It's no secret that one of my favorite things to do is explore the culinary scene in new-to-me cities.
My latest trip took me to Buffalo, New York - home of beef on weck, buffalo wings and sponge candy. I ate none of the above - and barely scratched the surface of the delicacies this up and coming foodie town has to offer. I would have loved to do some more exploring along the city's newly renovated (and gorgeous) "Canalside," checked out some of the local breweries like Big Ditch Brewing Company, or taken a fitness class on the shores of Lake Eerie.
I'll have to return one of these days for some more exploring but in the meantime I wanted to share with you the best meals I had in Buffalo. These may not be your typical "Must Eats" in Buffalo - (Wings at Anchor Bar, pods from Pizza Plant, etc.) but they were delicious, trendy spots that didn't require reservations. As usual, I leaned toward the healthier side of things when possible with some extravagances like DOUGHNUTS thrown in to keep things #balanced.
149 Swan Street
Handlebar Pub was by far my favorite find of the trip. It wasn't on my "list" going into things, but while looking for a spot to pick up a quick lunch for coworkers one day, I found it on Google maps and instantly fell in love with their simple menu featuring different rice bowls, salads and flat breads.
I fell further in love when we went to pick up the food and realized this place also had a ton of different beers and was BIKING THEMED with a cycling store attached. A bar, tables with board games, and a outdoor seating - I fell head over heels for this place.
We waited awhile for our food - but there was only one guy working the whole place and he was running around like a chicken with his head cut off. He managed to keep our complicated alternations and requests straight and we all enjoyed our meals.
I got the Marrakech Bowl - loaded with Moroccan spiced chickpeas, carrots, red pepper, lemon tahini and cilantro.
333 Franklin Street
Many people extol the cocktails at Buffalo Proper, but unfortunately, we didn't imbibe during our night at this delicious restaurant. I saved all my stomach space for the amazing meal.
Buffalo Proper made it's way to my #1 "MUST EAT HERE" spot because of one dish in particular...but I'm getting ahead of myself.
The interior is two stories with the craft cocktail bar on the first floor. Dark wood sets the mood and makes you feel like your meal is going to be a memorable one.
Our waiters was incredibly nice and explained all the menu options to us along with answer our questions about how certain plates were prepared, serving sizes, and suggestions. We finally settled on the following:
Roasted Oles Farm Carrots
Spruce, Fresh Cheese, Orange
These carrots were served whole and the roasting brought out their natural sweetness in such a perfect way. I say it time and time again but any restaurant that pays attention to their vegetables is a restaurant that I automatically respect. Carrots in particular are my all time favorite vegetable so this small plate made me incredibley happy. And for "small plate" it was certainly filling!
Pumpkin Seed, Parmiggiano, Rice Puff
We probably could have passed on this dish purely due to the fact that it wasn't all that exciting. It tasted good, don't get me wrong - it's hard to mess up arugula (the best salad green in the world) - but it was lacking anything unique.
CURED SALMON TARTINE
Breadhive pumpernickel, arugula, sliced caperberry, pickled red onion, smoked creme fraiche
WHOAH. This was FULL of flavor. And honestly - the flavor of the cured salmon was a little strong for my liking, even as a usual lox-lover. But I loved the fact that it was served on pumpernickel and that they weren't at all stingy with the fish!
ROASTED OLES FARM 1/2 CHICKEN
Stewed and Crispy Chickpeas, Braised Greens, Black Olive Oil, Sliced Citrus, Harissa
This was my friends dinner and of course I sampled a bite. Chicken is almost never what I order at a restaurant as I'm usually disappointed. By far my favorite chicken dish was the "Chicken Under A Brick" from Marc Forgione (you can read my review here) but Buffalo Proper's chicken was certainly tender, moist and bursting with flavor.
PAN SEARED SEA SCALLOPS
Roasted Oles Farm Beets, Organic Quinoa, Grapefruit, Pistachio
And this, people, is why I neeeeeeded to come to Buffalo Proper. It's as if the chef (Edward Forster) reached into my brain and pulled out a dream dish.
The sweet scallops tasted incredible in the citrusy, grapefruity sauce. What worked so well was that the sauce was exceptionally light, which was perfect for the rich scallops. And don't get me started on quinoa, beets and pistachios. They were made for each other.
If you're a fan of scallops, do yourself a favor and get to Buffalo Proper!
439 Delaware Avenue
I picked this spot because how perfect is it's mission statement?
To make Buffalo connected musically, artistically, and sustainably through nutrition, wellness and congregation.
Their menu is farm to table and organic plus full of vegetarian and vegan friendly options. The inside is soo adorable and they always have live music and art on display. I appreciated that the wait staff didn't rush us at all as we enjoyed a long 2 and a half hour dinner (I was eating with a friend I haven't seen in WAYY too long).
Their price fixed menu was such a great deal that we both went all-in. If you're ordering a la cart, all the prices are totally fair (if anything - they're shockingly low if you're used to Manhattan prices!)
Pro-tip: You can swap the dessert from your price-fix for an alcoholic beverage! Or, you can follow our lead and go for two glasses of wine AND dessert.
Home cut sweet potato fries, topped with lentils and spinach and cheese curd (or daiya) Vegan & Gluten Free
Oh baby were these good - and filling as hell with the lentils!
Falafel, carrots, marinated olives, burnt orange sage cashew cheese, roasted garlic & baguette points
This was a HUGE portion size and we didn't come close to finishing it - but it was a nice, lighter addition to the loaded sweet potato fries.
SHRIMP CURRY BOWL
This was loaded with veggies and had such great flavor! It had a definite kick to it, but I was able to comfortable eat it without burning my mouth off.
VEGAN PEANUT BUTTER CHEESECAKE
I never would have guessed this creamy, flavorful, thick cheesecake was completely vegan! I ordered it to "try" but ended up eating every last bite!
Please note that their brunch menu also looks GREAT!
1002 Elmwood Avenue
I am 100% behind the age-old insistence that "breakfast is the most important meal of the day." It not only jump starts your metabolism and fuels you through the day - but a bad breakfast can definitely set the tone for what's to come.
If there's one thing that makes me jump for joy - it's an amazing breakfast. And aside from GOTAN (you can read my RAVE here), Ashker's is the best brunch I've had in a looong time!
Not to mention the prices made our jaws drop. Toto, I don't think we're in Manhattan anymore!
At Ashker's you order at a counter and then the staff will deliver your food (and coffee, and smoothies) to your table. All of the juices and smoothies come in adorable mason jars and there are soo many options - plus they're cool with changes and alterations to menu items.
BREAKFAST SCRAMBLE ($4.99 WHAAAAT?!)
Home-fries, red peppers, onion, spinach, tomato, mushroom, cheddar cheese
My plate was overflowing with vegetables and reminded me of the amazing breakfast dishes served at Brookline Lunch in Boston. Despite the fact that I was eating a serious amount of cheddar cheese, all the fresh veggies made this feel super healthy! Plus, my friend was easily able to swap for egg-whites and to skip the cheese.
As if the home fries, eggs and veggies weren't enough, this massive meal also came with multi grain bread toasted for perfection. Naturally, I asked for a side of jam and peanut butter.
SIDE FRUIT SALAD
This wasn't the best fruit salad I've ever had - and I thought it was a little odd that there were slices of banana in it. I would likely pass on this the next time around - the meals come with so much food that it's really no necessary!
BLUSHING EMERALD FUSION SMOOTHIE
Ashker's offers fruit smoothies, fusion smoothies (fruits & veggies) and juices. It's a little overwhelming trying to choose when so many of them sound so delicious! I opted for a fusion smoothie made with kale, beets, raspberry, pineapple and peach. It was more earthy tasting from the beets and kale than I had expected but I still really liked it!
This smoothie easily would have cost $10 in NYC and at Ashker's it only set me back $4.59.
Ashker's also had a number of specials on the board that morning - including some crazy sounding pancake creations! We each got a coffee as well, which was a self-serve area with almond, soy and regular milk options and a bunch of different blends.
We all gave this place a thumbs UP UP UP. And they have multiple locations in Buffalo - highly recommend you check them out.
2319 Sheridan Drive Tonawanda, NY
8560 Main Street Williamsville, NY
936 Union Road West Seneca, NY
Don't ask me what I did to deserve the good fortune of a box of these bad boys showing up in our office one morning during the trip.
I typically do a ton of research before every new city to find the best donuts in town (you can read all about those adventures here) but I didn't have a donut-destination planned for Buffalo.
Scary to think Paula's may have passed me by!
These doughnuts were gargantuan and all of them came STUFFED which is one of my favorite kinds of doughnut. My office was shocked as throughout the day I made my way through a taste of each of the half dozen donuts as others looked on with secondhand-sugar comas.
That I can remember, we sampled the Key Lime Filled, Apple Filled, Peanut Butter Angel Cream Filled, Chocolate Frosted Angel Cream, and a jelly doughnut of some kind.
I will admit that I didn't love the "Angel Cream" filling. It was super light and airy but to me, it tasted like a cream frosting and a not a filling. Apparently I'm pickier than I thought - I love filled donuts, but only if the filling is a certain thickness and consistency.
My favorite part was the chocolate glaze - it was a home run!
Paula's was even featured on Buzzfeed's "Doughnuts To Try Before You Die!" Close call on missing out on these.
Other Notes About Buffalo
There is no Uber in Buffalo and there are a limited number of cabs. We had to wait up to 20 minutes to get a cab on various occasions. That being said - all of the taxi drivers were super friendly and each cab ride was almost like a mini tour of the city - complete with history and fun facts.
We ate dinner here one night and though the cuisine (bar food) wasn't my favorite, and my meal (the mahi mahi) was dry - the beers were solid and the space was absolutely gorgeous. We were able to sit outside on their expansive deck and watch the sunset.
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