Buffalo/West Side

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.

The   Connecticut Street Armory stands sentinel over the West Side neighborhood of Prospect Hill. In the foreground is the Olmsted-designed Prospect Park.

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.

Understand

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.

History

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.

Peter Porter, the founder and easily the most prominent citizen of Black Rock, was a powerful politician on the state and national stages: he served in the New York State Assembly, the U.S. House of Representatives, and as Secretary of War under President John Quincy Adams.

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.

Climate

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.

If you're in Buffalo and you come across a sign like this, you're most likely to be on the West Side! It's estimated that 40 or 50 languages are spoken in Buffalo, and no doubt the majority of them are represented in this vibrant melting pot.

Talk

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

By car

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:

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.

Rental cars

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.

By bus

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.

Crosstown routes

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.

The Riverwalk traverses Riverside Park, parallel to the shore of the Niagara River.

By bike

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.

On foot

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.

See

History

Art

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.

The gargantuan complex in Black Rock that was once St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, which closed in 2007, is now the home of the Buffalo Religious Arts Center.
  •   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.

Breweries

The West Side is quickly becoming an epicenter of Buffalo's incipient craft brewing industry.

Outdoors

A typical sight at Broderick Park: anglers casting their lines into the waters of the upper Niagara River.

Parks

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.

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

In the late 1850s, the house at 51 Johnson Park in the West Village Historic District was home to future President Grover Cleveland, who lived there while working as a law clerk in the office of Rogers, Bowen and Rogers, shortly after moving to Buffalo. The Greek Revival portico, with its fluted Doric columns, was a later addition.

Architecture

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:

Prospect Hill is also home to one of the Niagara Frontier's six Frank Lloyd Wright buildings:

Do

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.

Spring

Summer

Autumn

Ice skating

Boat cruises

Theater

The brand-new marquee on the newly restored Showplace Theatre is empty for now, but soon this old movie palace will once again play host to rock concerts and other live events.

Live music

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.

Learn

  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.

Buy

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.

The West Side Bazaar is the central hub of the Grant Street retail district: a business incubator where newly landed immigrants can work toward financial self-sufficiency, a shopping and dining destination for those in search of unique ethnic clothes, crafts and foods, and a multicultural gathering place for West Side residents.
  • 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.

Specialty foods

Its huge variety of ethnic food stores, with ingredients available for practically every cuisine under the sun, is Grant-Ferry's major retail draw.

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.

Books

Music


Tattoos and piercing

Liquor, beer and wine

Miscellaneous

Grant-Amherst

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.

Despite the status of the West Side as Buffalo's newest hotspot, the shops and restaurants on Amherst Street retain an unpretentious, old-neighborhood feel.

Antiques

Grant-Amherst is an emerging local destination for antique enthusiasts.

Liquor, beer and wine

Furniture and home decor

Tattoos and piercing

Specialty foods

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.

Art

For more art galleries (i.e. ones where the object is to view, rather than buy, art), see the "See" section.

Miscellaneous

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

Specialty foods

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.

A view of Niagara Street near the corner of Hudson Street, on Buffalo's Lower West Side.

Books

Liquor, beer and wine

Tattoos and piercing

Miscellaneous

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.

Antiques

Specialty foods

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.

Art

Liquor, beer and wine

Tattoos and piercing

Miscellaneous

Eat

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:
Budget Under $20
Mid-range $20-$40
Splurge Over $40

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.

Budget

  • 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.

Mid-range

Pizza

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.

Groceries

"Downtown Black Rock" — i.e., Grant-Amherst — boasts a small but interesting collection of neighborhood watering holes and surprisingly upscale restaurants.

Grant-Amherst

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.

Budget

Mid-range

Pizza

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.

Groceries

Horsefeathers Market opened in 2013 in the Italian Renaissance-style building historically known as the Zink Block, built in 1896 for William T. Zink's furniture sales and repair store to a design by Charles Day Swan, an architect native to the West Side. After the business closed in 1932, it was used variously as a grocery store, warehouse, and (most recently) as the home of Horsefeathers Antiques, which moved to Grant-Amherst in 2008. A neighborhood landmark that's still remarkably true to its original design, Horsefeathers Market has been renovated top-to-bottom into an energy-efficient "green" building with retail space on the ground floor and apartments above.

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.

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Pizza

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.

Groceries

Farmers' markets

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.

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Groceries

Farmers' markets

Pizza

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.

Drink

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.

Sweetness 7 is not only a great place to enjoy coffee, baked goods, and other delights, it has also been key to the revitalization of its West Side neighborhood.

Coffee shops and miscellaneous

Grant-Amherst

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.

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.

Coffee shops

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.

Sleep

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.

Connect

The   West Side Post Office is at 465 Grant St. on the Upper West Side.

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.

Stay safe

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.

Cope

Newspapers

The West Side Times and the Riverside Review are sources for news and business listings in their respective neighborhoods.

Hospitals

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.

For non-emergency situations,   West Side Urgent Care is located on the Lower West Side at 564 Niagara St., between Jersey and Pennsylvania Sts.

Laundry and dry cleaning

Grant-Ferry and the Upper West Side

Prospect Hill, Five Points, and the Lower West Side

Places of worship

Roman Catholic

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.

The twin towers of the Church of the Assumption dominate Amherst Street a block east of Grant Street.

Protestant

These are largely concentrated in Black Rock and Riverside, where the majority of the West Side's remaining Protestants live.

Hispanic Protestant

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.

Black churches

Orthodox

Jehovah's Witnesses

Muslim

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.

Go next

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?

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