Sure, for now the Elmwood Village is Buffalo's premier neighborhood for fine dining and cute urban boutiques; Allentown is where local artists and bohos congregate, and downtown still takes the cake when it comes to the urban rehabilitation that Western New Yorkers have grown more and more used to. But look out — the West Side is poised to snatch all three of those crowns. And even if this part of town is still very much a work in progress, there's a seductive appeal to the chaotic cacophony of cultures that's already there today, courtesy of the vibrant immigrant communities that have moved in over the past decade or so.
Diversity, to the nth degree, is the name of the game here. Munch on samosas while perusing through a shop full of authentic African handicrafts, then go up to the cash register while the folks behind you in line chitchat in Burmese and a car drives by outside with thumping reggaeton on the stereo — that's the West Side. And when your busy day is done, why not head to the waterfront, through leafy streets lined with gorgeous old Victorians, to relax and enjoy cool breezes and stunning views over the mighty Niagara River?
Less hip locals will try to dissuade you from crossing west of Richmond Avenue. It's "dangerous", they'll tell you. A "ghetto". And while it's true that the West Side has had a rough go of it over the past half-century and it's still a ways from exorcising its demons when it comes to crime, poverty and other social ills, this is probably the neighborhood that best embodies Buffalo's phoenixlike rise from the ashes. So do yourself a favor and ignore the naysayers. But you better experience it now, before the double-edged sword of gentrification scours all the beautiful grit out of these streets.
The West Side is less a single, homogeneous district than an amalgamation of neighborhoods, broadly similar but with subtly distinct individual identities that are all worth getting to know.
Undoubtedly the hub of the newly-hip West Side is Grant-Ferry, a bustling business district that has spent the last fifty years constantly reinventing itself: first as Little Italy, then with a Puerto Rican flavor, and finally, over the past ten years, as home to a multicultural rainbow of first-generation immigrant communities — Burmese, Vietnamese, Nepali, African, Arabian, and more — as well as a growing student presence fostered by nearby Buffalo State College. The Hispanic community still predominates in the Lower West Side, but it's also increasingly being colonized — and rehabilitated — by young, middle-class "urban pioneers" migrating west from Allentown and the Elmwood Village, buying up and renovating lovely but dilapidated old Victorian houses in places like Prospect Hill, the West Village, and Five Points, where a small cluster of art galleries, upscale restaurants, and specialty shops has sprouted around the titular intersection of Rhode Island, Brayton, and West Utica Streets.
To the north are a trio of neighborhoods set off from the rest of the West Side and sometimes considered a separate district entirely. Black Rock is a quiet, historic residential area still populated by the working-class Germans of the 19th-century West Side, today affectionately known as "river rats". Technically speaking, the Grant-Amherst business district, centered around the corner of the two streets of the same name, is also part of Black Rock — banners hanging off streetlights on Amherst Street "welcome" visitors to "downtown Black Rock", but due to its separation from Black Rock proper by the New York Central Railroad tracks, Grant-Amherst has always had a distinct identity. Today it's a microcosm of the West Side as a whole: here immigrants, Hispanics, college students, urban pioneers, and blue-collar whites like those in Black Rock all rub shoulders. Further north still, Riverside is an off-the-beaten-path area of working-class homes and neighborhood shops whose centerpiece, Riverside Park, boasts wonderful views over the Niagara River.
Unbeknownst even to many locals, the West Side is one of the most historic areas of Buffalo: its history began in 1802 when the federal government constructed a 30-mile (48 km) Military Road north from here to Lewiston. In the years after the Revolution, tensions between the United States and Britain remained high — and in case of a British incursion from Canada, the Military Road would enable troops to move as needed between Fort Niagara and Fort Tompkins, which would soon be built near what is today the corner of Niagara and Hampshire Streets. Two years later, Peter Porter, a State Assemblyman from Canandaigua and a former associate of Buffalo's founder, Joseph Ellicott, began laying out a settlement on the large parcel of riverfront land he owned along Military Road about two miles (3.2 km) north of Buffalo; he named the incipient hamlet "Black Rock" after a ledge of dark limestone that jutted into the Niagara River just north of what is today the Peace Bridge. Much larger than the modern-day neighborhood of that name, Porter's Black Rock occupied essentially all of what is today the West Side, and was made up of three parts: the larger Upper Black Rock in what is today the Upper West Side, centered around the corner of Niagara and West Ferry Streets; the smaller Lower Black Rock (later also known as Black Rock Dam for the lock and dam that was installed on the Erie Canal in 1833), which corresponds to today's neighborhood of Black Rock; and South Black Rock, what is today the Lower West Side, where streets were surveyed in a distinctive grid angled parallel to the shoreline that still exists; however, the land remained a sparsely settled forest, and none of the streets were actually constructed until the 1830s, '40s and after. Between Upper and Lower Black Rock was the harbor, located at the mouth of Scajaquada Creek and dominated by a shipyard owned by Porter.
The same year that Black Rock was officially incorporated as a village, the long-feared military confrontation along the Niagara River came to pass. The attempted American invasion of Canada that began the War of 1812 saw U.S. forces under General George McClure sack and loot the frontier villages of York (now Toronto) and Newark (now Niagara-on-the-Lake); in retaliation, before dawn on December 30, 1813, a British detachment crossed the river and landed in Black Rock, burning it to the ground then heading south to Buffalo to do the same. Though it was rebuilt quickly, Black Rock remained a battleground till the end of the war — Porter's shipyard did a brisk business building warships for Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry's fleet, and a second British incursion across the river was thwarted at the Battle of Scajaquada Creek Bridge in August 1814. The war ended in 1815, but things hardly quieted down: the always-heated rivalry between Black Rock and Buffalo took on a new urgency around 1816 when planning began for a huge canal linking the Hudson River and Lake Erie. It was understood that the Erie Canal would be a huge economic boon, opening up the West to large-scale settlement, and that it would begin at Albany — but the exact location of its western end had yet to be determined. Porter used his political connections to vigorously argue that Black Rock be selected over its rival. At first, its superior harbor — sheltered by Unity Island from the strong currents of the Niagara River — as well as the fact that two more miles (3 more km) of canal would need to be dug to reach Buffalo, seemed to give Black Rock the advantage. The successful launch from its harbor of the Walk-in-the-Water, the first steamboat on Lake Erie, further aided Black Rock's cause, but after a contingent of Buffalonians finally set about dredging the harbor there to a suitable depth, Buffalo was chosen in 1821 as the canal's terminus. When it opened in 1825, the Erie Canal passed through and beyond Black Rock; as a final insult, Black Rock even lost the rock formation that inspired its name: it lay in the path of the canal and had to be blasted away.
As predicted, Buffalo grew explosively, expanding its borders in 1832 to include newly developing South Black Rock. Black Rock might have been able to soldier on independently in the shadow of its now-much larger neighbor, but the years after the canal's construction were exceptionally harsh: the Panic of 1837 laid waste to its economy (half its businesses failed) just when Black Rock was getting back on its feet again after a damaging windstorm a few years earlier. Moreover, when relief came to the village, it was at the expense of some of its independent spirit: the Buffalo and Niagara Falls Railroad, the area's first, helped transform Upper Black Rock into an important center for milling and coopering — which, in turn, attracted throngs of German and Irish laborers — but, by the same token, inextricably bound its new economy to Buffalo's. Thus, though Lower Black Rock was able to retain much more of its distinct identity and pastoral character, with a small-town feel to the streets around Market Square, a change to Buffalo's charter enabled it to annex Black Rock along with the remainder of the surrounding unincorporated township in 1853, ending its history as an independent village.
In spite of it all, the next decades would be ones of rapid growth for Buffalo's newly annexed West Side. It was about 1850 when former mayor Ebenezer Johnson moved to Tennessee, placing his vast Lower West Side estate up for sale. The estate was subdivided into streets and houses that quickly took on a working-class character: the canal was only a few blocks away, and the crowded tenements of the First Ward were a place that canal laborers, largely Irishmen, were keen to escape if they could afford it. As the Irish pushed north, they were joined on the blocks closest to downtown by Italians, who, beginning in the 1870s, competed with the Irish for canal and railroad jobs. Further north, the park and parkway system that eminent landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted had planned for the city attracted development to Prospect Hill; its western arm, Porter Avenue, lined with rows of stately elms, cut a swath through the old South Black Rock street grid, passing Prospect Park and ending at "The Front" (now Front Park), the pleasant green space Olmsted planned for the beautiful Lake Erie shoreline. The similar Richmond Avenue additionally extended north toward Delaware Park along the eastern fringe of the district.
The West Side continued to grow and diversify in the ensuing years. The New York Central Railroad's Belt Line, a commuter loop built in 1883 through Buffalo's outer neighborhoods, attracted residents to the undeveloped eastern outskirts of Black Rock: a community of industrial workers from Poland, Hungary and Ukraine gathered around the new Church of the Assumption near the corner of Grant and Amherst Streets. Meanwhile, as the more affluent Germans and Irishmen continued to push outward, the land north of increasingly industrial Black Rock also began to develop, with a second Olmsted park, Germania Park (soon to be renamed Riverside Park), built around 1900 as the centerpiece of the area in Buffalo's far northwest corner now known as Riverside. Originally the site of many summer homes belonging to Buffalo's elite aristocracy, Riverside became a pleasant "suburb" of Black Rock, with a greener, more countrified ambience, larger homes on more spacious lots, and a wealthier citizenry.
With the advent of the railroads in the late 19th Century, the Erie Canal gradually became obsolete and fell into disuse; however, other than that, the early 20th Century was a time of stability for the West Side. But subtle changes were afoot citywide that would rattle the district to its core in the second half of the century. Growth in Buffalo progressively slowed, then stopped altogether just after World War II, as the rise of the automobile enabled city residents to move to less crowded suburbs while retaining jobs downtown. The automobile age also meant the decline of the railroads, and the construction of the Saint Lawrence Seaway, which gave lake freighters a direct route to the ocean that bypassed Buffalo, brought the city's era as a major inland port to a screeching halt. Worse yet was the city's response to the resulting economic crisis: shortsighted attempts at urban renewal ravaged many areas of Buffalo, but the West Side was harder-hit than any other part of the city. Block after block of lovely brick Victorian cottages on the Lower West Side were demolished; these stable and vibrant, if poor, Italian communities were derided as "slums" by the city and replaced with public housing that was no better than what came before them, with the Italians dispersed to various parts of the city (most notably the Hertel Avenue area). As well, no sooner was the bed of the abandoned Erie Canal filled in than the monstrous Interstate 190 was built over its top. With the opening of I-190 in 1958, Buffalo was essentially cut off from its own waterfront; Front and Riverside Parks' serene river views were replaced by that of a noisy expressway. Thankfully, at the end of the 1960s, grassroots pressure forced the cancellation of plans for the West Side Arterial, another highway which would have bisected the Lower West Side along Virginia Street (the huge Niagara Street exit of I-190, the intended west end of the West Side Arterial, is a gruesome example of what might have been in store for the neighborhood).
By the 1980s, the West Side was in rough shape. Though the Hispanic community that had replaced the Italians on the Lower West Side (and, later, spread northward to Prospect Hill and the Upper West Side) tried their best to keep the area up, the battle against drugs, crime and poverty at times seemed hopeless. However, glimmers of hope were emerging by the turn of the millennium, and it came about that what saved the West Side was its trademark ethnic diversity — which, along with cheap housing and a low cost of living, began to attract newly landed immigrants to the district. By 2003, when Dr. Myron Glick founded Jericho Road Ministries, an offshoot of his Upper West Side medical practice providing refugees assistance with food, housing, finances, literacy and education, Buffalo had overtaken New York City as the state's leading destination for new immigrants. At the same time, Buffalo State College was instrumental in helping small businesses sprout on Grant Street after student-oriented shops began being priced out of the increasingly tony Elmwood Village, and D'Youville College also made massive investments in the surrounding neighborhood of Prospect Hill as it expanded during the 2000s. In turn, this investment attracted that of urban pioneers as well as preservationist-minded business owners such as Prish Moran, the 2007 opening of whose coffee shop Sweetness 7 is widely seen as the single turning point that cemented Grant-Ferry's arrival as Buffalo's newest hip neighborhood. The boom in property values that resulted from all this is still ongoing, and today the West Side, probably more than any other area of Buffalo, is truly rising from the ashes.
Much like downtown Buffalo but not nearly to the same extent, the West Side riverfront is noticeably cooler and windier than other areas of the city and region. The refreshing breezes are a big part of why locals are drawn to waterfront oases like LaSalle Park during the stifling summer months, but by the same token, visitors looking to walk the Bird Island Pier during the spring or autumn would be well-advised to wear a windbreaker and long pants.
As the longtime home of Buffalo's Hispanic community, visitors to the West Side will likely hear Spanish spoken almost as frequently as English. Those who want to practice their Spanish on the West Side may run into some difficulty, though: the fast-paced, somewhat slurred Caribbean dialects most often heard here may be difficult to understand for those used to standard Spanish.
However, Spanish's strong second-place position among languages spoken on the West Side is gradually eroding away: the growth of the immigrant communities that have settled here — particularly the area around Grant Street — means that visitors stand a good chance of hearing Burmese, Vietnamese, Taiwanese, Somali, and Amharic, among others.
Monolinguals need not worry — no matter their nationality, it's quite rare to encounter any West Side residents who cannot speak English at all.
Get in and around
Interstate 190 (I-190) passes along the length of the West Side riverfront from downtown to Tonawanda (and onward to Niagara Falls and the Canadian border), via which the whole district can be easily accessed:
- Exit 8 (Niagara Street) provides access to the West Village and the Lower West Side as well as downtown.
- Exit 9 (Porter Avenue) leads to the heart of Prospect Hill and also Fort Erie, Ontario via the Peace Bridge.
- Exit 12 (Amherst Street) and Exit 13 (Austin Street) are accessible from the northbound lanes only, providing access to Black Rock and, in the former case, also to Grant-Amherst slightly further afield.
- Exit 14 (Vulcan Street via northbound lanes; Ontario Street via southbound lanes) is located in Riverside.
As well, the Scajaquada Expressway (NY 198) is a short highway that begins in Black Rock at Exit 11 of I-190, passing eastward through the West Side and North Buffalo and ending on the East Side at the Kensington Expressway. The Scajaquada's Grant Street exit makes for a convenient route to Grant-Ferry, Grant-Amherst and Buffalo State College. There's also a Niagara Street exit accessible to westbound traffic only.
The main thoroughfare of the West Side is Niagara Street (NY 266), which begins downtown at Niagara Square and proceeds through the Lower West Side in a straight southeast-to-northwest orientation (in conformity with the old South Black Rock street grid); shortly after crossing Hampshire Street, it turns north and parallels the Niagara River shore through the Upper West Side, Black Rock, Riverside and on beyond the city line. As well, Grant Street, the West Side's main shopping street, runs northward from Hampshire Street through the heart of the Upper West Side and into Black Rock, where it ends at Military Road.
Other main drags on the West Side include Richmond Avenue, a verdant, tree-lined boulevard designed by Frederick Law Olmsted that extends along the inner fringe of the West Side from Symphony Circle north to Forest Avenue, and Tonawanda Street, the main street of Black Rock and Riverside which splits off Niagara Street just north of Scajaquada Creek and runs north and northwest past the city line and into Tonawanda. From south to north, major crosstown routes on the West Side include: on the Lower West Side, Maryland Street, Porter Avenue, Connecticut Street, Massachusetts Avenue (which, shortly before the corner of 15th Street, turns from northeast to due east and becomes West Utica Street), and Hampshire Street; on the Upper West Side, West Ferry Street, Lafayette Avenue, West Delavan Avenue, and Forest Avenue; and in Black Rock and Riverside, Amherst Street, Hertel Avenue, and Vulcan Street. Additionally, in Riverside, Ontario Street runs from a point on Niagara Street about midway between Hertel Avenue and Riverside Park northeastward to Kenmore Avenue, intersecting at acute angles with Niagara and Tonawanda Streets.
Driving in the Lower West Side can be tricky due to its many one-way streets. An easy trick to navigating the Lower West Side that dates back to the initial survey of the South Black Rock street grid is that most of the crosstown streets (those that run perpendicular to Niagara Street) are named after the United States' Eastern Seaboard states, with more southerly states closer to downtown and more northerly ones further out. Thus, anyone with basic knowledge of U.S. geography can judge what direction they're heading and approximately how many blocks they are from their destination. The system isn't perfect, though: the word "New" has been shed from the street names (for instance, it's "Jersey Street", not "New Jersey Street"), there's only one Carolina Street, rather than a North and South, the Olmsted-designed Porter Avenue supplanted the portion of York Street west of West Avenue in the early 1870s, Hudson Street interlopes between Maryland and Pennsylvania Streets, and Maine and Delaware are not represented (respectively, to avoid confusion with Main Street and because Delaware Avenue already exists elsewhere in the city). After Hampshire Street, the scheme of state names (and the old South Black Rock street grid) ends.
Grant-Ferry is the only place on the West Side where on-street parking is ever hard to find. Parking meters are in place on Grant Street between West Delavan Avenue and West Ferry Street, as well as on West Ferry for half a block in either direction from Grant. They're in effect till 5PM every day except Sunday, at a rate of 50¢ per hour to a maximum of 2 hours. Additionally, though parking is free north of West Delavan, the 2-hour maximum rule on Grant extends as far as Potomac Avenue, except Sundays.
Elsewhere on the West Side, parking is a breeze. Parking meters are in place on the Lower West Side along Niagara Street south of Hudson Street (the same rules apply as on Grant, but parking is $1.00 per hour) and in Riverside along Tonawanda Street between Hunt and Crowley Avenues. Signs indicate that paid parking in Riverside is in effect till 6PM every day but Sunday with rates of 50¢ per hour to a maximum of 2 hours, but word is that some or all of the meters don't work and are slated to be removed. As well, the 2-hour maximum rule is also in effect along Ontario Street between Tonawanda Street and Kenmore Avenue.
Grant-Amherst has no parking meters or restrictions of any kind, but visitors to that neighborhood should keep in mind that the lot on the north side of Amherst Street between Howell and Bush Streets is for the exclusive use of customers of Casey's Tavern, and enforcement is vigilant. If you can't find on-street parking along Amherst (unlikely), try the large lot at Tops Plaza at the corner of Grant Street.
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.
The West Side is traversed by a number of NFTA Metro bus routes:
To and from downtown
NFTA Metro Buses #1 — William, #2 — Clinton, and #4 — Broadway all begin and end on, and take the same route to and from, the Lower West Side: outbound buses proceed southward down 4th Street from Carolina Street, turning left on West Genesee Street and entering downtown; inbound buses turn right from West Genesee Street onto 7th Street and proceed as far as Carolina Street. Buses #1, #2 and #4 end, respectively, at the AppleTree Business Park in Cheektowaga, at the Bank of America Operations Center in West Seneca, and at the Thruway Mall Transit Center in Cheektowaga.
NFTA Metro Bus #3 — Grant. Beginning at the city line at the corner of Kenmore Avenue and Military Road, Bus #3 serves Riverside via Kenmore Avenue, Vulcan Street, and Skillen Street, proceeding thenceforward down Military Road and Grant Street through Black Rock and the Upper West Side, with service to Buffalo State College. Turning right on Hampshire Street, inbound buses pass through the Lower West Side via Normal Avenue, York Street, and West Avenue, emerging onto Carolina Street and proceeding downtown via Elmwood Avenue. Outbound buses serve the Lower West Side via Hudson Street and Plymouth Avenue, turning right on Hampshire Street and rejoining the above-described route.
NFTA Metro Bus #5 — Niagara-Kenmore. Beginning at the University Metro Rail Station, Bus #5 enters the West Side via Kenmore Avenue, serving Riverside and Black Rock via Ontario Street, Tonawanda Street, and Hertel Avenue. The bus then turns left at Niagara Street and proceeds through the West Side proper, ending downtown.
NFTA Metro Bus #7 — Baynes-Richmond. Beginning at the Richardson-Olmsted Complex in the Elmwood Village, Bus #7 proceeds southward on Baynes Street through the Upper West Side, then turning on West Ferry Street and continuing southward down Richmond Avenue through the Lower West Side to Symphony Circle, ending downtown. Bus #7 does not run Saturdays, Sundays or holidays.
NFTA Metro Bus #40 — Buffalo-Niagara Falls. Beginning at the Portage Road Transit Center in Niagara Falls, Bus #40 proceeds through the West Side via Niagara Street, ending downtown. It is important to note that Route #40 does not serve passengers whose trips are located entirely south of Hertel Avenue.
NFTA Metro Bus #12 — Utica. Beginning at the corner of Niagara Street and Busti Avenue, eastbound buses on Route #12 head northward along Niagara Street, turning right on West Ferry Street and serving the Lower West Side via Hampshire, Winter, and Brayton Streets. Proceeding eastward on West Utica Street, the bus enters the Elmwood Village and ends at the University Metro Rail Station. Westbound buses turn right from West Utica onto Chenango Street, then turn left at West Ferry Street, rejoining the above-described route.
NFTA Metro Bus #22 — Porter-Best. Beginning at the corner of Jersey Street and Lakeview Avenue, eastbound buses on Route #22 serve Prospect Hill via Jersey Street, 7th Street, and Porter Avenue, entering the Elmwood Village at Symphony Circle and ending at the Thruway Mall Transit Center in Cheektowaga. Westbound buses proceed along Porter as far as Lakeview, then turning left and proceeding as far as Jersey Street.
NFTA Metro Bus #23 — Fillmore-Hertel. Beginning at the Marina Vista Apartments, Bus #23 proceeds eastward along Hertel Avenue through Black Rock, then entering North Buffalo, continuing through the East Side via Fillmore Avenue, and ending in South Buffalo.
NFTA Metro Bus #26 — Delavan. Beginning at the corner of Niagara Street and West Delavan Avenue, eastbound buses on Route #26 proceed along West Delavan Avenue through the Upper West Side, ending at the Thruway Mall Transit Center in Cheektowaga. Westbound buses turn left from West Delavan to Herkimer Street, then proceed westward again via Lafayette Avenue and return to West Delavan via Niagara Street.
NFTA Metro Bus #29 — Wohlers. Beginning at the corner of Efner and Maryland Streets, eastbound buses on Route #29 proceed through the Lower West Side via Maryland Street. Buses then turn right on Cottage Street and enter Allentown, ending at the Delavan-Canisius College Metro Rail Station. Westbound buses serve Trenton, Esperar, and Efner Streets, ending back at Maryland Street. Bus #29 does not run Saturdays, Sundays or holidays.
NFTA Metro Bus #32 — Amherst. Beginning at the corner of Amherst and Niagara Streets, eastbound buses on Route #32 proceed along Amherst Street through Black Rock, ending at the Thruway Mall Transit Center in Cheektowaga. Westbound buses serve Tonawanda, Hamilton, and Niagara Streets, ending back at Amherst Street.
By Metro Rail
The Metro Rail runs along Main Street, far east of here. However, the West Side is easily accessible from the Amherst Street, Delavan-Canisius College, Utica, and Summer-Best Metro Rail Stations by way of NFTA Metro Buses #32, #26, #12, and #22, respectively. Those traveling to the West Side by both bus and subway are strongly advised to purchase a day pass for $5.00.
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 quality of bicycle infrastructure on the West Side is variable, but it's generally quite good by local standards and, as in the rest of the city, steadily improving. The Lower West Side is undoubtedly the most bicycle-friendly area in the district, populated largely by immigrants whose habituation to alternative modes of transportation, including bicycles, is imported from their home countries — as well as young, middle-class "urban pioneers" for whom carfreedom is a conscious choice.
Buffalo's oldest, largest, and best-known bike path is the Riverwalk, a multi-use trail that connects the Erie Basin Marina downtown to Nia-Wanda Park in Tonawanda via the West Side waterfront, for a total distance of 13.3 miles (21.4 km). The Riverwalk passes into the West Side near the posh Waterfront Village condos and closely hugs the shore of Lake Erie and the Niagara River for its length, with excellent views over the water and easy access to many waterfront attractions including LaSalle Park, the Fontana Boathouse, Broderick Park, Unity Island Park, and Riverside Park. Best of all, for the vast majority of its length, the Riverwalk follows its own off-street right-of-way with no traffic to contend with — the exception is a short, unsigned stretch of 0.4 miles (700 m) along Busti Avenue and Niagara Street between Hampshire and West Ferry Streets, but the roadway boasts wide shoulders and sidewalks that provide a modicum of safety for cyclists. The trail is paved with asphalt in its entirety, and a speed limit of 15 mph (24 km/h) is enforced.
As well as being a lovely trail in itself, the Riverwalk also serves as a central spine for Buffalo's larger network of bike paths. Branching off of it is the Scajaquada Creekside Trail, also known as the Jesse Kriegel Bike Path. As its name indicates, the path follows the north shore of Scajaquada Creek opposite the expressway for a distance of 2.4 miles (3.8 km), with the attractions of Black Rock and Grant-Amherst within easy striking distance. Passing out of the West Side, the Scajaquada Creekside Trail enters Delaware Park and ends near the Buffalo History Museum. Near its northern terminus in Tonawanda, the Riverwalk also connects with the Erie Canalway Trail, and also (via Ohio Street) the Outer Harbor's Industrial Heritage Trail.
As indicated above, in Prospect Hill and the Lower West Side especially, bike lanes and other accommodations have also been steadily added to the street grid. Among the streets which have been improved in this way is Richmond Avenue, with "sharrows" (pavement markings on roads too narrow to accommodate dedicated bike lanes, indicating that drivers should be aware of bicyclists on the road) in place between Forest Avenue and Colonial Circle, and dedicated bike lanes from Colonial Circle south to Symphony Circle. There is also a dedicated bike lane on each side of Porter Avenue between Symphony Circle and Niagara Street, and a signed off-street bike path west of Niagara Street as far as LaSalle Park, where it connects to the Riverwalk. Hudson Street boasts parallel bike lanes on each side between Plymouth and Busti Avenues, with sharrows in place east to Wadsworth Street and west to 4th Street; the latter connects to LaSalle Park via a pedestrian bridge over Interstate 190. As well, sharrows lead from Hudson Street to Symphony Circle by way of West Avenue and Pennsylvania Street, and are in place on Connecticut Street between Niagara Street and Richmond Avenue and on Wadsworth Street from Symphony Circle to Allen Street.
Oddly enough, Niagara Street itself has no bicycle infrastructure, with the exception of a relatively short segment in Riverside, from Ontario Street north through Riverside Park to the city line, which features parallel bike lanes. However, construction of bike lanes or (more likely) the painting of sharrows have been proposed for the entire remainder of the street. Grant Street is another major artery that's conspicuously lacking in accommodations for cyclists.
The various neighborhoods of the West Side cover a large geographic area, and it's not practical to see all of them without the aid of a car, bicycle, or public transit. Still, there are many lovely places for a stroll on the West Side. Aside from the bike paths and waterfront trails listed above, paramount among pedestrian-friendly West Side areas are the bustling Grant-Ferry commercial strip with its vibrant multiethnic street culture, as well as compact, charming Grant-Amherst. Visitors should be on guard after dark, though — for all its recent flourishing, the West Side remains one of the highest-crime areas of Buffalo, and when the sun goes down these streets take on a noticeably sketchy character. See the Stay safe section for more information.
- Black Rock Historical Society, 1902 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 32 or 40), ☎ +1 716 874-2863. The Black Rock Historical Society's small storefront exhibit space opened in May 2015 in a building they share with the Black Rock Riverside Alliance, and its exhibits represent twn years of acquisition by museum curator Mark Kubiniec from both his personal collection and donations from neighborhood residents and businesses. Through a series of historic photographs, artifacts, and other exhibits, the 200-year story of the Black Rock, Riverside, Grant-Amherst, and West Hertel neighborhoods — one of the most historic areas of Buffalo — is recounted. The Black Rock Historical Society also offers brochures for several self-guided walking tours around the neighborhood, covering everything from historic sites from the War of 1812 to modern-day community gardens.
- Frances Folsom Cleveland House, 168 Edward St. (Metro Bus 3, 11, 20, 25 or 29). Privately owned, not open for tours. This delightful cottage on Edward Street is where Frances Folsom Cleveland, wife of President Grover Cleveland, lived from her birth in 1864 to her matriculation at Wells College about 1880. Frances' father Oscar Folsom, a prominent lawyer, died at a young age in a carriage accident, whereupon his friend and colleague, Grover Cleveland, took on the responsibility of caring for his widow and two daughters. Cleveland's relationship with Frances would blossom into a romance, culminating in their marriage in 1886, the first and still the only presidential wedding to ever take place at the White House. Folsom Cleveland was immensely popular — the public was struck by her beauty, poise and intelligence, and ladies of the day slavishly copied her fashion sense — and she's still the youngest First Lady in U.S. history. Though the house at 168 Edward Street is not open for tours, the city has placed an interpretive plaque in front of it with details on Folsom Cleveland's life, historical importance, and legacy. Architecture buffs will also take note of this fine example of the mid-19th Century red brick Italianates that remain popular on the Lower West Side.
- Karpeles Manuscript Library (Porter Hall), 453 Porter Ave. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 22), ☎ +1 716 885-4139. Su-Tu 11AM-4PM. The brainchild of California real estate magnate David Karpeles, the Karpeles Manuscript Library is the world's largest privately-owned collection of historic documents and manuscripts. The library consists of twelve branches nationwide, including two in Buffalo: Porter Hall, located in Prospect Hill at the beautifully restored former home of the Plymouth Methodist Church, and North Hall in Allentown. In addition to the travelling exhibits that rotate among all twelve branches of the library, Porter Hall houses the permanent collection of the Buffalo branch of the Karpeles Manuscript Library, including the William McKinley Room where original documents concerning the 1901 assassination of President William McKinley at Buffalo's Pan-American Exposition are displayed. Free.
Grant-Amherst and the Lower West Side's Five Points district are the twin poles of the burgeoning art scene on the West Side, with 464 Gallery and the Essex Arts Center, respectively, as their centerpieces.
- Artsphere Studio & Gallery, 447 Amherst St. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☎ +1 716 874-2863. Th-F noon-5PM, Sa 11AM-3PM or by appointment. A pioneering institution in the now-burgeoning art scene in Grant-Amherst, Artsphere Studio opened in 2003, across the street from its current building. This bright, airy, and spacious gallery features the work of its owner Doreen Boyer DeBoth, a painter, photographer and jewelrymaker; her husband, noted potter Douglas DeBoth, whose works are available for sale at the gallery; and other local artists working in a diverse variety of media. As well, temporary exhibitions are frequently held whose themes are often related to the rich history and unique identity of Black Rock and Grant-Amherst: Boyer DeBoth is a founding member of the Black Rock Historical Society and spearheaded the Black Rock Historic Photo Project whose constituent works can be seen on the exterior walls of several Amherst Street buildings. As well, a modest selection of books on local history and art are available for sale.
- BT&C Gallery, 1250 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 12 or 40), ☎ +1 716 604-6183. Th-F noon-5PM, Sa noon-4PM. Opened in February 2014 in a temporary space with "Blow", a joint exhibition of paintings, photographs and sculpture by a quartet of local artists which had as its theme Buffalo's long, bleak winters, the Body of Trade & Commerce Gallery (BT&C for short) moved four months later into its permanent gallery on Niagara Street in the Upper West Side, a converted warehouse that's also home to Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper and the Resurgence Brewery and is across the street from the new headquarters of Sugar City. Under the careful direction of Anna Kaplan, whose pedigree in the local arts community has included stints as curatorial assistant at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and on the faculty of Daemen College's fine arts department, the BT&C Gallery's focus is not only on hosting exhibitions of minimalist, abstract contemporary art in a diversity of media, but also — contrary to the majority of other Buffalo galleries whose promotional focus is strictly on the local market — to work actively in the marketing of local artists to galleries and collectors outside Western New York.
- Buffalo Religious Arts Center, 157 East St. (Metro Bus 5, 32 or 40), ☎ +1 716 481-2350. By appointment. Located at the former St. Francis Xavier Roman Catholic Church in the heart of historic Black Rock, the mission of the Buffalo Religious Arts Center is to salvage and display some of the works of religious art contained in the many churches and other places of worship (particularly on the East Side) that have closed their doors in the wake of Buffalo's half-century of population loss. In addition to the priceless works from other churches that curator Mary Holland has collected, such as statuary from St. Mary of Sorrows, icons from SS. Peter & Paul Russian Orthodox Church, and various items from Temple Beth El, St. Francis Xavier itself is a magnificent old building full of beautiful and uplifting art which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was a longtime cornerstone of the Black Rock community. $10, students $5, members free.
- Essex Arts Center, 30 Essex St. (Metro Bus 7 or 12), ☎ +1 716 667-2808. A complex of four buildings that serve as living quarters as well as studio and exhibition space for painters, sculptors, photographers, musicians, and all manner of other artists, the Essex Arts Center has been a mainstay on the West Side for four decades running. The center traces its history back to 1969, when local steel sculptor Larry Griffis and his Ashford Hollow Foundation, which was established three years previously to administer the 400-acre (160 ha) sculpture park he'd established in Cattaraugus County, purchased the former Webster-Citizens Company Ice House to use as an arts studio and performance venue. The Essex Arts Center immediately attracted to its roster a veritable Who's Who of Buffalo's arts scene of the 1970s and '80s, and over the years it has proven to be an incredibly prolific incubator of institutions that have gone on to become major players in the local arts scene — Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, the CEPA Gallery, and the dearly missed Artists' Committee Gallery all got their start at 30 Essex before striking out on their own, and Big Orbit Gallery, founded in 1991 and described below, carries on the tradition at its original location. Besides the gallery, the Essex Arts Center also hosts frequent events such as art auctions, musical performances, and educational workshops and seminars whose proceeds go directly to benefit the local arts community.
- Big Orbit Gallery, ☎ +1 716 560-1968. F-M noon-5PM or by appointment. Established in 1991, Big Orbit Gallery is a collective run by and for artists, featuring a changing schedule of experimental exhibitions in a diversity of media. This expansive gallery — situated in a former warehouse whose high ceiling, adjacent interior courtyard, and minimalist decor lend it a cavernous, airy ambience — features diverse exhibitions of works by local artists. Everything from traditional media like painting and photography, to performance art and sound sculpture, to genre-defying, avant-garde spectacle of all kinds can be found here. These works are united by their transcendence of cultures and viewpoints: Big Orbit Gallery prides itself not only on bringing established artists from the Buffalo area to the national and international stage, but also on building awareness of emerging artists of underrepresented demographics. A word of warning: updates to their website are sporadic at best, so Facebook or the pages of Artvoice are probably better bets for those who want to see what's on at Big Orbit.
- The Fargo House, 287 Fargo Ave. (Metro Bus 3, 5, 22, or 40). Open by appointment. This handsome old Victorian in Prospect Hill is part private residence, part archaeological dig and part art gallery: award-winning artist, architect, author and UB professor Dennis Maher bought it in 2009 when it was on the city's demolition list and has been living in and renovating it ever since, a process that has yielded a treasure trove of salvaged structural and decorative elements that he assembles — along with found items from thrift stores, flea markets, and other sources — into imaginative collages displayed in the gallery space on the house's first floor. This ongoing project has earned him praise from the New York Foundation for the Arts and in the pages of the New York Times, among others. Aside from Maher's own work, the Fargo House also occasionally hosts exhibitions by other artists from the local area.
- 464 Gallery, 464 Amherst St. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☎ +1 716 983-2112. W-F noon-6PM, Sa-Su noon-4PM, and by event or appointment. The winner three years in a row of the "Best Up-and-Coming Art Space" award in the annual "Best of Buffalo" poll in Artvoice, 464 Gallery is the brainchild of Marcus Wise, a true Renaissance man of the local art community whose tentacles reach to every corner of the scene: he's a noted photographer, the founder of Spark Art magazine, and the administrator of MINDWEB, a website dedicated to the work of Buffalo artists. Though 464 is the unequivocal epicenter of the Grant-Amherst art community, it would be a mistake to regard it as just a "gallery" — its space is given over not only to showcasing changing exhibitions of the works of over 1,000 artists since its opening in 2009, but also as a gift shop, performance venue, and private event space; in addition, it's played a key role in the ongoing revitalization of Amherst Street. The artists in residence here — prominent local heavyweights such as Chuck Tingley, Dana Saylor, Marissa Lehner, Chuck Alaimo, and Wise himself — are like a family, frequently collaborating on works and holding joint exhibitions; therefore, 464 is probably the best place to go for people who want a comprehensive overview of what the Buffalo art scene is really about. As well as art shows, 464 also hosts frequent special events such as film screenings, art markets, poetry readings, and a monthly open mic event.
- Sugar City, 1239 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 12 or 40). Sugar City is the loose arts collective that's been best known recently for their impromptu "guerrilla"-style art shows and performances that have popped up at various spots around town over the two-year interval between their departure from their former home on Wadsworth Street in Allentown and the grand opening of their new one in the Upper West Side. True to their usual nature, most of the renovation work at the new facility was performed by the seven "Sugar Citizens" themselves, but it wouldn't be exactly accurate to pin the "DIY" label on the collective: its community-based, participatory approach to art would be better described as "do it together". The exhibit space in Sugar City's front room is given over to those artists who cannot obtain space in more traditional galleries, with an aim of blurring the lines and redefining what is and is not considered art. There's probably no way to describe the exhibits you'll find here, other than to say these are the misfits of Buffalo's art scene whose creative output defies categorization, so expect the unexpected.
- The WASH Project, 417 Massachusetts Ave. (Metro Bus 7 or 12), ☎ +1 716 253-1068. M-F 11AM-5PM and during events. The humble West Side Value Laundromat on Massachusetts Avenue is hardly the place you'd expect to be a reliable clearinghouse for information on community cultural happenings, let alone the venue for art studio space, a small library, and a wide gamut of artistic and cultural events. Yet that's exactly what the WASH Project (the acronym stands for "Westside Art Strategy Happenings") consists of. Owner Zaw Win, one of the West Side's growing legion of Burmese refugees who boasts a long history of political activism in his home country, teamed up in 2012 with local activist Barrett Gordon and financial benefactors including Houghton College and the local chapter of AmeriCorps to turn his laundromat into a beehive of community cultural life where the accent, not surprisingly, is on the diverse patchwork of ethnic groups that have forged a cohesive community on the West Side. At the WASH Project's small gallery, you can peruse monthly changing exhibitions of work by local artists, attend classes and workshops on a wide range of artistic subjects, create your own masterpiece in the "Creative Spin" studio (chalk art on the sidewalk outside the building is popular during the warmer months) — and maybe throw in a load of laundry while you're at it.
The West Side is quickly becoming an epicenter of Buffalo's incipient craft brewing industry.
- Community Beer Works, 15 Lafayette Ave. (Metro Bus 5, 12 or 40), ☎ +1 716 759-4677. Free tours Th-F 3PM-7PM, Sa 11AM-4PM; private tours by appointment. Community Beer Works offers free, informal tours of its facilities whenever their retail store is open. Outside of retail hours, private tours for between 10 and 35 people are available by appointment, subject to the company's ability to staff them. Private tours with unlimited samples $5 per person, other tours free.
- Resurgence Brewery, 1250 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 12 or 40), ☎ +1 716 381-9868. Tours by appointment. With a moniker that pays tribute to the newfound ambition and vigor in Buffalo (and particularly on the emerging stretch of Niagara Street where the brewery is located), the Resurgence Brewery opened in June 2014 in the wake of $1 million in renovations to the former Sterling Engine Company warehouse that's also home to the offices of Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper and the BT&C Gallery. Co-owners Jeff Ware and Dave Collins are Buffalo natives who've put to work their extensive experience in the brewing industry and research of beer culture across North America in the manufacture of premium-quality craft beers in their own hometown. The company's goal for their first year is to produce 3,000 barrels of over a hundred different brews, ranging from standards such as Belgian tripel, saison and India pale ale to locally-themed flavors such as "Loganberry Wit" and "Sponge Candy Stout". Also in the pipeline is a pilot brewing program, where beer buffs can dream up their own recipes, have a few small batches brewed and sampled by customers, with the potential for those that prove most popular to earn a permanent slot on the menu.
The West Side is the greenest part of Buffalo — in particular, the waterfront is the place to find Buffalonians basking in the summer sun and enjoying cool breezes off the lake and river. Among the West Side's parks are two that were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the eminent landscape architect who did some of his best work here in Buffalo.
- Broderick Park, West end of W. Ferry St., access via Ferry Street Lift Bridge (Metro Bus 5, 12 or 40). Broderick Park is a small waterfront green space located at the southern tip of Unity Island. This spot is historically important as one of Western New York's major crossing points into Canada for fugitive slaves travelling the Underground Railroad, as attested to by a prominent historical marker and the occasional historical reenactments that take place there. This was also the site from which the ferry service to Fort Erie, Ontario set off in the days before the Peace Bridge. Today, Broderick Park is a popular fishing spot where perch, yellow and northern pike, smallmouth bass, muskellunge, and other species native to the Niagara River are reeled in, and is also a haven for picnickers, sunbathers, and bicyclists who pass through the park along the Riverwalk. Amenities include a picnic shelter, as well as a newly constructed amphitheater, gardens, and interpretive exhibits. Broderick Park is also the northern terminus of the Bird Island Pier (see below). (NOTE: Broderick Park and the Bird Island Pier will be closed until January 2016 due to ongoing upgrades to the Ferry Street Lift Bridge.)
- Front Park, North side of Porter Ave. between Busti Ave. and I-190 (Metro Bus 5, 22 or 40). One of Buffalo's many Olmsted parks, Front Park (or "The Front", as it was originally named) is situated along Porter Avenue just south of the Peace Bridge and contains a soccer field, tennis courts, and picnic facilities, as well as original features such as "The Hippodrome", a 3.5-acre (1.5 ha) lawn intended for picnicking or informal team sports, and a terrace concourse for carriages adorned with a handsome statue of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry. Intended to both showcase and enhance the beauty of the Niagara River and Lake Erie and emphasize its significance to the history and identity of Buffalo, the park once also boasted extensive formal gardens. At the north end of the park stood Fort Porter, built in the mid-1840s as a customshouse and military installation. Some time later, Olmsted was given the green light to extend the Front beyond the canal to the edge of the river itself; though it never materialized, this extension would have included playgrounds, a beach, and a boardwalk. Sadly, together with the West Side's other Olmsted park, Riverside Park, Front Park was badly damaged by the urban renewal that decimated the West Side in the middle 20th Century: the construction of Interstate 190 over the former canal bed robbed the concourse of its serene lake views, and the construction of the new plaza for the Peace Bridge in 1951 culled seven acres (2.5ha) from the size of the park, resulted in the demolition of Fort Porter, and routed noisy trucks bound for Canada through the park (the latter problem will be solved by the controversial expansion of the Peace Bridge plaza slated for the next few years, after which trucks will access the bridge from a new entrance away from the park).
- LaSalle Park, South side of Porter Ave. between I-190 and lake shore (Metro Bus 22 or 29). Though not an Olmsted park, LaSalle Park is the largest park along Buffalo's waterfront, and its plethora of amenities — baseball diamonds, soccer fields, a swimming pool, a skate park, and a dog run ("The Barkyard") — have made it popular among locals. This 89-acre (36 ha) expanse was named Centennial Park when it opened to visitors in 1932, Buffalo's 100th year as a city. Later, of course, its name was changed to honor the French explorer René-Robert Cavalier de La Salle, whose ship Le Griffon passed along the Lake Erie shore in 1679, the first European to see the land now called Buffalo. Architecture buffs will enjoy the Buffalo Water Authority's historic Colonel Francis G. Ward Pumping Station, built between 1909 and 1915 to a design by the local firm of Esenwein & Johnson in a style that's an eclectic hybrid of Beaux-Arts Neoclassicism and the Romanesque Revival.
- Riverside Park, West side of Tonawanda St. between Vulcan St. and Crowley Ave. (Metro Bus 5, 35 or 40). Situated on 39 acres (16 ha) in the far northwest corner of the city, Riverside Park features facilities for every outdoor activity imaginable: baseball diamonds, football and soccer fields, basketball and tennis courts, a swimming pool, a playground, and the Ruben "Bud" Bakewell Ice Rink. Riverside Park was the last addition to Buffalo's Olmsted park system — it was not conceived and built until after Frederick Law Olmsted's death, commissioned by the city in 1898 and designed by his two sons. Riverside Park was intended to finally fulfill the elder Olmsted's dream of a true waterfront park for the city and included all the classic Olmsted elements — a meadow, footpaths, wooded thickets, and a carriage concourse — as well as pleasant minnow pools along its northern boundary. It was to have been connected to the rest of the park system by Roesch Avenue, a parkway leading north and west from Delaware Park which was never built. Sadly, Riverside Park is probably the least well-preserved of Buffalo's Olmsted parks today, owing to the construction of Interstate 190 along the canal bed and the removal of many of the historic Olmsted features. However, the scenic overlook still provides a stunning view over the Niagara River (with direct access to the shore provided by the Irene K. Gardner Pedestrian Bridge over the expressway), and the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy recently unveiled River Rock Gardens on the former site of the minnow pools, now reinterpreted as a large chain of stone-bedded rain gardens peppered with greenery, traversed by footpaths, and centered on an elegant stone arch bridge.
In addition to the large parks listed above, the West Side also contains many smaller green spaces that are pleasant places for visitors. Covering two blocks at the corner of Porter Avenue and Niagara Street, in the shadow of the massive Connecticut Street Armory, is Prospect Park. When Frederick Law Olmsted was doing his work in Buffalo, he planned to redesign this already-extant park and integrate it into his system, but that presumably never came to pass: its layout today bears little resemblance to his typical work. Further north, Unity Island Park has occupied the north end of its namesake since 2004; it's popular for fishing and boasts an ample lawn perfect for picnickers. Near the corner of Niagara and Ontario Streets, Black Rock Canal Park contains a dog run, fishing pier, and boat launch and boasts lovely views of the Buffalo waterfront, Grand Island, and Canada. (NOTE: Black Rock Canal Park will be closed through the end of summer 2015 due to construction.) Finally, the West Village contains the charming Johnson Park, a small "residential park" similar to the two in Allentown that's located on the former estate of Buffalo's first mayor, Dr. Ebenezer Johnson.
Other outdoor attractions
- Bird Island Pier, access from Broderick Park (Metro Bus 5, 12 or 40). The Bird Island Pier dates from 1822, when it was built as a buffer between the Erie Canal and the rough waters of the Niagara River, and was once a lively place of fishing shacks, canal boats, and pleasure steamers bound for Canada and Grand Island. Though those are long-gone, the pier recently completed an extensive renovation and structural stabilization and, for the first time in three years, is now completely reopened as a scenic pedestrian walkway. Proceeding southward from Broderick Park past the Peace Bridge and onward to a point parallel to LaSalle Park — 1.3 miles (2 km) in all — walkers can experience an unparalleled view of the Niagara River and Fort Erie to their right, then turn their head and watch rowing crews from Canisius, St. Joe's, and other area high schools set off along the canal from the West Side Rowing Club. At the end, you're treated to a waterfront panorama that is simply without equal, with the Erie Basin Marina in the foreground and the downtown skyline and grain elevators off in the distance. (NOTE: Broderick Park and the Bird Island Pier will be closed until January 2016 due to ongoing upgrades to the Ferry Street Lift Bridge.}
- Massachusetts Avenue Project, 389 Massachusetts Ave. (Metro Bus 3 or 12), ☎ +1 716 882-5327. Staff-led tours Tu 4PM & Sa 10:30AM. Founded in 1992 by West Side residents, the Massachusetts Avenue Project's vision encompasses access to affordable and nutritious food for all, the transformation of blighted urban areas into productive green space, community education, and economic betterment on a grassroots level. Its centerpiece is the Growing Green Urban Farm, the first one in Buffalo, located on thirteen vacant lots totalling more than an acre (4,000 square meters) in area. Produce is grown in a large greenhouse as well as expansive garden beds, and the farm also features a small orchard of fruit trees, free-range chickens, and a fish hatchery — all kept green by a state-of-the-art, rainwater-fed aquaponics system installed in 2009. Farm work is performed by local youths recruited through the Mayor's Summer Youth Program, educating them with information about healthy food as well as valuable work skills. There's also a farm stand onsite where the fruits of the land are sold. $2 suggested donation.
More and more, Buffalo's exquisite and well-preserved architecture has grabbed the attention of locals and tourists alike. As of May 2015, there are nine historic neighborhoods in Buffalo 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. Three of those districts are located on the West Side:
- The West Village Historic District is the closest part of the West Side to downtown — 22 acres (9 ha) bounded by South Elmwood Avenue, Tracy Street, Carolina Street, Whitney Place, and West Chippewa Street and containing a veritable encyclopedia of late-19th Century architecture. The West Village came into being after 1850, when the huge country estate of Buffalo's first mayor, Dr. Ebenezer Johnson, was sold to developers; in the ensuing years, it mushroomed with two- and three-story cottages in the Italianate, French Second Empire, Romanesque Revival, and Gothic Revival styles. These were joined around the turn of the century by handsome brownstone apartment buildings. Today, the appeal of the West Village to fans of architecture and urban design doesn't really have much to do with any individual buildings — it's more about its overarching identity as an unusually intact example of an attractive mid-19th Century residential district (one might call it a sort of "proto-suburb") as well as its street pattern, where the radial avenues laid out by Joseph Ellicott in Buffalo meet the diagonally-tilted old South Black Rock gridiron in an irregular labyrinth centered on Johnson Park, deeded to the city by the former mayor on what was once the site of his front lawn and redesigned by Frederick Law Olmsted in 1876. Nonetheless, history buffs might be interested in the two-and-a-half-story 1856 Italianate/Greek Revival hybrid at 51 Johnson Park where future President Grover Cleveland once resided, as well as the Gothic Prospect Avenue Baptist Church at 262 Prospect Ave. (corner of Georgia St.), built in 1867 and enlarged in 1881.
- The small Market Square Historic District, centered on the three blocks of Amherst Street between Niagara and Tonawanda Streets, represents what was originally the village center of Lower Black Rock; the wide grassy esplanade flanking each side of Amherst Street's westernmost block, now filled with historic monuments and interpretive panels, was once the site of a large public market gifted to the village by its founder, Peter Porter. In contrast to what was once called Upper Black Rock, which became heavily industrialized after annexation and grew into an integral part of the city, Lower Black Rock retained its independent spirit and, even in the present day, still has the look and feel of a small village. The architecture of the buildings here — which include some of the oldest extant houses in Buffalo — comprises fine examples of such styles as the Italianate, Queen Anne, Greek Revival, and Federal. The red-brick Gothic St. John's United Evangelical Church (81 Amherst St., 1890), the Federal-style Jacob Schmidt House and Tavern and Stephen W. Howell House and Store (71 Amherst St. and 189 Dearborn St. respectively, both c. 1830), and the gargantuan St. Francis Xavier Roman Catholic Church (161 East St., 1912) are some of the historic sites to be found in the Market Square Historic District.
- The Upper Black Rock Local Historic District comprises the buildings on either side of Niagara Street between Breckenridge Street and Lafayette Avenue, as well as the adjacent buildings to the west on Mason Street. This is a remarkably intact period streetscape that dates from the years between 1885 and 1915, when the "Upper Rock" was a buzzing industrial district at the crossroads of numerous methods of transportation — the old warehouses and factory buildings on the west side of the street back up directly onto the New York Central Railroad tracks and what was once the Erie Canal, while the east side of the street is characterized by houses and storefronts serving the working-class residents of the neighborhood. Some of the buildings you'll see in this district are the former Sterling Engine Company (1246-1270 Niagara St.), built in 1907 and now redeveloped as the home of Resurgence Brewery and the BT&C Gallery, and the old Union Meeting House (44 Breckenridge St.), which predates all other buildings in the district as the oldest extant church building in Buffalo, erected in 1827.
Prospect Hill is also home to one of the Niagara Frontier's six Frank Lloyd Wright buildings:
- Fontana Boathouse, 40 Porter Ave. (Metro Bus 22), ☎ +1 716 362-3140. Open for tours (Apr-Sep: check website for schedule, Oct-Mar: by appointment only). The only boathouse ever designed by the eminent Frank Lloyd Wright, the Charles and Marie Fontana Boathouse has perhaps the most unusual history of any of Buffalo's Wright buildings. Designed in 1905 (contemporaneously with Wright's most famous Buffalo commissions, the lost Larkin Administration Building and the very-much-alive Darwin D. Martin House), it was intended to be built for the University of Wisconsin Boat Club in Madison, but was instead built in Buffalo — in 2007, over a century after Wright's design was finalized — and only thanks to the dogged efforts of a local group of Wright aficionados financed largely by Buffalo-born screenwriter Tom Fontana. The only alteration to the original design was the replacement of the stucco on the exterior walls with concrete. The Fontana Boathouse does double duty today as both the working boathouse of the West Side Rowing Club and a destination for the growing legion of architectural tourists who come to Buffalo to see the works of Wright and other greats. It's also available to rent for private events. Tours $10.
Festivals and events
Yet once again, "diversity" is the key word when it comes to the West Side's calendar of festivals. There seems to be an annual event for every component of the area's identity — from the immigrants of Grant-Ferry, to the Lower West Side's legions of Puerto Ricans and Dominicans, to the working-class Germans of Black Rock, to the hipster-friendly Buffalo Small Press Book Fair.
- Buffalo Small Press Book Fair. Held annually in early April, the Buffalo Small Press Book Fair sees authors, artists, poets, booksellers, bookmakers, and book enthusiasts descend on Karpeles Manuscript Library's Porter Hall to break bread, exchange ideas, and interact with fans and aspiring authors. Books, zines, artwork, and other materials can be bought and sold, and lectures, symposia, poetry readings, and other cultural performances are also put on. Attendance is free of charge and open to the public.
- Discover Amherst Street Festival. Every year since 1997 on the third Saturday in June, the Discover Amherst Street Festival has shined a limelight on the newly revitalized neighborhood of Grant-Amherst. A huge variety of activities, events and sales are put on by neighborhood businesses all day, culminating with a parade that begins at noon at the festival's ground zero, the historic Flemish Renaissance-style Ladder #12 Firehouse. Worthy of special mention is the 464 Gallery, whose daylong art fair and sale is a key feature of the festival every year, as well as the annual weiner-eating contest at Spar's European Sausages. Trolley rides and horse-drawn buggies traverse Amherst Street all afternoon, and live music is performed at various places around the neighborhood.
- Taste of Diversity. The Taste of Diversity has been held on Grant Street every summer since 2003 on varying dates, and has become the most popular street festival on the West Side, with almost 2,000 attendees gathering on the block between Lafayette and Auburn Avenues in the heart of the strip. As might be inferred from its title, what's celebrated at the Taste of Diversity are the delicious and vibrant cuisines of each of the West Side's vibrant ethnic communities. But don't mistake this for a clone of downtown's Taste of Buffalo: rather than the area's hoity-toitiest restaurants duking it out for prize money and publicity, the Taste of Diversity takes a decidedly more grassroots approach, where the food is prepared by smaller, more humble (but, it should be emphasized, equally delicious and arguably more authentic) neighborhood restaurants and food trucks, and where the goal is to celebrate the beauty of West Side's diversity — and perhaps more importantly, the fact that a united, cohesive community with an increasingly high quality of life has been forged out of these disparate elements. Festivities at the Taste of Diversity also comprise traditional music, dancing, and other events representing the full spectrum of the West Side's cultural rainbow.
- Friendship Festival. Shared between Buffalo and neighboring Fort Erie, Ontario, the Friendship Festival is a weeklong celebration of almost 200 years of friendship and mutual cooperation between the United States and Canada, and coincides with both Independence Day in the United States (July 4th) and Canada Day (July 1st). Beginning in late June, festivities are held on both sides of the Niagara River, notably Riverside Park in Buffalo and Mather Arch Park in Fort Erie. On both sides of the border, parades, classic car shows, War of 1812 reenactments (at Old Fort Erie), live music, and fireworks are enjoyed.
- Buffalo Caribana. Each August, the West Side waterfront is the setting for yet another in an increasingly long line of ethnic pride festivals on the Niagara Frontier: the Buffalo Caribana, where the area's West Indies population gathers to celebrate the vibrant traditions of island culture. Founded by the Buffalo Caribbean-American Association in response to the overwhelming success of Toronto's Caribana, the homegrown version begins Friday evening and culminates in a parade at noon the next day where marchers, dressed in huge, showy costumes bedecked with masks, plumes, and glitter, make their way triumphantly through the streets of Prospect Hill toward LaSalle Park. There, tasty Caribbean food, live reggae, soca, salsa and merengue music, dance competitions, vendors and general merrymaking last the whole weekend.
- River Rocktoberfest. Buffalo has a vibrant multiethnic heritage dating back almost to the time the city was founded, and almost inarguably the most dominant culture was the Germans: in the late 19th Century, they made up more than half of the city's population, and even today, fully 14% of Western New Yorkers claim German ancestry. Why, then, does Buffalo not have a huge German festival to match its Italian Festival, St. Patrick's Day Parade, Dyngus Day, ad nauseam? That was the question posed by the inimitable "Airborne" Eddy Dobosiewicz, founder of River Rocktoberfest, which was celebrated for the first time in late September 2013 and aims to take a place alongside those other annual Buffalo traditions. With the historic — and historically German — neighborhoods of Grant-Amherst, Riverside, and Black Rock (hence the name of the festival) as the setting, River Rocktoberfest kicks off with a traditional Munich-style keg tapping and a horse-drawn procession along Amherst Street, and picks up steam at fourteen different venues in the area (connected by a half-hourly shuttle) where oompah bands and wandering accordion serenaders, German food and drink, dancing, and other merriment takes place. River Rocktoberfest is also a great way to get inside the Buffalo Religious Arts Center — during the festival, tours are offered of this museum that otherwise keeps odd and infrequent opening hours.
- Ruben "Bud" Bakewell Ice Rink, 2607 Niagara St. (At Riverside Park; Metro Bus 5, 35 or 40), ☎ +1 716 875-4820. Su & F 2PM-3:50PM, M 3PM-4:50PM, Th 5PM-6:50PM, Sa 1PM-2:50PM except during special events, Oct-Feb only. City residents $2, non-residents $3, skate rental $3.
- 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, on the West Side the 2014 schedule included the annual Scajaquada Creek Regatta, a "leisurely paddle down the Black Rock Canal and up historic Scajaquada Creek, an underutilized resource full of history and ecology" that launched at the Great Lakes Center off Porter Avenue. Participants can bring their own kayak or reserve one of Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper's limited supply. Free.
- Classic Cruises, 1 Dann St. (At Rich Marina; Metro Bus 5, 32 or 40), ☎ +1 716 946-7246. By appointment. Offering customized cruises for up to 6 people on the Summerlove, a 1956-model Chris Craft express cruiser with ample room on the deck for sightseeing, sunbathing or just taking in the surroundings, "Captain Rich" and "First Mate Pat" will take you anywhere you want to go on the upper Niagara River — whether it be a trip through the historic Black Rock lock, a cruise down to Canalside, a visit to the Erie Canal or Beaver Island State Park, a full circle around Grand Island, or whatever suits your fancy. A relaxing day on the water is in store for customers: as the website put it, "the way she cuts through the water, the smell of varnish, the sight of glistening mahogany wood and the rumble of a vintage motor all lend themselves to an unforgettable experience." In case of inclement weather, you can reschedule your cruise at no charge (subject to availability) or else receive a full refund. $50 per hour.
- Grand Lady, 5 Austin St. (At Rich Marina; Metro Bus 5, 23 or 40), ☎ +1 716 873-4630. May-Oct, check website for schedule. The Grand Lady is an 80-foot cruise ship based at Black Rock's Rich Marina that's been offering scheduled cruises and private charters on the upper Niagara River since 1998. Passengers on the Grand Lady have their choice of itineraries: two-hour lunch cruises take in the Black Rock, Riverside, and Tonawanda waterfronts as far as the South Grand Island Bridge, with live sightseeing narration by the captain and your choice of chicken française or roast beef roulade, and three-hour dinner cruises proceed as far as the entrance to the Erie Canal in North Tonawanda (or, on their once-monthly four-hour cruises, circumnavigate Grand Island) and boast live entertainment, a cash bar, and an elegant three-course meal of a tossed salad, a "Chef's Choice" double entrée of char-grilled sirloin filet and stuffed chicken breast, and homemade cheesecake. For vegetarians, an alternative main course of roasted vegetables and orzo pasta is available on request. The schedule is variable, but in general it features one to two of both types of cruise weekly; it's recommended you reserve as early as possible. The Grand Lady sails rain or shine. Lunch cruises $45, without meal or for children under 12 $23; dinner cruises $60 Jul-Labor Day & $57 all other times, without meal or for children under 12 $30 Jul-Labor Day & $29 all other times.
- Kavinoky Theatre, 320 Porter Ave. (Metro Bus 3, 5, 22 or 40), ☎ +1 716 829-7668. The Kavinoky Theatre is located in Prospect Hill on the campus of D'Youville College. Over the course of its history, not only has the Kavinoky Theatre thoroughly restored the historic former Porter-View Room under the auspices of the D'Youville Capital Campaign, but this local repertory company of professional actors has produced nearly 150 plays and musicals of a consistently high quality, earning them more awards than any other troupe in Buffalo. The Kavinoky Theatre has given many actors of local extraction their start in the business.
- New Phoenix Theatre on the Park, 95 Johnson Park (Metro Bus 3, 5, 11, 20, 25 or 40), ☎ +1 716 853-1334. Buffalo's premier alternative theatre, the New Phoenix Theatre on the Park opened in 1996 in a historic house in the West Village and has quickly gained an impressive reputation for the high-quality, diverse range of performances it has hosted in its tiny space, trending heavily towards bold contemporary works of theatre as well as avant-garde reinterpretations of old favorites. The New Phoenix Theatre on the Park hopes to foster a spirit of community collaboration not only through its exciting theatrical offerings, but also by playing an active role in the ongoing revitalization of the West Village neighborhood.
Grant-Amherst is the place to go on the West Side for live music, with a trio of venues (including the newly reinvigorated Showplace Theater) that are among the best-loved in Buffalo. As well, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra has its magnificent home stage on Symphony Circle.
- Gypsy Parlor, 376 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3 or 26), ☎ +1 716 551-0001. Grant-Ferry's live performance venue of choice. From indie rock bands and acoustic troubadours, to DJs spinning cutting-edge electronica, to big-band jazz, to such exotica as drum circles, belly-dancing and poetry slams, there's really no rhyme or reason to the array of local acts that take the stage at the Gypsy Parlor. Open-mic night is held every Tuesday at 8PM.
- Kleinhans Music Hall, 3 Symphony Cir. (Metro Bus 7 or 22), ☎ +1 716 883-3560. Designed by the internationally-famous father-and-son team of Eliel and Eero Saarinen, Kleinhans Music Hall is among the most architecturally distinguished buildings in Buffalo (it has served as a model for Festival Hall in London, among other venues), and boasts world-renowned acoustics. Aside from the several-times-weekly performances of the Buffalo Philharmonic itself, Kleinhans also features performances by other orchestras, small theatrical shows, and popular music acts — which have included Natalie Merchant, Johnny Mathis, and the Indigo Girls — performing either on their own or backed by the Philharmonic as part of the BPO Rocks! concert series.
- Rohall's Corner, 540 Amherst St. (Metro Bus 20 or 32), ☎ +1 716 939-2087. On the first Saturday of each month, this hip yet unpretentious neighborhood watering hole at the heart of Grant-Amherst is transformed into the site of the Black Rock Fiddle Jam, where local musicians get together for a rousing round of old-time acoustic music — an informal, freeform hoedown of fiddles, mandolins, banjos, guitars and good times. For those who would rather try their hand at playing instead of just watching and listening, lessons for all skill levels are provided free of charge.
- Showplace Theater, 1065 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☎ +1 585 232-3221. It was scarcely possible to be a rock fan in Buffalo in the '90s and early '00s without having an intimate familiarity with the old Showplace — it was a linchpin of the local scene, with a list as long as your arm of punk, alternative and indie bands that graced the stage of this former movie theater just before they reached superstar status (including, off the top of this author's head: Pearl Jam, the Goo Goo Dolls, Finger Eleven, and the Tragically Hip). The Showplace finally shut its doors in 2007, but after a six-year hiatus, local entrepreneur Joe Roxbury bought the building, renovated it from top to bottom, and reopened it in 2014 with a full slate of concerts, comedy shows, and the like in the offing.
- Sportsmens Tavern, 326 Amherst St. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☎ +1 716 874-7734. Though there are very few sportsmen to be found here, the Sportsmens Tavern has emerged over the past few years as a real standout: with an authentically gritty roadhouse vibe, the self-described "honkiest, tonkiest beer joint in town" is among Buffalo's premier places to see live local country, folk, blues, and roots-rock acts. Sportsmens is a venue by musicians and for musicians — its owner is a longtime stalwart in the Buffalo scene who also runs the recording studio next door, and many local artists and bands cite it as their favorite place to play in the city. The 325 seats are regularly filled with an eclectic mix of hipsters, college students, and neighborhood regulars who probably remember the days when the place was just a garden-variety neighborhood gin mill. And the Grille at Sportsmens Tavern goes above and beyond the usual pub grub, serving probably the best food of any live-music venue in the city. For a truly unique experience, try to get seats in the upstairs balcony.
- Sugar City, 1239 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 12 or 40). Sugar City is back: after ballooning rents priced the venerable DIY arts collective out of their former headquarters in Allentown (now the home of PAUSA Art House), they reemerged in August 2014 in a new spot on what the Buffalo News has termed the "suddenly sexy 1200 block of Niagara Street", which is also home to the Body of Trade & Commerce Gallery and the Resurgence Brewery. The performance space in the rear of Sugar City seats audiences of up to 170 — quite a bit bigger than the stage at their old digs — and plays host to a variety of local bands that run the indie gamut from hardcore punk to ambient noise to neo-garage rock. Theatrical productions, poetry readings, and other performances take place as well. As before, all shows at Sugar City are all ages and alcohol-free.
- The WASH Project, 417 Massachusetts Ave. (Metro Bus 7 or 12), ☎ +1 716 253-1068. This neighborhood laundromat-cum-cultural nucleus boasts WASH the Mic!, a bimonthly open-mic event where local musicians come to jam, as well as a monthly curated concert series that's a showcase for the local ambient, drone, and experimental noise scenes.
D'Youville College is a private Catholic college that's been located in Prospect Hill since 1908. The college was established by the famous Grey Nuns of Montréal and named after their founder, St. Marie-Marguerite d'Youville. A pioneer in the field of higher education for women, D'Youville was the first college in the Niagara Frontier to admit women, and though it went co-ed in the 1970s, its student body is still about three-quarters female. The school has expanded aggressively over the past quarter-century, taking a leading role in neighborhood revitalization and constructing many new buildings in the area (and rehabbing several vacant ones too) for their use. Today, D'Youville is a robust college with a student body of 2,700, including over 1,000 post-graduate students. Undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs are offered in a wide range of fields such as international business, education, and information technology, but especially in health-related professions such as nursing, dietetics, chiropractic, and physical therapy.
Grant-Ferry and the Upper West Side
Every shopping neighborhood in Buffalo seems to have its own specialty. On Elmwood it's the latest in trendy urban fashions, Allentown has art galleries galore, and Hertel Avenue is the place for antiques and home decor. As for Grant Street — well, if you're in the market for ethnic handicrafts or exotic foods and you can't find what you're looking for here, you're probably out of luck.
- West Side Bazaar, 25 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 12), ☎ +1 716 464-6389. M noon-6:30PM, Tu-Th 11AM-7PM, F 11AM-8PM, Sa 10AM-8PM; some restaurants and all shops except "Macramé by Nadeen" closed Monday. Ground zero for the Upper West Side's retail scene, the West Side Bazaar is one of the main raisons d'être of the emergence of Buffalo's new internationally-flavored commercial district. It has served not only as a business incubator helping newly landed immigrants on their feet and on their way to successful entrepreneurship, but also as an important gathering place for new residents eager for a friendly reminder of their native lands. A project of the Westminster Economic Development Initiative, the West Side Bazaar was founded in 2009 and two years later expanded into a full-fledged market, inspired by the Malcolm Shabazz Market in Harlem and in keeping with the tradition of large public markets like the East Side's Broadway Market which could at one time be found all over Buffalo. The West Side Bazaar moved to a larger location in April 2013, and today contains a large and growing lineup of stalls selling a maddeningly diverse array of ethnic fashions and crafts, as well as an International Kitchen with immigrant-owned restaurants serving authentic international cuisines (see below).
- An Zar Ni Aung. At one of the West Side Bazaar's newest stalls, shopkeeper Maung Moe serves Buffalo's Karen immigrant community with an impressive selection of clothing spanning both traditional and Western styles. A wide range of winter gear is also offered, along with more modest selections of other accessories, jewelry, shoes, and cosmetics.
- The Atinga Project, ☎ +1 716 771-2818. The Atinga Project is the brainchild of Christopher Way, a Houghton College graduate who had an unusual but inspirational epiphany while on a trip to Rwanda in 2013: he saw the decades-old custom there of refashioning used tires into shoes as an embodiment of the resourcefulness of the Rwandan people, even under impoverished conditions. Back home in Buffalo, Way and his partners — a rainbow coalition of activists, small business specialists, and former refugees turned entrepreneurs — sell a line of high-quality, custom-fit rubber sandals made from used tires and other reclaimed materials, handmade by skilled African artisans. Far from using this unusual business model as a cheap gimmick (after all, "Atinga" translates roughly to "respect" or "dignity"), Way's goal is to counter the condescending, paternalistic "Africa needs our help" trope with a celebration of Africans' resilient ingenuity, while of course helping those he employs make a better living for themselves in Buffalo and their families back home in Rwanda — 30% of Atinga's profits go to the artisans themselves.
- Gysma's African Style. Owner Gysma Kueny moved to Buffalo in 2002 from war-torn South Sudan, and now operates her eponymous shop at the West Side Bazaar where a wide range of ethnic clothing, cultural gifts, and specialty bath products are for sale. Available here are fashion accessories such as artisan jewelry, handbags, a modest range of clothing, and even scarves and gloves, along with shea butter and various natural soaps including black soap imported from Ghana. Craft items are handmade by African artisans and include baskets, works of art, and (especially) wooden figurines representing giraffes, tigers, elephants, lions, water buffalo, and other African fauna. Best of all, the money you spend here could scarcely go to a better cause: Kueny uses part of her profits to fund a charitable initiative to promote education for South Sudanese girls.
- Julienne Boutique. Julienne Nyiranjishi's whole family are artisans — both those in Buffalo and back home in Rwanda — and it's their work that's for sale at Julienne's Boutique. Clothing, jewelry and accessories, traditional baskets, and postcards bedecked with beautiful African imagery are on offer, but the specialty here is handmade wooden carvings: from traditional bowls to statuettes to tableware.
- Khatiza Gift Shop. One of the West Side Bazaar's newest vendors, Myanmar native Khatiza Bodialam opened up shop in January 2014 at the stall formerly belonging to the sadly missed Anokha Leewu. Injecting still more color into an already vibrant environment, the cornerstone of Khatiza Gift Shop's inventory is traditional Burmese dresses in bright, cheery patterns, as well as handmade silk flowers in a multiplicity of varieties. Additionally, scarves, jewelry and other accessories are on offer, as well as a modest selection of fragrances.
- Macramé by Nadeen, ☎ +1 716 541-8824. Nadeen Yousef, the owner and namesake of this little West Side Bazaar stall, is a native of Iraq who spent six years as a refugee in Syria before the onset of civil war there drove her to Buffalo in 2009. Macramé is rather popular in the Levant; less so in the United States, and back home Yousef had already begun making a name for herself with her skill in the craft, so it was only natural that she would turn to it as a way to make her living in her adopted country. At Macramé by Nadeen she offers a small but charming (and growing!) range of handmade macramé goods including wall art, jewelry, and plant hangers, as well as custom goods made to order.
- Nepali Clothing & Cosmetics. As advertised, the wares in Madhavi Pyakurel's new West Side Bazaar stall comprise traditional Nepali clothing, accessories, and cosmetics. "Fashion has no boundaries", says the store's motto, and it rings true — customers of all stripes come here to browse through or purchase at reasonable prices an ample gamut of truly elegant dresses and saris, lovely bead jewelry, comfy shoes, makeup and bath products.
- African Market, 355 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 26), ☎ +1 716 882-8786. Daily 6AM-6PM. The African Market opened at the north end of Grant-Ferry in 2009; despite its name, the variety of imported foods offered here spans not only Africa, but the whole world. Though canned goods, spices, rice and other staples, and other miscellaneous groceries are sole here, the marquee item at the African Market is a wide variety of meats, many of which are halal or kosher — from everyday selections like beef and chicken to more unusual ones such as goat. A small selection of kitchenwares and ethnic clothing rounds out the stock. Best of all, unlike most small Grant Street businesses, the African Market boasts off-street parking: there's a small lot on the left side of the building, which is also where the main entrance is found.
- BreadHive Cooperative Bakery, 123 Baynes St. (Metro Bus 7, 12 or 26), ☎ +1 716 980-5623. Tu 10AM-6PM, F 7:30AM-noon, Su 10AM-3PM. Sure, you can find BreadHive's delicious artisanal bread and baked goods at Guercio's on Grant Street, at the Lexington Co-op in the Elmwood Village, at Farmers & Artisans Market in Snyder, or at the legendary Sunday brunch at Hydraulic Hearth in Larkinville. But if you really like your bread fresh, the place to go is the small walk-up window they debuted in September 2014: it's open odd hours and hidden away on an out-of-the-way side street in a residential area, but it's worth being sought out. BreadHive was launched by local trio Emily Stewart, Allison Ewing and Tori Kuper, who adapted the philosophy of the Nickel City Housing Co-op — of which all three are former residents — to the concept of an artisanal bakery: the business is cooperatively owned by all its employees and selflessly gives back to the community that supports it through the "bread-share" program they've dubbed "the Crust Belt". But even if you're not a member, the bagels that are BreadHive's best-known specialty are out of this world: homemade the traditional way, they're deliciously hefty and come in eight flavors slathered generously with goat cheese. Their fresh-baked breads include the flagship "West Side Sourdough" — with a crispy, crackly crust belying a soft interior — as well as multigrain, deli rye and Danish-style rugbrød; delicious soft pretzels, pastry, and homemade granola round out the offerings. All of BreadHive's products are made on-site with locally-grown organic flour and leavened with wild yeast. And you can get delicious hot chocolate or locally-brewed Public Coffee to wash it all down with.
- 5 Loaves Farm, 1172 West Ave. (Metro Bus 3, 5, 26 or 40), ☎ +1 716 803-9241. Farm stand open Sa in season. Since 2012, this farm has been run on ten vacant lots on the Upper West Side by Matt Kauffman, as a ministry program of the nearby Buffalo Vineyard Church. The mission here is to promote sustainable gardening as a way of providing neighborhood residents not only with fresh produce, but also vital education regarding healthy dietary choices. The food grown at 5 Loaves is disseminated mostly to local residents who've signed up for food shares through the Community-Supported Agriculture program, as well as to local restaurants, schools and food banks — but seasonal produce is also available at their farm stand at the corner of West Delavan and West Avenues, open on Saturdays in season.
- Frank Zarcone & Sons, 23 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 12), ☎ +1 716 886-6553. M-Sa 9AM-5PM. Like the larger Guercio & Sons, this longstanding butcher shop (opened in 1963 by the now-retired Frank and Maria Zarcone) is a throwback to the West Side's former identity as Buffalo's Italian neighborhood. Though many of the similar businesses that lined the area's streets have fallen by the wayside in the ensuing years, Zarcone's stuck around long enough to benefit from Grant-Ferry's revival as Buffalo's newest hip shopping district, with more and more new customers every day enjoying the fine quality meats available here at decent prices. The specialty at Zarcone's is homemade Italian sausage and meatballs — among the best in the city — but other meats (Italian and otherwise) are available here too, such as Delmonico steaks, stuffed pork chops, and a few seafood items. Limited off-street parking is available.
- Golden Burma, 92 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 12), ☎ +1 716 551-0175. Daily 9AM-7PM. Golden Burma serves the growing community of immigrants and refugees from that country that have settled on Buffalo's West Side with a wide range of Burmese groceries, including fresh seafood, meat and vegetables, as well as canned, packaged, and frozen foods. For fans of Southeast Asian cuisine, the perpetually crowded aisles of Golden Burma are an excellent place to find exotic and unusual products and ingredients that aren't available anywhere else in Buffalo. Pots, pans, woks, and miscellaneous kitchenware are also on offer.
- Guercio & Sons, 254 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 26), ☎ +1 716 882-7935. M-Sa 7AM-6PM. With over 50 years of tradition, Guercio & Sons dates back to 1961. That's when Vincent and Nancy Guercio, immigrants to Buffalo from Cefalù, Sicily, purchased the erstwhile Grant Street Market and set out converting it into a gargantuan grocery store stocking all manner of meats, cheeses, produce, oils, and other foodstuffs imported from Italy. The business persevered through the demographic changes on the Upper West Side — which saw successive waves of immigrants from wholly different parts of the world pass through the neighborhood — and the rise of the suburban supermarket by expanding into wholesaling, furnishing ingredients for such well-known Buffalo restaurants as Left Bank, Hutch's, and the Buffalo Chophouse. Now owned by the five Guercio sons, the business is once again thriving — Guercio's is one of Buffalo's prime destinations for Italian foods, both imports and locally produced items such as sliced bread from Luigi's Bakery and Anchor Bar brand wing sauce. When they're done marveling at the lovely carts on the sidewalk brimming with delicious, brightly colored fruits, vegetables, and herbs, visitors to Guercio's can enter the building itself and stroll through the fragrant corridors stocked with everything you could ever want from an Italian grocery store — canned goods, imported pasta, sliced-to-order deli meats like mortadella and soppressata, a dizzying array of fine olive oils, and more. Quite simply, this place is not to be missed.
- Hatimy Market, 278 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 26), ☎ +1 716 884-8836. M-Sa 9:30AM-7PM, Su 10AM-6PM. Mirroring the neighborhood in which it's located, diversity is the name of the game at this friendly food market. Hatimy Market's helpful staff, helmed by Somali-born UB nursing student Ali Mohamed, serves nearly all of the West Side's varied communities of immigrants with a maddeningly eclectic variety of groceries from Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia, and the Arab world. Meats from beef and chicken to lamb and goat, many of them certified halal, are joined on the shelves by seafood, canned goods, rice, spices, and various and sundry food items. Hatimy Market's owners also run Shawarma King, a takeout window a few blocks south where delicious and inexpensive Middle Eastern and African foods are available.
- Jomow International Market, 188 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 26), ☎ +1 716 239-3474. Opens daily at 10AM, closing time flexible. Founded in 2010 under the name Marka Halal Market, this is yet another West Side destination for imported African and Arabian food. A variety of general groceries are stocked, but Jomow International Market's true claim to fame is its wide selection of halal meats, from beef and fish to goat and camel.
- Kat Food Market, 287 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3 or 26), ☎ +1 716 259-9780. M-Sa 10AM-6:30PM. Founded in 2014, the name of the game at this ethnic grocery at the north end of the Grant-Ferry strip is African and Middle Eastern specialty foods: from staples like rice and fufu flour, to frozen foods, to a wide selection of fresh produce, meats and fish. A range of toiletry products and other daily essentials are also on offer.
- Lin Asian Market, 113 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 12), ☎ +1 716 887-3908. M-Sa 9AM-8PM, Su 9AM-6PM. Opened in 2010, Lin Asian Market is a pioneer when it comes to serving the culinary needs of the West Side's burgeoning community of Burmese immigrants and refugees. This place's small size and spartan interior belie an impressive variety of Burmese and other Southeast Asian grocery items.
- Lorigo's Meating Place, 185 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 26), ☎ +1 716 885-3623. M-Sa 9AM-5PM. The cheeky puns are seemingly neverending: Lorigo's "Meating Place", so the slogan goes, is "Your Link to Quality". Indeed, homemade, family-recipe Italian sausage and meatballs are the specialty at the meat market that Joseph Lorigo founded on the East Side and moved to Grant Street in 1986. Lorigo's began life as a real, old-fashioned butcher shop of the type that are becoming less and less common these days, and the skilled professionals behind the counter still pride themselves in cutting the chicken, pork, veal, and other meats sold here to customers' specifications. However, as time went on, Lorigo's expanded into wholesaling and also converted the store itself into a grocery market that, in a nod to the current melting-pot identity of the neighborhood, sells a wide variety of ethnic foods from Latino (including a full line of Goya products) to Caribbean to Somali to Southeast Asian. The aisles are jumbled and hard to navigate and the place gets crowded at peak hours, but there are some really high-quality products to be found here. Check out their great selection of delicious and reasonably-priced frozen desserts, too.
- Rich's Red Brick Market Café, 1197 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 12 or 40), ☎ +1 716 878-8601. M 10AM-5PM, Tu & F 9AM-5PM, W 10AM-4PM, Th 9AM-5:30PM, Sa 9:30AM-2PM. Located across the street from corporate headquarters on Niagara Street, Rich's Red Brick Market is exactly what the name advertises — a charming 19th-century brick storefront that is the retail outlet for the gargantuan Rich Products Corporation. The Red Brick Market is one of the only places in the world where Rich's products, which are normally distributed wholesale to restaurants and other institutions, are offered for sale to the public directly — and at sharply discounted prices to boot. The "café" portion of this place's name, meanwhile, is indeed a misnomer; the place has only a small retail counter and one table, with much of the interior space given over to massive rows of freezers and coolers. Baked goods are prominent among the offerings in those coolers, with ready-to-bake bread, cookie and pastry dough on offer, as well as a full range of pasta products, meat and seafood items including delicious barbeque pork, and, of course, the famous Coffee Rich non-dairy creamer that put Rich Products on the map in the first place. Onsite as well is Dessert Builders, which fills custom dessert orders on an advance-notice basis. The Red Brick Market also holds frequent "Truck Load Sales" where goods are sold in bulk for discounts even steeper than normal. Visitors who are daunted by the heavy, fast-moving traffic on Niagara Street will be glad to know that ample off-street parking is provided.
- Sagarmatha Groceries, 289 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3 or 26), ☎ +1 716 715-6979. Daily 9AM-8:30PM. Buffalo's population includes over a thousand immigrants from Nepal and Bhutan, but for a long time, there was no place in the city for them to buy the foods they had enjoyed in their native lands. That all changed with the opening of Sagarmatha Grocery, whose owner Kaji Sunwar is a Nepalese expat who, with a little help from Buffalo's Rich Products Corporation and Canisius College's Students In Free Enterprise, cut the ribbon to this friendly little shop in 2012. Here can be found a full range of fresh produce, canned and packaged goods, and spices to serve the palettes of Buffalo's Nepalese and Bhutanese immigrant communities, as well as other aficionados of those cuisines. As well, fresh goat, chicken, fish and beef are sold Wed-Sun, and a small selection of brightly-colored ethnic clothing items is also stocked. Sagarmatha doesn't neglect the rest of the multicultural West Side tapestry, either, stocking groceries and sundry items of interest to the Burmese, African, and Latino contingents as well, including an impressive range of Goya products for the latter.
- United Super Bazaar, 294 W. Ferry St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 12), ☎ +1 716 939-3210. Daily 9AM-9:30PM. Another location of the same operation that runs United Grocery and Halal Meats on the Lower West Side, this place bills itself as a specialty food shop selling "Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian, Burmese, Vietnamese, Nepali, Arabian, Somalian, African, Spanish, and American food and spices". That's a bit of an exaggeration, though — the offerings at United Super Bazaar consist of a selection of ethnic packaged foods (largely from South and East Asia) that's really nothing special by Grant Street standards, as well as standard simple American groceries you'd find at any corner bodega and non-edible daily needs such as toothpaste, over-the-counter drugs, and even toys, bedding, clothes and gifts. One strong point this place does boast is a large frozen food section containing some interesting exotic goodies.
Clothing and accessories
When it comes to cute, hip clothing boutiques, Grant Street is still a long way behind more established retail areas in Buffalo such as the Elmwood Village and Hertel Avenue. However, those in search of authentic, vibrantly-colored ethnic clothing and urban streetwear should be pleased with the offerings in the area.
- City Swagg, 407 Hampshire St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 12), ☎ +1 716 247-0691. M-Sa 9AM-9PM. Opened in 2012 at the corner of Hampshire and West Ferry Streets, City Swagg offers the best in urban fashions straight from the streets of New York, L.A. and Miami. From everyday wear like jeans, dresses, and jackets, to shoes and accessories, to swimwear and body suits, the designs here are sexy, sassy and make a bold statement. As well as clothing, City Swagg also sells mobile phones and related accessories, with calling plans from providers such as H2O Wireless, T-Mobile, and Net10.
- Empire Kicks, 281 W. Ferry St. (Metro Bus 3 or 12), ☎ +1 716 332-0820. Su-Th 10AM-9PM, F-Sa 10AM-10PM. High-fashion clothing with an urban flair is the stock in trade of Empire Kicks. An authorized retailer of Nike, Akoo, Timberland, Polo, Rocawear, and Reebok, this large store is located in a small plaza just off Grant Street. Empire Kicks is the place to go on the West Side for a wide range of authentic designer t-shirts, hoodies, jeans, and athletic shoes. Sports fans can choose from among the wide array of baseball caps and swag here, with all their favorite team logos on it. Empire Kicks also offers layaway.
- Global Chic, 242 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 26), ☎ +1 716 887-3950. M-Sa 10AM-7PM, Su by appointment. Louise Sano, the owner of Global Villages (see below), further expanded her West Side retail empire in 2013 with Global Chic, which complements the gifts, crafts and accessories offered in her original store with a full line of unique, vibrant fashions. Much like her other venture, Global Chic's multiethnic offerings boast a diversity that mirrors the multinational identity of Grant-Ferry itself; however, here the diverse styles are not merely placed side by side on the shelves and racks, but are more often combined within each piece into a delectable multicultural fusion that truly adds up to more than the sum of its parts. Custom alterations are also available.
- Global Villages, 216 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 26), ☎ +1 716 887-3889. M-Sa 7AM-9PM. Hailing from Rwanda, Global Villages' dynamo owner, Louise Sano, cut her teeth as a founding member of the West Side Bazaar in 2011 before moving up the street the following year to inaugurate her own store, which has been described as a locally-based iteration of Ten Thousand Villages. At Global Villages, Sano sells a range of unique jewelry, accessories, soaps and bath items, and gifts that's been personally and expertly selected by her. The fashions here represent a diverse range of ethnic styles — from Kenya to Myanmar to India — and the authentic craft items for sale here encompass drums, baskets, objets d'art, decorative items, and more. A small range of literature, primarily on African topics, is also offered. Best of all, Sano prides herself on her extensive familiarity with her suppliers and their work, whether it be a traditional artisan in Thailand, a local crafter on the West Side, or Sano herself, who designs much of the jewelry stocked here. To top it all off, Global Villages' interior is brimming with character — the tin ceilings and original hardwood floors and transom windows are a remarkable preservation of the building's history.
- San-Bor Sports, 116 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 12), ☎ +1 716 881-5922. M-F 10AM-6PM, Sa 10AM-5PM. San-Bor Sports has been described in Buffalo Rising as an "urban sports shop that has withstood the tests of time, and for that we are all lucky". It's true. Owner Rick Bordieri has proven himself nothing if not adaptable, meeting the needs of West Side residents for over forty years even as the profile of the average West Side resident has changed and changed again. At San-Bor Sports a range of sporting goods is indeed sold, but the focus is more on sportswear, with a wide gamut of athletic shoes (including Converse and Air Jordans), baseball caps, custom sports jerseys, jeans, and other casual urban streetwear filling the shelves. In season, a range of bubble jackets, boots, and other cold-weather gear can be had to see customers through the bleak Buffalo winters. San-Bor's selection is impressive: there are some pretty hard-to-find items here, including a full line of t-shirts from Stacks and Kicks, a boutique label headquartered right in Buffalo. The selection is curated by a knowledgeable staff that is thoroughly familiar with the products they sell, and service comes with genuine friendliness and appreciation every time.
- Rust Belt Books, 415 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 26), ☎ +1 716 885-9535. M noon-6PM, Tu-W 10:30AM-6PM, Th-Sa 10:30AM-8PM, Su 11AM-5PM. In March 2015, Rust Belt Books relaunched from a new location on Grant Street after being in hibernation for a few months after leaving their previous home in Allentown. However, aside from the location little has changed: this is still one of the best, and best-loved, used bookstores in Buffalo or anywhere else. An exhaustive selection of reading material of every genre — from old cookbooks to '70s music journalism to esoteric feminist essays to the classics of literature — is available there for the book lover, with an enthusiastic and helpful staff and colorful clientele. More than that, Rust Belt Books' relentless devotion to the local community sees them playing host to a variety of community events, as well as poetry readings, plays and other special events.
- West Side Stories, 205 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 26), ☎ +1 716 803-8173. M, W & F 11AM-6PM, Sa 10AM-6PM, Su 10AM-3PM. West Side Stores is a true gem — a friendly, cozy independent bookstore, well-kept yet unpretentious, that stocks a wide-ranging selection of over 12,000 gently used books ranging from biography to mystery to kids' books to sci-fi to the classics of literature, at prices that never exceed $10. Better still, this place is at the forefront of West Side businesses (no mean feat) when it comes to dedication to their neighborhood — they host community events on a frequent basis, donate free books to various worthy causes, and have a policy of one free book per visit offered to all children who stop in. Though West Side Stories is probably not the place to go if you've got a specific title in mind, its selection is nevertheless fascinating — all the more so given that everything they sell is acquired through donation (they'll pay you a price that's hard to beat for your gently used books!) A children's play area is available for parents who want some time to themselves while strolling the aisles, and the friendly couple that owns the place is always around for a friendly chat with customers, or to put their encyclopedic knowledge of their inventory to use in helping them find what they're looking for. West Side Stories also does a brisk side business selling used records ($3.50 each).
- Black Dots, 223 Lafayette Ave. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 26), ☎ +1 716 242-9273. Daily noon-8PM. New World Record and Home of the Hits closed in the 2000s and Record Theatre is down to two struggling locations, but that hasn't dissuaded Black Dots' owner and sole employee, Joshua Smith, a former punk rocker and prolific record collector and trader native to Syracuse, from daring to buck the trend: his place is Buffalo's newest independent record store, whose opening in June 2013 in the basement of a Lafayette Avenue flat was so audacious in the face of steeply declining sales of tangible music that the Buffalo News devoted a lengthy article to it. The store is named for the groundbreaking 1979 debut by D.C. punkers Bad Brains, and aptly so: Black Dots deals exclusively in new and used punk, hardcore, and indie releases on vinyl and cassette, to the exclusion of CDs, as well as a selection of stickers, patches and band t-shirts. Vinyl aficionados, devotees of underground music, and those who are curious about the local scene will be in heaven at Black Dots perusing the crates of rare releases by little-known bands in the well-worn interior; even the hand-scrawled sign, reminiscent of an old-school concert flyer, screams "punk rock".
- Sweet Sound Music, 257 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 26), ☎ +1 716 882-4423. M-W 10AM-8PM, Th 10AM-9PM, F-Sa 10AM-10PM, Su noon-5PM. Since 2006, Luis Rodriguez has operated this small Grant Street record shop where the accent is on rap, R&B, reggae, soca, and Latin sounds, as well as racks of streetwear styled to match the hip-hop bent of the music. If you're interested in the local hip-hop scene, look no further: Sweet Sound stocks a wide selection of the latest releases by local rappers at prices that can't be beat.
Tattoos and piercing
- Ink Assassins, 429 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 26), ☎ +1 716 885-3333. M-Sa 1PM-9PM, anytime by appointment. Situated in a handsome brownstone storefront on an otherwise mostly residential stretch of Grant Street, Ink Assassins is a great West Side destination for all manner of custom tattoos and piercings performed in a clean and professional, yet relaxed and easygoing, environment. The work done by these tattoo artists is really high quality — and a great value for your money. Walk-ins are welcome here, but free consultations are provided for those who would rather set up an appointment. Ink Assassins also does henna and black-light tattoos.
Liquor, beer and wine
- Community Beer Works, 15 Lafayette Ave. (Metro Bus 5, 12 or 40), ☎ +1 716 759-4677. Th-F 3PM-7PM, Sa 11AM-4PM. With a motto of "Embeer Buffalo", Community Beer Works is the city's first nanobrewery, proudly producing craft beer that's delicious and award-winning in quality: some of the accolades this place has earned include being named "Best New Brewery in New York State" for 2013 by ratebeer.com, as well as a second-place finish for its India Pale Ale in Brewing News magazine's 2013 National IPA Championships. Indeed, pale ales of various descriptions are the star products at Community Beer Works: its most popular brew, an American Pale Ale called "Frank", can be found on tap at well-known local spots like Allen Street Hardware, Pano's, Blue Monk, and the Village Beer Merchant. They also have a retail store open three days a week where beer aficionados can come and fill their bottles and kegs — 32-ounce (946 ml) growlers for $7, 64-ounce (1,893 ml) growlers for $12, and kegs for $90 — or buy branded merchandise such as T-shirts, glasses and growlers. Best of all, Community Beer Works' commitment to the well-being of the Buffalo area is legendary: spent grain from the brewery is donated to the Massachusetts Avenue Project to be reused as fertilizer, and community pride and a sense of place are fostered in many other ways as well.
- Frontier Discount Liquors, 121 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 12), ☎ +1 716 883-6277. M-Sa 10AM-11:30PM. Frontier Liquors opened in 1974, long before Grant Street had the cachet it does today — and as the neighborhood has continued its upswing, this place has really grown into its reputation as the place to go for a far-ranging selection of potent potables, including some hard-to-find wines and spirits that other Buffalo liquor stores don't carry. Frontier is no less impressive in the beer department, with all the usual brands in stock plus a nice range of craft brews from Upstate New York and elsewhere in the region. Ice and salty snacks are also sold to complement the alcohol. Delivery service is available, and, uniquely among liquor stores in the area, Frontier even offers event planning for those who may be planning a party or get-together. Unfortunately, the "discount" portion of this place's name is a bit of a misnomer, but fear not — frequent special deals and promotions are offered.
- Paradise Wine, 435 Rhode Island St. (Metro Bus 7 or 12), ☎ +1 716 322-5396. W-F 11AM-7PM, Sa 10AM-6PM, Su noon-5PM. Opened in March 2015, this place's owner and namesake, Paula Paradise, is a former pastry chef turned self-described "wine nerd" who, before she struck out on her own, was a favorite at Amherst's Premier Wines & Spirits for her encyclopedic knowledge of wines (especially local vintages), discriminating palate, and natural way with customer service. Little wonder, then, that Paradise Wines has already made quite the name for itself in Five Points. With a huge range of products that you won't find anywhere else, Paradise's inventory eschews big-name vintages completely and consists solely of a handpicked selection of organic, biodynamic, sustainably crafted wines (and ciders, craft spirits) sourced from small family wineries in the local area. You might think that all this high-concept stuff is out of your price range, but think again: an integral part of this place's mission is making holistically produced products available to those of all budgets, and the owner is enthusiastic about sharing her treasure trove of wine knowledge to serve each customer's individual needs and palate.
- Between Yesterday & Tomorrow, 88 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 12), ☎ +1 716 882-4068. M-Tu & Th-Sa 11:30AM-5PM. This friendly neighborhood variety store proudly offers "a little bit of everything... not a lot of anything". That little bit of everything will be of particular interest to fans of kitsch; though there's a lot of junk here, buried within it are some great finds: quirky clothing, accessories, toys, gifts, and miscellaneous ephemera. Best of all, Between Yesterday & Tomorrow offers the kind of old-fashioned personal service with a smile that you can't get at Walmart or other big-box retailers.
- The Morning Star (formerly Virunga Market), 314 Hampshire St. (Metro Bus 3 or 12), ☎ +1 716 381-5708. M-F 9AM-9PM, Sa-Su 9AM-10PM. Opened in January 2013 in the Hampshire Street storefront formerly occupied by the beloved Burma Family Store, Morning Star sells a little bit of everything. "100% African" is the motto that ties together the motley range of merchandise on offer here — from beauty supplies to groceries to a selection of secondhand clothes, DVDs, decorative items and other gifts.
Amherst Street has made a name for itself in recent years as a small-business shopping district that, despite its upswing, proudly retains a blue-collar, "real Buffalo" feel. Art and antiques are a particular specialty in the area.
Despite its proximity to Buffalo State, the college crowd tends to pass up Grant-Amherst in favor of the Elmwood Village and, to a lesser extent, Grant-Ferry. Nonetheless, Tops Plaza, on the southwest corner of Grant and Amherst Streets just across the bridge from campus, is a handy destination for the everyday shopping needs of Buffalo State students — it contains locations of Family Dollar and Tops supermarkets, as well as Radio Shack, Burger King, a pizzeria, and a Chinese take-out.
Clothing and accessories
Among the small neighborhood shops of Grant-Amherst are a number of purveyors of urban fashions.
- The Jump-Off, 440 Amherst St. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☎ +1 716 939-2009. Daily 10AM-8:30PM. In March 2012, longtime Amherst Street resident Demetrius Williams opened The Jump-Off with a view not only to furthering the growth of Grant-Amherst as a small-business shopping destination, but also of its cultural life: his plans are to eventually hold open-mic events in store for local performers. For now, though, available at The Jump-Off is a respectable range of men's and women's clothing and accessories, united by a stylish yet streetwise urban aesthetic.
- Mr. Millennium, 282 Amherst St. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☎ +1 716 877-4517. Daily 10AM-10PM. Situated on the corner of Amherst Street and Military Road at the former site of the Adriatic Gardens restaurant, some of the crowded shelves and racks of this Yemeni-owned outlet are devoted to a respectable selection of colorful and glitzy ladies' fashions, including cute tops, formalwear, jewelry and accessories, and shoes. But above all, Mr. Millennium is best known for the wide range of menswear they carry. From designer jeans and t-shirts, to mens' jewelry and watches, to baseball caps (this place is a licensed dealer of New Era caps), to bubble jackets and hoodies, Mr. Millennium is the place for you if you're looking for urban-styled clothing of pretty much any permutation. The other half of the business is prepaid mobile phones, with phones and plans on offer from Boost Mobile, Virgin Wireless, and others. The sometimes rude customer service is a sticking point for visitors to Mr. Millennium, but the selection here is the best in the neighborhood, and they're open late.
- Shirtz, 520 Amherst St. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☎ +1 716 316-2860. M-Sa 11AM-7PM. The name of the game at this aptly named Amherst Street store is one-of-a-kind customized T-shirts designed in-house. These guys do first-rate work and infuse their designs with the urban flair that has come to characterize the small but growing fashion scene in Grant-Amherst. The bulk of Shirtz' inventory is made up of creative graphic tees, including some with airbrush designs. A range of band tees, other designer clothes, and embroidery rounds out the selection here. Shirtz' staff has their ear to the ground when it comes to the local scene — they're active and highly sought-out in the production of music videos, commercials, and promotional videos for Buffalo-based businesses and artists — so if you're looking for something unique and characteristically Buffalo, you'd be well-advised to head here.
Grant-Amherst is an emerging local destination for antique enthusiasts.
- Chotchky's Antiques and Collectibles, 352 Amherst St. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☎ +1 716 877-9692. Open by appointment or chance. Kathleen Arries is to be commended for truth in advertising: there are plenty of tchotchkes to be found in the ample Amherst Street storefront her business occupies. The 6,500 square feet (600m²) of retail space here are crammed to the gills with antiques of all descriptions: rare, original and unique examples of housewares, toys, clocks, baskets, and every miscellaneous trinket you could imagine that are the end result of over 100 years of family collecting. This is the kind of place you'd see on "American Pickers". Despite the vast variety of stuff to be found here, Chotchky's is at heart a small family business and a labor of love — Arries has been the sole employee of this shop since it opened in 1998. This place does a brisk mail-order business as well.
- Coo Coo U, 27 Chandler St. (Metro Bus 3 or 23), ☎ +1 716 432-6216. Sa-Su 10AM-5PM. Coo Coo U's owner, Michael Mensola, has a habit of being a pioneer in every new neighborhood in which he sets up shop — the business moved in 2012 to the former Jewett Refrigerator Warehouse off Military Road after spending the previous quarter-century on Hertel Avenue, and was located in Allentown before that. Coo Coo U is the alpha and omega in Buffalo when it comes to Mid-Century and Scandinavian Modern, whether it be furniture, decorative items, works of art, or all manner of other retro curiosities. Aficionados agree that the selection and quality of the items that fill this cavernous space is among the best anywhere, even holding its own with the best that places like Toronto and New York City have to offer. To be found here are a myriad of one-of-a-kind items with a fanciful postwar aesthetic — chairs, sofas, coffee tables, lamps and the like are joined by modernist paintings and sculptures, as well as musical instruments, jewelry, and (perhaps thanks to the influence of its new next-door neighbor, Horsefeathers Antiques) elements of industrial and architectural design. You could easily spend a whole day here. Hours of operation are variable — don't be surprised if the owner opens the place up early or stays late, especially during special sales and promotions or around the holidays.
- Junk & Disorderly, 979 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☎ +1 716 628-2792. F 6PM-9PM, Sa 10AM-3PM. Summer 2015 saw another addition to Grant-Amherst's roster of antique and vintage stores arrive at the former home of Puchalski's Florist — which, like its new owner-husbands and proud Black Rock native sons David Blake and Mark Bancerowski, are longtime neighborhood fixtures. These two have been steadily growing their own collection of antiques and vintage collectibles for north of 30 years, and with Junk & Disorderly their bounty is now available to the buying public. And what a bounty it is — there's a ton of merchandise crammed into this little place, all as kitschy as the name implies. Going beyond the kitsch factor, it's rather difficult to generalize about the constantly changing lineup of merchandise that passes through Junk & Disorderly's doors, but midcentury vintage knickknacks seem to handily outnumber outright antiques (the cutoff date seems to be around World War II) and specialties seem to include lamps, kitchenware, and above all, a treasure trove of decorative Christmas baubles, vintage ornaments, and other holiday-themed items. But the inventory is a diverse hodgepodge — the owners are known to train their eyes on anything unusual or offbeat, and to travel long distances to do so, with merchandise sourced from estate sales, swap meets, and flea markets across the Northeast. Junk & Disorderly's opening hours aren't what you would call extensive, but if you can't make it to Grant Street on a Friday night or Saturday afternoon but happen to be heading eastward after your visit to Buffalo, you might catch the owners at their table at the Ontario Antique Mall in Canandaigua.
Liquor, beer and wine
- Amherst Street Wine and Liquor, 601 Amherst St. (Metro Bus 20 or 32), ☎ +1 716 710-5940. M-Sa 9AM-9PM, Su noon-6PM. Amherst Street Wine and Liquor is located across the parking lot from the Amherst Street Wegmans supermarket and is owned by the same family — and though eyebrows were raised upon its December 2014 opening, which was seen by some as an end-run around the New York State law that prohibits supermarkets from selling liquor, Wegmans' legions of admirers will probably be pleased with the similarities between the two businesses: aisles and shelves organized more like a supermarket than a typical liquor store, a selection whose size and variety befits a big-box warehouse retailer, and customer service that is second to none in friendliness, helpfulness and knowledge of their product. Your Wegmans Shoppers Club Card is even good there. If you're here for wine, you'll find lots of imported vintages as well as domestics from California and the Finger Lakes, but sadly, if you're after a local wine (say, from Niagara County or the Lake Erie Wine Trail, you'll likely leave disappointed. Prices are generally average compared to other liquor stores — the mom-and-pops don't have to worry just yet — but there's always a selection of $6 wines for those on a budget as well as a locked room of rare and high-end wines if you're in the mood to really splurge. Wine tastings are also held on a frequent basis. As for liquors, the bases are covered with all the usual products as well as occasional surprises such as metaxa (Greek brandy) and other harder-to-find items, again at average prices.
- Gambino Liquors, 340 Amherst St. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☎ +1 716 873-8695. M-Th 9AM-10PM, F-Sa 9AM-midnight, Su noon-6PM. Since 1995, Michael Gambino has helmed this family-owned and operated liquor store where first-rate value for money is married to the professional, courteous service of the highest order they provide to their loyal customers. Gambino Liquors styles itself as "Your One-Stop Liquor Shop", and that's no exaggeration — it stocks one of Buffalo's widest selections of beer, wine, and (especially) spirits of every description imaginable, as well as mixers, snack foods, and various and sundry other goodies. But what Gambino is perhaps best-known for is their affordable prices — nowhere in the area can you get products of such a high quality for more affordable prices. Delivery is available, too.
Furniture and home decor
- Habitat for Humanity ReStore, 501 Amherst St. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☎ +1 716 852-6607. Tu-F 10AM-6PM, Sa 9AM-6PM, Su noon-4PM. Habitat for Humanity, a charitable organization dedicated to helping low-income individuals and families find housing, operates two locations of ReStore in Buffalo. The original one is located on Amherst Street. 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.
Tattoos and piercing
- Upstate Ink, 408 Amherst St. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☎ +1 716 534-8282. W-Su 1PM-9PM. The oldest tattoo parlor in Black Rock and Riverside, Upstate Ink opened its doors in 2007 on Niagara Street, in the building where Madd Tiki Tattoo is located today. Six years later, owner Nick Bennett moved the operation to the heart of the action in newly revitalized Grant-Amherst, and the place still going strong today. The folks you'll find working at Upstate Ink are more of a loose collective than what you might call a "staff" — they each have their own distinct styles and specialties, and set their own prices — but all four of these body artists are among the most skilled Buffalo has to offer, and they work in an unintimidating environment that is the epitome of cleanliness, friendliness, and professionalism. Understandably, Nick is in the highest demand of the group — sessions with him are by appointment only — but Joe and Ronny happily accept walk-ins (cash only, though, unlike Nick). A specialty at Upstate Ink is laser tattoo removal.
Though it's of decidedly less interest to foodies than Grant-Ferry and the Lower West Side, Grant-Amherst's variety of specialty food markets ably mirrors the diversity of the West Side.
- Delish!, 414 Amherst St. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☎ +1 716 881-2022. Tu-F 9AM-6PM (till 8PM when cooking classes scheduled), Sa 9AM-5PM. Founded in the Elmwood VIllage in 2005 and moved to Amherst Street six years later, Delish! is — if the numerous accolades to it in the pages of Artvoice and Buffalo Spree are to be believed — Buffalo's favorite pastry shop. Let the outside of the building warm your heart for a few moments, with its bright pastel colors and huge picture windows that look onto the inviting interior, before stepping inside and choosing from a truly magnificent selection of baked goods — expertly decorated cakes, delectable cheesecake, yummy cookies, biscotti, scones, sticky buns, and more — as well as various other goodies such as imported candies and licorice, spices, gourmet sauces and marinades, house-brand extra-virgin olive oil cold-pressed and sourced from the Napa Valley, and house-bottled balsamic vinegar imported from Italy. Coffee — Stumptown Coffee, to be exact — is also a specialty at Delish!, with simple breakfasts and lunches served as well. Owner Debbie Clark is locally renowned for the cooking classes and seminars she holds which touch on every aspect of the culinary arts; see the website for details. Delish! also offers catering and various options for private parties and corporate events.
- Spar's European Sausage Shop, 405 Amherst St. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☎ +1 716 876-6607. Tu-W 10AM-5PM, Th-F 9AM-5PM, Sa 9AM-3PM. Spar's European Sausage Shop was founded in 1989 by Eric Spar, a native of Augsburg, Germany, and purchased by its current owner, Spar's former apprentice Joe Kennedy, in 2005. This place was recognized as selling the "Best Sausage in Buffalo" five years in a row by Artvoice in their annual "Best of Buffalo" poll, and it's not hard to see why: this place deals in what is easily the city's widest variety of sausages, both fresh and smoked, handcrafted on the premises using only the freshest and finest ingredients. Not surprisingly, German selections such as bratwurst, knockwurst and weisswurst are predominant, but this place sells literally every kind of sausage you can imagine: Swedish, Hungarian, Ukrainian, Polish and Italian sausages, chorizo, andouille, merguez, double-smoked kabanosy, and on and on. And if Spar's doesn't carry your favorite type of sausage, they'll custom-prepare it for you. Though the sausages are obviously the star of the show, Spar's sells a variety of steaks and chops, cheeses, deli meats including homemade bologna, and specialty groceries that split the difference between imported items and local favorites such as Broadway Market horseradish, Scharf's Schiller Park German salad dressing, Weber's horseradish mustard, and Johnnie Ryan craft sodas.
- Yasin African Market, 1044 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☎ +1 716 871-0453. Daily 7AM-7PM. Much like its counterparts on the other end of Grant Street, Yasin African Market is a destination for those in search of ethnic groceries and halal meats such as fish, lamb, goat and chicken. However, Yasin African Market does its competition one better by offering an interesting selection of other goods such as handbags and purses, as well as gifts including some surprisingly high-quality carpets.
For more art galleries (i.e. ones where the object is to view, rather than buy, art), see the "See" section.
- Fundalinski Studio, 453 Amherst St. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☎ +1 716 768-3692. Bogdan and Janice Fundalinski were in business on Amherst Street long before it became a happening strip on the newly hip West Side: they opened up their eponymous Fundalinski Studio in 1982. Both the owners are certified members of the Professional Photographers of America, and Bogdan is also a multiple-time Kodak Gallery Award winner. Fundalinski Studio mostly handles portrait photography, but a brisk secondary business here is selling archival-quality prints of the artists' original work — both Janice's placid nature scenes and Bogdan's colorful, whimsical fantasy images.
- Graser's Florist, 399 Amherst St. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☎ +1 716 875-0185. M-Sa 9AM-5PM. Of the three Graser's Florist locations, the one on Amherst Street has been around the longest — it opened its doors in 1948. But its age is only one reason why Graser's is a throwback to an earlier time in Grant-Amherst. Another is the old-fashioned service that their staff demonstrates, nurturing loyal and enduring relationships with their customers by really going the extra mile to accommodate special requests, creatively reconciling customers' needs to their budget, or just ensuring, in a truly sincere and understanding way, that customers are well attended to. The fresh-cut flowers available at Graser's are really spectacular (ask about the $12.99 cash-and-carry special for full, generously-proportioned bouquets at a great price), as are the tropical plants and European-style dish gardens — but it's the skillfully constructed floral arrangements that really makes Graser's stand out from the pack, ranging from fresh to dried to silk. A selection of fruit and gift baskets, greeting cards and candies round out the offerings here.
- S & K Market, 179 Military Rd. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☎ +1 716 818-3205. Daily 10AM-10PM. S & K Market looks like just another corner bodega of the type that's so common on the West Side, but a peek inside is sure to surprise the unsuspecting visitor. S & K began life in 2009 as a friendly, all-purpose bedding and linen store; indeed, the bread and butter of the inventory here is still a full slate of sheets, comforters, and a wide variety of original blankets (including Disney designs) to fit all bed sizes, as well as mattresses and pillowtops for unbeatable prices. Towels, curtains, rugs, and carpets are on offer as well. However, newly armed with a food store license, S & K expanded its oeuvre in 2012, and now boasts an intriguing mishmash of wares including high-quality hookah pipes, a variety of halal meats, body oils and perfumes, and more.
- The Serendipity Shoppe, 497 Amherst St. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☎ +1 716 248-0232. W-Sa noon-5PM. The Serendipity Shoppe is back — after being displaced two years previously by construction at its previous home, Elmwood Avenue's Lafayette Presbyterian Church, Buffalo's favorite high-end secondhand store reopened in summer 2014 on burgeoning Amherst Street. The location has changed, but the goods on the shelves remain the same: this place specializes in fine-quality, previously-owned jewelry, artwork, books, furniture, home decor, collectibles, and more (but, interestingly, not clothing). There's some really unique and offbeat finds here, the kind of stuff you don't generally see at thrift shops, and fans of quirky vintage styles are in luck. Best of all, your money goes to a good cause: the Serendipity Shoppe is run on a not-for-profit basis, with all proceeds benefiting the Buffalo AIDS Plus Fund, which helps residents of the eight-county Western New York area living with HIV and AIDS. Tax-deductible donations are accepted; see website for details.
Prospect Hill, Five Points, and the Lower West Side
Niagara and Connecticut Streets are the Lower West Side's main thoroughfares for shoppers. By comparison with each other, Connecticut Street is smaller in size but noticeably more upscale, while bustling Niagara Street is larger and more typically "West Side", with a wide array of urban clothes stores, Grant Street-style ethnic food markets, and other shops. There's a smattering of more out-of-the-way shops on other streets as well.
Clothing and accessories
- Kings of da West, 461 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 3, 5, 29 or 40), ☎ +1 716 855-0555. M-F 1PM-7PM. The central node of a trio of related shops on the corner of Niagara and Hudson Streets, Kings of da West sells West Siders a variety of new and secondhand urban clothing, shoes, jewelry, and fashion accessories as well as a small variety of cigarettes and smoking supplies. Ladies aren't left out in the cold either: Queens of da West extends the business into the storefront next door, with ladieswear, purses and other accessories, wigs, and fragrance on offer in similar styles. Lastly, Kings Wireless is a destination for cell phones and accessories as well as electronics repair.
- Positive Approach Press, 334 Connecticut St. (Metro Bus 3 or 22), ☎ +1 716 939-2632. M-F 9AM-4PM, Sa by appointment. Newly moved to Connecticut Street from its former home in Allentown, Positive Approach Press works with customers to create custom-designed screen-printed t-shirts, sweatshirts, and even jackets and pants, handcrafted in-house by some of the best designers Western New York has to offer. The folks at Positive Approach offer great rates and even better turnaround times (less than seven days in most cases) and will also custom-design business cards, posters, wedding invitations, stationery, and other paper goods.
Those who've come to the Lower West Side in search of delicious Puerto Rican food are better off heading to a restaurant than a specialty grocery store; Hispanic cuisine is mainstream enough around these parts that its ingredients are easily available in ordinary supermarkets such as Tops on Niagara Street (which boasts what must be the best selection of Goya products Buffalo has to offer). However, if you were intrigued by the multiethnic cornucopia of immigrant-run food shops on Grant Street and are thirsty for more, the Lower West Side has what you're looking for.
- Á Châu International Market, 833 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5 or 40), ☎ +1 716 882-3867. M-Sa 9:30AM-7:30PM, Su 9:30AM-6PM. Authentic and gritty with no hint of the supermarket gloss of Wegmans (or even Tops on Niagara Street), Á Châu International Market's crowded aisles are stacked floor-to-ceiling with a wide variety of Indian, African, Latin American, and (above all) East Asian specialty groceries. Included in the inventory are delicious and unusual meats, fresh fish, a blockbuster selection of Asian produce such as durian, bok choy, and flaming hot Thai chilies, tea and energy drinks, frozen foods, and in the words of one reviewer, "every kind of spice, edible sea critter, and sauce you could ever ask for". If you're on the lookout for that obscure Asian product you saw overseas but haven't been able to find Stateside, this is not a bad place to stop into. Á Châu's helpful employees — who double as the owners of Niagara Seafood, the Vietnamese restaurant next door — are happy to assist customers in navigating the disorganized clutter. They even sell chopsticks, woks, and other housewares. A word of warning, however: the "authentic Asian grocery" part of this blurb is not to be taken lightly, meaning that the squeamish may need to avert their gaze from sights like whole frozen bullfrogs in the freezer cases, buckets of freshly eviscerated organ meats, and whole ducks, chickens and rabbits strung up as window displays. There's also a smaller satellite location on the East Side.
- Arbin Grocery & Halal Meats, 397 Connecticut St. (Metro Bus 7), ☎ +1 716 262-0981. Daily 9AM-9PM. Situated on bustling Connecticut Street a stone's throw from Masjid al-Eiman, Arbin Halal Meat is a new food store that stocks a modest but intriguing selection of halal meat, fresh produce, and dry groceries geared toward Buffalo's growing Bangladeshi, Pakistani, and Indian population. In addition to what's already been mentioned, Arbin also stocks large sacks of channa daal and other grains, Indian spices, a small range of Islamic clothing, as well as Western-style snack foods and a surprisingly ample selection of household goods. At Arbin the aisles are cramped and the shelves are not particularly well organized, but the small size of the store means that if they carry it, you'll probably find it before too long.
- Barrel + Brine, 257 Carolina St. (Metro Bus 3, 5, 11, 20, 25 or 40), ☎ +1 716 785-7073. M-W 11AM-6PM. The hipster-fication of the West Side logged another benchmark in December 2015 with the opening of this specialty shop dedicated to all things pickled and fermented, situated in the heart of the historic West Village a literal stone's throw away from Johnson Park. Owner R.J. Marvin is a self-styled "Willy Wonka of pickles", a 17-year veteran of the local restaurant industry who, while working at the Elm Street Bakery in East Aurora, hit on the idea of a store that sold unusual varieties of pickles, made in-house from local produce. Flash forward to opening weekend, when he and his wife/partner Lindsey had to abruptly close up shop the day after their grand opening after completely selling out of all their stock; the lines had been out the door all day long. Barrel + Brine's selections change frequently — on a given day you'll find creative twists on everyday favorites such as sauerkraut ("classic recipe" as well as homemade kimchee and red beet and caraway kraut) and pickled cucumbers (both full sours and bread-and-butter varieties; popular favorites include the "Million Dollar Pickle" based on an old Amish recipe, the self-explanatory "Bloody Mary Pickle", and a "Southern Tier IPA Pickle" with fresh hops added to the spice blend), as well as more exotic finds such as fennel-pickled beets, Chinese-style pickled peanuts, kkakdugi (Korean-style spicy pickled radishes), pickled watermelon rind, and pickled sausage sourced from Spar's on Amherst Street.
- Buffalo Grocery & Halal Meats, 331 Vermont St. (Metro Bus 3 or 12), ☎ +1 716 886-8800. Daily 9AM-9PM. Buffalo Grocery & Halal Meats is owned by the same people who run United Super Bazaar on West Ferry Street, and the selection of items is much the same as well — "Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian, Burmese, Vietnamese, Nepali, Arabian, African, Spanish, [and] American food and spices" are proudly touted on the exterior sign. Like its newer counterpart, though, in reality the selection here isn't as impressive as all that, and skews far more heavily in favor of the Subcontinental and Southeast Asian sides of the equation than the Arabian, African or Latino.
- Chez La Camer & Rock Centero Market, 941 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 12 or 40), ☎ +1 716 715-5969. M-W 10AM-7PM, Th-Sa 10AM-8PM, Su noon-5PM. Along with a range of hair and beauty supplies, braiding, cosmetics, and ethnic clothing, African food is the specialty at this newly established market at the north end of the Niagara Street strip. A modest variety of both fresh and frozen groceries are available for aficionados of the cuisines of West and Central Africa. Also, for anglers who are keen on trying their luck at nearby Broderick Park or elsewhere along the West Side riverfront, live bait is offered for sale.
- The Chocolate Shop, 871 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 12 or 40), ☎ +1 716 882-5055. M-F 9AM-5PM. Established in 1950 by West Side native Frank Caruana, The Chocolate Shop is a longstanding neighborhood mainstay that has delighted thousands of Buffalonians over the years. Caruana learned from the best, cutting his teeth at the legendary Merkens Chocolate Company on Jersey Street before striking out on his own, hand-dipping and hand-molding the confections at first before the sheer volume of his shop's popularity forced him to invest in automated machinery. Years later, The Chocolate Shop is still in business custom-molding chocolates to its customers' specifications, whether it be reproducing a sample item or bringing their zaniest fantasies to life in chocolate form. The bulk of the Chocolate Shop's business is corporate orders and fundraisers, but at their Niagara Street retail location can be found a range of chocolates and candies (including sponge candy, Buffalo's favorite chocolate treat) as well as personalized gift packs made fresh daily with only the finest ingredients.
- Five Points Bakery and Café, 44 Brayton St. (Metro Bus 7 or 12), ☎ +1 716 884-8888. M-F 7AM-3PM, Th till 6PM, Sa-Su 9AM-3PM. In the words of their website, Five Points Bakery is all about "raising the bar on local food" and "striv[ing] to overcome the limitations of our food system and reclaim our food heritage through education... and a dedication to sustainability". Sound a bit high-concept and expensive? It is, but visitors who persevere past their initial reaction to Five Points' prices soon see that what's sold there is worth splurging for. After a brief hiatus, this heaven for foodies is now reopened in a new location around the corner from the original — a spectacularly restored turn-of-the-century brick block with greatly expanded seating at tables and along the bar. As well, in summer there's additional seating on a rear patio that's one of the most pleasant and distinctive in town: rustic furniture and adobe-colored stucco applied to the walls and foundation of a former outbuilding give it a distinctly Southwestern feel. There's Ethernet ports for laptop jockeys, and both dining room and patio have kids' play areas that are fully stocked with toys, games and books. But the core of the business remains the same: homemade artisanal multigrain, whole-wheat and ciabatta breads made with organically-grown grain from right here in Western New York (specifically, the Zittle Farm in Hamburg), along with delectable pastry — their huge cinnamon rolls are a favorite. Folks especially like the toast bar, where you can choose from various breads to pop in the toaster and top with your choice of honey, peanut butter, and various fruit compotes and cheese spreads. As always, vegans and those with special dietary needs will be delighted that all ingredients are scrupulously labelled.
- Less Price, 209 Massachusetts Ave. (Metro Bus 3), ☎ +1 716 322-1827. Daily 9AM-9PM. The sign on the outside of this bodega, located on the corner of Massachusetts and Plymouth Avenues where Mama's Kitchen used to be, proudly advertises "fresh produce, halal meats, and variety groceries". Sadly, that's an exaggeration (as is the place's name). At Less Price there's no meat at all and only a small freezer full of frozen vegetables, with the inventory mostly given over to general groceries, kitchenwares, toiletries, and snack foods and other corner-store fare. However, they do offer a small selection of Indian and South Asian spices, dried chilies, cooking oil, and ethnic snack foods that might do in a pinch if you've got a hankering for Indian food but are missing a few ingredients.
- Mike's Tropical Market, 475 Fargo Ave. (Metro Bus 3, 5 or 40), ☎ +1 716 883-1120. M-Sa 9:30AM-5PM. Mike's Tropical Market is a popular gathering place for the West Side's burgeoning Latino community, a crowded little corner store jam-packed with specialty groceries including a huge range of Goya products. This is probably the best place in the city for those in search of ingredients for delicious Puerto Rican and Dominican recipes who want a more distinctive experience than what's offered at a supermarket. One-upping other bodegas in the area, Mike's also boasts a sizable frozen-foods section, a small selection of quality butcher meats and deli items, and fresh tropical (and other) produce. Best of all, Mike's carries a great selection of specialty coffees at prices that can't be beat.
- Mineo & Sapio Italian Sausage, 410 Connecticut St. (Metro Bus 7), ☎ +1 716 884-2398. M-F 9AM-4PM, Sa 9AM-2PM. Mineo & Sapio is arguably Buffalo's favorite locally-produced brand of sausage — and almost inarguably its best-loved Italian sausage. The business has built a sterling reputation from its humble beginnings in 1920, founded by John Mineo as a neighborhood meat market on the main drag of the Italian West Side, to a ubiquitous presence in the meat coolers of Western New York supermarkets and on the tables of some of the city's finest restaurants. In addition to their most famous product (which comes in both links and patties, sweet or spicy), Mineo & Sapio also manufactures chicken sausage, andouille sausage and chorizo, delicious Italian meatballs, meatloaf, and, most recently, several varieties of stuffed hot peppers. Uniting all these products is an unrelenting emphasis on quality — their classic-recipe Italian sausage uses 100% pork with no preservatives or artificial colors, the chicken is a boneless and skinless mix of white and dark meat, and the sausages are packed in all-natural hog casings. Best of all, despite the growth of the business, Mineo & Sapio's Connecticut Street retail store retains a friendly, intimate atmosphere — impregnated with the delicious aroma of sausage spices, to boot. Frozen sausage of the same type that's sold in grocery stores can be bought there, but since you have the opportunity, you really want to go for the fresh stuff.
- Nature's Apothecary, 346 Connecticut St. (At Horsefeathers Market; Metro Bus 3 or 22), ☎ +1 716 866-9513. W 11:30AM-3PM, Th-Sa 9AM-3PM. Horsefeathers Market is the home to the newest entry in Buffalo's growing roster of vegan restaurants and food shops: Nature's Apothecary is where Elena Capozzi, a young entrepreneur and recent graduate of the Institute for Integrated Nutrition, shares her knowledge of and enthusiasm for healthy, holistic eating — not to mention her wonderfully prepared recipes — for hungry folks from across Western New York. The stock in trade here is a mix of yummy baked goods (so delicious that more than one reviewer outright refused to believe they were as healthy as claimed!) as well as raw salads, cold-pressed juices and smoothies, and other prepared foods, all of which are made from organic, sustainably sourced ingredients with no meat, dairy, or corn syrup, and prepared so as to retain as many of the original vitamins and nutrients as possible from the source foods. All items sold at Nature's Apothecary are meticulously labeled with not only a list of ingredients, but a brief description of how each one is beneficial to the body. While most business is to go, there's also limited indoor seating.
- Niagara Asian Market (D's Market), 931 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 12 or 40), ☎ +1 716 885-6574. Daily 10AM-7PM. It's not the largest Asian food store on the West Side, but the Niagara Asian Market is a lot bigger than it looks from the outside — and far better-organized than most of its competition! This store stocks mostly Burmese and Thai items and is set up for the maximum convenience of customers who are in search of the essentials of Asian cuisine, with a friendly staff that is eager to assist those who may still need a bit of help finding what they need. The Niagara Asian Market is two floors of deliciousness, with fresh Asian produce, frozen meats (including unique items such as frog and eel), and staples such as noodles and rice downstairs, and the upper level given over to packaged groceries and a range of health and beauty items. A drawback is the store's exterior signage, which is written almost entirely in Burmese, making the place easily missable from the street.
- Phu Thai Asian Market, 356 Connecticut St. (Metro Bus 7), ☎ +1 716 881-1457. Daily 9AM-9PM. Phu Thai is a family-operated Asian market that was established in 1994, more than a decade before the West Side retail scene was transformed by a tidal wave of similar ethnic food stores. In stark contrast to the pan-Asian selection at supermarkets like Sung's and Ni Hoowa — and even to the pan-Southeast Asian inventory at West Side competitors like Á Châu and the Niagara Asian Market — the groceries available along these jumbled, narrow aisles are almost exclusively Thai in provenance. Staples such as dried noodles and huge sacks of rice, spices, sauces and cooking oils, and a variety of packaged foods are on offer; in the coolers along the walls are a small selection of vegetables (produce delivery day is Thursday, so try to show up around then if you're in the market for Thai chilies, fresh ginger, or other exotic greens) and a surprisingly ample one of frozen meats and fish. Pluses for this place are a decent variety of good-quality housewares and what must be the best selection of Southeast Asian soft drinks in Buffalo; drawbacks include an unfortunate tendency to not label their merchandise with prices.
- Zip's Deli & Grill, 896 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 12 or 40), ☎ +1 716 883-4806. Daily 3PM-11PM. Much more than the average corner bodega that it appears to be from the outside, Zip's Deli and Grill actually carries a full line of ethnic groceries that splits the difference between Middle Eastern (a great selection of halal meats such as chicken and lamb, as well as packaged goods) and Latino (Goya products galore). Groceries are only the beginning, though — at Zip's you can find items as widely varied as hookah pipes, blankets, and prepaid cell phones, and even have your electronics repaired at hard-to-beat prices. The chummy friendliness with which the Arabian owners treat their customers is the icing on the cake.
- Burning Books, 420 Connecticut St. (Metro Bus 7 or 22), ☎ +1 716 881-0719. W-Su 11AM-7PM. This is not your ordinary bookstore, but if you're on the lookout for a unique gift for that hard-to-buy-for far-left radical on your list, Burning Books probably has what you're looking for. Helmed by Nate Buckley, a former Earth Liberation Front spokesperson whose other claim to fame involves a lengthy legal battle stemming from his arrest at Occupy Buffalo, sold here are an array of books, magazines, and leaflets regarding a diversity of themes of social injustice and revolutionary politics — histories, biographies, reference materials, and even kids' books on topics from the Black Panthers to the Stonewall Riots to the Zapatistas; in the words of one reviewer, "books that people in power don't want you to read". T-shirts, calendars, posters, and a selection of documentary films on DVD and audio recordings of speeches and lectures round out the inventory, and concerts, guest speakers, panel discussions, and other events are held frequently. True to its mission and the personality of its soft-spoken yet outgoing owner (this place has doubtless been the scene of some of the most interesting political conversations in the city), the interior of Burning Books is all business: a minimalist scheme of unfinished wood panels draws no attention away from the socially conscious literature for sale. Best of all, the prices here are decidedly 99%-friendly.
Liquor, beer and wine
- Beaver Liquors, 422 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 3, 5, 29 or 40), ☎ +1 716 849-9463. M-W 9AM-10PM, Th 9AM-10:30PM, F-Sa 9AM-midnight, Su noon-9PM. Snicker all you want at its name, but the selection of red wine at this newly established West Side liquor store is no joke. In the short time since it's been founded, Beaver Liquors has already earned accolades for the range and quality of its vintages. Wine is only the beginning here, though — this place also does a brisk business, seven days a week, in a great variety of reasonably-priced spirits of all kinds which trend heavily toward well-known upscale brands. Best of all, curious fans of potent potables can enjoy an active schedule of wine and liquor tastings.
- West Side Liquor & Wine, 372 Connecticut St. (Metro Bus 7), ☎ +1 716 881-7071. M-Th 9AM-11PM, F-Sa 9AM-midnight, Su noon-8PM. Newly opened, West Side Liquor & Wine is at the center of the action on Connecticut Street. This is a cute little place, brightly lit and with a cozy ambience, and the friendly employees are eager to steer customers toward some of the best-priced libations in the city — in fact, if you find the same product for less money anywhere in Buffalo, they will beat or match the price. The selection leaves something to be desired, but for those on a budget, West Side Liquors is the place to go. Those who are planning large parties will be happy to know that you can save even more money buying in bulk.
Tattoos and piercing
- Coronado Ink, 393 Connecticut St. (Metro Bus 7), ☎ +1 716 381-0895. Tu-Sa 12:30PM-8PM. This new Connecticut Street tattoo parlor is home to a crack roster of tattoo artists whose work is a perfect marriage of well-honed skill and friendly service. In an ambience where the personal touch reigns supreme — these folks have an innate way of making customers feel comfortable and relaxed while maintaining a professional environment — Coronado Ink's staff, helmed by an owner who goes by the name of Cristóbal Tattoodle, starts by attentively listening to customers' desires and ideas and then following through with exacting skill and undeniable artistic talent. Best of all, Coronado's prices are superb given the quality of work they do.
- Wishful Inking, 581 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 22 or 40), ☎ +1 716 884-9474. M-Sa 1PM-8PM. "You think it, we ink it" is the motto at the West Side's premier body art studio. Centrally located on Niagara Street just a block from Porter Avenue, Wishful Inking's owner, known only as M-DOT, is a veteran of the local tattoo scene who began his training in advertising design and mechanical drawing, later honing his skill in a number of tattoo parlors around town before striking out on his own in 2011. Wishful Inking's stock in trade encompasses every aspect of body art: magnificent new tattoos custom-designed to customers' specifications, cover-up and repair work on existing tattoos (this in particular has earned them praise), touch-ups, and permanent makeup, as well as body piercing courtesy of their resident "piercing artist/goofball", Spyder. What's most notable about Wishful Inking, though, is the impeccable professionalism with which they perform their work — a sterile, hygienic environment is maintained up to and beyond government regulations, and the staff is experienced and skillful not only in their art but in creating a laid-back atmosphere that helps even the most skittish newbie to relax. As always, it's advisable to schedule an appointment, but Wishful Inking welcomes walk-ins as well, and it's always worth asking about the frequent special promotions that seem to be ongoing constantly.
- Turnaround Skates, 91 Rhode Island St. (Metro Bus 5, 12 or 40), ☎ +1 716 298-7587. Tu-F 4PM-8PM, Sa 11AM-4PM or by appointment. When she's not tearing up the local rollerderby scene as part of the Queen City Roller Girls, Ilana Gordon can often be found at this out-of-the-way West Side skate shop that she owns. Recreational roller skates, inline skates, and roller-hockey gear are all sold at Turnaround Skates, but the bias here is toward rollerderby gear. As many experienced skaters will tell you, beginners to the sport often battle foot and leg pain that comes from ill-fitting skates lacking in support; one of the goals here is to head that off at the pass, providing customers with honest, expert one-on-one guidance on skates and protective gear to fit their individual needs. The selection is wide and friendly to all budgets — quality brands including Pro-Tec, Atom Wheels, and Sure-Grip are represented on the shelves, and Ilana will even special-order products that aren't in stock for those searching for a specific brand or item. Turnaround's experienced staff provide custom in-store fittings, and you can even trade in old skates for store credit to maximize the already great value you get for your money. Cap off your purchases with stylish skatewear such as hot pants, laces and socks (Day-Glo colors abound). The folks here are friendly as can be and really know their stuff.
- Urban Roots, 428 Rhode Island St. (Metro Bus 7 or 12), ☎ +1 716 362-8982. Tu-Sa 9AM-5PM, Su 9AM-3PM, shorter hours in winter. Urban Roots is a "community garden center" that was founded in 2004 by a group of longtime West Side green thumbs who sought an opportunity to spend their hard-earned dollars in the city rather than wasting time and money driving to suburbia for gardening supplies, as well as to help build synergy with their neighbors to promote the beautification and revival of their up-and-coming, but still struggling, neighborhood. Their store opened three years later in the Five Points district, and is run as a cooperative: $100 will buy you lifetime status as a "member-owner" with access to exclusive promotions and discounts, first notification of special events and new items in stock, and a voice in store policy. However, you don't need to be a member to shop at Urban Roots! Locals can peruse a gamut of plants of uncommon quality — from the everyday to the unusual, including annuals, perennials, trees, herbs, heirloom plants, and local flora — and if you're a visitor, you can still avail yourself of supplies and accessories such as gardening gloves, flowerpots, bird feeders and birdhouses, cute garden art, and books on gardening, as well as an encyclopedic range of seeds, including Baker's Creek heirloom seeds and organic, non-GMO Seeds of Change. Urban Roots' merchandise tends to be pricey, but your money goes to a great cause, and you get a higher-quality product than you'll find elsewhere. Plus, their selection is huge, especially given the modest size of the store, and there's even space left over for frequent seminars, workshops, and seed swaps offered free of charge to members and non-members alike.
Black Rock and Riverside
There's a number of worthwhile shops along the main thoroughfare of Niagara Street, especially in Black Rock. However, the main business district in this part of the city is centered around the corner of Tonawanda and Ontario Streets in Riverside.
Clothing and accessories
When the storied Riverside Men's Shop packed up and moved to a suburban strip mall in 2004, it left in its wake a retail scene much reduced in size and vibrancy, which consists today mostly of small thrift stores and urban fashion boutiques.
- Eve Fashion & Beauty Supply, 431 Tonawanda St. (Metro Bus 5 or 23), ☎ +1 716 877-4780. Daily 9AM-10PM. Located in the Dollar General shopping plaza on Tonawanda Street in Black Rock, Eve Fashion is a place where clothes, cosmetics, and hair care products are available at prices that defy logic. This store is crowded — the walls are covered from floor-to-ceiling with merchandise on hangers, and the sales floor is packed with displays — but bargain hunters know that means the selection at Eve can go toe-to-toe with the big department stores. Vivacious tops, dresses, and accessories such as belts and sunglasses represent sassy urban styles, name-brand sneakers at discount prices are available, the selection of jewelry and earrings (big hoops are a recurring motif) is impressive, and fans of pretty much any sports franchise can find their favorite team's baseball cap — but the crown jewel of Eve's inventory is a comprehensive range of hair accessories such as barrettes, beads, pins and clips, as well as styling products for all hair types. As well, the back of the store is given over to a selection of wigs in a variety of styles. Best of all, Eve's staff is friendly and helpful, and those who are interested in taking advantage of Eve's extended evening hours will be happy to know that the place is kept safe under the watchful eye of a collection of security cameras.
- Hearts Thrift Store, 890 Tonawanda St. (Metro Bus 5 or 40), ☎ +1 716 876-7346. M-Sa 11AM-5PM. This large thrift store in the heart of Riverside, one of Buffalo's best, is not known for the great diversity of its selection. Nor are folks who come looking for usual thrift-store fare — kooky vintage clothing, hip band t-shirts, designer jeans, and the like — likely to leave satisfied. There are bargains to be had at Hearts, but the order of the day at this "businesswoman's thrift store" (as one reviewer put it) is high-end office attire and formalwear, in tip-top condition and generally dating no earlier than the late 1990s, at prices that can't be beat. Many of the items that fill the racks on the crowded sales floor are sold for as little as $3.00, and occasionally even less. As well, Hearts stocks jewelry, shoes, toys, housewares, and miscellaneous gifts, and boasts an ample selection of kids' clothing. Best of all, the money you spend here could not go to a better cause: the store was set up to benefit Hearts for the Homeless, a faith-based charity that feeds, counsels and ministers to the homeless population of Buffalo. Those who want to donate new or gently used clothing, accessories, or housewares can do so whenever the store is open, and online donations are also accepted through PayPal.
- 3 Star Fashion, 2211 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 23 or 40), ☎ +1 716 995-6039. Su-Th 9:30AM-10PM, F-Sa 9:30AM-11PM. Recently moved to a new location on Niagara Street right on the border between Black Rock and Riverside, 3 Star Fashion will be familiar to those who enjoy the selection of designer sneakers at Empire Kicks, located on West Ferry Street and run by the same owners. Like its sister store, the fundament of this place's inventory consists of Nikes, Timberlands, Air Jordans and other well-known brands of footwear, but there's also a full range of name-brand clothing for the streetwise man, woman or child on your list, as well as a blockbuster selection of fitted New Era caps. Notably, 3 Star is also a great place to seek out designer jeans at reasonable prices.
- Tomahawk Garments, 1968 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 32 or 40), ☎ +1 716 873-1667, toll-free: +1 877 625-7230. M-F 9AM-5PM. Don't be fooled by first impressions: this small, unassuming Black Rock storefront on a mostly residential stretch of Niagara Street houses a real heavyweight of the local retail scene. Here you can purchase Tomahawk brand leather goods — coats, vests and jackets, biker gear, accessories such as belts, gloves and handbags, wallets, backpacks and on and on — produced right in Western New York and united by an unrelenting emphasis on quality. This stuff is really top-of-the-line: it's no wonder Tomahawk leatherware sells for a pretty penny at fine department stores in the area, but at their Niagara Street outlet you can get it for 50 to 70% off retail prices. As if that weren't enough, a "web discount" is available for those who call Tomahawk's toll-free number, and customers who live outside New York State can have items shipped to them with sales tax — and in some cases, even shipping charges — waived.
- Gothic City Antiques, 1940 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 32 or 40), ☎ +1 716 874-4479. Th-Sa 11AM-5PM. The big, '50s-looking Streng Oldsmobile sign just past Exit 13 is a familiar landmark to those Western New Yorkers whose daily commute takes them along the northbound I-190, but what many of them don't know is that the junk lot on which it sits isn't a junk lot at all: it's Gothic City Antiques, Buffalo's longest-standing dealer in architectural antiques and artifacts. Family-owned and operated since 1971, Gothic City specializes in restoring historic homes and buildings with proper period architectural elements — but even if you don't own a drafty old Victorian of your own, anyone who's looking for that perfect piece to bring character to their home would be well-advised to spend a day here. Gothic City's massive footprint includes not only the lot visible from the Interstate — a full acre (4,000 squ. m.) filled with planters, statuary, garden tchotchkes, old lampposts, and the famous sign that once stood guard outside the Oldsmobile dealership on Main Street — but also 19,000 square feet (1,750 squ. m.) of showroom and warehouse space in the restored former Unity Temple Masonic lodge, which contains a dizzying array of antique furniture, lamps and sconces, doors and doorknobs, mantels, vintage plumbing fixtures such as sinks and claw bathtubs, and even a fine collection of ornamental ironwork and religious artifacts. Other antiques, such as toys and collectibles, are also represented. This place is only open three days a week, but no matter — if you're here at the beginning of the week, just get into contact with owner Charlie Leone and he'll open up shop for you if he can.
The ethnic food markets that are commonplace elsewhere on the West Side are only just beginning to filter this far north. However, given the growth of Buffalo's various immigrant communities, it's probably only a matter of time before the floodgates of deliciousness open.
- Eagle Mon Asian Market, 2067 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 23 or 40), ☎ +1 716 875-6384. M-Sa 9AM-8PM, Su 10AM-8PM. Open since 2012 in a cheery brick storefront in the heart of the Black Rock business district, Eagle Mon Asian Market serves the Burmese and Thai immigrant community of Buffalo with the usual assortment of packaged groceries, staples like huge sacks of jasmine rice, and frozen foods — and, interestingly, a decent range of traditional herbal remedies. They even sell fresh sushi. Eagle Mon's exterior signage is written almost entirely in Burmese; look out for the green awnings on either side of the front entrance where the store's name in English is written in tiny letters.
- Fowler's Chocolates, 100 River Rock Drive (Metro Bus 5 or 23), ☎ +1 716 877-0083. M-F 8AM-5PM. An anonymous-looking industrial park backed up against the old New York Central Railroad tracks in an out-of-the-way corner of Black Rock may seem like an odd place for Buffalo's favorite chocolatiers to locate one of their seven Western New York-area chocolate shops — but after all, this is the same building where their chocolate factory has been located since 1993. Unsurprisingly, the small retail space just off the production floor keeps abbreviated hours compared to the other Fowler's locations, but if you happen to be in the neighborhood on a weekday morning or afternoon and have a hankering for sponge candy, chocolate truffles, or any of the other goodies these folks are famous for, you're more than welcome to stop in.
- Gondola Macaroni Products, 1985 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 32 or 40), ☎ +1 716 874-4280. M-Sa 9:30AM-6PM. Gondola Macaroni Products is a longstanding local business whose deep West Side roots endure despite the radical changes the surrounding neighborhood has undergone since 1958. That's the year when Guido Colla, a native of Crespano del Grappa, Italy who was then working as a machinist for local pasta manufacturer Gioia, designed and built his own pasta maker and began cooking ravioli in the kitchen of the West Side house he shared with his wife Maria — ravioli which quickly became a neighborhood sensation. Ravioli is still the marquee product customers line up for in this cramped little shop in Black Rock. It's made daily in-house from scratch with a simple recipe of durum flour, water, and eggs — there's no additives or chemicals in this stuff, which is likely why its quality puts supermarket fare to shame. Into the ravioli are stuffed your choice of cheese, meat, spinach, or lobster (imitation — it's only $4 a tray, after all — but still delicious), and they along with other filled pastas like cheese tortellini and stuffed shells are available fresh or frozen. Gondola's dried pasta boasts a bit more variety; options range from the expected (plain, angel hair, roasted red pepper, garlic pesto) to the unexpected (squid ink?!?) All this for prices that can hold their own with much larger players like Wegmans and Tops, and served to you with a smile by owners that obviously appreciate your business, even if their English isn't quite up to snuff.
- Htar Ni Asian Market, 472 Ontario St. (Metro Bus 3 or 5), ☎ +1 716 876-3085. M-Sa 9AM-8PM, Su 9AM-7PM. Yet another in the seemingly endless parade of Burmese grocery stores on the West Side, Htar Ni Asian Market is located on Ontario Street toward the north end of Riverside. Inside, you'll find walls lined with rows upon rows of canned goods, jars of preserved vegetables, packaged groceries, frozen foods, and crunchy snacks. If you like Sriracha and other spicy Asian sauces and condiments, Htar Ni is the place for you.
- Lin Asian Market, 929 Tonawanda St. (Metro Bus 5 or 40), ☎ +1 716 235-8982. M-Sa 9AM-8PM, Su 9AM-6PM. The second, somewhat larger location of this place that opened in Riverside in December 2014 features more of the same specialty Asian groceries that you can find at Lin's Grant Street location. The store is connected directly to Lin Restaurant next door, so if you just finished dining and you want to try your hand at making your own version of the Burmese and Thai specialties served there, you're in luck.
- Steel Crazy Iron Art, 70 Tonawanda St. (Metro Bus 5 or 40), ☎ +1 716 876-7510. M-F 8AM-4PM. Owners Ed & Brian Hogle worked in the construction industry for over a quarter century before striking out on their own in 2004, setting up shop in the former Black Rock Harbor Commons warehouse complex and translating their experience in structural iron- and steelwork into designing customized works of metal art, handcrafted with expert precision by their experienced staff using the latest in computerized design technology. Steel Crazy Iron Art specializes in "gifts for the ungiftable" — they'll custom-design everything from key racks to desk mounts to custom-themed clocks, and they're even responsible for many of the bright blue "buffalo head" bike racks you see along the sidewalk in trendy neighborhoods like the Elmwood Village and Allentown. Military-themed items are particularly popular; American servicepeople are honored with specially designed medallions, wall hangings, personalized dog tags, and the like representative of every branch of the U.S. military. Similar goods are available for police officers and firefighters, and even that hard-to-buy-for dentist or chiropractor on your list are covered with stainless-steel wall hangings in the shape of spinal columns and teeth!
- Totaro Stained Glass, 1932 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 32 or 40), ☎ +1 716 948-4752. M-F 10AM-6PM, Sa noon-5PM. Custom-designed stained and beveled glass windows — produced and delivered with, in their words, "old-world craftsmanship and service" — is the specialty at this renowned workshop that recently moved from Grant-Amherst to the former Jubilee Library in Black Rock, right next door to Gothic City Antiques. The designs favored by owner Jace Totaro tend toward abstract patterns, but he and the other craftsmen at Totaro Stained Glass are happy to help bring to life any idea the customer may have. The staff here is also known for their expertise at restoring and repairing antique stained glass windows.
Liquor, beer and wine
- City Liquor, 577 Ontario St. (Metro Bus 5), ☎ +1 716 242-8004. M-Sa 9AM-midnight, Su noon-9PM. The small size of this neighborhood liquor store at the north end of Riverside belies the huge variety of name-brand beers, wines and spirits available within. What's more, City Liquor's staff is knowledgeable and friendly and sells its wares for some of the best prices around.
- Nuchereno Liquor Store, 1065 Tonawanda St. (Metro Bus 5, 35 or 40), ☎ +1 716 873-9181. M-Th 11AM-11PM, F-Sa 10AM-midnight, Su noon-9PM. Michael Nuchereno's little neighborhood liquor store is located, as it has been since 1943, just across the street from Riverside Park. Though a wide variety of potent libations are on offer at this friendly neighborhood business, the specialty at the Nuchereno Liquor Store is an ample selection of fine wines of all descriptions, carefully stored in a temperature-controlled environment at a constant temperature of 55°F (12°C) for maximum quality.
Tattoos and piercing
- Madd Loco Tattoo, 1943 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 32 or 40), ☎ +1 716 768-4827. M-Sa noon-8PM. The third tattoo parlor in Mark Madden's somewhat eponymous MaddTat2 empire is located on Niagara Street in Black Rock, across from Gothic City Antiques. "Some would say he's mad crazy to take on another business", boasts this newly open studio's website, but Madden saw an opportunity in an up-and-coming neighborhood underserved by tattoo parlors and set up shop there in January 2014. Aside from being the place where Madden himself practices his craft so peerlessly — start locals talking about his talent and reputation among local tattooists and you'll get an earful — Madd Loco Tattoo has also ingratiated itself into the Black Rock community, investing in street art exhibitions and other neighborhood endeavors and, in a nod to employees of the nearby GM Powertrain plant further up Niagara Street in Tonawanda, offers substantial discounts to all current UAW members.
- Big Catch Bait & Tackle, 2287 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 40), ☎ +1 716 877-0971. M-Sa 7AM-6PM, Su 7AM-4PM. At Big Catch Bait & Tackle, the name only tells half the story. Sure, it's a great place to pick up pretty much any type of bait you want, live or otherwise. Sure, its location on Niagara Street in Black Rock is convenient to lots of great fishing spots and boat launches on the upper Niagara River. Sure, you can get wholesale fishing tackle, pick up a New York State hunting or fishing license, and stock up on various and sundry other outdoor goods. But Big Catch also does double duty as a purveyor of a modest but high-quality range of paintball guns and supplies, with an emphasis on Tippmann brand products — the A-5 and X7 Phenom guns are particular favorites that are sold at great prices, and CO2 refills don't come cheaper anywhere in Western New York. Best of all, no matter whether you're a fisherman or a paintballer, the staff at Big Catch will provide you with helpful and friendly service to match the great deals.
- Obersheimer's Sailor Supply, 1884 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 32 or 40), ☎ +1 716 877-8221. M-Sa 9AM-7PM, Su 10AM-4PM. Even in the 21st Century, there are still a lot of folks who come to Buffalo by boat — perhaps as the finale of a pleasure cruise along the Erie Canal, perhaps from a port of call elsewhere on the Great Lakes. If you're one of them, and you're in the market for some new gear for your boat, Obersheimer's Sailor Supply is the place for you. Since 1970, owner and namesake Charlie Obersheimer has stocked a full range of marine supplies and accessories in this huge chandlery in the heart of Black Rock. Sailboat rigging is a specialty here — the upper level of this cavernous edifice is given over to a full sail loft where expert technicians happily fit out, sew or repair sails with spars up to 65 feet (20 m). Goods such as halyards, furlers and adjusters are sold for reasonable prices, ropes and wires are spliced, and knowledgeable staff are always on hand to give advice. Obersheimer's doesn't leave powerboaters out in the cold either — outboard motors representing a range of brands are sold and serviced, with a particular emphasis on Nissan and Tohatsu models, as well as a range of parts and accessories.
- Riverside Fabric Center, 387 Ontario St. (Metro Bus 5), ☎ +1 716 875-7869. Sa 9AM-1PM. It's a shame that Riverside Fabric Center's limited hours scare off a lot of would-be customers, because the quality of the goods sold here — especially the lace — is worth going out of your way for. If you're in the market for fabrics, various and sundry sewing supplies, or to have a dress or other piece custom-made for you, you can scarcely do better. The incredibly friendly staff, helmed by owner Lena Harnish, is the icing on the cake.
- The String Shoppe, 524 Ontario St. (Metro Bus 3 or 5), ☎ +1 716 361-8836. Sa noon-5PM or by appointment. Ed Taublieb is the man who holds court every Saturday at the String Shoppe, the music store of choice for Black Rock and Riverside that specializes in a full range of quality new and used guitars and other string instruments to fit all budgets, and is an authorized dealer in Martin and Taylor guitars and Hohner harmonicas. An aficionado of the local folk scene in the '60s who fell into the business after buying and repairing his own used guitars to play at The Lime Light, The Lower Level, and other storied Buffalo venues of bygone days, Ed's been in business for almost half a century now — and he's still the String Shoppe's owner and sole employee. You're never going to get the kind of sincere personal attention you get here at a big chain like Guitar Center — not only does Taublieb personally inspect and adjust every instrument prior to sale, but he's always on hand to guide customers through his ample inventory and draw on his encyclopedic knowledge of his craft to help them through the selection process. Taublieb will also proudly repair or restring your guitar or other instrument. Aside from the aforementioned range of instruments, the String Shoppe stocks guitar cases, accessories such as strings, picks, straps, and pearl inlays, amps and pedals, and a modest range of books and sheet music.
Adventurous foodies can eat like kings on the West Side. The dining scene here mirrors the neighborhood as a whole — a flourishing, chaotically beautiful rainbow of cultures.
|This page uses the following price ranges for a typical meal for one, including soft drink:|
Grant-Ferry and the Upper West Side
With the notable exception of the West Side Bazaar's International Kitchen, the Upper West Side's restaurant scene is fairly run-of-the-mill — oddly enough given the diversity and quality of its ethnic food stores. However, Marco's, Santasiero's, and other holdovers from the West Side's days as Buffalo's Little Italy are worth checking out.
- Albert's, 296 W. Ferry St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 12), ☎ +1 716 886-3642. Daily 8AM-8PM. Since 1990, this unpretentious hangout at the corner of Grant and Ferry has served up "The Flavor of Old Times", with reasonably-priced Greek and American fare and renowned fish fry ever Friday. Albert's is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and boasts a lively full bar where beer and cocktails are served. $10-20.
- Boomerang's Bar & Grill, 995 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 12 or 40), ☎ +1 716 833-0408. M-Th 11:30AM-9PM, F-Sa 11:30AM-10PM. Boomerang's is so named because "the food's so good, you'll keep coming back" — and it must be true, because Buffalonians really love this place. In an ambience that is relaxed and welcoming despite its spartan decor is served an extensive range of delicious cuisine that comes in portions that are huge and prices that aren't. The menu is eclectic, if unadventurous: the slate of main courses is slightly skewed toward Italian food, with a wide range of pasta dishes on offer as well as chicken entrées served in marsala, florentine, parmigiana and cacciatore styles. This is not to deprecate the wide range of other items on Boomerang's menu: beef Stroganoff, BBQ spare ribs, and a variety of sandwiches and burgers all make an appearance. Worthy of special mention are several interesting takes on porkchops — the raspberry porkchops with crumbly blue cheese has been described as an interesting combination of flavors that, perhaps surprisingly, harmonizes well. Diners also heap special praise on the appetizers here: "you don't really know corn chowder until you've had this", says one reviewer about Boomerang's most popular soup. A kids' menu is also available. It should be said, however, that the service is this place's Achilles heel: it's not so much bad as inconsistent, ranging wildly from warm and friendly to bitter and sarcastic. $10-25.
- La Flor Bakery & Restaurant, 212 Forest Ave. (Metro Bus 3, 5 or 40), ☎ +1 716 884-1635. Daily 8AM-9PM. Generous portions of delicious Puerto Rican specialties served up for a pittance in a genial, family-oriented atmosphere: that's the name of the game at La Flor. This combination restaurant/bakery boasts a menu that's small, but packs in a respectable range of tropical fare. Those in search of a light lunch or a quick snack can enjoy sandwiches that range from familiar standards like turkey and ham and cheese to Hispano-Caribbean selections such as their excellent Cubano, as well as deep-fried classics like alcapurrias (described by many as the best in Buffalo), tostones, and yuca al ajillo. On the other side of the spectrum, heartier entrees — pollo guisado, pollo frito, pernil, and the daily specials that make up the true heart and soul of La Flor's delicious cuisine — are served with heaping sides of yellow rice and beans. No matter what you order here, you can be sure that it's absolutely delicious and served with a smile. Wash it all down with a cold bottle of malta or kola champagne, and don't forget to take home some of the delectable tropical desserts available in the bakery: bizcocho, several varieties of flan, pastelillos, and on and on. $10-15.
- La Gourmet Empanadas, 74 Herkimer St. (Metro Bus 3 or 12), ☎ +1 716 240-1349. M-Sa 11AM-9PM, Su noon-6PM. This new restaurant opened in late 2014 in an enormous, beautifully restored former Oddfellows Hall which was most recently used as the Mount Major Banquet Hall (true to that former identity, they still host banquets and other special events here of up to 100 people). La Gourmet Empanadas does indeed serve the titular South American specialty, in savory versions stuffed with chicken, pulled pork, beef, or salmon, vegetarian options with black beans, as well as dessert empanadas with fruit fillings. Aside from that, though, visitors may find the name a bit deceiving: the rest of the menu reads like that of a neighborhood pizzeria, with a fairly mundane (if perfectly well-executed) range of offerings comprised of pizza and wings, hot and cold subs, burgers, chicken fingers and other simple fare, as well as barbeque ribs. But by far the most interesting — not to mention surprising — non-empanada option on the menu is Hawaiian-style huli-huli rotisserie, available in either chicken or pork.
- Rancho's, 1516 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 26 or 40), ☎ +1 716 882-2800. M-Sa 8AM-8PM, Su 10AM-6PM. One of a handful of new or soon-to-come South American eateries in Buffalo, Rancho's is a Venezuelan sandwich shop that opened in December 2015 at the former location of Rascal's, on an up-and-coming stretch of Niagara Street. Venezuelan food is the name of the game here: owner Joel Perez is a recently arrived immigrant who came to Buffalo from his former home in Aragua State, and he's already turning heads among the West Side's increasingly numerous foodie community. The specialty here is arepas, flatbread sandwiches that are a popular breakfast food in Colombia and Venezuela. Rancho's serves theirs not only at breakfast time but all day long; the naturally gluten-free corn flour in the bread is fried to a crisp and stuffed with your choice of rotisserie beef, shredded beef, chicken, or roast pork. Those who've travelled to Venezuela and experienced the cuisine on its home turf say they can't tell the difference. The menu doesn't stop there, though — hearty appetizers and side dishes include baked yuca drizzled in delicious avocado salsa, patacón pisao (shredded beef sliders with mashed fried plantain fritters as "bread"), and tequeños (sort of a South American take on mozzarella sticks: fried queso blanco with garlic and herb salsa for dipping). As well, available on weekends only is what may be the greatest selection on the menu: sancocho, a hearty chicken and beef soup thickened with potatoes and cassava, sweetened a little with corn on the cob, and seasoned with fresh cilantro; Venezuelan comfort food par excellence. Rancho's prices are extremely reasonable, with nothing on the menu over $10, and Perez and his staff seem eager to convert curious first-time visitors into loyal repeat customers — this means expect super friendly and attentive service, and maybe a complimentary appetizer while you wait for your order. $10-25.
- Santasiero's, 1329 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 26 or 40), ☎ +1 716 886-9197. Daily 11AM-10PM. A relic from the days when the West Side was Buffalo's "Little Italy", hearty family-style Italian meals have been served at Santasiero's for almost a century now. The Italian wedding soup is spectacular, and sandwiches and dishes such as chicken parmigiana are available, but Santasiero's is most famous for the heaping portions of pasta they serve along with legendary red sauce. Reasonable prices, too. $10-25.
- Sweetness 7, 220 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 26), ☎ +1 716 883-1738. M-F 7AM-9PM, Sa 8AM-9PM, Su 8AM-6PM. Since 2007, Prish Moran has operated her friendly old-world coffee shop in this beautiful and historic old Victorian building on Grant Street. The opening of Sweetness 7 is largely the reason why the Grant-Ferry area has been as trendy and up-and-coming as it has been for the past few years. Popular with artists, hipsters, and Buffalo State College students, Sweetness 7 serves fresh gourmet sandwiches, salads, soups, pizza, and pastry along with the coffee, and their breakfast is also very popular with locals. Sweetness 7 also operates a second location in Parkside that specializes in crêpes. $10-20.
- West Side Bazaar, 25 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 12), ☎ +1 716 464-6389. The West Side Bazaar's International Kitchen is the center of the universe for local fans of exotic international flavors: its food stalls serve a dizzying range of international cuisines — including some (such as South Sudanese and Rakhine) that aren't available anywhere else in Buffalo — and at unbeatable prices to boot. Best of all, the food here is as authentic as it gets; by and large, the Bazaar's customer base are immigrants and refugees like those who work there, so you won't be disappointed by watered-down, Americanized versions of your favorite ethnic fare.
- Abyssinia. M noon-6:30PM, Tu-Th 11AM-7PM, F 11AM-8PM, Sa 10AM-8PM. Abyssinia is Buffalo's fourth and newest Ethiopian restaurant — and, according to a growing consensus, its best. Helmed by owner Zelalem Gemmeda, an Ethiopian native who's lived in Buffalo since 2006, Abyssinia's menu is divided about evenly between meat-based and vegetarian dishes and populated by all the standard Ethiopian favorites — doro watt, beef and lamb tibs, kitfo, alitcha, and so forth. Also, like its competition, those who can't decide or aren't familiar with the cuisine can order combo platters: either a mixture of meat and vegetarian dishes or all vegetarian, for $9.99 and $8.99 respectively. However, what sets Abyssinia apart is the authenticity of the recipes — complex, nuanced and intoxicating flavors that, unlike many of Buffalo's other Ethiopian restaurants, don't skimp on the spice (this is especially true of the vegetarian dishes). The sambusa are so good you won't mind that they skimp on the chutney. Recently, Abyssinia's menu has expanded to include pasta with marinara sauce, as well as a few Arabian specialties such as foul and chicken biryani, available on Sundays and Mondays only. Perhaps this place's only weakness is the injera: they skimp on that too (though you can ask for extra at no charge), and it lacks that slight vinegary tang. $5-15.
- 007 Chinese Food. Tu-Th 11AM-7PM, F 11AM-8PM, Sa 10AM-8PM. Thanks to 007 Chinese Food, in the words of one reviewer, "it's a happy day — dumplings are back at the West Side Bazaar!" Indeed, despite the multicultural vibrancy of the restaurants that have come and gone from the International Kitchen in the years since Jolie's Traditional Chinese Food moved to the Horsefeathers Market on the Lower West Side, it's always seemed to many like there's been something missing. Enter Maung Maung Saw, a native of Myanmar whose stock in trade are the dim sum and other delectable little Chinese appetizers whose recipes he perfected at the restaurant he and his family ran in Malaysia before coming to Buffalo. The stars of the show on 007's modest-sized menu are the lo mai fan (balls of sticky rice mixed with stir-fried chicken and mushrooms, with sriracha sauce on the side for dipping), and of course, the steamed shu mai stuffed with your choice of beef, chicken, or vegetables. You probably won't be able to make a full meal out of any of these items, but they work spectacularly as appetizers to accompany a main course from one of the Bazaar's other food vendors — whatever you order here, be assured it's prepared fresh by hand in front of you and bursting with flavor (the exception being the pau, which, even more than usual with Chinese steamed buns, tend toward the dry and doughy.) Complimentary hot tea is served with any order on request. Service at 007 is as friendly as can be, but often complicated by a language barrier — Maung's wife, who you'll often see running the restaurant, speaks very little English; if you have more complex questions or comments, you should seek out her husband or son, who are fluent. $5-15.
- Family Thai, ☎ +1 716 465-8892. M noon-6:30PM, Tu-Th 11AM-7PM, F 11AM-8PM, Sa 10AM-8PM. It's perhaps a testament to the singular nature of the West Side Bazaar that Family Thai is its least "exotic" dining option. Served here at the International Kitchen's newest restaurant are an impressive variety of Thai dishes such as pad thai, pad see ew, yum salads, and various curries in sizable portions. The emphasis here is on authenticity, and on that subject, one reviewer described the fare at Family Thai as "light-years ahead of the other [Thai] eateries in town". $5-15.
- Gourmet Lao Foods. M noon-6:30PM, Tu-Th 11AM-7PM, F 11AM-8PM, Sa 10AM-8PM. Co-owners New Phanthady and Boulivone Serixay have taken the West Side Bazaar's erstwhile A&A Cookies to the next level. Yes, you can still find dok jok here — the confection that endeared this booth to legions of West Side Bazaar regulars; a light, crispy, and sublimely delicious cookie of thin, coconut milk-infused dough folded in a lotus blossom shape — along with all the other pastries and snacks as before, and the bubble tea too. But now they also serve a selection of main courses from their native Laos; a modest range of noodle salads, stir-fried meat salads, soups, and samosas that make up in fresh, delicious flavor what they lack in portion size. Also, as if to make up for a weak point in most of the International Kitchen's other food stalls, a full range of bottled soft drinks is also available. $10-15.
- Kyel Sein Hein, ☎ +1 716 341-2246. Tu-Th 11AM-7PM, F 11AM-8PM, Sa 10AM-8PM. Kyel Sein Hein's claim of serving "specialty Burmese cuisine" isn't quite accurate — this is a pretty standard-issue menu without too many surprises for those who know Burmese food. This is good stuff, though: owner Soe Maung cooks up authentic, delicious fare, served in copious amounts for a price that's even lower than most other West Side Bazaar vendors. This place is often compared unfavorably to Sun because it doesn't serve le peth tea leaf salad, but pay no mind to the naysayers — in this author's opinion, Sun's le peth is highly overrated anyway. All the usual curries, stir-fried noodles, and salads are present — and all are imbued with the typical aromatic je ne sais quoi of Burmese food — but the star of the show here is the mohinga, a hearty soup that is Myanmar's national dish and a meal in itself. To a subtly delicious broth is added a fiery menagerie of onions, slivers of hard-boiled egg whites, rice vermicelli, fried crispy noodles, and red pepper flakes. $5-15.
- M Asian Halal Foods, ☎ +1 716 533-8558. M noon-6:30PM, Tu-Th 11AM-7PM, F 11AM-8PM, Sa 10AM-8PM. In 2015, the owner of the West Side Bazaar's erstwhile Exotic Japanese Crepes moved across the corridor from his small freestanding stall to a much larger window in the International Kitchen, and with that expanded space came an expanded menu of delicious food. Thus was the birth of M Asian Halal Foods. The crepes remain — a bit of a misnomer as they don't come from Japan, these thin, crispy pancakes with sweet or savory toppings were invented in Thailand and inscrutably dubbed "Japanese", an object lesson in the cross-pollination of Asian culinary traditions — but are now accompanied by a full range of 100% halal Indian and Pakistani specialties. The bulk of the menu is a fairly run-of-the-mill roster of butter chicken, pakora, biryani, vegetarian and nonvegetarian samosas, and tandoori chicken, but M Asian's menu also boasts a few more offbeat items like chapli (savory patties of Indian-spiced ground chicken that come with a small salad on the side), and South Indian cuisine is represented by a fairly ample selection of dosas topped with coconut chutney and your choice of vegetarian or goat curry. Food is reliable but not outstanding in quality, but the reasonable prices and service with a smile make M Asian worthwhile. $10-20.
- Rakhapura Mutee & Sushi, ☎ +1 716 308-7640. Tu-Th 11AM-6PM, F 11AM-7:30PM, Sa 10AM-7PM. This place's menu is an interesting juxtaposition: 30 varieties of sushi accompany a range of options native to Myanmar's Rakhine State. The sushi made by owner Khaing Thein is not particularly inspiring, though it is fresh and tasty. Options include a "Buffalo roll" with cream cheese, crab salad, and cucumber, as well as the mango banana roll, probably the place's most popular, which is prepared with fish sauce for a bit of extra spice. In fact, in contrast to Kyel Sein Hein's fiery fare, "a bit of spice" is an excellent summation of the main non-sushi item on the menu: the rakhaing mutee, a variation of classic Burmese mohinga particular to Rakhine State, though Rakhapura's version substitutes chicken broth for the usual base of conger eel. It's a hearty, healthy, and indescribably delicious soup; a garlicky, slightly tangy broth with rice vermicelli and coriander, served with dried, crushed red chilis on the side if you want a bit more heat. Perhaps the best part of Rakhapura, however, is the owner: a longtime pro-democracy agitator, Thein escaped Myanmar with his life in 1996 and now spends his off hours lecturing around the area on the political and human rights situation in his homeland, which often makes for interesting conversations with customers! $5-15.
- Freddy J's BBQ, 195 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 26), ☎ +1 716 551-0572. Daily 10AM-8PM. Freddy J's may be a tiny little place, but a tsunami of flavor is packed inside these walls. In these cramped digs — about a half-dozen bar stools and a few outdoor tables in season are all the place holds — supremely friendly chef Fred Daniel, a native of Liberia who now hosts the local cable-access cooking show Late Night Noise, cooks up what some describe as the best barbeque in Buffalo. The recipes, cooked with fresh ingredients sourced as often as possible from local neighbors like Guercio's and the West Side Bazaar, are as authentic and time-tested as it gets, yet Freddy J's also manages to incorporate subtle Cajun and Caribbean influences into their dishes — witness the jerk chicken and fish, whose subtle but noticeable heat is assuaged by sides of yellow rice and "Honey Hush cornbread". The wings and ribs are slathered with just the right amount of sauce, and the fried haddock, served with mac & cheese, green beans, and (once again) cornbread, is a serviceable Southern-style approximation of classic Buffalo fish fry. Brunch is served Sunday mornings and afternoons till 3PM with bottomless mimosas. $15-30.
- Gypsy Parlor, 376 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 26), ☎ +1 716 551-0001. M-Th & Sa 5PM-midnight, F 2:30PM-midnight, Su 4PM-midnight. Don't be confused by the red neon sign in the window that says "PSYCHIC READINGS" — this isn't that kind of gypsy parlor! Owned by Gabrielle Mattina and named and themed in an homage to her Roma ancestry, this combination gastropub/bar/performance venue/henna parlor serves delicious food in an ambience that's airy yet intimate (reservations are recommended on weekends), comfortable yet garishly decorated. The bulk of the small menu is made up of light fare such as salads and sandwiches; most interestingly, a selection of appetizers dubbed "West Side Delicacies" are offered in a nod to the neighborhood's cultural diversity, and the pastelillos, samosas and Burmese spring rolls hold their own with anything that's available at the West Side Bazaar. Really, you won't find anything more substantial at the Gypsy Parlor than the pair of half-pound burgers that are among the most popular items on the menu — either "Classic American" or "Black Sheep", the latter a decidedly upscale concoction of peppercorn-crusted ground lamb topped with a dijon & beet coleslaw. What you will find here is friendly, attentive service and food at a decent price. $15-30.
- Marco's, 1085 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 12 or 40), ☎ +1 716 882-5539. M-Th 11;30AM-9PM, F 11:30AM-10PM, Sa 5PM-10PM, Su 4PM-8:30PM. Nowadays, chef Marco Sciotino is probably more famous around these parts for helming the growing lineup of Marco's Italian Deli locations, but this cozy old place on Niagara Street is where it all began in 1988, when he purchased the erstwhile Darone's Fargo Grille and adorned it with his own name. The restaurant still has the no-frills ambience of a humble neighborhood bar, and fans of hearty, homestyle red-sauce Italian fare won't find anything unexpected on the menu, but don't let that fool you — this is creatively conceived, artfully executed food (even though the bread and herbed olive oil still comes off as a bit of an affectation) served in copious amounts for fair prices. All the usual suspects can be found on the menu — starters of antipasto salad, pasta fagioli, fava beans, and stuffed banana peppers, veal and chicken served in marsala, parmigiana, piccata and florentine styles, pasta dishes such as pomodoro and linguine with clam sauce — but fans of spice might want to try the "Paesano Inferno", a fiery delight of hot Italian fennel sausage and sautéed hot peppers served over penne pasta. $15-35.
- Pho Dollar, 322 W. Ferry St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 12), ☎ +1 716 768-0049. M-Th 11AM-10PM, F-Sa 11AM-midnight, Su 11AM-9PM. The East Side's Pho 99 introduced Buffalonians to Vietnamese cuisine when it opened in 1999, and though many restaurants and noodle shops have come and gone since then, it was not for fifteen years that the supremacy of their food was seriously challenged on the local level. The new kid on the block is the oddly named Pho Dollar, which not only serves incredibly delicious food — intoxicating interpretations of the trademark flavors of Southeast Asia — but boasts far more interesting and creative options on its extensive menu than 99 or any other place in Buffalo. Diners will strain to read the small-print English translations on the menu options, but those who do will be dazzled by a wide range of Vietnamese specialties (along with a small sampling of Cambodian and Thai items) including Buffalo's widest selection of pho (almost but not quite as good as 99's), a range of other soups, bun vermicelli bowls, stir-fried rice and noodle dishes, as well as heartier entrees. The appetizer section features not only the usual spring rolls and pot stickers, but a slate of to-die-for banh mi sandwiches. This delicious ambrosia is served up in an ambience that is sleek if not exactly minimalist (it's a much larger and more upscale place than it looks like from the street!) by servers that are friendly and attentive without being intrusive. Best of all, Pho Dollar is open late, and a liquor license is forthcoming. $15-30.
The following pizzerias are located in Grant-Ferry and the Upper West Side. 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.
- La Nova, 371 W. Ferry St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 12), ☎ +1 716 881-3303. Su-Th 10AM-12:45AM, F-Sa 10AM-1:45AM.
- Papa Joe's, 371 W. Ferry St. (Metro Bus 5, 12, 26 or 40), ☎ +1 716 881-7272. Su-Th 11AM-midnight, F-Sa 11AM-2AM.
- Vineeta International Foods, 98 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 12), ☎ +1 716 883-5020. M-Sa 9AM-8PM, Su 9AM-7PM. Rajinder and Sujata Chauhan, erstwhile owners of the similar but much smaller Lincoln Park Market in Tonawanda, purchased in December 2012 the 900-square-foot (830 m²) former home of Aaron's Rent-to-Own on Grant Street, opening this international supermarket named after their young daughter. An immigrant-run business rife with ambition, Vineeta International Foods is a one-stop shop for unusual and exotic foods and merchandise you won't find anywhere else in the city. Let there be no understatement: this is the place to come for an all-encompassing range of imported groceries from the Indian subcontinent, East and Southeast Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa, including spices, curries and chutneys, fresh vegetables, frozen foods, packaged groceries, an impressive line of Goya products, a butcher section including a modest range of halal meats, as well as housewares, bath and beauty supplies, and the like. Munch on some of Mrs. Chauhan's delicious samosas — some say they're the best in the city — while you shop. Vineeta's sole sticking point is the produce section, which as often as not consists of an uninspiring range of past-their-prime vegetables, but things seem to be improving on this front lately.
If it's more upscale dining you crave, this is the West Side neighborhood for you. While it's not exactly the Elmwood Village (yet), Grant-Amherst is an emerging destination for Buffalo foodies, with superstar restaurateur and Amherst Street resident Mark Goldman a major driving force behind the incipient scene.
- Hot Mama's Canteen, 12 Military Rd. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☎ +1 716 783-8222. M-Sa 4PM-4AM, Su noon-4AM. Usually at a restaurant the condiments are little more than an afterthought, but at Hot Mama's Canteen they're the raison d'être: this brand-new dining destination in Grant-Amherst was conceived by co-owner Valerie Meli (the titular "hot mama") as a showcase for Headstone Heat hot sauces, which she owns and whose company headquarters share space with the restaurant in a Civil War-era brick house at the corner of Amherst Street and Military Road that once housed the venerable old Hilliker's Pastime bar. The menu is short and to the point, and the food on it — described in a recent Buffalo Rising article as "comfort food with a twist... familiar, but just different enough for you to think about why you had never thought to do that before" — consists of simple favorites like homemade sandwiches and burgers, heartier mains such as meatloaf dinners, appetizers such as salads and massive softball-sized arancini, and even breakfast fare, each expertly paired with a fiery Headstone Heat sauce to accentuate the delicious flavors. Also, this place serves the most delectable homemade, hand-cut fries you've ever tasted, and the bar features not only a great selection of beers on tap but also a fully restored vintage shuffleboard table. Meli and co-owner Jeff Davis bring a funky Allentown-type vibe to this place — they're alumni of Nietzsche's and Allen Street Hardware Café, respectively — for an overall effect that is "a throwback to the old muscle car and pinup days", according to one reviewer: friendly, efficient service with a heaping side of charming sass. $10-20.
- Lucy, 388 Amherst St. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☎ +1 716 877-5829. Tu-Th 3AM-10PM, F-Sa 11AM-10PM, Su noon-8PM. Much like its namesake (a 3.2 million-year-old australopithecus discovered in 1974 in Ethiopia, at that time the most complete specimen of a prehistoric human ancestor ever found), Lucy is a pioneer — local foodies' prayers were answered in early 2012 when Abba Biyan and Naima Tesfu established Buffalo's first Ethiopian restaurant, serving a cuisine whose absence on the Niagara Frontier had long been noted. It was worth the wait: though three more Ethiopian places have since opened their doors, Lucy is still the hands-down favorite; according to out-of-towners, Lucy serves among the best Ethiopian food you can get anywhere in the country. Visitors are quick to forgive the crowded dining room, no-frills decor, and sometimes inattentive service (an inevitable side effect of this tiny place's popularity) to feast on huge portions of traditional dishes such as doro watt, tibs and sambusa that come packed with flavor, perfectly spiced, and served with plenty of injera — a flat, spongy bread used in place of silverware to scoop the food into one's mouth. Many options are available for vegetarians and vegans, and unique among its competitors, a full slate of Ethiopian breakfast options are offered (go for the $9.99 "Lucy Special" for a sampler of four breakfast items of your choice). Wash it all down with some of the most delicious sweet chai Buffalo has to offer, but perhaps more interestingly, on Saturday evenings from 3PM-7PM a free traditional coffee ceremony is held. $10-25.
- Nick's Place, 504 Amherst St. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☎ +1 716 871-1772. Daily 7AM-3PM. Described in the pages of the Buffalo News as "an institution on Amherst Street", Nick's Place was actually located for its first five years on Elmwood Avenue in Park Meadow, where it was founded in 1994 by Greek immigrant Peter Ananiadis. Open daily for breakfast and lunch, what sets Nick's apart are little homestyle touches like the delicious homemade bread baked daily, as well as its Texas sauce which is used not on hot dogs (as is customary in Buffalo) but as a topping for some of the omelettes that dominate the breakfast menu. These are huge and uniformly delicious, with items like feta cheese, souvlaki and gyro meat available alongside the usual ingredients as part of the "create your own omelette" option. Lunch is characterized by the usual Greek diner fare such as open souvlaki and gyro, with burgers, wraps and club sandwiches rounding out the selections. Portions are huge and prices aren't, and a full kids' menu is available. $10-15.
- The Phoenix, 269 Amherst St. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☎ +1 716 447-1100. Tu-Sa 5PM-11PM. The name "The Phoenix" is apropos on several levels: it pays homage to the resurgent neighborhood in which it's located, as well as to the building itself, a former working-class gin mill that was extensively renovated by owner Mary Logue after a devastating fire (preservationists rejoice: the original brass-railed bar, hardwood flooring and tin ceiling were saved and are still in place, and the exterior is bedecked by an unmissable metal sign, locally crafted just down the road at Atlas Steel). Opened in March 2013, this "American Tavern" is a place for simple but delectably-prepared food served in an ambience that is a pleasant blend of classy and casual. The menu betrays diverse influences — from Polish (lazy pierogi and kielbasa, one of the Phoenix's most popular main courses) to Belgian (steak frites) to South American (flatiron steak with chimichurri sauce) — augmented by a modest but expertly curated selection of wines and specialty cocktails that really attest to this place's upscale touch. A decent selection of bottled local and regional craft brews is available as well. Best of all, diners rave about the dedication displayed by the waitstaff, as well as Logue herself, who can often be seen working the hostess stand and ensuring with sincere concern that each guest leaves satisfied. Reservations are highly recommended for Friday and Saturday nights especially; in warm weather, try for a table on the patio out back, whose pleasant coziness is an extension of the dining room's. $20-45.
The following pizzerias are located in Grant-Amherst. 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.
- Joe's NY Style Pizza, 345 Amherst St. (At Tops Plaza; Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☎ +1 716 447-0165. M-Th 11AM-11PM, F-Sa 11AM-midnight, Su 11AM-10PM.
- Family Dollar, 333 Amherst St. (At Tops Plaza; Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☎ +1 716 877-1271. M-W & F-Su 8AM-10PM, Th 8AM-6PM.
Prospect Hill, Five Points, and the Lower West Side
If you like Puerto Rican food, the Lower West Side is the place for you: this is the heart of Hispanic Buffalo.
That's just the beginning of the story, though: fans of upscale cuisine will want to head to Five Points, whose gentrified ambience is more redolent of Allentown or the Elmwood Village. Another Lower West Side fine dining destination is Horsefeathers Market, located in the historic Zink Block on Connecticut Street, which was vacated in 2008 by Horsefeathers Antiques and now houses a number of restaurants and gourmet specialty shops on its ground floor — a sort of smaller, more upscale version of the food court at the West Side Bazaar.
- Armory Restaurant, 311 Connecticut St. (Metro Bus 3 or 22), ☎ +1 716 881-2430. M-F 11AM-2PM. Located in the shadow of the gargantuan Connecticut Street Armory (hence its name), this hidden jewel, open weekdays for lunch only, is a throwback to the olden days of the West Side as Buffalo's Little Italy. The order of the day at the Armory Restaurant is simple, homestyle Italian, hearty and delicious. Interestingly, there is no set menu here — the offerings consist solely of a changing slate of daily specials, of which there are about eight or nine at any given time. Favorites include the lentil soup, a sausage sandwich made with spicy Mineo & Sapio Italian sausage, and a concoction known as "The Brick": an ample portion of baked ziti that features a blend of ricotta and mozzarella cheeses as well as the most mouth-watering red sauce you've ever tasted. The Armory has been a favorite meeting place and lunchtime hangout for Buffalo politicians since the 1960s, when the West Side's own Frank Sedita served as mayor. Political bigwigs aren't the only folks you'll see there, though; the place also has a loyal following among D'Youville College's student body (likely because of the prices, which are a remarkable value for what you get). The ambience is friendly and without a hint of pretension, and the service is remarkably quick. $10-15.
- Custard Corner, 211 Porter Ave. (Metro Bus 5, 22 or 40), ☎ +1 716 881-9936. Daily 11AM-11PM, Apr-Oct. Once upon a time, hot dogs at Ted's followed by delicious soft-serve at Custard Corner was the classic West Side waterfront double-shot. Though Ted's Porter Avenue location closed in the '90s, its counterpart still hops during the summer months — and as if to make up for the loss of Ted's, Custard Corner's menu has expanded to include hot dogs, burgers, fries, chicken fingers, and other summery fare, including a decent range of salads. That's all well and good, but the standout here remains the changing selection of hard and soft Perry's ice cream (try the sponge candy flavor for a true taste of Buffalo!) that comes in cones, sundaes, or as part of an "Arctic Swirl" — their knockoff version of Dairy Queen's "Blizzard". Milkshakes, Italian ices, and frozen yogurt are also offered. There's nothing better on a summer day in Buffalo than relaxing here with a sweet treat on an umbrella-shaded picnic bench and taking in the pleasant view across the street to Prospect Park. $5-10.
- Delicious Bakery & Tropical Foods, 544 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 22 or 40), ☎ +1 716 812-0187. Daily 8AM-9PM. Run by the same owners as, and sharing the same menu with, La Flor Bakery on Forest Avenue (see the Upper West Side restaurant section above), Delicious Bakery and Tropical Foods serves delicious food to fans of Puerto Rican cuisine at a location that's a bit more convenient to the local Hispanic community: the heart of the Niagara Street strip. $10-15.
- Essex Street Pub, 590 Rhode Island St. (Metro Bus 7 or 12), ☎ +1 716 883-2150. M-Sa 11AM-4AM, Su 3PM-4AM. Five Points' favorite hipster watering hole, now serving a full menu of pub grub. Barbeque is the specialty of the house at the Essex Street Pub: Texas- and Memphis-style platters of brisket, pulled pork and ribs served with cornbread, coleslaw, baked beans, or mac & cheese draw Buffalonians from far and wide. The meat is smoked in-house — slowly over hickory, the old-fashioned way — and they even make their own pastrami and corned beef (try their "PLT" which replaces bacon with delicious homemade pastrami). Elsewhere on the menu, diners can choose from a range of burgers and sandwiches, salads, as well as ample portions of "snackatizers" featuring some of the finest BBQ wings Buffalo has to offer, with just the right amount of sauce to accentuate but not overwhelm the smoky flavor of the chicken. Downsides include the service, which can be slow and gruff; also, no one would call this place the most comfortable in the world (seating is at the bar on high stools, or at one of the few wobbly tables if they're free). $10-20.
- The Famous Bakery (formerly Titi Candi Café), 247 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 3, 5 or 40), ☎ +1 716 768-2487. M-Sa 11AM-8PM. The sign out front touts "delicious Spanish food", but you won't find jamón ibérico or paella here. Instead, the Famous Bakery is yet another of the Lower West Side's many purveyors of inexpensive Puerto Rican cuisine. Take-out and catering is the bulk of the business here, but there are a few tables available in the dining room. The usual island fare is all available — rellenos de papa and alcapurrias are served, pastelillos come filled with beef, chicken or cheese, plump chickens slowly revolve on the rotisserie, and bacalaitos (fried codfish patties) are a specialty — but the real draw here is the diverse and delectable variety of baked goods and pastries available. These encompass both Puerto Rican specialties like fresh homemade pan de agua bread and delectable quesitos de guayaba as well as more familiar treats like cheesecakes, cookies, and pies. Those who've come especially hungry can dig in to heartier mains served at both lunch and dinner: fried pork or chicken, pernil, bistec encebollado or porkchops served over yellow rice and beans. Wash it all down with a cold, sweet glass of parcha or malta. $10-15.
- Jolie's Chinese Traditional Food, 346 Connecticut St. (At Horsefeathers Market; Metro Bus 3 or 22), ☎ +1 716 491-6981. Tu-F 9AM-7PM, Sa 9AM-2PM. A doctor by trade, Jolie Zhou has long been interested in the healing power of traditional Chinese cuisine, and since moving to the U.S. she's set out "bring[ing] China to Buffalo in a way that satisfies the soul". Zhou got her start in 2012 at the North Tonawanda Farmers' Market and also did a short stint at the West Side Bazaar before finding her way to Horsefeathers Market on Connecticut Street. It's to be emphasized that the word "traditional" in this place's name is no joke — this cuisine bears little resemblance to the bastardized American-Chinese fare at your average takeout joint, nor even really to what's served at local sit-down Chinese restaurants like May Jen or Eastern Pearl. That being said, the menu here is simple and centered on dumplings, stuffed variously with pork and chives, chicken and scallion, beef and ginger, shrimp, or vegetables. These things are delicious and hearty; perfect for cold, bleak winter days. Since arriving at Horsefeathers, Jolie's menu has expanded to include a wider range of traditional Chinese foods such as meat buns and garlic chicken — check back frequently as the menu's evolution continues. Jolie's also sells frozen dumplings to take home, as well as other items including some killer homemade kimchee. $10-15.
- Michelle's Caribbean Cuisine, 346 Connecticut St. (At Horsefeathers Market; Metro Bus 3 or 22), ☎ +1 716 279-6988. Tu-Th 11AM-6PM, F-Sa 11AM-7PM. Occupying the space in the rear of Horsefeathers Market that was previously home to Blackbird Sweets, this family-owned eatery is open five days a week for lunch and on Fridays and Saturdays also for dinner, when an expanded menu is on offer. Michelle's is distinct from most of Buffalo's other Caribbean restaurants in that the food they serve is not Jamaican in provenance but comes from Trinidad and Tobago, a country where classic Caribbean flavors are tempered by a diversity of culinary influences including Hispanic, African, Indian, and even Chinese. Accordingly, head chef Marlene Bernard's menu accommodates everything from well-known favorites like oxtail and escoveitch fish, to Trinidadian particularities such as "doubles" (a sandwich of fried flatbread stuffed with curried chickpeas) and dhalpuri roti, to full-blown fusion dishes like pelau salad (which bears a resemblance to both the South Asian rice dish pulao and the jambalaya of Louisiana Creole cuisine) and "Caribbean Chinese" chicken, lightly breaded and served over fried rice and mixed vegetables — the folks at Michelle's call it "morish" food, because as soon as you finish what's on your plate, you want more. All this goodness is served up with a heaping side of laid-back island hospitality, as friendly as can be. $15-25.
- Niagara Café, 525 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 22 or 40), ☎ +1 716 885-2233. M-Sa 11AM-10PM, Su noon-8PM. Located on Niagara Street, the main thoroughfare of Buffalo's West Side Latino community, the Niagara Café has been recognized by Artvoice as Buffalo's best Puerto Rican restaurant. Latin American specialties like pastelillos, alcapurrias, pollo guisado, and rice and beans are all available here in a friendly environment for prices that cannot be beat. This place has won multiple awards at the Taste of Buffalo. More than its food, however, the Niagara Café is about Puerto Rican cultural pride and community identity. $10-15.
- Sazón Criollo, 272 Hudson St. (Metro Bus 3, 5, 7, 29 or 40), ☎ +1 716 381-9664. M-F 11AM-5PM, Sa noon-5PM. This little hole-in-the-wall nestled unassumingly in a residential area of the Lower West Side is all business, dishing out Puerto Rican specialties among a spartan decor — this place's food is so good that they don't need to distract you with fancy-shmancy bells and whistles. "I think the operative word to describe Sazón Criollo best may be 'simple'", says one reviewer, but an equally good word might be "authentic" — unlike the Niagara Café, Buffalonians at large haven't yet discovered this place, and with a customer base that's almost entirely Spanish-speaking and Latino, Sazón Crillo couldn't afford to serve anything less than the real deal. Step inside and place your order at the counter (most likely with one of the extremely friendly husband-and-wife team who owns the place), then take your seat from among the half-dozen or so tables in the small dining room, and when the time comes, dig in to a whole slew of Hispano-Caribbean selections, from well-known favorites like alcapurrias, pastelillos and pernil to delicacies that are harder to find in Buffalo, like stewed mofongo served with a variety of meat toppings, as well as an awesome tripleta sandwich offered at lunchtime — a messy, meaty trifecta of ham, pernil, and whole sautéed chicken breasts smothered with melted cheese, ketchup and mayonnaise and served on toasted panini. Daily specials are also offered which include a mouth-watering selection of seafood dishes on Fridays, including bacalao guisado and a delectable seafood salad. The service at Sazón Criollo is brusque but efficient, and the prices can't be beat. $10-20.
- Niagara Seafood, 837 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5 or 40), ☎ +1 716 240-9680. Tu-Sa 11AM-9PM, Su 11AM-7PM. Niagara Seafood began its life as a seafood shop owned by Michael Nguyen — who also owns Á Châu International Market next door — and was later converted to a restaurant, a gradual process that ended in 2014 when the last frozen seafood coolers and grocery displays were taken out of the dining room. A few Burmese and Thai dishes are to be had here, but the main attraction at Niagara Seafood is Vietnamese cuisine, with an accent, not surprisingly, on seafood. Steamed mussels, crab, shrimp, clams, oysters, crawfish, and even whole lobsters are the backbone of the menu, along with fried appetizers, fish sandwiches, and even a fairly faithful interpretation of Buffalo-style fish fry — its only major departure from local tradition is that catfish, lake perch and tilapia are offered as well as the usual haddock. The menu also boasts a number of non-seafood mains, but most of them are not as good; it's especially advisable to stay away from the chicken curry, which contains more bone than meat (those little bones that are hard to eat around, no less). Worthy of special mention is the pho: in contrast with the ample selection of permutations available at Pho 99, there's only one variety available at Niagara Seafood — pho bo gan, with tendons and beef meatballs (thinly sliced filet mignon can be added for a $2 upcharge) — but it's among the most authentic you'll find in Buffalo. Sadly, the flavor and freshness of the broth leave much to be desired, but the same is not true of the banh mi available as appetizers, which were good enough to win Niagara Seafood the award for Best Sandwich in 2013's "Best of Buffalo" readers' poll in Artvoice. Though portion sizes are generous, the food tends to be a bit pricey, so beware. $10-35.
- The Black Sheep, 367 Connecticut St. (Metro Bus 7), ☎ +1 716 884-1100. M-Th 5PM-10PM, F-Sa 5PM-11PM. In 2014, Bistro Europa joined the growing legion of businesses leaving the popular but high-rent Elmwood Village for the newly trendy West Side: owners Steve and Ellen Gedra set up shop in August of that year at the former Golden Key Tavern on Connecticut Street with a new name and a slightly revised concept. The newly rechristened Black Sheep builds on the pan-European eclecticism of its former iteration with a menu that, while not much longer than Bistro Europa's, is even more wide-ranging and upscale than before (with prices to match). This expansion is a reflection of the expansion of its staff, kitchen facilities, and above all, dining room: The Black Sheep seats about 70 people, more than double the old place, and the capacity is expanded further in the summer months thanks to a large, pleasant rear patio. As always, the accent here is on locally-sourced produce, meat, poultry, and dairy products, which figure into the smoked pork chop entree that comes with a side of heirloom grits and braised greens. As for appetizers, the cheese and charcuterie plates that were so popular at Europa are still on hand (courtesy of Buffalo's own Nickel City Cheese & Mercantile), along with new innovations such as a sweet-and-savory watermelon gazpacho that comes with kaffir lime granita. You can also enjoy a selection of beers curated by Community Beer Works at a bar made of wood salvaged during the thorough restoration process that preceded the Black Sheep's opening. $35-75.
- Left Bank, 511 Rhode Island St. (Metro Bus 7 or 12), ☎ +1 716 882-3509. M-Th 5PM-11PM, F-Sa 5PM-midnight, Su 11AM-2:30PM (brunch) & 4PM-10PM. Left Bank has been the cornerstone of the Five Points dining scene since its opening in 1992. Despite its name and the local misconception, the menu here goes far beyond French food, instead encompassing an eclectic sampling of Continental, Italian, and New American dishes — in fact, Left Bank was one of the first restaurants in the city to embrace upscale cuisine of that kind, hence its enduring reputation as one of Buffalo's most celebrated fine dining destinations. As well, the menu has remained remarkably static over that time — some locals even call it "dated" — but when you serve food this consistently good, why fix what's not broken? With portions that are big especially for a fine-dining establishment like this, the menu consists of a modest but high-quality range of appetizers and salads, a selection of small plates divided into rustic "peasant fare" (featuring the best fried calamari in the city) and more upscale "bourgeois fare" (the ahi tuna tartare is a particular standout), and a slate of creative and artful main courses of steak and chops, seafood dishes such as an out-of-this-world carrot papardelle tossed in a shellfish brandy cream with lobster, shrimp and crab, and a range of pasta dishes including a delightful chicken linguine with mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes and fresh basil. Left Bank also offers a changing selection of daily specials, as well as a wine list of encyclopedic proportions and impeccable quality; those who'd prefer to eat light have several delicious focaccia sandwiches to choose from. All this is served in a chic, intimate ambience that's been described as "arty meets industrial meets pub". It bears emphasizing that this is a small place where reservations are de rigueur and it gets uncomfortably loud when crowded, so if it's warm, opt for the pleasant, gardenlike patio in back. Service can be slow, but it's always friendly; anyway, this is the kind of place where you want to linger. Off-street parking is available — a rarity in this part of town. $25-55.
- Martin Cooks, 346 Connecticut St. (At Horsefeathers Market; Metro Bus 3 or 22), ☎ +1 716 259-9306. Lunch: W-Sa 11AM-3PM, Dinner: Tu-Sa 6PM-10PM. Head chef Martin Danilowicz started out as a professional golfer before reinventing himself as a gourmet restaurateur, cutting his teeth in various upscale eateries in Buffalo and Toronto before teaming up with Amelia Nussbaumer, former owner of Allentown's dearly missed The Eights Bistro, to open this charming café in Horsefeathers Market. Time and time again, it's said that Martin Cooks is more about the experience than the food, and there's a variety of experiences to be had there — from comparatively relaxed and informal lunch service to two nightly dinner seatings where guests are regaled with an elegant five- to seven-course prix fixe menu complete with optional wine pairings, in a unique, intimate setting with intentionally limited seating (advance reservations for dinner are obviously necessary; on Friday and Saturday they're typically booked several weeks out, but midweek seatings can usually be reserved with a few days' notice or even on the same day). The changing dinner menu tends toward unrelentingly upscale executions of simple American and Continental recipes, with occasional detours into more exotic territory such as Italian and Asian. The emphasis is on fresh, organic, locally-sourced ingredients of the highest quality. The lunch menu also changes weekly, but usually features a small selection of soups, sandwiches, and pasta; vegetarian chili and traditional bolognese are two of the more frequent lunchtime selections. The open kitchen makes for a truly singular ambience. Lunch $15-35, prix fixe dinner $60 ($100 with wine pairing).
- Providence Social, 490 Rhode Island St. (Metro Bus 7 or 12), ☎ +1 716 464-3786. M-W 5PM-11PM, Th-Sa 5PM-midnight, Su brunch 11AM-3PM and dinner 5PM-10PM. The September 2013 opening of this new restaurant in the Five Points district, originally home to Romanello's Roseland and most recently occupied by Prime 490 steakhouse, was decidedly quiet. But Providence Social is the real deal. At the helm is chef/owner Josh Hanzlian, whose local credibility is beyond reproach: his stepfather is the late, great Buffalo Sabres winger Rick Martin, and another branch of his family owns Hanzlian's Homemade Sausage in Pine Hill. Hanzlian describes the cuisine served at Providence Social as a "new American fusion" where the focus is on tapas and small plates (though a small range of full-size mains is also available), and in a recent write-up in Buffalo Rising said he "want[s] this [restaurant] to be a social experience", hence its name. The food here consists of tried-and-true favorites with creative twists: nachos are topped with duck confit and lime-infused crème fraîche, sliders are made with ground lamb and boast a salsa of cucumbers and toasted sesame seeds, and the stuffed poblano peppers — arguably the most popular item on the menu — are filled with a mélange of aged cheeses and stone-cut oats, crusted with an olive panko breading, and served at dinner with a red pepper chipotle cream sauce and at brunch on Sundays with a side of eggs and toast. Indeed, reviewers reserve special praise for the Sunday brunch here, with $1 mimosas on offer. Appropriately enough for the place that was once the scene of a Mafia hit, the ambience at Providence Social is pure gangland-era Art Deco, right down to the stylized lettering on the huge neon sign. The speakeasy decor continues indoors, complete with chandeliers, for a package that one reviewer describes as "rival[ing] Left Bank in atmosphere both indoors and on the patio" — yet it's refreshingly less crowded (for now) than that nearby hotspot. Service is friendly and attentive. $35-70.
The following pizzerias are located in Prospect Hill, Five Points, and the Lower West Side. 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.
- Buffalo's Hot Spot, 273 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 3, 5 or 40), ☎ +1 716 842-0330. M-Sa 11AM-11PM, Su 11AM-10PM.
- Pizza Town, 859 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5 or 40), ☎ +1 716 881-7117. Daily 11AM-midnight.
- Family Dollar, 517 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 29 or 40), ☎ +1 716 854-3451. M-Sa 8AM-9PM, Su 9AM-9PM.
- Horsefeathers Winter Market, 346 Connecticut St. (Metro Bus 3 or 22), ☎ +1 716 881-0046. Sa 10AM-2PM Nov-May. Every Saturday morning during the winter months, the ground floor of Horsefeathers Market is transformed into a winter farmers' market where over twenty farmers and vendors from all across Western New York sell fresh produce and locally crafted artisanal food products — cookies, jams and jellies, even organic dog treats and local wine. Visitors can enjoy performances by local musicians as they browse the market stands, or enjoy a bite to eat after shopping at permanent Horsefeathers tenants like Jolie's Chinese Traditional Food or Martin Cooks.
Black Rock and Riverside
Black Rock and Riverside's restaurants reflect the citizens who live there: working-class, unpretentious, "real Buffalo" through and through. Notably, though Hertel Avenue gets all the press, this area is a great place to dine on homestyle Italian food such as pizza or pasta with red sauce — and at cheaper prices to boot.
- Angie's Pizza House, 1904 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 32 or 40), ☎ +1 716 873-2212. Lunch: M-F 10AM-2PM; dinner: daily 4PM-9PM. One of the best-kept secrets in Black Rock, Angie's Pizza House is a friendly neighborhood hole-in-the-wall that dishes out cheap, delicious pizza and homestyle Italian fare in a handsome old brick block on Niagara Street. In the words of one reviewer, "like the City of No Illusions [itself], there's no pretense here"; rather, its dated, spartan decor combines with friendly service to create true humble, homespun charm. The titular focus of the menu has a crust that's a good deal thinner than classic Buffalo-style pizza (though not foldable like New York pizza), and the pepperoni are the large, thinly-sliced kind you don't see too often here, but the sauce has the same sweetness you'll find elsewhere in the area. Pizza is only the beginning of the story at Angie's, though: the regulars rave about simple but reliable Italian favorites like ravioli, eggplant parm, and (especially) spaghetti with homemade meatballs and red sauce, and there are also hot and cold subs, more elaborate fare like steaks and chops, and a surprisingly competent chicken souvlaki entree. Hearty breakfasts are served weekdays, and Friday fish fry packs the house. Cash only. $10-15.
- Emily's, 183 Hertel Ave. (Metro Bus 5 or 23), ☎ +1 716 871-5991. M-Sa 8AM-8PM, Su 8AM-3PM. Open for breakfast, lunch and (except Sunday) dinner, Emily's could be accurately described as a classic blue-collar Buffalo Greek diner, but that would be selling the place a bit short: for one, a small slate of Lebanese specialties including kofta over rice and homemade labneh are now served; and also, the food served here is a cut above what you'd expect from a humble place like this. This is a mom-and-pop place in the most literal sense of the term: Sam, the friendly, personable owner/chef who's frequently seen chatting up the regulars in the dining room, is joined on Emily's staff by his wife Jocelyn, the sole waitress whose service is second to none. In a delightfully dated ambience is served a host of hearty, homestyle American fare like meatloaf, liver and onions, and porkchops; sandwiches, burgers, and wraps (including that old-school Buffalo standby, fried bologna); and — of course — all your favorite Greek diner standards such as souvlaki and gyro, served either "open" or as full-size entrees with a side of potatoes prepared how you like them. Souvlaki permutations also populate the breakfast menu, which otherwise consists of hearty egg-and-sausage fare as well as delicious homemade pancakes. All the food is delicious, homemade, and served with old-fashioned aplomb. A public lot is conveniently located across the street as an alternative to parallel parking on Hertel Avenue. $5-20.
- George's American Diner, 1893 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 32 or 40), ☎ +1 716 400-8334. M 7AM-noon, Tu-Su 7AM-3:30PM. No surprises at this brand-new breakfast and lunch place that opened in Black Rock in 2014. There are a few token concessions to local particularities — Texas hots available alongside regular hot dogs; souvlaki chicken and feta cheese among the ingredient selections in the "build-your-own" omelette — but by and large, George's sticks to the tried-and-true formula of classic American diner fare and does so with aplomb. The burgers, sandwiches, and copious breakfast options are reliably good and available at great prices. Service is efficient, the interior is sparkling clean and decorated in a pleasant if spartan aesthetic — one online review of this place included the sentence "If an alien visited Earth and asked 'what's a diner?' this is exactly where I would take them", and that's about as accurate and succinct a review of George's as you'll ever find. $5-15.
- Riverside Café, 800 Tonawanda St. (Metro Bus 5), ☎ +1 716 876-0305. M-Th 7AM-2PM, F 7AM-7PM, Sa 8AM-7PM, Su 8AM-3PM. Riverside Café is a friendly, homey greasy spoon (actually, that's probably not the right term to use — this place is spic and span!) in the heart of the neighborhood of the same name, serving breakfast and lunch daily with several changing specials available each day. "Local" is the operative word here — Riverside Café's lunch menu features a rogue's gallery of Buffalo specialties like beef on weck, Texas hots, and fried bologna sandwiches made with locally-produced Sahlen's frankfurters, Mineo & Sapio Italian sausage, and Costanzo's rolls. Sandwiches are king at lunchtime — the slate of single- and double-decker concoctions include a delectable Monte Cristo made with either turkey or corned beef — and some interesting burgers are available too, all made with 100% Angus beef patties; these include a "Buffalo-style burger" (topped with a mix of blue cheese dressing and Frank's hot sauce) and a doughnut burger (exactly what it sounds like: a glazed doughnut replaces the bun). A decent selection of homemade soups are also available to go with. But Riverside Café may be even more popular at breakfast, with a gargantuan menu that ranges from the usual permutations of the eggs-toast-sausage-bacon template to more specialized dishes like a pepperoni and salsa omelette and flaky homemade biscuits topped with sausage gravy. Additionally, the Riverside Café is open into dinnertime on Fridays and Saturdays, when locals pack the house to enjoy delicious fish fry — another local favorite. Service here earns mixed reviews; it's quick and efficient but sometimes not so friendly. $5-20.
- Shaggy Dog Creamery, 205 Ontario St. (Metro Bus 5), ☎ +1 716 873-2100. Daily 11AM-10PM in season. Founded in 2011, this charming neighborhood ice cream stand in the heart of Riverside dishes out not only delicious soft-serve (including enormous, mouth-watering banana splits) but also other summery fare from the grill, such as hot dogs, burgers, fresh-cut French fries, and milkshakes. Seating is either indoors or outdoors on picnic tables. Under $10.
- Acqua, 2192 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 23 or 40), ☎ +1 716 874-5400. Lunch: Tu-F 11:30AM-3PM; Dinner: Tu-Th 5PM-9PM, F 5PM-10PM, Sa 4PM-10PM. In 2015, Acqua changed the game: that's when the waterfront eatery at the former site of Harry's Harbour Place launched a new "casual menu", boasting lower prices and a more laid-back atmosphere to go with the breathtaking views over the Niagara River. Seafood rules the day among Acqua's main courses — not surprisingly — but the appetizer menu adds interesting Asian influences to the mix, including an interesting noodle bowl with shredded chicken and peanut sesame sauce. $15-60.
- Buffalo Supper Club, 2179 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 23 or 40), ☎ +1 716 875-2939. M-F 11AM-10PM. Buffalo Supper Club's owners, Aaron Osborne and Christopher Williams, started with a vision: what if the Black Rock dining scene were more than just pizzerias, fast-food joints and greasy spoons? What if, instead, you could come to the uppermost reaches of the West Side for a real night on the town, with fine dining at a stylish, upscale sit-down restaurant? Flash forward to October 2014, when the Buffalo Supper Club opened its doors on Niagara Street. The owners promised that "when you walk in here, you won't think you're in Black Rock; you'll think you're somewhere on Delaware or Elmwood", and despite its unassuming look from the outside, all is as promised — the dining room makes up for in style and snazz what it lakes in size, with a sleek, minimalist decor, all-black furniture (including a comfy chaise longue!), an electric fireplace, a vintage-style jukebox, and a lively bar serving up a mix of big-name domestic and imported beers as well as local craft brews. Best of all, without skimping on quality, the Buffalo Supper Club's food comes at prices that won't break the bank: nothing on the menu costs more than $30. The food here scores few points for creativity; instead, it offers well-executed takes on familiar favorites such as steak, a range of chicken and seafood mains, classic Buffalo-style fish fry, burgers (the "Supper Club Blues Burger", featuring one beef and one chicken patty topped with bacon, American and crumbly blue cheese is a particularly interesting option), and on the appetizers menu, chicken wings that come in Buffalo style, barbeque or your choice of specialty sauces. $15-50.
- Faso's, 2126 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 23 or 40), ☎ +1 716 873-4147. M-F 11AM-9PM, Sa-Su 4PM-9PM. A surprise is in store for hungry Black Rockers who peruse Faso's unassuming, shopworn exterior and expect yet another round of uninspired red-sauce Italian. It's true that this is a small family operation located in a blue-collar neighborhood, and from the prices on the menu you wouldn't think you're in for anything remarkable. But Faso's is run by a real Italian — "actually from Italy, not an nth generation [Italian-American who doesn't] know any Italian except throwing 'paisan' into conversation", says one reviewer — whose authentic food boasts nuanced flavors and textures not typical of Americanized Italian food. Start by walking into a dining room that's much larger than it looks from the outside and doesn't seem to know whether it wants to be highbrow or lowbrow — delightfully tawdry decorative elements like colored Christmas lights (up all year), dangly baubles, framed portraits of the Rat Pack, and plaster Virgin Mary sculptures coexist with low lighting and soft Italian music on the speakers. Then, while munching on the most heavenly bread knots that have ever melted in your mouth, peruse menu options that range from well-known standards to more obscure dishes that are hard to find in these parts; this "food so good you'll think we stole your mama" is light, healthful, and prepared with fresh ingredients. Faso's pasta is scratch-made in house, the "best seafood menu on the Buffalo Harbor" includes shrimp fra' diavolo, swordfish steak Italiano, and scallops cooked any way you like, fine steaks and chops abound, and sandwiches and the like are on offer for those who want portions smaller than the heaping ones you otherwise get. Service is uncommonly warm and friendly — the owner is known for greeting customers personally with an impeccable, old-world tableside manner — but can be slow if the place is crowded. $10-35.
- Lin Restaurant, 927 Tonawanda St. (Metro Bus 5 or 40), ☎ +1 716 260-2625. Daily 11AM-10PM. Yet another addition to the roster of options on the West Side for fans of Burmese cuisine, this place is run by the same folks who operate Lin Asian Market on Grant Street (and, in tandem with the December 2014 opening of the restaurant, they also inaugurated a second grocery store location next door). In reality, Thai dishes comprise more than half of the options on Lin Restaurant's menu: mostly the standard lineup of curries, fried rice, and noodle dishes available with chicken, beef, pork, or seafood, but with a few surprises mixed in if you look. However, it's in the Burmese options where Lin's cooks really strut their stuff in terms of creativity and authenticity: savory samosas are the star of the show in the appetizers department, le peth thoat tea leaf salad is present in a version that rivals the one at Sun, and mohinga is made the authentic Burmese way. Copious options are available for vegans and the gluten-free crowd, but those who like spicy food might not be quite satisfied with the preparation here (for best results, have them make your food "Thai hot"). Service is friendly as can be and carefully walks the line between attentive and annoyingly obtrusive, and the pleasant if minimalist decor looks as if a spartan selection of Asian restaurant accoutrements (silver elephant engravings and the like) were grafted onto the template of a homestyle country diner, with walls painted pink and covered with charming wainscoting around the bottom. $15-35.
- Sun, 1989 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 23 or 40), ☎ +1 716 447-0202. M-Th 11:30AM-10PM, F-Sa 11:30AM-10:30PM, Su 11:30AM-9:30PM. The Buffalo dining scene has come a long way since 2010, when Kevin Lin, a Wegmans sushi chef turned upstart restaurateur, felt compelled to lump the delicious specialties of his native Myanmar under the "Vietnamese" section of his restaurant's menu because he was unsure how locals would take to this unfamiliar new cuisine. He needn't have worried — Buffalonians practically beat down the door at Sun, and even if this place can't hold a candle to the West Side Bazaar's Kyel Sein Hein in terms of authenticity, it's still the only game in town if you want a full menu of Burmese food served in an actual, full-service restaurant setting. The "full menu" part bears repeating — the range of offerings at Sun is gargantuan, with a menu broken down into Burmese (labeled as such), Thai, and Asian fusion sections featuring tantalizing appetizers and salads, curries, rice and noodle dishes, and soups. Diners also love Sun's "black rice menu", a range of sushi rolls, salads and desserts prepared using a rare and nutritious variety of rice once reserved for the elites of the Chinese imperial court — and although in this author's opinion it's way overhyped, locals rave about the pickled tea leaf salad (le peth thoat) which is Sun's specialty. For newbies, the helpful waitstaff are always happy to walk you through the menu, explaining each dish in detail. On the minus side, Sun's food is pricey especially when you consider the unimpressive size of their portions, and service is often slow especially when it's crowded. $15-45.
- Viking Lobster Company, 366 Tonawanda St. (Metro Bus 5, 32 or 40), ☎ +1 716 873-1079. W-Sa 5PM-9PM. The Viking Lobster Company is a classic case of "don't judge a book by its cover": hidden inside a somewhat shabby-looking building that could pass for one of the houses on the side street next to it is arguably the finest restaurant in Black Rock. The menu here is modest in size, but covers all the bases for seafood lovers — shrimp, scallops, broiled salmon and haddock filets, king crab legs, and, of course, myriad permutations of lobster — and also makes room for a few interesting innovations, such as steak-stuffed lobster and a creative take on paella. Prices may seem high at first glance, but it's justified by the impeccable quality of the food — it's shipped directly from processors on the North Atlantic coast for maximum freshness, and Viking also has the largest live-lobster holding pens in Upstate New York. For those who don't like seafood, a modest range of steaks, ribs, and roasted chicken dishes are served; these also tend to be lower in price than the rest of the menu. Sides such as soups, salads and bread are all prepared daily in-house. At Viking, service is friendly and attentive, the vibe is relaxed, portion sizes are ample, and the interior is cool without trying to be — pretense is eschewed in favor of what one reviewer describes as a "quirky at-the-wharf kind of feel". In summer, the patio (which features a raw bar and outdoor grill) is the place to be. Reservations are required. Cash only, but there's an ATM onsite. $25-65.
- Riverside Market, 740 Tonawanda St. (Metro Bus 5), ☎ +1 716 877-5483. Daily 8AM-9PM.
- Riverside Farmers' Market (At Riverside Park; Metro Bus 5, 35 or 40), ☎ +1 716 877-3910. Su 9AM-noon Jul-Sep. Operated since 2013 by Black Rock-Riverside Neighborhood Housing Services, the Riverside Farmers' Market sates neighborhood residents' appetites for healthy, locally-sourced, and affordable produce, baked goods, hot sauce, flowers, and even pet treats with this lively community farmers' market that's held Sunday mornings in the leafy natural ambience of Frederick Law Olmsted's Riverside Park. As well, the third Sunday of each month features a craft fair where the work of local artisans is offered for sale to the public.
The following pizzerias are located in Black Rock and Riverside. 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.
- Angelo's Pizza Plus, 955 Tonawanda St. (Metro Bus 5, 35 or 40), ☎ +1 716 875-1249. Tu-F 11AM-10PM, Sa 2PM-10PM, Su noon-10PM.
- Doyle's, 1981 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 32 or 40), ☎ +1 716 875-5550. Daily 9AM-10PM.
- Pat's, 544 Ontario St. (Metro Bus 5), ☎ +1 716 874-1233. M-Th 10AM-midnight, F-Sa 10AM-1AM, Su 2PM-11:30PM.
- Pizza Bella, 1133 Tonawanda St. (Metro Bus 5, 35 or 40), ☎ +1 716 874-0755. M-Th 10AM-10PM, F-Sa 10AM-11PM, Su 11AM-9PM.
- Zip's, 1127 Tonawanda St. (Metro Bus 5, 35 or 40), ☎ +1 716 876-1500. Daily 10AM-3AM.
Grant-Ferry and the Upper West Side
Grant Street has a growing coffeeshop scene, but as for actual nightlife, the Upper West Side is decidedly lacking. If you're in the mood for a drink, your best bet is to head east to Elmwood.
- Resurgence Brewing Company, 1250 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 12 or 40), ☎ +1 716 381-9868. The West Side's newest craft brewery boasts a German-style outdoor beer garden featuring homemade brews and light snacks, as well as bocce courts and a fire pit. In the winter, the operation moves indoors to an indoor tap room with ample views over the brewhouse.
Coffee shops and miscellaneous
- Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony, 25 Grant St. (At the West Side Bazaar, Metro Bus 3, 7 or 12), ☎ +1 716 464-6389. Tu-Th 11AM-6PM, F 11AM-7:30PM, Sa 10AM-7:30PM.
- Sweetness 7, 220 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 26), ☎ +1 716 883-1738. M-F 7AM-9PM, Sa 8AM-9PM, Su 8AM-6PM.
The bar scene in Grant-Amherst is only just beginning its ascent into hipness, so it's perhaps one of the best ways to experience Buffalo's unpretentious, blue-collar side. These places really pack 'em in during Bills and Sabres games, and if you're on the lookout for a good fish fry, you're in luck.
- Barry's Bar & Grille, 277 Amherst St. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☎ +1 716 873-1206.
- Casey's Tavern, 484 Amherst St. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☎ +1 716 877-4858.
- Military Tavern, 150 Military Rd. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☎ +1 716 873-1092.
Prospect Hill, Five Points, and the Lower West Side
Though D'Youville College is located in Prospect Hill and much of the area is populated by students, there is no real agglomeration of greasy spoons and watering holes around it as there is near Buffalo State College or UB South Campus. This is likely because the nightlife of the Elmwood Village and Allentown is within easy striking distance. There is a small cluster of spots in Five Points, but those are hipster hangouts, not college bars.
- Providence Social, 490 Rhode Island St. (Metro Bus 7 or 12), ☎ +1 716 464-3786.
- Buffalo Rome, 388 Porter Ave. (Metro Bus 3, 5, 22 or 40), ☎ +1 716 986-5488. M-F 7AM-3PM, Sa 9AM-5PM.
- Tipico Coffee, 128 Fargo Ave. (Metro Bus 3, 5, 22 or 40), ☎ +1 716 331-3954. M-F 6AM-9PM, Sa 7AM-9PM, Su 7AM-8PM.
Black Rock and Riverside
The bars of Black Rock and Riverside are real, honest-to-goodness blue-collar gin mills. There's no fancy microbrews or other pretenses, just a room full of neighborhood Joes knocking back cold ones after a long day on the job. If you want local color, you can do no better.
- Croatian Club, 226 Condon Ave. (Metro Bus 3, 5, 35 or 40), ☎ +1 716 877-7725.
- Kate's, 1125 Tonawanda St. (Metro Bus 5, 35 or 40), ☎ +1 716 875-0123.
The recent sale of the Porter Avenue Pied-à-Terre to a private owner has left the West Side without any accommodation of its own. If a hotel in close proximity to the West Side is important to you, you'd probably be best off staying at one of the many hotels located downtown. Alternatively, for those on a budget, a quick five-minute drive north into Tonawanda will take you to a selection of low-cost motels of varying quality clustered around exit 15 of Interstate 190 and exit 1 of Interstate 290.
Those in search of WiFi would be best off heading for one of the two public libraries located on the West Side: the Niagara Branch Library located at 280 Porter Ave. adjacent to Prospect Park, and the Riverside Branch Library, at 820 Tonawanda St. In addition to WiFi, all Buffalo public libraries have computer terminals with Internet access (18 of them at the Niagara Branch, eleven at the Riverside Branch) that are free of charge and available to all.
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. The question of whether crime is more prevalent on the West Side or the East Side is very much an open one, but despite the official numbers which are roughly neck-and-neck, the latter is probably a bit more dangerous. On the one hand, the suspicion and mistrust of police that's pervasive on the East Side likely means that many crimes committed there go unreported; on the other hand, the fact that the West Side is being colonized by upwardly mobile young people eager to reclaim a formerly marginal neighborhood means that crimes are probably reported more consistently there than elsewhere.
Still, there's no denying that crime remains a serious problem on the West Side. How serious the threat is depends very much on where you are and what time it is. Sadly, the center of the West Side action — Grant-Ferry — is also its most dangerous area, with robberies, muggings, and occasionally violent crimes depressingly frequent along Grant Street between Hampshire Street and Auburn Avenue. Other problem areas include the Lower West Side (particularly the blocks north of Connecticut Street and west of 15th Street) and Black Rock (Niagara Street between Austin Street and Hertel Avenue). If you're visiting Buffalo, by all means enjoy the sights and sounds of these vibrant districts, but a bit of common sense goes a long way. Make absolutely sure to keep your car locked and valuables out of sight, and keep a low profile in situations that don't feel right. Also, try to make yourself scarce after dark, especially if you're on foot — areas like Grant-Ferry that seem friendly and vibrant by day can take on a more sinister character after the sun goes down. At the very least, stick to well-lit thoroughfares and keep your wits about you.
By contrast, Riverside and Five Points are merely average in terms of crime, and Prospect Hill and Grant-Amherst's crime rates are downright low.
Panhandling isn't nearly as big a problem around here as in other areas of Buffalo. You'll occasionally see a few of them near the shelter on Tonawanda Street in Riverside, and very recently a few beggars have begun making nuisances of themselves at the West Side Bazaar. For now, though, this is the exception rather than the rule. As elsewhere in Buffalo, aggressive panhandling is almost unknown; if you don't want to give, a firm "no" almost always does the trick.
The West Side Times and the Riverside Review are sources for news and business listings in their respective neighborhoods.
The nearest hospitals are Buffalo General Hospital, at 100 High St. in the Medical Corridor, and Kenmore Mercy Hospital, at 2950 Elmwood Ave. in Tonawanda.
Laundry and dry cleaning
Grant-Ferry and the Upper West Side
- Ferry Street Laundry, 277 W. Ferry St. (Metro Bus 3 or 12), ☎ +1 716 783-9898. Daily 8AM-9PM.
- The Laundry Spot, 584 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3 or 7), ☎ +1 716 884-2134. Daily 10AM-8PM, later on weekends (flexible).
- Rotundo's, 332 W. Ferry St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 12), ☎ +1 716 883-1478. M-F 7:30AM-6PM, Sa 8AM-6PM. Laundry and dry cleaning.
Prospect Hill, Five Points, and the Lower West Side
- Niagara Coin Laundry, 546 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 22 or 40), ☎ +1 716 885-9467. Daily 8AM-11PM.
- Porter Avenue Coin Laundry, 136 Lakeview Ave. (Metro Bus 5, 22 or 40), ☎ +1 716 424-0034. Daily 24 hours.
- Vega's Exclusive Dry Cleaners, 233 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 3, 5, 20 or 40), ☎ +1 716 362-0316. M-F 9:30AM-5:30PM, Sa 11AM-2PM.
- West Side Value Laundromat, 417 Massachusetts Ave. (Metro Bus 7 or 12), ☎ +1 716 235-6476. Daily 8AM-9PM.
Places of worship
Though the Catholic Church is still a formidable presence on the West Side, its once-unquestioned domination of the district's religious life has been eroded somewhat in recent years (notably, by Hispanic Evangelicalism). Much like in the East Side but not nearly to the same degree, palatial churches that once housed Catholic congregations have been closed and in many cases repurposed, such as the former St. John the Baptist on Hertel Avenue which is now the home of an African-American congregation, and St. Francis Xavier in the heart of Black Rock which is now the Buffalo Religious Arts Center.
Also, though the area where it's located would be better described today as part of downtown, the weekly Italian-language Mass at St. Anthony of Padua RC Church is a great way to get a taste of what the West Side was like 50 or 60 years ago, as Lower West Siders of years past stream back into the old neighborhood to catch up with their neighbors and wax nostalgic about days gone by.
- All Saints RC Church, 127 Chadduck Ave. (Metro Bus 5), ☎ +1 716 875-8183. Mass Su 8:30AM & 11AM, Sa 4PM, M-F 8:30AM (in parish center). All Saints Catholic Church was founded by Bishop Charles Colton to serve the largely Irish population of the then-new neighborhood of Riverside. The present building — the third to house the congregation — is a handsome Colonial edifice dedicated in 1937 and home to a "Mighty Wurlitzer" organ donated by famous hotelier and local native son Ellsworth Statler. All Saints remains a robust congregation headed by longtime pastor Angelo Chimera.
- Assumption RC Church, 435 Amherst St. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☎ +1 716 875-7626. Mass Su 9AM & 11AM, Sa 8AM & 4PM, M-F 7AM & 8AM. With the completion of the New York Central Railroad's Belt Line in 1883, the eastern outskirts of Black Rock began to develop into Buffalo's second Polish neighborhood — a sort of little brother to Broadway-Fillmore — and Assumption Church, headed at the outset by the Rev. Theophil Kozlowski, was its nucleus. The current church, a majestic "Polish Cathedral style" edifice built in 1914 to a design by the local firm of Schmill & Gould, is still a fairly active one of about 2,500 registered members.
- Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary RC Church, 348 Dewitt St. (Metro Bus 3, 5 or 40), ☎ +1 716 882-2650. Mass Su 9AM, Sa 8AM & 4PM, M-F 8AM. Located on the Upper West Side, Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary is where the Reverend Peter Hai Nguyen says Mass to Buffalo's Vietnamese immigrant community.
- Holy Angels RC Church, 348 Porter Ave. (Metro Bus 3, 5, 22 or 40), ☎ +1 716 885-3767. Mass Su 9AM, 10:30AM & noon (Spanish), Sa 8:30AM & 4PM, M-F 8:30AM. Located in Prospect Hill, Holy Angels is one of the oldest Catholic churches in Buffalo, founded in 1859 in what was then a middle-class Irish community on the outskirts of town by Bishop John Timon, in conjunction with several Oblate Fathers from Marseille. The addition in 1874 of the transept, sanctuary, and choir completed the building to its present appearance. Holy Angels has been a West Side anchor in the midst of the myriad changes that have taken place since then — neighborhood demographics have shifted from Irish to Italian to Hispanic (one Spanish-language Mass is still said every Sunday) to a multicultural pastiche, and the building is now an island in the middle of the greatly expanded D'Youville College — but the friendly and welcoming church community, 1,400 families strong, soldiers on.
- Holy Cross RC Church, 345 7th St. (Metro Bus 5, 29 or 40), ☎ +1 716 847-6930. Mass Su 10:30AM (English) & 12:30PM (Spanish), Sa 4:30PM (bilingual), M-W & F 8:30AM (English), Th 6:30PM (Spanish). Holy Cross was founded in tandem with the growth of the Italian community in its surrounding neighborhood, and has managed to remain a vital cornerstone of the Lower West Side despite the great changes that have taken place there over the century of its existence. Holy Cross today is a congregation that is vibrant and multicultural, but largely Hispanic, and Mass is said in both languages. True to the Italian tradition, the interior of the church is bedecked with scores of statues of the Madonna, many of which were brought over by the original parishioners from the old country.
- Our Lady of Hope RC Church, 18 Greenwood Pl. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 26), ☎ +1 716 885-2469. Mass Su 9AM & 11AM, Sa 4PM. Our Lady of Hope is the West Side's newest Catholic church, founded in 2009 as a merger of Annunciation (in whose handsome Gothic edifice the current congregation worships), Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and Our Lady of Loretto parishes. Here, with the help of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the Rev. Mitch Byeck ministers to a congregation that's ever-growing in size and diversity.
These are largely concentrated in Black Rock and Riverside, where the majority of the West Side's remaining Protestants live.
- Charity Baptist Church, 350 Austin St. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☎ +1 716 598-7363. Services Su 11AM. The former First Hungarian Baptist Church — a humble yet handsome wood-frame building on Austin Street in Grant-Amherst erected in 1912 as one of the few surviving works of local architect John Coxhead — has been reborn as the home to an "independent, fundamental, Bible-believing, soul-winning, compassionate gospel-preaching Baptist church" where the imposing Pastor Pete Wigdor offers old-fashioned, plainspoken solutions to the real problems of modern-day people. Charity Baptist Church's dedication to community outreach is exemplified not only in the Sunday morning services where regulars and visitors alike are welcomed with open arms, but with programs such as a weekly "Movie Night", a community food pantry, and occasional special events.
- Grace Community Church, 175 Potomac Ave. (Metro Bus 3, 5, 26 or 40), ☎ +1 716 881-9888. Services Sa 6:30PM. With an innovative and community-based approach to ministry, Grace Community Church is a multiethnic Wesleyan congregation that seeks to "put the neighbor back in the 'hood". At the "House of Grace" on Potomac Avenue on the Upper West Side, Pastor Casper "Cap" Farrow not only preaches the word to his own flock, but also teams up with three other congregations to steward a wide gamut of community outreach programs.
- Ontario Street United Methodist Church, 179 Ontario St. (Metro Bus 5), ☎ +1 716 875-5639. Services Su 9AM. Founded in 1891 as a mission of the Richmond Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church, the Ontario Street United Methodist Church is a community linchpin whose humble but handsome 1914 edifice has been spruced up with a community garden, learning center, meeting space for neighborhood improvement programs, and other resources for Riverside residents. Best of all, pastor Nathan Lange, who also does double duty as leader of Trinity Methodist Church in Grand Island, maintains a friendly, open congregation that receives visitors with the utmost hospitality.
- Riverside Baptist Church, 346 Ontario St. (Metro Bus 5), ☎ +1 716 876-3994. Services Su 11AM. From humble beginnings as a small mission in a little-developed tract north of Black Rock, Riverside Baptist Church's storied, century-long history has as a common thread an emphasis on bringing the faith into the community at large — ministering to children, the sick, and the elderly, organizing charitable efforts and programs for the less fortunate, and, of course, feeding the spiritual hunger of a robust and diverse congregation. An independent, Bible-believing Baptist church headed by the Rev. Rick English, Riverside Baptist is an inclusive congregation that welcomes all.
- St. John's United Church of Christ, 85 Amherst St. (Metro Bus 5, 32 or 40), ☎ +1 716 873-1642. Services Su 10AM. One of the oldest extant churches in the city, what was once called St. John's United Evangelical Church was founded in what was then the independent Village of Black Rock in 1847 — a fortuitous time, shortly ahead of a flood of German immigrants who would soon populate the vicinity. The interior of the current building, which dates to 1891, has been painstakingly restored to its original splendor. For all the history surrounding it, today St. John's United Church of Christ is a fairly unassuming place — set back on a leafy street surrounded by picture-perfect 150-year-old saltbox houses — and the congregation is as warm and friendly as all that sounds.
- St. Mark's & All Saints Episcopal Church, 311 Ontario St. (Metro Bus 5), ☎ +1 716 875-8374. Services Su 8AM & 10:30AM. The Reverend Henry Grace is the preacher at the West Side's sole Episcopalian church, the product of a merger between the two titular parishes that occurred in recent years. Adding to the pleasure of worship among St. Mark's & All Saints' friendly congregation is the building itself, a little sandstone church in Riverside built in a charming English country style.
Though the community is still overwhelmingly Catholic, evangelical Protestantism has begun to make inroads among Buffalo's Hispanics. The majority of these churches can be found on the Lower West Side; except where indicated, all services are held in Spanish.
- Buffalo Hispanic Seventh Day Adventist Church (Iglesia Adventista del Séptimo Día), 213 Vermont St. (Metro Bus 3), ☎ +1 716 882-4105. Services Sa 9:30AM, W 7PM. On Saturday nights at 7PM, Pastor Miguel Calderón preaches to a small congregation of about two dozen faithful in a handsome Lower West Side brick block.
- Destiny Church (Iglesia el Destino), 172 15th St. (Metro Bus 3). Services Su 10AM, W 7PM. At the former Our Lady of Loretto Catholic Church, the charismatic Pastor Daniel Nieves heads up rousing, modern-style Pentecostal services conducted bilingually and with an emphasis on youth-oriented ministries. At El Destino, music, dancing, and other performances are incorporated liberally into worship services to better reflect the concerns and lifestyles of real-life people.
- Iglesia de Dios Fuente de Vida, 279 Rhode Island St. (Metro Bus 3). Services Su 10:30AM. Fuente de Vida is a Hispanic Protestant church where a friendly, close, and tight-knit congregation gathers for lively services conducted in Spanish by husband-and-wife pastors Pedro and Miriam Torres. The venue is the former Emmanual Baptist Church, a stout English Gothic-style brick building erected in 1922 and located on the Lower West Side.
- Iglesia Hispana Metodista Libre Nueva Visión, 168 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 26), ☎ +1 716 883-2527. Services Su 1PM, Tu 7PM. A Free Methodist Church that serves Buffalo's Hispanic community, Nueva Visión was founded in 1996 by Pastor Miguel Carcaño, a native of the Dominican Republic who preached to a congregation that at first consisted of only a handful of people, but later grew to regularly overwhelm the Grant Street building it holds services in thanks to his tireless efforts in engaging the community, often on a door-to-door basis.
- Iglesia Pentecostal Elohim, 461 W. Utica St. (Metro Bus 7 or 12), ☎ +1 716 886-0007. Services Su 2PM. Pastor Benjamín Bonilla helms friendly and lively Sunday services held at a lovely, stout stone building that was built in 1911 for the Trinity Swedish Lutheran Church. In addition, various ministries also take place throughout the week.
- Primera Iglesia Metodista Unida de Búfalo, 62 Virginia St. (Metro Bus 5, 29 or 40), ☎ +1 716 845-6097. Services Su 11AM. As its name indicates, Primera Iglesia Metodista Unida is Buffalo's first Hispanic Methodist congregation, active for over three decades and counting. Services that blend traditionalism with a contemporary, even innovative, touch that speaks to modern-day Hispanics are held in a gleaming new church building a few blocks from Niagara Street. Primera is a congregation that is inclusive, welcoming to visitors, and at the forefront in working to address the issues facing the Lower West Side community.
- Prince of Peace Christian Church (Iglesia Cristiana Príncipe de Paz), 190 Albany St. (Metro Bus 3, 5, 12 or 40), ☎ +1 716 844-8717. Services Su 10AM. This Hispanic Pentecostal congregation was founded in 1989 on the Upper West Side and features rousing bilingual services in the former home of the Normal Park Methodist Episcopal Church, led by a husband-and-wife team of pastors, Ángel and Midian Gauthier.
- All Nations House of Prayer, 104 W. Ferry St. (Metro Bus 5, 12 or 40), ☎ +1 716 462-6300. Services Su 11:30AM. The stout, red-brick Richardson Romanesque edifice that was once home to the West Avenue Presbyterian Church — a storied congregation of old whose roots stretch back to 1831 — was pressed into use in 2010 by pastors Sean and Tammi O'Brien as the home of the independent Pentecostal church they lead. In addition to joyous, energetic services attended by a congregation that's multiracial but majority African-American, All Nations hosts frequent revivals, youth-focused events, and other happenings.
- Debre Selam Medhane Alem Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, 700 Tonawanda St. (Metro Bus 5), ☎ +1 202 710-0752. Services Su 8AM. Buffalonians of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo faith — a growing community of immigrants from Ethiopia, Eritrea and neighboring countries that's centered around Grant Street in the Upper West Side — now have a place of worship to call their own. The former West Side Hungarian Evangelical & Reformed Church, a stout brick edifice in Riverside that dates back to 1923, has been repurposed as the Debre Selam Medhane Alem Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. Lively, friendly, and multiethnic services led by head priest Aba Hailemariam Mewded take place weekly.
- Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses (Salón del Reino de los Testigos de Jehová), 152 Albany St. (Metro Bus 3, 5, 12 or 40), ☎ +1 716 884-2114. Services Su 9:30AM & 3:30PM.
With a steady stream of incoming immigrants from the Horn of Africa (among other places), the West Side is a growing center of Muslim culture in Western New York.
- Masjid al-Eiman, 444 Connecticut St. (Metro Bus 7 or 22), ☎ +1 716 432-0233. A combination mosque and Islamic community center that is a gathering place for a wide variety of events relevant to the West Side Muslim community, al-Eiman is a small, quaint mosque with a diverse congregation and a traditional Sunni orientation. Services are held bilingually in English and Arabic and comprise all prayers, including formal jum'a.
- Masjid Juma (Friday Mosque), 215 Forest Ave. (Metro Bus 3, 5 or 40), ☎ +1 716 563-2741. This humble storefront mosque on an out-of-the-way stretch of Forest Avenue on the Upper West Side serves a largely African congregation.
Fort Erie, Ontario is what you see when you look across the Niagara River from Broderick Park and the Bird Island Pier. Located an easy walking distance (yes, you can cross the Peace Bridge on foot!) yet seemingly a world away from the gritty West Side, Fort Erie is a charming small city with something for everyone: a compact, strollable downtown, the meticulously reconstructed Old Fort Erie that saw action in the War of 1812, the excitement of the Fort Erie Racetrack, and, further afield, wide-open farmland and some of Canada's finest freshwater beaches along the Lake Erie shore. Fort Erie is also the southern terminus of the beautifully manicured Niagara Parkway, which extends 34 miles (55 km) along the Canadian riverfront and was praised by none other than Sir Winston Churchill as "the prettiest Sunday afternoon drive in the world."
Wondering where all the Italians ended up that you've heard mentioned a few times in this article? Or maybe you've just tucked in to a nice dinner at Faso's in Black Rock or the Armory Restaurant in Prospect Hill and are hungry for more? Look no further than North Buffalo, Buffalo's own Little Italy. Hertel Avenue is a lively strip of pizzerias and homestyle Italian restaurants, cute boutiques stuffed with imported knickknacks, and bars whose clientele would do the cast of Jersey Shore proud. North Buffalo is a lot more multifaceted than that, though: you've also got world-class architecture in Parkside, Central Park, and Park Meadow, college dives in University Heights, and the Buffalo Zoo, which comes in second only to the Falls as the Niagara Frontier's most-visited tourist attraction.
Want to see what the West Side will probably look like in ten years? Head east to Allentown for a sneak-peek. On the leafy side streets you'll see charming one- and two-story brick Victorian cottages of the same kind that the Lower West Side and Prospect Hill have, but in much better repair. Fans of the galleries in Grant-Amherst will also be in heaven here in the nucleus of the Buffalo arts community. The buzzing nightlife on Allen Street has a leg up on the West Side's lackluster bar scene, too: it's the foremost destination in Buffalo for hipsters, fans of local music, and urban "characters" of all types.
Lastly, fans of diamonds in the rough — not to mention admirers of palatial ecclesiatical architecture such as Black Rock's St. Francis Xavier and St. John the Baptist — might want to head to the East Side. Locals will try to scare you with stories of crime, poverty, and urban blight, and the East Side's reputation is not totally undeserved. But the longstanding stigma that hinders investment dollars and redevelopment efforts from penetrating east of Main Street does nothing to dim the majesty of architecturally stunning churches like St. Ann and St. Stanislaus, the charm of longstanding ethnic markets like the Broadway Market, or the vitality of cultural institutions like the Buffalo Museum of Science and the Jefferson Avenue Heritage Gallery. These are true hidden treasures, so why not take the opportunity to take advantage of what even locals miss out on?