Last month, we went to Buffalo!
Cue: Angry Sea Turtles’ Top 7 tips for being in Buffalo!
Buffalo, New York
Slogan/tagline: “If you haven’t seen Buffalo lately, you haven’t seen Buffalo.”
Obligatory see/eat/do: Buffalo wings, Beef on Weck, Fish Fry, Buffalo Bills games
Obligatory activity score: 0/4
Visit rating: ***
- Stay at The Hotel at The Lafayette! Why? See my review here (coming soon!) If lifting a finger to press the word “here” is too irksome, here’s the summary: three restaurants, bars seemingly round every corner, its own brewery (The Pearl), achingly hip lobby coffee spot (both lobby and coffee spot = achingly hip), gorgeous entirely renovated rooms (the reno cost $40 million), corridors like a hipster Shining, plus the place was designed in 1904 by Louise Blanchard Bethune (the first professional female architect to practise in the US), a ballroom that’ll drop your jaw down to your socks plus a ton of architectural features that you’d think Wes Anderson dreamed up. Even if you don’t leave the hotel during your visit, a stay at The Lafayette alone is worth a trip to Buffalo.
- Ignore those pricey parcades. If you’re here on the weekend, you can park for free on the street! We got in at ten to six on the Friday… and six p.m. turned out to be the magic hour when B-town’s downtown weekend parking magically becomes free until Monday morning. We paid 25 cents for those first ten minutes and then loped the 100 freezing feet to the hotel. It’s cold in Buffalo in December!
- Go to Allentown! It’s wee and walkable and has an easily explored selection of crammed bars, tasty eateries, quirky stores, varied galleries, a general pleasing neighbourhood-y-ness and a fun First Friday event from 6-9pm. Everyone raves about dive bar Allen Street Hardware and Duke’s Bohemian Grove Bar, but we were too hungry to hit them up on this visit. Sure, there are plenty of opportunities to scoff wings but we opted for the coffee and salads at Grindhaus – good music, nice laid back place and smiley staff. Here’s a picture of some optimistic outdoor seating. Brrr.
- For brunch, head for Grant Street near Elmwood Village and Sweet_Ness 7 Cafe, right across the street from Black Dot Records. This was ideal for us, as once we’d eaten, my accompanying Canadian could paw her way through reams of grubby used records across the road while I sat, alternating reading the latest Jonas Jonasson book and admiring the tin ceiling and the parade of local Buffalo characters trooping through for Highland Cow Granola, Spicy Cheesy Grits and chorizo-laden Irish Peasant Pancakes.
- Go to breweries! Even as an adamant non-beer drinker, these brewery visits were completely entertaining. And Buffalo seems to have vats of such emporia! We went to the airy Resurgence Brewing Company near the Niagara River where The Canadian worked her way through a flight of options such as Sponge Candy Stout, Totes McOats and Bad Decisions Honey Brown, while we asked each other obscure Trivial Pursuits questions from the packs along the bar and waited our turn for the gargantuan Connect 4 games. They’ve got food (bar-ish snacks like pizza, pretzels and burritos, plus meat/cheese plates and hummus plates), too, and cider, unlike a lot of beer purist hangouts I’ve been dragged to of late. Before we left town, we popped into “nanobrewery” Community Beerworks where the guys were a laugh and we hung out and talked beer, borders and, um, other things that don’t start with B. Next time we’ll get to Pearl Street (um, somehow we missed this one, despite it being in our hotel), Flying Bison, 12 Gates, 42 North, Big Ditch, Rusty Nickel, Hamburg, Gordon Biersch, Taps, Buffalo Brewing… I may not like beer, but I like seeing The Canadian’s delighted expression when she finds the perfect stout.
- Thinking of going to the Frank Lloyd Wright Martin House Complex? Do – it has amazing, soothing lines, but you could also go to other interesting dwelling places where you can find souvenirs that are far better value than $42 geometric pattern ties and $300+ sprite sculptures for the garden. After checking out The Martin House (and seeing wee wild bunnies outside – bunnies!), we stumbled upon an estate sale in a massive house on the next street and had a fascinating/sad time imagining who had lived there and what their lives had been like. Possible souvenirs from such an excursion: one lone hockey skate, a polished grand piano, chandeliers, cobwebs, a wee gulp of sadness. We settled on an obviously much used and loved copy of Middle Eastern Cooking from 1972 that I’m pretty sure my mum had.
- Check the weather for all visits between November and May. Buffalo and lake effect snow are often a hideous combination – the snow from the monster storm of November 2014 was still there eight months later. EIGHT! Check out this video of snow clouds racing in!
What would we do differently? Go in summer and explore along the river with its grain elevators, saunter through Olmsted-designed parks, redeveloping Canalside bits and the Cobblestone District, check out the 16 adjacent wineries along the wine trail (yep, all of ’em) and visit farmers’ markets when the temperature hasn’t turned everything edible into freezy-pops. Try brunch at Betty’s, Burmese food at Sun, Viet-Thai combos at Niagara Seafood and Buffalo BBQ.
Would we go back? Yep! See above.
Other Buffalo guides I think you should examine:
Visit Buffalo Niagara – great site! We did most of our trip research here.
Jim Byers’ Buffalo – the article that first got us intrigued about popping south of the border from the former Travel Editor at The Toronto Star