If ever there were a city that you could visit, where you’ll believe that the American dream is alive, well, and kicking, it’s Buffalo, New York. While the city has most definitely been through times of hardship, as a result of deindustrialization, Buffalo, New York has seen a great deal of regrowth in recent years. While I zigzagged my way through the city, I met business owners that had lived in Buffalo their entire lives. I met people that had left and felt a pull to return home to be a part of reenergising the city. I even met couples that were relocating to take advantage of some of the best house prices in America (current median price being $95,000). I left feeling an incredible pride for Buffalo, its people and its incredible food. More importantly, I left with an excitement to sit and write this today, to recommend this as a place to visit. It is a truly inspiring place. The people, the food, the incredible architecture and the endless entertainment should make this a place for your travel bucket list. But, I have to tell you, I went knowing absolutely nothing, and I feel like a guide is needed, for those looking to visit for the first time. With the help of the Buffalo Niagara Falls Tourist Board, I have put together the ultimate itinerary for anyone wanting to discover Buffalo, New York for the first time. Where to eat, where to stay, what to do…. it’s all answered here. After one week in Buffalo, I left wondering if they’d welcome a new resident, with a slightly wonky accent after living abroad for too long. However, my waistline might have other ideas. I gained five pounds in one week eating across this amazing culinary destination. And the buffalo wings are only the start. Here’s your guide to Buffalo, New York…
Where to Eat:
If you are looking for an experience like none other, and a real dialogue with the staff on a history of everything Buffalo, Beef and Schwabl’s, this is where you should be spending your first evening in the city. Order pretzel sticks and poutine to start. Don’t dream of ordering anything other than the Beef on Weck (the best freshly sliced roast beef sandwich you’ll ever let melt in your mouth) for the main, and ask to wet your whistle with the seasonal cocktail on order. Don’t worry… they’ll warn you about just how good and lethal they are! Enjoy every second. This is something pretty special.
For those of you that are true Buffalo wing enthusiasts, you’ll probably already know about Anchor Bar. It is a buffalo wing fanatic destination. Legend has it, this is where it all started, back in 1964, because of a bunch of hungry teenagers and a quick throw together in the kitchen for some last minute eats. The Buffalo wing was born and today this bar sits as a sort of museum to the American classic. You have to visit it to believe it. The walls are covered with more celebrity endorsements than you’ve ever seen in one place. Name someone in the public eye and chances are they’ve been to the Anchor Bar. The wings here are otherworldly. It’s an experience that must be had by all.
Resurgence is perfectly named for where it is and its founder’s story. This is an example of a Buffalo native leaving, feeling the call of home and coming back to be a part of the regeneration. Jeff Ware returned to Buffalo, from New York City, to open this craft brewery with a substantial indoor/outdoor beer garden. With two locations in Buffalo, you’d be hard pressed to find a native that doesn’t know about or frequent one of the addresses.
Ever wondered where the food in front of you has come from? Well at this restaurant, you can see a full list of the farms that provide for Marble + Rye, as well as each and every item that comes from the different farms from across the state. This restaurant may claim to keep things simple, but their dishes are anything but. The freshness is most definitely reflected in each and every course, with a real emphasis on taste over anything else. As you can see from the pictures, this restaurant could give a damn about the instagram. They aren’t worried at all about the lighting or the presentation, they just want to hear the gasps from the table as first bites are taken. And there were gasps a plenty. Delicious.
It took a mere moments for this to become my favourite place in Buffalo, New York. A restaurant where everything revolves around toast and the thousand and one ways that it could be served. What could be better? I can say, hand on heart, I’ve never had better breads in my life. And this place does deliver for the gram, if that’s all you’re after. It’s simply stunning on the inside. You’ll be seduced by the simple and rustic, yet elegant, decor. It will most definitely draw you in. What will keep you in, however, is your first bite into a plate of toast, with no two plates ever coming out the same (the owners are real antiques enthusiasts and buy specifically for the fun of serving in a completely different manner in the restaurant). As our theme of the week was Buffalo wings, I went for a rendition on toast and it was absolute magic. I won’t say more, I’ll just say order it.
I don’t really consider myself an expert on hot dogs. But I have a feeling that any true hot dog connoisseur would rank Ted’s pretty highly. If the line was anything to go by (thirty deep at 12:30 in the afternoon, but moving quickly), this place is one of the hottest places to go in the city. Dating back to 1927, Ted’s is not only famous for it’s charcoal broiled hotdogs, but also it’s old-fashioned milk shakes, cheeseburgers and fully loaded fries. This is comfort food on speed!
It seems in Buffalo, New York, you’re either an Anchor Bar Buffalo wings fan or a Duff’s devotee. Although, there are some that refuse to choose sides and frequent both restaurants the same. I can’t be asked to choose sides over just one lunch at each. But I can say there is a distinct difference in the way Duff’s wings are served. The sauce on each wing seems to have flavoured even the meat on the chicken bone, rather than just the surface of the skin. It’s a religious experience, eating these wings. It’s a no frills restaurant, as Duff’s knows good and well that their wings do all that you’ve come for. Even the bone buckets are tattered and torn, but somehow all of this lends itself to feeling like you are in for the real deal. Do not miss Duff’s.
One thing I can say is that I know pizza and if you like pizza, get ready to become a lover. Bocce Pizza is the best pizza I’ve ever eaten, ever. That isn’t an exaggeration and I am taking this very seriously. The crust was baked perfection, the perfect thickness, flavoured in a way that isn’t overwhelming, yet lends itself to an ideal crispy bite. Atop it sits just the right amount of sauce, that is fresh, piping hot and covered in a thick layer of melted cheese made especially for Bocce Club Pizza. Everything about this experience will have you make noises you didn’t think you were capable of making. Think Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally and don’t forget to order the funnel fries.
When I asked where Buffalo eats in the morning, one place keep coming up – Paula’s. Nearly everyone I talked to said they visited Paula’s at least once a week for coffee and doughnuts. So, in I went. I was impressed by the friendly faces behind the counter and the absolutely insane selection of flavours that were on offer and being constantly refreshed as each tray emptied. My advice? Go with a few friends for breakfast and order the ring doughnut that’s as big as your head (maybe two heads) and split it between you. Or opt for a red velvet ring for yourself. The choice is yours.
Anderson’s Frozen Custard will come in handy for a few things. If your mouth is on fire from too many hot wings, head here. If you’re in need of a sweet treat, head here. If you want to go and pop into a place that feels like you’ve stepped back in time fifty years, pull in here. Order a large frozen custard, dare to be great and cover in sprinkles, and watch all your worries disappear.
Where do I start with Parkside Candies? This is a hidden gem in Buffalo, New York. And if you blink, you’ll miss it as you drive by. It’s famous for its sponge candy (a local delicacy) and it’s old fashioned lollipops, which have been served in this exact location since 1927. Try and catch the center booth for some real magic. But you’re up against heavy competition. People come here from around the world, just to sit there and relive magic from former visits. It’s seen engagements, reunions and more. This is a magical little hideaway worth a look in.
Breakfast fans will want this on their radar when visiting Buffalo, New York. That old school diner vibe with some newer menu additions (the meat loaf sandwich is to die for), will please every member of the family sitting here for all meals on offer. Be prepared, however. This is hot spot and it fills up fast. Let me be the first to tell you it’s worth whatever wait you’re presented with.
What to Do:
At the turn of the century, one of Buffalo’s wealthiest residents, Darwin D. Martin, commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to build him a home like nothing Buffalo, New York had ever seen before. Regarded by many to be the finest example of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie Period, the Darwin Martin House is a beautifully restored monument to an American architectural treasure. While the house itself has seen great damage over the years, with only two of the five original buildings still standing when the restoration project began, it has been painstakingly brought back to life for future generations to enjoy. The tours through the house, with furniture in situ, make you feel as if you have stepped back in time over a hundred years, as a house guest of the famed Martin family.
To truly understand the history of Buffalo, New York, and to really appreciate what you will see during your time in the city, I highly recommend taking a Buffalo River Tour on your first day in town. This 90 minute tour will give you a crash course on Buffalo’s history. While travelling down the waterway you will discover the all important grain elevators that helped make Buffalo the largest grain port in the world. Get your cameras ready as these are not only an important part of American history but quite the sight to behold. And if you so wish, you can do it all with a cocktail in hand, from the top deck.
Walk up the stairs of this rather unassuming venue and you are greeted at the door by an explosion of music. On our second night out in Buffalo, we found ourselves here after dinner. We sat and watched as a jazz ensemble perfected their set. With drinks in hand, surrounded by locals, this seemed like the perfect way to close out the day. We were joined by the current President of the club, George Scott, who very kindly opened the museum downstairs for us, so that we could see the full picture and why this is such an important part of Buffalo’s history. Make this a priority if you have time to visit. It’s an incredible look not only at the history of the venue itself, but the history of American music. Some of the world’s greatest jazz musicians have graced this stage and many believe it is a place where future stars showcase their talent first, even today.
If you thought you knew water, and its power, everything you think you understand will be flatlined by one visit to Niagara Falls. Standing from afar, taking in the great view that is Niagara Falls is an experience in itself. It is truly mind blowing. But, boarding the Maid of the Mist, a boat that will take you into the explosion of water itself, is another entirely. You will get wet. Prepare for that and leave anything behind that may be damaged by the spray. Then, get ready for the soaking of a lifetime. Stand in the front and take it all in, from first drop to total drenching.
From exotic wall art to an endless list of restaurants and bars, downtown Buffalo is worth walking. Just grab your camera and go. Stop into local coffee shops for breaks and walk until your feet give up on you. There is so much here to be discovered and all you need is a good pair of walking shoes to do it.
In the late 1800s, this collection of buildings was the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane. With the changing of federal funding in later years, the institution was shut down and the buildings left to deteriorate. However, in 2006, the Richardson Center Corporation was founded and a mandate was issued to save the buildings, bringing life back to the area for this architectural landmark. There are epic plans laid for the future which include apartments, studios and more. This will completely change an area of Buffalo that has remained untouched for too long and it is a rather unique opportunity for many to not only step back in time, by taking a tour of the buildings, but also to understand the way in which we can preserve the past by repurposing these beautiful buildings from within. The best example thus far is the Hotel Henry, the first building on the Richardson Olmsted Campus to be completely transformed and repurposed. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves….
Where to Sleep while doing it all:
My first question when checking into Hotel Henry was, “how many ghosts are there?” The receptionist laughed. This definitely wasn’t her first time being asked and it wouldn’t be the last. I was checking into a building that had a previous life as an asylum for the insane, part of the Richardson Olmsted Campus I’ve written about above. How could I not ask that question? As I made my way to my room, through halls wide enough to fit numerous hospital beds, there was a sort of eeriness to the place. You can tell this was repurposed. But it was done so with a respect for what stood here before. The design was contemporary, but there was no mistaking the bones of the place. My room itself was tall and skinny. It made sense. The rooms are converted from actual patient rooms and in the olden days, it was believed that rooms that were very tall and full of light aided in treatments for the clinically insane. In 2019, those patient rooms have been knocked through and made into large luxury hotel suites. As I lay awake my first night, suffering from severe jet lag, I did wonder if I had any reason to be scared. That lasted all of ten seconds. There is a great deal of energy in this building, but it does not feel haunting or scary. It feels historic. It feels as if this space was in desperate need of attention and restoration and it found its new lease on life as a hotel. If I ever do come back to Buffalo, this will most definitely be my first choice of hotel. There is something special here and I highly encourage you to discover it for yourself.
Now, let’s say downtown Buffalo is more your thing. You don’t feel like staying in a building that used to be an insane asylum, for example. Hey, I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Let me recommend an alternative. Sitting on the famed harbor for Buffalo, New York, Marriott have redesigned a rather spectacular and contemporary space with some pretty incredible views. Within walking distance of downtown, and a short cab ride from Silo City, this hotel is perfectly situated for those looking to enjoy the more urban areas of the city.
So that’s it…. until next time, Buffalo, New York…and you can count on me coming back!