greenhouse farmers holding out in the market's enclosed interior space. Needless to say, though, summer is when you want to come — participants during the warm months include everyone from industrial farms hundreds of acres (hectares) in size to small family farms and hobby growers selling seedlings out of the back of their pickup trucks.
South Buffalo is a drinker's paradise: the main drags of Seneca Street, South Park Avenue and Abbott Road are lined with colorful and unpretentious spots where you can mingle with the locals or even have a pint with one of Buffalo's finest after the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade.
South Buffalo Business District
- Daly's, 2423 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☎ +1 716 823-0250.
- Hopper's Rush Inn, 2104 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☎ +1 716 825-9389.
- Mr. Sports' All-Star Bar, 2340 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☎ +1 716 823-1150.
"Industrial chic" is the name of the game in Buffalo's newest nightlife district. The Cobblestone District is located in the shadow of the First Niagara Center, and as you can imagine, these bars really hop when the Sabres are playing. When there's nothing going on at the arena, the scenario is different but no less pleasant — you can imbibe in a quieter and more intimate ambience, and enjoy ample free parking at the huge, deserted First Niagara Center lots.
- Buffalo Iron Works, 49 Illinois St. (Metro Bus 6, 8, 14, 16, or 36; Metro Rail: Erie Canal Harbor), ☎ +1 716 200-1893.
- Cobblestone Bar & Grill, 130 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 14, 16 or 36; Metro Rail: Erie Canal Harbor), ☎ +1 716 848-1930.
- Lagerhaus 95, 95 Perry St. (Metro Bus 6, 8, 14, 16, 24, or 36; Metro Rail: Erie Canal Harbor), ☎ +1 716 200-1798.
- Lockhouse Distillery, 41 Columbia St. (Metro Bus 14, 16, or 36; Metro Rail: Erie Canal Harbor), ☎ +1 716 768-4898.
Old First Ward and The Valley
Bar-hopping in the Old First Ward and The Valley is like taking a trip back in time to working-class Buffalo of old. These rough-and-tumble gin mills go way back — in fact, some of them (like the Swannie House) have been in business since the late 1800s, when the First Ward was home to Irish canal workers and grain scoopers.
- Adolf's Old First Ward Tavern, 555 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 14, 16, 18 or 36), ☎ +1 716 248-2968.
- Buffalo Bar & Grille, 307 Louisiana St. (Metro Bus 14, 16, 18 or 36), ☎ +1 716 602-9724.
- Cook's, 222 Katherine St. (Metro Bus 14 or 16), ☎ +1 716 855-8444.
- Swannie House, 170 Ohio St. (Metro Bus 14, 16 or 36), ☎ +1 716 847-2898.
- Tilly's, 692 Fulton St. (Metro Bus 14, 15, 16 or 23), ☎ +1 716 432-7880.
The Triangle and South Park Avenue
South Park Avenue's lengthy roster of Irish pubs (of course) are not quite as gritty as the ones you'll find in the Old First Ward, but there's still plenty of opportunity to mingle with the locals in an environment that's utterly free of pretension.
- Avenue Pub, 2115 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 16), ☎ +1 716 824-2657.
- Black Dog's, 2015 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 16), ☎ +1 716 825-9790.
- The Blarney Castle, 1856 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 16), ☎ +1 716 824-5858.
- Griffin's Irish Pub, 81 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14, 16, 19 or 23), ☎ +1 716 821-7708.
- Hop Inn, 317 Hopkins St. (Metro Bus 16), ☎ +1 716 464-3778.
- Jordan's Ale House, 107 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14, 16, 19, or 23), ☎ +1 716 436-2715.
- Nine-Eleven Tavern, 11 Bloomfield Ave. (Metro Bus 16), ☎ +1 716 825-9939.
- The Old Triangle, 1345 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 14, 16, 19, or 23), ☎ +1 716 823-3892.
- Parker's Pitch Bar, 1176 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 14, 16 or 23), ☎ +1 716 873-3772. Soccer and rugby bar from the folks who brought you Parker's Proper Fish and Chips, pouring imported ales and ciders from the British Isles as well as domestics and local craft brews.
- Recckio's Perfect Shot, 2426 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 16, 36 or 42), ☎ +1 716 823-2695.
- Talty's, 2056 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 16), ☎ +1 716 825-9279.
- Hydraulic Hearth, 716 Swan St. (Metro Bus 15, 18 or 23), ☎ +1 716 248-2216.
- Marinaro's Larkin Tavern, 131 Van Rensselaer St. (Metro Bus 15 or 18), ☎ +1 716 845 5400.
- Top Hill Grill, 104 Fillmore Ave. (Metro Bus 2, 15 or 23), ☎ +1 716 825-9872.
- Doc Sullivan's, 474 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14), ☎ +1 716 824-6745.
- Molly Maguire's, 834 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14), ☎ +1 716 823-2380.
- Cigar's, 1115 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☎ +1 716 824-3880.
- Mr. A's Village Corner, 805 Elk St. (Metro Bus 15 or 19), ☎ +1 716 825-9526.
- Pittner's, 1263 Clinton St. (Metro Bus 2), ☎ +1 716 822-9825.
- Southside Social Club, 444 Elk St. (Metro Bus 15), ☎ +1 716 825-9264.
South Buffalo doesn't have any hotel accommodations of its own, but there are ample options in nearby areas. Clustered near Exit 55 of the Thruway in West Seneca and around Exit 1 of Interstate 190 on the border between Cheektowaga and the East Side, you'll find a range of budget- and mid-priced chains — and of course, downtown you'll find a more upscale selection that tends toward quirky boutique hotels and luxury properties for business travelers. Also, if the Outer Harbor is on your agenda, there's a Best Western Plus located on Route 5 in Lackawanna, less than five minutes by car from the state park.
As in other neighborhoods in Buffalo, for those who need access to the Internet and don't have a usable smart phone or laptop of their own, a public library is the best bet. South Buffalo is represented in the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library System by the Dudley Branch Library, at 2010 South Park Ave. at the southern edge of The Triangle. Not only do they offer free WiFi, but there are also twenty computer terminals available for public use, all with Internet access and printers. Also, though it's no longer affiliated with the county library system, the Cazenovia Library & Resource Center at 155 Cazenovia St. remains open as a community center with publicly accessible computers.
Despite the fact that Buffalo's crime rate has fallen steadily since the 1990s, it is still higher than the national average for cities its size. If you're passing through the Commodore Perry Projects on the northern edge of the Old First Ward, watch out: robberies, vehicle break-ins, and assaults happen here frequently. But these crimes aren't targeted at tourists, and tourists don't have much reason to be in that area anyway. Another hot spot is the northern half of The Triangle immediately west of Heacock Park (extending south to around Koester Street) and around the corner of McKinley Parkway and Tifft Street, an area where cars get broken into from time to time.
However, for the most part, South Buffalo is a quiet residential area that boasts among the lowest crime rates of any district in the city. This includes the bars on Seneca Street and South Park Avenue, which, while gritty and blue-collar, are almost never the scenes of drunken violence. Of course, as in any urban area, common sense pays — lock your car doors, keep your valuables out of sight, and so forth — but you have little to worry about in this part of town when it comes to crime.
The panhandlers that are becoming more and more of a nuisance in places like the Elmwood Village and Allentown are almost completely absent from South Buffalo.
In operation since 1920, the South Buffalo News is a weekly community paper that covers local news and high school sports for both South Buffalo and neighboring Lackawanna. Event listings, a police blotter, and Lackawanna City Council proceedings are also featured.
The weekly South Buffalo Courier is another source for neighborhood news and views, high school and amateur sports, event listings, and classified ads, as well as local news from outside South Buffalo courtesy of other Community Papers of Western New York publications.
- Mercy Hospital, 565 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14), ☎ +1 716 826-7000. Mercy Hospital was founded in 1904 by the Sisters of Mercy, a Catholic religious order native to Ireland who also operate Trocaire College and Mount Mercy Academy on the same campus. Today. Mercy Hospital is part of Catholic Health Systems of Buffalo. Its newly expanded emergency room is the largest in Western New York, staffed around the clock with physicians, nurses and assistants. Mercy is also renowned for excellence in the field of orthopedic surgery and cardiovascular care (it's the only hospital in the area to be recognized by the American Heart Association as a "comprehensive stroke center".)
Laundry and dry cleaning
South Buffalo Business District
- Bestway Cleaners, 2075 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☎ +1 716 824-9892. M-Tu & Th-F 8AM-5PM, W 8AM-2PM, Sa 8AM-1PM.
- Sudsey's, 1834 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☎ +1 716 319-0934. Daily 7AM-midnight.
- The Washroom, 2265 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☎ +1 716 598-8227. Daily 24 hours.
The Triangle and South Park Avenue
- Belvidere Cleaners, 2034 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 16), ☎ +1 716 823-4848. M-Sa 7:30AM-5:30PM, Su 7AM-3PM.
The Larkin Convenience Store, open weekdays 7AM-7PM in the atrium of the Larkin @ Exchange office building, offers dry cleaning services.
- Abbott Village Laundry, 1149 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14 or 42), ☎ +1 716 826-6913. Daily 6AM-11PM.
- Connie's Tailors and Cleaners, 813 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14), ☎ +1 716 826-6661. M-Tu & Th-F 8:30AM-5PM, Sa 9AM-1PM.
- Louis Dry Cleaners, 1032 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14), ☎ +1 716 823-7200. M-F 8AM-5:30PM, Sa 8AM-1PM.
Places of worship
Not much religious diversity here: South Buffalo is the most monolithically Christian area of the city.
True to its own history in particular as well as the demographics of the Niagara Frontier as a whole, the Catholic Church remains a dominant force in South Buffalo's religious life.
- Our Lady of Charity RC Church, ☎ +1 716 822-5962. Headed up by Msgr. David Lee, Our Lady of Charity is a large Catholic congregation that was founded in 2010 as a merger of three smaller parishes: Holy Family, St. Ambrose, and St. Agatha. Mass is still held seven days a week in the former two churches, while the St. Agatha campus houses a rectory and is used occasionally by the congregation for special events.
- Holy Family Church, 1885 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 16). Mass Su 8:30AM & 11AM, Sa 4:30PM, M-F 7:30AM in basement chapel. Situated at the corner of South Park Avenue and Tifft Street, Holy Family is one of the oldest churches in this part of the city — the congregation was founded in 1902 to serve the rapidly growing community that had moved in to take jobs at the huge new steel plant in nearby Lackawanna. With its stout arches and twin steeples looking over South Park Avenue, the building is one of the most magnificent examples of Romanesque Revival architecture anywhere in the city, thanks to the firm of Lansing & Beierl, famous around Buffalo for designing churches for the Catholic diocese. Holy Family's interior seats 950 people and boasts stained glass imported from Austria and mural paintings by Danish artist Holvag Rambusch based on the Book of Kells (it's said to be the only church in the United States that uses ancient Irish art in its interior decoration).
- St. Ambrose Church, 65 Ridgewood Rd. (Metro Bus 16). Mass Su 8:30AM, 10AM, 11:30AM & 7PM; Sa 4PM; M-F 8:30AM. Dating to 1930 — toward the end of the great South Buffalo building boom — St. Ambrose Church is located on a charming side street between South Park Avenue and McKinley Parkway. The current church building was erected in 1950 and absolutely looks it: the façade of this striking modernist building features a blocky, monolithic brick wall centered on a column of rectangular-paneled stained glass windows with images celebrating the church's relevance in the modern world.
- Our Lady of Perpetual Help RC Church, 115 O'Connell Ave. (Metro Bus 14, 16, 18 or 36), ☎ +1 716 852-2671. Mass Su 10:30AM, Sa 4:30PM. Located in the very heart of the Old First Ward, "Pets" is the last remaining of what were once three Catholic churches in the neighborhood. Founded by the diocese due to overcrowding at other neighborhood parishes, Our Lady of Perpetual Help's founding priest, Father Richard O'Connell, was honored after his death when the street his church stands on was renamed for him. The congregation worships in a magnificent Gothic sandstone edifice that dates to 1900 and was designed by the local firm of Lansing & Beierl.
- St. Clare RC Church, 193 Elk St. (Metro Bus 14, 16 or 23), ☎ +1 716 823-2358. Mass Su 8:30AM & 11AM, Sa 4PM, M-Tu & Th-F 8AM. Helmed by Msgr. Steven Pavignano, St. Clare is another merged congregation, founded in 2007 on the ashes of five other congregations and headquartered in the former St. Stephen RC Church on Elk Street. St. Stephen's itself dates back to 1875, when it was carved out of the territory of St. Brigid, the First Ward's mother church which was by then overcrowded and a long walk away for residents of The Valley. The present church building, a magnificent Gothic edifice of locally quarried limestone, was erected in 1888 and contains a Garrett House pipe organ dating to 1869 and originally installed at First Presbyterian Church. The church also contains a shrine to St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes, where those at the end of their rope flock to recite novenas on the days leading up to his feast day, October 28.
- St. Martin of Tours RC Church, 1140 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14), ☎ +1 716 823-7077. Mass Su 8AM, 10AM & noon; Sa 4PM; M-F 8:30AM. Today a robust congregation of some 1,600 families led in prayer weekly by Father James Judge, St. Martin of Tours' history stretches back to 1926, when the far southeast corner of Buffalo was still a mostly empty, semirural expanse of land. The Kinsey Realty Company donated the plot to the Catholic diocese, and their plan came to quick fruition: the church attracted home buyers to the neighborhood who otherwise would have had a long trip every Sunday to St. Thomas Aquinas or St. John the Evangelist on Seneca Street. In 1958, the original church, a modest wood-frame structure designed by local architect George Dietel, was replaced with the structure in use today, which also boasts a striking modernist open-work bell tower.
- St. Teresa RC Church, 1974 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☎ +1 716 822-0608. Mass Su 8AM, 10AM & noon; Sa 4PM; M-F 8:30AM. Located in the heart of "downtown South Buffalo", St. Teresa was the first Catholic parish to be established in the newer neighborhoods south of the Buffalo River: it went up in 1898, when this part of town was just beginning its transition from German-owned farmland to middle-class Irish city neighborhoods. This changeover was spearheaded by William Fitzpatrick, who went down in history as the "builder of South Buffalo", and his own former home was pressed into service as St. Teresa's rectory. The building is a beauty — faced in ruddy Medina sandstone and designed in a resplendent neo-Gothic style by locally notable architect Albert Post — and was fully restored in 1994. Today, a vibrant flock gather each week at St. Teresa for three Sunday morning Masses led by Father James Cunningham.
- St. Thomas Aquinas RC Church, 450 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14), ☎ +1 716 822-1250. Mass Su 9AM, 11AM & 7PM; Sa 4PM; M-W & F 8:15AM. St. Thomas Aquinas was founded in 1920, making it about average in age as far as South Buffalo Catholic churches go — the neighborhood was undergoing something of a population explosion at the time, as newly well-to-do residents of the crowded Old First Ward and Valley streamed into the more spacious neighborhoods to the southeast. You'd be forgiven for thinking the church is older than that, though — the grandeur of the building, done up in the style of a Central Italian villa, truly belongs to an earlier era. The church was erected in 1949 to replace a much smaller structure dedicated by none other than Father Nelson Baker himself, and every Sunday it's visited by the faithful who come to hear Father James Judge preach (he also does double duty at St. Thomas' sister parish further down Abbott, St. Martin of Tours).
- Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church, 231 McKinley Pkwy. (Metro Bus 14), ☎ +1 716 823-7176. Latin Tridentine Mass Su 10AM. Located on McKinley Parkway about halfway between McClellan and McKinley Circles, Our Lady of the Rosary is a traditionalist Catholic congregation that meets in the former home of the Kennedy Free Methodist Church, a handsome Colonial-style brick building that dates to 1937. The church is affiliated with the Society of St. Pius X, which split from Rome over the reforms of Vatican II; accordingly, the experience at Our Lady of the Rosary is a bit more pious and conservative, with all Masses held in the original Latin. Also in keeping with its affiliation, Our Lady of the Rosary is known for its charitable works in the South Buffalo area and its zeal in sharing its unique brand of Catholicism with the community at large.
- Cazenovia Park Baptist Church, 520 N. Legion Dr. (Metro Bus 14 or 15), ☎ +1 716 822-7925. Services Su 11AM. Founded in 1897, "Caz Church" is headed by Pastor Lonnie Atwood, an ex-Marine native to Tennessee who's made his home in South Buffalo since 2013 and who instills in his flock a mission to love God and their fellow man through spreading their faith and engaging in charitable endeavors and other works for the benefit of the community. The congregation is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention and meets weekly in a modest Colonial-style building built in 1939 that serves as one of the final works in the career of Buffalo's preeminent architect of all time, E. B. Green.
- Good Shepherd Community of Faith, 187 Southside Pkwy. (Metro Bus 14, 16, 19 or 23), ☎ +1 716 824-4112. Services Su 10:30AM. The sign at the front of the building reads "Good Shepherd Baptist Church", and it was founded in 1887 as South Buffalo's first congregation of that denomination. But that's only half of the story: this church does double duty, affiliated with both the American Baptist Convention and the United Church of Christ. Come down to this stately red-brick Colonial on Southside Parkway and enter the door in the shadow of its proud 60-foot (18m) steeple, and you'll surely have a warm, faith-affirming experience with friendly folks.
- Grace Lutheran Church, 174 Cazenovia St. (Metro Bus 14 or 15), ☎ +1 716 822-0553. Services Su 10:30AM. At Grace Lutheran Church, Reverend Marlene Hyden "preaches a changeless Christ in a changing world", with services mixing traditional and contemporary elements and taking place in a leafy setting facing Cazenovia Park. Founded by Reverend Theodore Kretchmann, Grace started out as a mission of the Lutheran Church of the Atonement in present-day Larkinville, and was one of the first Lutheran churches in Buffalo to hold services in English rather than German. The building is a stately one of red brick, with an architectural style that's a hybrid of Gothic and Romanesque; it was built in 1908 and expanded to its present size in 1930.
- St. Jude's Episcopal Church, 124 Macamley St. (Metro Bus 14, 16, 19 or 23), ☎ +1 716 824-4322. Services Su 8:30AM. On a quiet street of well-kept homes in The Triangle stands this charming, understated church where Rev. Linda Malia preaches to her devoted flock. St. Jude's Episcopal Church was the first of its denomination to be located south of the Buffalo River, founded in 1895 as a mission of St. James Episcopal in the Ellicott District. The present building, designed in the English country style and constructed of locally quarried Onondaga limestone, was erected in 1931.
- St. Matthew's Episcopal Church, 1182 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☎ +1 716 822-4830. Services Su 9AM. Describing itself as "a friendly and caring parish family united in fellowship to share the Word of God with the community", the resilient St. Matthew's Episcopal Church has made much of its fidelity to the Seneca-Babcock neighborhood it's served for over 125 years — it has maintained its independence and identity despite the advice of the Episcopal diocese to relocate to Cheektowaga or merge with neighboring congregations (though in recent years it has taken on a "sister parish", St. Jude's in The Triangle). Founded in 1884 when the neighborhood was still largely rural, the little wood-frame church on Seneca Street where Rev. Judy Hefner preaches to a small but steadfast congregation is the second building to be located on the property.
- St. Simon's Episcopal Church, 200 Cazenovia St. (Metro Bus 15), ☎ +1 716 822-1900. Services Su 8AM & 10AM. At St. Simon's Episcopal Church, the atmosphere is delightfully different — you might even call it a breath of fresh air. Even more so than most congregations, people of all stripes are warmly welcomed to join in worship, but there's a special emphasis on engaging with young people. There are times when you might even forget you're at a religious service — the atmosphere is easygoing, even jovial, and it's less about preaching in the usual sense than an evenhanded conversation between a flock whose questions are welcomed and a pastor, Rev. Karen Hardy, who openly "doesn't claim to have all the answers". All this takes place in a handsome English Gothic church built of locally quarried limestone; though the building dates to 1926, the church is a few decades older than that, dating to a time when the vicinity of Cazenovia Park was just beginning to become the neighborhood of choice for middle-class Irish.
- Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church, 10 McClellan Cir. (Metro Bus 14), ☎ +1 716 824-2787. Services Su 8:15AM & 10:45AM. Situated in a verdant setting on McClellan Circle at the heart of South Buffalo's Olmsted parkway system, "The Church of Peace on the Circle" takes its nickname from the fact that "Salem" comes from the Hebrew word for "peace". And peace lies at the heart of the church's mission, one of sharing a robust faith, doing charitable works, and fostering goodwill among the community. Salem was founded in 1917 and originally located on Abbott Road; its current building, an understated but charming piece of Colonial Revival architecture with white oak pews and numerous high arches, is the work of notable Buffalo architect Duane Lyman and was erected in 1951. The Reverend John Pingel holds two services there each week.
- Seneca Street United Methodist Church, 1218 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☎ +1 716 825-6742. Services Su 4PM. Seneca Street United Methodist Church's roots stretch back to 1887, when St. Mark's Methodist Episcopal Church in the First Ward established a Sunday school to serve residents of the semirural hinterlands east of the city. The current building, faced in buff brick and boasting exquisite Classical detailing, was built in 1919 after a fire claimed the original wooden church. At Seneca Street United Methodist, the name of the game is charitable generosity and community service: according to its mission statement, its dedication to "working to bring Christ to the people of the Seneca-Babcock neighborhood" encompasses the nurturing of its "spiritual, educational, emotional, and physical growth". While the Seneca Community Development Corporation, located on the same site, sees to the latter three — notably, with after-school programs for inner-city youth that include academic tutoring, job training, music lessons, cooking classes, and group outings — Pastor Brian Rotach helms the spiritual end, with services on Sunday evenings that are preceded by a free dinner at 3PM and followed at 5:15PM by a cornucopia of baked goods and other treats donated from area supermarkets.
- South Park United Methodist Church, 73 Ashton Pl. (Metro Bus 16), ☎ +1 716 822-1255. Services Su 10:30AM. The Lackawanna Steel Company's new plant on the lake shore south of the city line was such a massive operation that within three years of its inauguration in 1899, over 7,000 new residents had settled at the southern extremity of Buffalo. This was the genesis of many of the churches in this part of town, including South Park United Methodist Church, only the second Protestant church in the South Park Avenue area. The church, built in 1905, is a modest red-brick Romanesque structure with truly exquisite stained glass, and is the site of weekly services presided over by Pastor Evelyn Woodring.
- South Park United Presbyterian Church, 519 McKinley Pkwy. (Metro Bus 14 or 16), ☎ +1 716 823-3416. Services Su 11AM. South Park United Presbyterian Church grew out of a small mission house on South Park Avenue that was established in 1903 for the benefit of South Buffalo's small but rapidly growing Protestant community and jointly operated by First and Second Presbyterian Churches. With the growth of the neighborhood in tandem with that of the Irish middle class in Buffalo and the workforce at the nearby Lackawanna Steel Plant, the church was soon compelled to expand, and the handsome brown brick building on McKinley Parkway where the church meets today dates to 1924. The style is a simple but handsome interpretation of the Gothic Revival, with majestic stained glass windows designed by the George Hoskins company of Rochester. Aside from the weekly religious services held there, South Park United Presbyterian also actively engages with the South Buffalo community by playing host to a wide and growing variety of cultural events and community happenings.
- Bread of Life Christian Church, 1632 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 14, 16, 19 or 23), ☎ +1 716 827-7866. Services Su 10AM & W 7PM. Bread of Life Christian Church is a friendly, vibrant congregation that's been alive with faith and genuine love for the community since 1983. Raucous and joyful services are helmed by Dominic and Lucy Schipani, a husband-and-wife tag team of pastors, in an environment that's welcoming, down-to-earth, and nonjudgmental. Bread of Life also hosts guest speakers, youth groups, and other special events on a frequent basis (even Sunday-evening "movie nights"!), and demonstrates their boundless compassion for those in need with a host of programs and initiatives benefiting the community.
- Sons of God, 1526 Clinton St. (Metro Bus 2 or 19), ☎ +1 716 796-3793. Services Tu 7PM. Sons of God is a motorcycle ministry whose Buffalo chapter operates out of a storefront church at the corner of Clinton Street and Bailey Avenue, in the shadow of the Niagara Frontier Food Terminal. "Come as you are" is the philosophy of the congregation, which attracts not only bikers but also just regular folks seeking a nonjudgmental place to live out their faith as fully and genuinely as possible.
- Woodside Community Chapel (formerly Livingstone Fellowship), 675 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14), ☎ +1 716 440-8198. Services Su 11AM. Billing itself as "the perfect church for those who aren't", Woodside Community Chapel is a friendly Pentecostal congregation that was founded in 2004 under the name "Livingstone Fellowship". According to its Pastor, Ned LaMarti, the church is "a platform for the Christian to express him- or herself regarding God's love in the highest spiritual sense". To that end, he draws on his previous vocation as a professional musician to emphasize music in his ministry — during Woodside's rousing services, the whole congregation joins in expressing their ardent faith with a joyful noise. Music- and art-themed special events such as open mic nights also take place, as well as the usual slate of youth groups, community outreach programs, and so forth. All this happens right across the street from Cazenovia Park in the former home of the Woodside Methodist Episcopal Church, a handsome English Renaissance-style church built in 1911 that once contained a Tiffany-style stained glass window depicting Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane.
A few African-American congregations can be found near South Buffalo's northern border with the East Side.
- DeLaine Waring African Methodist Episcopal Church, 680 Swan St. (Metro Bus 15 or 18), ☎ +1 716 842-6747. Services Su 10AM. The DeLaine Waring A.M.E. Church has been going strong in the heart of Larkinville since 1956, when its half-namesake, Reverend Joseph DeLaine, came to Buffalo from South Carolina and founded a new congregation in the handsome red brick church recently vacated by St. Matthew's German Evangelical Protestant Church, who had been there for almost ninety years previously. DeLaine Waring is today a multigenerational church, with old folks who've been worshipping there since day one joined — in both worship service and at numerous uplifting special events — by younger congregants whose zeal keeps the fire burning. At the helm is the newly installed Pastor A. Iona Smith Nze, the first female one in the church's history.
- Royal Church of God in Christ, 1335 Clinton St. (Metro Bus 2 or 19), ☎ +1 716 892-2508. Services Su at noon. The story of Royal Church of God in Christ begins in 1952, when Elder Roy Rodolph, an Alabama native who'd been preaching at the State Tabernacle Church of God in Christ since arriving in Buffalo three years previous, was compelled to start his own congregation, which he named after a passage in the First Epistle of Peter. Through the years, Royal has evolved from a humble storefront operation in Pratt-Willert to its current home at the former Christ German Evangelical Church, a stout Gothic edifice on Clinton Street. Services are held weekly, but that's just the tip of the iceberg: Royal sponsors a huge variety of special ministries and community programs including music and dance programs, food donations to the needy, prison ministry, and special worship groups for children, women, and young men.
- Did the towering monoliths of Elevator Alley, or perhaps the historic exhibits at the Heritage Discovery Center, whet your appetite for more Western New York industrial history? Cross the city line into Lackawanna, once the site of the world's largest steel plant, where 20,000 workers (many from South Buffalo) once toiled. The plant closed in 1982, and Lackawanna has yet to truly get back on its feet, but there's still a surprising amount of vitality around the main intersection of South Park Avenue and Ridge Road, where a cluster of shops, bars and restaurants soldiers on. That same corner is where you'll find Lackawanna's main landmark: the gleaming white marble Basilica of Our Lady of Victory is a Baroque masterpiece built in 1926 under the direction of Father Nelson Baker, whose philanthropy earned Lackawanna the nickname "City of Charity" and put Baker himself on the road to sainthood.
- Or maybe it's more Irish culture you're hungry for? If so, check out the Southtowns, whose changeover from rural farming communities to commuter suburbs started in the 1950s, as South Buffalo's "lace-curtain Irish" pushed further and further away from the First Ward and eventually past the city line, into...
- Hamburg, which has a little something for everyone. In the Southtowns' largest town (population about 55,000), you'll find a diverse environment that runs the gamut from the scruffy blue-collar neighborhood of Blasdell in the far north, which doesn't look terribly dissimilar to South Buffalo, to the historic Village of Hamburg in the south with its quaint downtown full of cute shops, to sprawling waterfront mansions along Old Lake Shore Road. For the visitor, Hamburg boasts a wealth of attractions: beachcombers can laze by the shore of Lake Erie at Woodlawn Beach State Park, amateur paleontologists can dig for 300-million-year-old fossils at the Penn Dixie Center, and at the end of the summer, you can join over a million Western New Yorkers at the twelve-day-long Erie County Fair. And if your money is burning a hole in your pocket, why not splurge on a day of shopping at the McKinley Mall or try your luck on the horses at the Buffalo Raceway?
- Orchard Park, which is more than just the home of the Buffalo Bills' Ralph Wilson Stadium. First settled by Quakers in 1804, this upscale outer-ring suburb boasts a handsome village center full of cute little boutiques, elegant restaurants, and historic character. Also in Orchard Park is Chestnut Ridge Park, a twelve-month-a-year destination for outdoor lovers: over 1,200 acres (490 hectares) of forested hills with disc golf, verdant nature trails, one of Western New York's most popular sledding and tobogganing hills, and an eternal flame hidden behind a low waterfall.
- West Seneca, which before the South Buffalo Irish arrived was solidly German — in the 1840s and '50s, it was home to the Ebenezer Society, a reclusive sect of renegade Lutherans from Hesse who came here seeking a place far removed from the evils of the outside world. You can learn about them at the West Seneca Historical Society, located in an original Ebenezer home built about 1848. The Ebenezers are long gone, and the town is a lot more crowded now than it was 150 years ago, but you can still "get away from it all" in West Seneca: the Charles E. Burchfield Nature & Art Center is a patch of woods along the shore of Buffalo Creek that was an inspiration for its namesake, once one of the premier watercolor painters in the United States.
- When the once-poor First Ward Irish began to enter the halls of power, their new leaders found themselves with cushy jobs downtown. Then as now, the business district is the nerve center of Buffalo, thanks in no small part to the radiating street pattern designed by Joseph Ellicott and centered on Niagara Square, where stands City Hall, that paragon of Art Deco architecture. If those 19th-century Irishmen were here today, they probably wouldn't recognize Canalside at all: instead of railroad tracks, lake freighters, warehouses, and docks, today it's a waterfront green space where you can take in a crowded calendar of festivals and events, tour World War II-era warships at the Naval and Military Park, and catch an exciting hockey game at the First Niagara Center. Downtown also boasts a vibrant Theater District, the thumping clubs of Chippewa Street, and, at its northern edge, the hospitals and research facilities of the Medical Corridor, where the UB Medical School has set up shop.