By Bob Glaze
Buffalo is a city on the shores of Lake Erie in upstate New York. It became a major industrial center in the early 20th century. It was the western terminus of the Erie Canal and became a center for grain milling plus auto and steel production. It fell on hard times starting in 1950, but after 2010 it started to come back and now has become a center for advanced manufacturing, healthcare and education. The population has increased and there are signs everywhere of the economic comeback.
With “overtourism” the new word describing many of the top European destinations, Buffalo is an easy city to visit and see its parks and fine neoclassical, beaux arts and art deco architecture. Its landmarks include the 398-ft art deco City Hall, the Frank Lloyd Wright–designed Darwin D. Martin House and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, a Greek Revival museum with works by Picasso and Warhol.
I was there last September and really enjoyed my visit. I got some great suggestions on what to see from Barry Sears in Chicago who helped plan a recent trip with The Chicago Architecture Center. I also want to thank my dear friend, Jamie Curry of Barrington, IL, who met me there and showed me the highlights of city where she grew up!
Where to Eat In Buffalo
From casual bars and gastro-pubs to fine dining restaurants, Buffalo has something for everyone. My top finds include:
Swannie House: Located just south of downtown at 170 Ohio St. near the Buffalo River, this is a casual Irish restaurant and bar, dating from 1886 with traditional pub food. I had to go and try the Beef on a Weck, one of the popular local dish dating back from 1882. This is a sliced roast beef sandwich on a kummelweck roll. This roll or bun is topped with with kosher salt and caraway seeds for a distinct taste. It often comes au jus for dipping and also with horseradish.
Charlie The Butcher: Thanks to rental agent at Alamo at the Buffalo Airport, I was directed to Charlie the Butcher for lunch. It near the airport at 1065 Wehrle Drive in Williamsville, NY. It is a diner type restaurant featuring sandwiches including Beef on a Weck, a Buffalo tradition, ham, turkey, corned beef meatloaf and roast pork plus sides and daily specials. I had a great Reuben sandwich and loved the atmosphere!
Billy Club: On my first night in town I enjoyed Billy Club with a friend at 228 Allen St. This is a small neighborhood bar and restaurant that features an extensive cocktail menu and farm-to-table cuisine. I thought the halibut entree was excellent as was the seared duck breast. I highly recommend it. Open for dinner and Sunday brunch, it is located in the Allentown Neighborhood.
Allentown is a central buffalo neighborhood featuring colorful wall-size murals, live music bars, galleries, restaurants and shops. Across the street from Billy Club is Old Pink, a casual bar and grill, at 223 Allen St. Nearby is Mulligan’s Brick Bar at 229 Allen St., a longtime fixture in the neighborhood. Gabriel’s gate was recently featured in the Wall Street Journal as a fun tavern with great Buffalo wings at 145 Allen St.
Buffalo Proper: Buffalo Proper is a gastropub featuring farm-to-table cuisine and cocktails. The old brick building is located in Buffalo’s booming downtown theater district at 333 Franklin St., a block east of Delaware Ave.
Just to the north is Row House Bakery and Restaurant at 483 Delaware Ave. Located in an historic building, this is a casual cafe, artisanal bakery and restaurant. The menu features locally sourced ingredients. They also have a sleek cocktail lounge. I enjoyed a casual lunch between touring the historic neighborhoods and great art museums to the north.
The Anchor Bar, since 1935, is the home of the original Buffalo wings. Their first wings were made in 1964. It is a must to visit when you are in town. The atmosphere is amazing and is decorated with a large collection of license plates, photos and other memorabilia. It won the 2003 James Beard Foundation Award for being one of America’s Classics. The wings are great as are the cocktails. They have several locations in Buffalo and in other states, but I would definitely make sure to visit the original location at 1047 Main St.
You can try the wings here and at 11 other bars and restaurants in town on the local Buffalo Wing Trail.
CRaVing: This is a casual, farm-to-table restaurant that is open for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. It is located in the heart of North Buffalo’s Hertel Shopping District. I found it to be a great location for lunch after touring Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House, nearby. 1472 Hertel Ave.
Remedy House Coffee: Coffee lovers will love this Parisian style neighborhood cafe located at 429 Rhode Island St in the growing West Side. It offers great coffee drinks and food items.
Tipico Coffee at 128 Fargo Ave. comes highly recommended for their coffee as well.
Five Points Bakery and Toast Cafe at 44 Brayton St. comes highly recommended for their breads, toast and pastries. Those with a sweet tooth should not miss some of the Buffalo’s classic candy stores and ice cream parlors:
Anderson’s Frozen Custard: This is a classic, local spot for great ice cream/frozen custard. With six locations, we went to the 2634 Delaware Ave. location. The original location is further north at 6075 Main St. in Williamsville. Check the website for their special flavors of the day.
Parkside Candy: This is a classic ice cream parlor and candy shop selling chocolates and ice cream at 3208 Main. Founded in 1918,it has an old world atmosphere! Don’t miss it.
Watson’s Chocolates has eight locations in Western New York.They carry a large selection. Make sure to try their sponge candy. It contains crispy chunks of caramelized spun sugar covered in dark or milk chocolate 738 Elmwood.
Where to Stay in Buffalo
Buffalo has some great hotel options when you are in town. I think staying north of downtown is best since you get easily get to the emerging neighborhoods with their bars and restaurants, to the art museums, to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House and to the beautiful mansions and parks.
I was very pleased to have found the Mansion on Delaware through a New York Times article. It is located at 414 Delaware, Ave. I enjoyed my two night stay in a beautifully designed room. The staff was very helpful. They will make dinner reservations for you or drive you to restaurants within a certain radius. Valet parking is also included along with a daily breakfast buffet. They also offer free drinks from 5pm to 7pm in the living room area. They tend to have events and weddings on weekends, so make sure to book early.
The Curtiss Hotel is located north of downtown at 210 Franklin St. just south of the Mansion on Delaware. It is a luxury boutique property with a restaurant and rooftop bar.
The Hotel Henry Urban Resort Conference Center: This is a new property with 88 guest rooms that has been featured in the New York Times, Architectural Digest and The Huffington Post for its great design. It is located in a large property that was a former mental hospital which opened in 1880. It is listed as a National Historic Landmark. Only one third of the property has been renovated to date. The building was designed by H.H. Richardson and is highlighted by two Romanesque Revival-style towers. It sat vacant for many years until its recent transformation.
Their 100 Acres is a contemporary, ingredient-focused restaurant, bakery, coffeehouse, bar room, and gathering space located on the first floor. I stopped in for a cup of tea with a friend who grew up in Buffalo. There is also a bar/lounge on the second floor. It is convenient to Buffalo’s Elmwood Village with boutiques, restaurants, bars and coffee shops and two of the city’s top art museums. There are a number of Queen Anne and Victorian style homes in the area as well. Because of its history as a former mental hospital, some people may not enjoy staying there, but it is a lovely property. Rockwell Road & Cleveland Circle.
If you need to be downtown, the Hotel at the Lafayette, a Wyndham Trademark Collection property at 391 Washington looks very good. The building from 1904 has been totally renovated. The Lafayette Brewing Company and the Public Espresso coffee shop are onsite.
What to Do in Buffalo
From historic architecture and parks to art museums and historic districts, Buffalo has so much
to see and do. My recommendations from my recent trip include:
Cobblestone District: Located on Illinois Street, Buffalo’s Cobblestone District is an historic manufacturing area along the Buffalo River that is now on the National Register of Historic Places. It is undergoing a major redevelopment. Here you will find the popular Helium Comedy Club at 30 Mississippi St. Buffalo Iron Works, at 49 Illinois St. is a live music lounge in an early 1900s factory space serving burgers, wings and other bar food. Lockhouse Distillery was the first distillery in the city to open after Prohibition. It produced a vodka, gin, a coffee liqueur, amaro and bitters. They also have Lait Cru at Lockhouse Kitchen which offers starters, flatbreads, soups, salads, sandwiches and desserts. I was disappointed that it was closed on Monday when I was touring the area. The area is also becoming a hub for service businesses from advertising agencies to law firms.
Not far from the Cobblestone District is Big Ditch Brewery. This is a local microbrewery with a large, industrial-chic tap room. Here you can sample their brews or enjoy a small plate or entree made with one of the beers. I tried and really enjoyed the Blond Peach, a light, dry Belgian-style blonde ale, fermented warm over local, fresh, New York peaches. 55 E Huron St.
Other recommended micro-breweries to try include Resurgence Brewery located at 1250 Niagara St. and Community Beer Works at 520 7th St with its new Bar and Taproom. Over the past few years, over 20 breweries and distilleries have opened in the area. This influx has really helped to revitalize the city.
Buffalo RiverWorks: Located in a former grain-milling facility along the Buffalo River, Buffalo RiverWorks is a massive waterfront complex that features skating, hockey, curling, live concerts along with dining at the Ward Restaurant, bars and concessions. They offer a series of climbing walls, a zipline course, a ropes course as well as water sports like kayaking and paddle boarding. You can grab a beer at the RiverWorks Brewing Co., located in a former grain silo. 359 Granson St.
Canalside: Buffalo’s Canalside is the re-developed area located downtown along the Buffalo River. Here you can participate in watersports, enjoy a meal, attend a festival throughout the year or catch a concert.
Delaware Avenue Historic District: Make sure to take time to visit this Historic District when you are in town. During the 1880s and 1890s, Delaware Avenue was one of the premier addresses the country. There were many mansions set amidst tree-shaded lawns and elegant gardens. For the first three decades of the 20th Century, Delaware Avenue and the section beyond North Street was the most desirable address in the city. Many of the old mansions of the 1860s and 1870s were torn down to make room for more palatial properties. Today many are owned by institutions or have been converted to multi-unit buildings. Some have unfortunately been demolished. There are guided tours through Explore Buffalo.
Frederick Law Olmsted Parks: Frederick Law Olmsted was the man behind New York’s Central Park. Starting in 1868, he designed six parks in Buffalo and connected them in America’s first system of tree-lined parkways. His parks include Cazenovia Park in South Buffalo, Delaware Park in Delaware/Parkside District, Front Park at the Peace Bridge, Martin Luther King, Jr. Park at Fillmore Avenue, Riverside Park at Niagara and Tonawanda Street, and South Park at McKinley Parkway. There are also seven parkways and eight landscaped traffic circles.
Albright-Knox Art Gallery: Well-worth the visit is the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. The Beaux-Arts style building on Hoyt Lake in Frederick Law Olmsted’s Delaware Park, has an impressive collection of fine art. You will find works by Pollock, Cezanne, Monet, Matisse, Sargent, Renoir and Picasso. It is major showplace for modern and contemporary art. In addition to a permanent collection and temporary exhibitions, there are lectures, tours, music performances and art classes. A new expansion project costing $120 million will add 29,000 sq. ft. of space. 1285 Elmwood Ave.
Burchfield Penney Art Center: Across from the Albright-Knox is the Burchfield Penney Art Center, part of Buffalo State College. The permanent collection spans the late 19th century through today, and includes the world’s largest collection of works by watercolorist Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967), as well as the artist’s journals, which provide unique insight into his style and process. The permanent collection also includes work from more than 800 other artists who, like Burchfield, are connected to the Western New York landscape. They also feature temporary exhibitions. 1300 Elmwood Ave.
Darwin D. Martin House: This is the home in northern Buffalo, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright as his first commission outside of Chicago.. It was built for the local businessman Darwin Martin. It was completed between 1903 and 1909 and consisted of five buildings. In the 1960s three of the buildings were demolished and the other two remodeled. A major restoration started in the late 1990s and is now completed including the rebuilding of the three buildings and bringing the other two back to the original design when the family lived there. The project took 20 years and cost over $50 million. It also has a contemporary welcome center designed by Toshiko Mori. It is a beautiful property where you can see great examples of Wright’s Prairie Style design in the architectural details, stained glass and furnishings. According to a Travel + Leisure magazine article, Wright declared the Martin house “a domestic symphony” and that it was “the most perfect thing of its kind in the world.” He affectionately called it his “opus.”
They offer a number of public tours. I suggest booking online before you go to get the time slot that you want. 125 Jewett Parkway.
Graycliff: The Martin family’s lake house on Lake Erie is a 20 minute drive south of downtown Buffalo. It was also designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and built between 1926 and 1931. It is undergoing a complete renovation. A portion still needs to be done including interiors of both houses, select landscape projects and restoring access to the beach tower. Public tours are available. 6472 Old Lake Shore Rd, Derby, NY
Fontana Boathouse on the Buffalo River: In 2000, a long-forgotten Frank Lloyd Wright design of a boathouse was unearthed and brought to life a few years later. He designed it in 1905 and it was built in 2007.
One Rotary Row. Two other Wright designs were later brought to life in Buffalo including a filling station in 2014 at the Pierce Arrow Museum downtown at 263 Michigan Ave. A mausoleum, The Blue Sky Mausoleum, was built in 2004 at Forest Lawn Cemetery. It was to be the burial site for the Martin Family, but was never built at the time of Darwin Martin’s death
Architecture buffs will also love some of the classic downtown buildings including the Guaranty Building, now the Prudential Building at 140 Pearl St. It was an early skyscraper completed in 1896 and designed by famed Chicago architects Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler. Friends also loved and recommended the Buffalo City Hall at 65 Niagara Square. It is a 32-story Art Deco building completed in 1931 by Dietel, Wade & Jones. It has an observation deck, open during the week from 8am to 4pm that has great views of the city.
Larkin Square: Larkin Square was the former corporate home of the Larkin Soap Company. The headquarters building designed by famed architect, Frank Lloyd Wright in 1903 as a result of his longtime friendship with Darwin Martin, who was secretary of the corporation. It was unfortunately torn down in 1950. The other former buildings have now been turned to new offices with modern workspaces along with a large parklike plaza with stages for music, food trucks and outdoor restaurants. Food Truck Tuesdays is a popular event throughout warmer months. There is an authors and speakers series, a summer concert series and pickleball games played on two courts.
Today it is a fun spot to go and hangout. There is the Swan Street Diner. It is open for breakfast and lunch in a 1937 Sterling Co. diner, that was restored and moved to 700 Swan St. in 2017. Owned by the same group is the Larkin Square Filling Station. It is open for lunch daily at 745 Seneca St.
The Hydraulic Hearth Restaurant and Brewery is a happy hour and dinner destination. Their menu is focused on brick oven pizzas and shareable starters along with beers brewed in house by Community Beer Works. They have a great outdoor terrace in the summer months. 716 Swan St.
Nearby Flying Bison Brewing Company was the first brewery to open in the area. It bottles and kegs its own beer and brews some traditional styles like Maibock and porter. They also offer live music and other events. 840 Seneca St.
There are a number of tours available of the historic sites and architecture, the waterfront and neighborhoods as well as food tours through Explorebuffalo.com.
I hope you enjoy your trip. Let me know if you have any other recommendations after your visit.
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