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Restaurant Renaissance

Buffalo’s always been a food city, but the glut of new restaurant openings in the last few months seems unprecedented. What gives?

Dan Garvey, director of Food and Beverage at East Aurora’s Roycroft Inn and this year’s Restaurant Association chairman, gave us his thoughts about Western New York’s restaurant renaissance:

Do you remember a time when so many restaurants opened at once?
There was a downtown resurgence in the mid-1980s. I opened Garvey’s Restaurant with my family, but it was not as profound as today. Many restaurants were ahead of their time, but couldn’t survive that economic period. The biggest civic investment was Pilot Field (Coca-Cola Field) on the footsteps of the rapid transit rail system that I believe added to the demise of downtown Buffalo.

What are your theories about why this is happening?
The economic impact is certainly more profound and real than ever before. Previous investments were small in comparison. We now have the HarborCenter, Canalside and Naval Park, medical campus, city center apartments, top of the line historic building restoration, the new Federal courthouse, Delaware North corporate headquarters and more bona fide major investment projects. I also know there has been an expanded effort to stop the “brain drain.”

Anything else impacting the growth in new restaurants?
[There are] many new hospitality educational facilities that are open and expanding. Our area has become a mecca for the hospitality industry. New programs have begun at NCCC, ECC, Buffalo State College, Trocaire College and Niagara University, as well as several technical schools that use the NYS Restaurant Association’s ProStart program.

Do you have a new favorite restaurant?

I don’t think I can pick a favorite. I think the one “constant” of successful Buffalo restaurants is the people. We are “The City of Good Neighbors” for a reason. The food might be good, the drinks are fine, the atmosphere is comfortable, but it’s the people that make you want to return. This is a fact we can publicize over any other city in America: it’s our genuine hospitality.

Here are some of the hottest new places to open in the past year. Chances are there will be a handful more between writing and press time; so keep your eyes open and your stomachs empty.

Ballyhoo Links & Drinks
211 South Park Ave., Buffalo

Owner and expat Timothy Stevens returned from California to set up shop in the former (and iconic) Malamute. This old-school-tavern-meets-hipster-hangout keeps the focus on unique links of house-made sausage and craft cocktails made from teas and British jams rather than syrups and juices. Stop in for one of his famous “Jam Sessions.”

Defining Dish: Short Round
Korean short rib, fresh ginger, scallion and garlic beef sausage topped with pickled vegetable and kimchi salad, sambal aioli.

Defining Drink: Jam Session
Jam Session was made with London dry gin and raspberry jam.

Black Iron Bystro
3648 South Park Ave., Blasdell

Chef/owner Bryan Mecozzi describes his menu as “concise” with items like Beets & Chive Panini and Cider Glazed Pork Shanks, yet he notes the specials are what Black Iron Bystro is really about. Regulars don’t even use the menu; they’re more interested in what Mecozzi is cooking for the week.

Defining Dish: Rabbit Pot
Rabbit confit, parsnip, peas and heirloom carrots topped with butternut squash, potato griddle cake and puff pastry.

Defining Drink: The Antidote
Old Overholt whiskey, blackberry, lime simple syrup, egg white and rosemary.

British Chippy
1216 South Park Ave., Buffalo

“Thank cod it’s fry day!” Move over fish fry, there’s a new catch in town. First they gave us English pork pies, now Brits Damian and Vicky Parker give us something new.

Defining Dish: Battered Cod & Chips
Imported wild-caught Icelandic cod join locally grown potatoes for an authentic taste.

Bourbon & Butter
391 Washington St., Buffalo

In a swanky space within the Hotel @ The Lafayette, chef Mike Andrzejewski along with Chris Daigler and Bruce Wieszala invite diners to explore the endless realms of taste that spring from their vast cooking imaginations. Behind the bar, legendary drink slinger Tony Rials whips up libations for a new generation of cocktail enthusiasts.

Defining Dish: Beef & Marrow
Sliced steak, breaded and fried crispy marrow, celery, parsley, capers and classic gremolata served in a bone.

Defining Drink: Salsa Something
Herbed tequila (infused in-house), Blanco Mezcal, tomato honey (made in-house), avocado cordial, jalapeno, lime.

Dog é Style Bar & Grill
128 Genesee St., Buffalo

Craft beer and high-end hot dogs. Woof! A Fat Duck Dog features foie gras, mushrooms and truffle aioli while the Nola Dog takes a cue from New Orleans’ famous muffuletta with ham, provolone, olive salad and fried oysters. You could go regular ketchup and mustard, but why?

Defining Dish: Bánh Mì
Saigon-style hot dog with pickled vegetables, jalapeños, mayo, chiles and cilantro.

Griffon Pub
2470 Military Rd., Niagara Falls, NY

With more than 50 craft beers on tap and gastro pub food, Griffon Pub raises the bar in Niagara Falls – enough to garner a mention in The New York Times’ list of “52 Places to Go in 2014.” The menu offers creative twists like Buffalo Chicken Deviled Eggs and Bacon Jam Bruschetta.

Defining Dish: Chicken & Waffle Sandwich
Fresh made, sliced Belgian chive waffle filled with jalapeño coleslaw, Southern spiced, buttermilk-battered fried chicken breast, Wisconsin cheddar, applewood smoked bacon, spicy maple mayo.

149 Swan St., Buffalo

This cycling-themed pub is a sanctuary for bicycling enthusiasts, but everyone else will feel just as welcome. Good food, good drinks and good conversation are the mainstays of Handlebar.

Defining Dish: Curried Chicken Rice Bowl
Basmati rice, curried chicken, plumped raisins, red pepper, homemade corn salsa and garnished with basil.

Also here (or on the horizon)

  • Allen Burger Venture (A.B.V.) in Allentown will serve burgers, beer, whiskey and the city’s first tap wines.
  • Black Swan Lounge on Elmwood (formerly Cozumel) will feature craft cocktails and upscale dining.
  • Buffalo Supper Club on Niagara Street (Black Rock) features food and drinks that work for us working folks.
  • Just Fries on Genesee Street downtown will serve “guilt-free fries” with a variety of toppings.
  • Marble & Rye on Genesee Street will be the brick and mortar home to guys at Black Market Food Truck.
  • Mess Hall in Lackawanna, a breakfast and lunch place, will serve an eclectic menu in the space formerly occupied by the old Victoria Square restaurant.
  • Parkside Meadow Bar Restaurant, the old icon across from the Buffalo Zoo, will feature unique grilled sandwiches, pastas and classic Buffalo foods.
  • Public Espresso is a new coffee joint on revitalized Grant Street.
  • Raclette on Main Street downtown promises to be French-inspired.
  • Roux in the top of the Buffalo News building features New Orleans-inspired Po’ Boys plus delicious homemade soups and sandwiches.
  • Squire on Main (formerly Brodo in Snyder) will serve upscale food in a casual atmosphere.
  • Moor Pat Bar & Grill in Williamsville will serve craft beer and brats, among other things.

Notable for foodies

BreadHive Cooperative Bakery on the West Side has a window where you can buy their groovy baked goods. Find them at the Bidwell Market in summer, Horsefeathers Market in winter. Also at Lexington Co-op, Guercio & Sons and Farmers & Artisans.

Old faves with new spaces

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