Stunning lakefront views and an inventive seafood menu. Life-size Jenga and a sponge candy stout. A three-course, family-style meal on a moonlit rooftop. A rich Cabernet and a beloved film under the stars. Take your pick — or choose all four. These experiences — and many more — await when you dine out this summer in Western New York.
Dinner and a movie
Bacchus Wine Bar & Restaurant has one of the finest wine lists in the city, but in the summertime its best feature may be its beautiful courtyard that feels far removed from the bustling Chippewa strip. Select from a robust menu of small plates (gnocchi “mac and cheese,” foie gras and cherry waffle, roasted beet salad) and full entrees featuring locally grown ingredients, and catch a film on the patio from a line-up of classics and recent favorites.
Food truck rodeos
You’ll find food trucks roaming the streets all year long, but in summer they kick it up a notch with food truck rodeos and festivals that allow adventurous eaters to try several cuisines in one meal. Food Truck Tuesdays at Larkinville is the biggest, featuring live music and more than 30 trucks from Buffalo and Rochester. On the first Wednesday of each month, the Buffalo History Museum welcomes about a dozen trucks, offering visitors a quieter — but no less delicious — experience.
Under the stars
While there are only a few rooftop-dining options in town, there’s no better way to relish our fleeting summer weather. Tappo downtown offers Italian fare and an extensive wine list on its large rooftop patio; downstairs, garage-style doors across the front of the restaurant guarantee there’s not a bad table in the house. A few blocks away, Soho Burger Bar features a menu of signature burgers, salads and sides on the first floor and patio, and a smaller menu of starters and tacos on the rooftop. In the university district, try a burger, sandwich or wood-fired pizza at The Steer. In Orchard Park, Mangia Ristorante and Caffe, a modern Italian eatery, is a favorite for its rooftop lounge with a full bar and fire pits.
Whether you’re out for lunch in the sun or a drink in the moonlight, don’t miss an opportunity to enjoy Buffalo’s best patios. Cecelia's Ristorante’s spacious patio on Elmwood Avenue is a perennial favorite with one of the longest martini lists in town. With bright lights and brighter colors, the patios at Deep South Taco’s two locations — on Ellicott Street downtown and Hertel Avenue in North Buffalo — are great for authentic Mexican fare. Make Black Sheep, by chefs Steve and Ellen Gedra, a go-to for an outdoor brunch, and don’t miss the raw bar and other seafood entrees at Remington Tavern in North Tonawanda. And, to end the evening, sip a craft cocktail on the second-floor patio at Buffalo Proper — the theater district views won’t disappoint.
After reveling at Canalside or docking at the Outer Harbor, you’ll need a bite to eat. Liberty Hound, with a patio overlooking Canalside and the naval ships, has 12 beers on tap and a great menu of burgers, shared plates and seafood. Grab something to go from The Dish on the Canalside Boardwalk or The Healthy Scratch inside HarborCenter, and walk along the waterfront, or sit down at William K’s near the Erie Basin Marina for a sophisticated menu and stunning sunset views. At the Outer Harbor, Charlie’s Boat Yard offers a seafood-focused assortment of crab cakes, mussels, scallops, surf and turf in a casual/comfortable setting.
On the lake
Outside the city, treat yourself to a fabulous meal and some incredible views at one of several lakeside restaurants. Stop by Cabana Sam’s Beach Bar & Grill, which sits on Sunset Bay Beach, for a frozen cocktail and its generous menu of starters, sandwiches and seafood favorites. In Hamburg, the Public House on the Lake is known for its craft beer selection (more than 20 on tap and dozens more in bottles) and pub fare. Meanwhile, Lucia’s on the Lake, a seafood-focused Italian restaurant in Hamburg, opened a new rooftop patio last summer that capitalizes on its spectacular sunsets. (In the works: Mexican restaurant Dos Amigos at the former Dock at the Bay, by the same owners/chef at Lucia’s.)
Even before Mayor Jimmy Griffin told residents to “stay inside, grab a six-pack and watch a good football game” during a 1985 blizzard, Buffalo was destined for craft beer greatness. With one of the best patios in the city, Resurgence Brewing Co. is worth a trip for the sponge candy stout or blood orange saison. (And, of course, a game of life-size Jenga.) At Thin Man Brewery, owned by prolific restaurateur Mike Shatzel, head upstairs to the massive second-floor patio and order the housemade sausage and a drink from its 24-tap bar, featuring more than 15 Thin Man originals. Hamburg Brewing Co., which offers tours every weekend, frequently hosts live music on its beautiful patio overlooking the pond. Further south, savor a blueberry wheat ale and avocado bacon pepper bleu burger outside at Ellicottville Brewing Co., or join the party with reggae beats and barbecue eats at Southern Tier Brewing Co.’s annual Summerfest in July.