Buffalo is movin' on up these days: downtown has luxury hotels and condos aplenty, the Elmwood Village has high-end specialty shops, even the West Side sports a vibrant multiethnic pastiche with exotic food markets, restaurants, and artists. But let the other parts of town compete to see who's trendiest. South Buffalo doesn't need to be "cool" or to put on airs. What it offers visitors is not the future but the past; a throwback to a hardworking, blue-collar, rough-around-the-edges Buffalo that's steadily disappearing.
Combine the formidable barrier that is the Buffalo River with the notorious clannishness of its residents and it's easy to see why South Buffalo seems like a city all to its own, immunized both from Buffalo's post-WWII downward spiral and its 21st-century gentrification. You won't find much here that's pretentious, just quiet streets lined with old houses and shade trees, greasy spoons turning out some of the cheapest but tastiest food in the area, old-school watering holes, and friendly, downhome neighborhood people who'll give you a warm welcome the whole time.
Sound boring? Far from it. South Buffalo lays a hard-to-challenge claim on the title of best-kept secret in the city, with plenty to interest visitors. You can try your luck at the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino, peruse the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens, learn about the area's industrial history at the Heritage Discovery Center or Waterfront Memories & More, or take a boat tour through Elevator Alley, the cavernous stretch of the Buffalo River lined with the grain elevators that earned Buffalo over 100 years of prosperity. And if you're the outdoor type, South Buffalo is the place for you: it's got a pair of Olmsted parks that are among the best-preserved in the city, nature preserves built on old industrial brownfields, golf courses, and — best of all — nearly four miles (6 km) of Lake Erie shore lined with beaches, marinas, and still more parkland.
Fans of the Emerald Isle are in luck too: South Buffalo is the city's Irish enclave, with pubs lining the streets, traditional music and other cultural pursuits at the Buffalo Irish Center, and an official Irish Heritage District along Abbott Road with a handful of specialty boutiques selling imported wares. And if you're in town at the right time, South Buffalo's neighborhood St. Patrick's Day Parade is an unmissable spectacle, with the streets of the Old First Ward and The Valley turned green each year on the Saturday before March 17.
Broadly speaking, South Buffalo is bisected by the Buffalo River, which itself is the site of Elevator Alley, the world's largest extant collection of grain elevators that extend some two meandering miles (3km) inland from the harbor and were the nucleus of Buffalo's most important industry for nearly a century and a half. The neighborhoods north of the river are older than the ones to the south — in fact, the 1 Old First Ward, which extends from downtown east as far as the old New York Central Railroad tracks just past Katherine Street, is the cradle of South Buffalo, out of which all the outer neighborhoods grew. Though it remains Irish in constitution, the Old First Ward today bears little resemblance to the crowded, crime-ridden and desperately poor slum that it was in the 1800s: today it's mostly a quiet working-class residential area in the shadow of the grain elevators. However, its innermost blocks, known as the 2 Cobblestone District, have been given a new lease on life lately as a cluster of trendy bars and restaurants and even a casino. East of the Old First Ward, sandwiched between the New York Central and Buffalo Creek Railroad tracks (hence its name), is 3 The Valley, a largely Polish neighborhood that's almost as old.
Outward from these areas lie 4 Larkinville and 5 Seneca-Babcock, a pair of neighborhoods on South Buffalo's northern boundary that are often considered to be part of the East Side. They're included here because of their history as industrial centers, their adjacency to Seneca Street (an important South Buffalo thoroughfare), and, in the case of Seneca-Babcock, its majority-Irish ethnic demographics. Seneca-Babcock is a somewhat nondescript neighborhood of working-class homes whose interest to visitors is largely due to the Niagara Frontier Food Terminal at its northern edge; for its part, Larkinville has emerged as a sort of satellite business district, with corporate offices, small businesses, bars, and restaurants occupying the former warehouses of the Larkin Soap Company, and its central focal point, Larkin Square, hosting frequent events.
South of the river, things are a little more spread-out. Lying just at the foot of the main bridge across the river, the first neighborhood you'll come to is 6 The Triangle, a charming middle-class area of turn-of-the-century flats whose main thoroughfare is South Park Avenue. Northeast of there is Seneca Street, an imposing commercial district that dubs itself "downtown South Buffalo" even though it long ago lost the title of the neighborhood's main shopping street. Outward from there, neighborhood boundaries get murkier. Toward the city's southern borders, the thoroughfares of South Park Avenue and Abbott Road take on an almost suburban character, with strip malls and ample parking lots abundant; interspersed between them is a network of pleasant, leafy side streets lined with charming middle-class houses from the 1920s. Finally, in the southwest, separated from the rest of south-of-the-river South Buffalo by a wide swath of railroad tracks, is found the 7 Outer Harbor, a vast expanse of lakeshore that boasts the pleasant greenery of Buffalo Harbor State Park, Tifft and Times Beach Nature Preserves, Wilkeson Pointe, and other parkland.
South Buffalo's history begins with the completion of the Erie Canal in 1825, at that time the most ambitious engineering project ever undertaken in the United States: a 363-mile (584 km) inland waterway from Albany to the sleepy frontier village of Buffalo. Though the bulk of what is now South Buffalo was then part of the Buffalo Creek Reservation, which had been set aside for the Seneca Indians at the time of the Holland Purchase in 1793, the lots immediately east of the harbor (today's Cobblestone District and Old First Ward) were not — and when the unskilled, destitute immigrant laborers from Ireland they hired to dig the canal were finished, they settled there.
The first years of the Erie Canal were a time of explosive growth for Buffalo, and the First Ward was no exception. This was among the city's lowest-lying land, and Buffalo's founding fathers had not even bothered to divide it into lots, assuming that no one would want to live on this swampy riverbank. But the digging of the canal was such a huge undertaking that there were hundreds if not thousands of Irishmen who needed housing, and the First Ward, dirt-cheap and close to the canal, was a natural place for them to make their homes. The poorest of the poor lived in the blocks south of the main drag of Elk Street (now South Park Avenue) in what was called "The Flats", which, in springtime and after heavy rains, would almost always be inundated by floodwaters from the Buffalo River. In the 1840s, during the Irish Potato Famine, another wave of immigrants crossed the Atlantic — and the First Ward became even more crowded.
In those days, when freighters filled with grain and flour arrived at port in Buffalo, the cargo had to be unloaded, divided, and sent east in canal boats by hand — a slow, inefficient process that required more workers than the First Ward had to offer. Buffalo's growth was stunted by the bottleneck of too many ships, too much grain, and too few workers. Enter Joseph Dart, a local merchant who, in 1842, invented a machine that unloaded grain by steam power, stored it in a huge silo, and loaded it later onto canal barges: the first grain elevator. In the space of less than ten years, the Buffalo River was lined with grain elevators, and the reinvigorated harbor had become so congested that many freighters could not find any place to berth. The city responded by constructing a network of feeder canals and basins, such as the City Ship Canal, the Main and Hamburg Canal, and the Ohio Basin, that crisscrossed the First Ward — and whose polluted, stagnant waters helped spread cholera and other communicable plagues among the residents. The First Ward earned the reputation as one of the nastiest slums in the country, plagued by crime and disease, where the desperately poor lived in shanties and tenements sandwiched among the shipyards and factories, working as canal boaters, grain scoopers, longshoremen, and miscellaneous unskilled laborers and shunned by their Anglo-Saxon Protestant social betters.
Meanwhile, north of the First Ward was the Hydraulic Canal, which flowed westward from the Buffalo River over a large cascade to the Main and Hamburg Canal, in an area that came to be called The Hydraulics. Reuben Heacock, a wealthy merchant who was one of Buffalo's founding fathers, built the canal in 1828 to furnish water power for the Hydraulic Business Association, a league of manufacturing concerns he founded. Though the canal eventually proved too small to bring to full fruition Heacock's vision of The Hydraulics as one of the foremost industrial centers in the United States, it was still a buzzing milling district — and together with the harbor, it cemented South Buffalo's enduring status as the city's industrial epicenter.
Even before the federal government dissolved the Buffalo Creek Reservation, the overcrowding of the Irish neighborhoods forced some residents to seek out new spaces to live near the harbor — in fact, living conditions in the shantytowns along the lake shore near present-day Times Beach and on Ganson Street between the grain elevators were somewhat better than in the First Ward proper. However, when the Compromise Treaty of 1842 sent the Seneca south to the Cattaraugus Reservation, huge new tracts of land opened to development. One of the first new neighborhoods was The Valley, just east of the First Ward on the other side of the railroad tracks. South Buffalo's lot began to improve soon after, with Bishop John Timon working tirelessly to establish Catholic schools, hospitals and charities for the Irish, who were often victims of the anti-Catholic discrimination that ran rampant in city-owned institutions. The leaders of the Irish community also proved to be expert political organizers, playing on popular suspicions of tacit anti-Catholicism in the Republican Party to turn the First Ward loyally Democratic, with droves of voters turning out each Election Day. Soon, Irishmen began to enter political office, appointing their neighbors to lucrative patronage jobs and creating a middle class among their community — they came to be known as "lace-curtain Irish", as opposed to the "shantytown Irish" of the grain mills. (It should be emphasized that political activity in the First Ward was not limited to the ballot box: the most successful of the five Fenian Raids, where battle-hardened Irish-American Civil War veterans sought to invade the British colony of Canada and hold it for ransom until Ireland was granted its independence, was launched from Buffalo in 1866; Buffalo's Fenians successfully ambushed a Canadian militia company at the Battle of Ridgeway and briefly took Fort Erie before British reinforcements drove them back across the border.)
The new Irish political class soon turned their efforts to finding a better place to live than the crowded, crime-ridden First Ward, and starting about 1875, the Germans who farmed the lands of the former Seneca reservation south of the river gradually gave way to nouveau riche Irish city dwellers. Real-estate speculators such as William Fitzpatrick (the so-called "Builder of South Buffalo") were happy to oblige them, laying out side streets off Seneca Street, Abbott Road, and other former farm lanes and filling them with houses as fast as he could build them. Frederick Law Olmsted got into the act, too — he was called back to Buffalo to design a southern extension of the park system that had grown so popular in the city's northern precincts, and when South Buffalo's parks and parkways were finally completed in 1894, they helped stimulate even more growth in the new neighborhoods.
In the midst of all this expansion, there were fundamental changes afoot at the harbor. Throughout the 19th Century, the state government continuously enlarged and deepened the Erie Canal and transformed it into a full-fledged transportation network, with feeder canals such as the Genesee Valley Canal, the Cayuga-Seneca Canal, and the Chenango Canal extending into all parts of the state. Nonetheless, the canals found it harder and harder to compete with the railroads, which could transport passengers and goods much more quickly: in the years after the New York Central Railroad reached Buffalo in 1841, passenger traffic on the canal dropped to a small fraction of its former numbers, and freight traffic declined steeply as well. As public outcry forced the city to fill in many of South Buffalo's small canals as public health hazards, the First Ward and Elevator Alley became crisscrossed by railroads instead: the lines extended right up to the elevators themselves, enabling grain to be unloaded directly onto boxcars. The railroads also engendered a local steel industry which would go on to become a major player in Buffalo's economy: iron ore arrived daily by freighter from Michigan and Minnesota and coal was shipped by railroad from Pennsylvania to be processed into steel at what was then the world's largest steel mill, set up by the Lackawanna Steel Company in 1899 on the lake shore just south of the city line. The railroad network extended into The Hydraulics as well, enabling it to continue on as an industrial center after the Hydraulic Canal, too, was decommissioned in 1883. The Hydraulics soon came to be dominated by the Larkin Company, which was founded in 1875 as a producer of soap sourced from the nearby stockyards and helmed by a group including namesake John Larkin and top executive Darwin Martin. By the turn of the century, Larkin expanded into a conglomerate that occupied about a half-dozen huge warehouse buildings clustered around the corner of Seneca and Swan Streets, where a wide gamut of products sold by mail order were manufactured.
The early 20th Century was South Buffalo's heyday, with the Irish coming to dominate the police and fire departments just as they did local politics. As its middle class continued to grow and leave the First Ward for the more spacious neighborhoods south of the river, the demographics of the older neighborhoods began to change. Italians from the Ellicott District, who were seen by the Irish as competition for unskilled positions at the port and on the railroads, began to trickle south of the railroad tracks and formed a sizable minority in the First Ward by the 1920s; at about the same time, The Valley became a majority-Polish neighborhood centered around St. Valentine Church on Elk Street. Thanks to its residents' relatively stable civil service jobs and the charitable tradition of the Catholic church, South Buffalo rode out the Great Depression better than most parts of the city, but further changes came to the First Ward in 1940 when about 300 houses on Perry Street (derided by city officials as "slums") were razed to make way for the Commodore Perry Projects, a government-subsidized housing development for low-income individuals. For the first time, there was a sizable African-American presence in the First Ward, igniting ethnic tensions that simmer to this day.
The legacy of Buffalo's first Irish Catholic mayor casts a long shadow in South Buffalo. Devoutly Catholic, rough around the edges, and loyal to his neighborhood above all else, James D. Griffin (1929-2008) was the living embodiment of every First Ward stereotype. And his plainspoken wit was as quick as his temper: he earned the nickname "Six-Pack Jimmy" when he advised locals on how to handle the Blizzard of '85: "stay inside, grab a six-pack, and watch a good football game."
Jimmy Griffin was in City Hall from 1977 to 1993, making him the longest-serving mayor in the city's history — and, in the words of the Buffalo News, "the most dominant political figure of modern Buffalo". Though he was a Democrat, Griffin was an old-schooler with little use for the liberal wing of his party, wearing his independence and iconoclast status on his sleeve. This made for a stormy tenure as mayor; he had a chilly relationship with the black community and the press and earned his share of political enemies. In true First Ward style, Griffin occasionally settled political disputes with his fists, with Councilman David Franczyk and former adviser Joseph Martin among those on the receiving end. But he kept the loyalty of the majority of city voters, especially South Buffalonians: scores of Griffin's friends and neighbors got cushy jobs on the city payroll, and the First Ward's streets were the first to be plowed after every snowstorm. Also, even when Buffalo's economy was at rock bottom, he was one of the few people who could talk developers into investing in downtown: Griffin cut the ribbon on the Metro Rail in 1985 and was also responsible for the Adam's Mark Hotel, Sahlen Field (which almost earned Buffalo a Major League Baseball team in 1988), and in the closing days of his administration, the KeyBank Center.
And at the end, his announcement that he wouldn't run for a fifth term was classic Griffin. Citing the old-age memory lapses that were beginning to hinder his work, he quipped "I was... forgetting to pull my zipper up [at the urinal]. And now, I'm forgetting to pull my zipper down."
After World War II, though, the bottom fell out. Traffic at the harbor still had not reached pre-Depression levels by the time the St. Lawrence Seaway opened in 1959, rendering Buffalo permanently irrelevant as an inland port. While previously the presence of Niagara Falls meant that boat traffic on the Great Lakes couldn't go much further downstream than Buffalo, the enlargement of the Welland Canal in Canada made for direct access to the sea, so freighters could bypass Buffalo entirely. Within ten years, most of the grain elevators along the Buffalo River had shut down, the harbor was nearly empty, and the local economy was reeling. Furthermore, at about the same time, the railroad industry declined steeply thanks to the new Interstate Highway System, which moved passengers and freight much more quickly and cheaply. The steel industry wasn't spared either: a market flooded with cheap imported steel meant that the American-made version couldn't compete, so after shedding jobs for a few decades, the Lackawanna plant finally went belly-up in 1982.
But, even though these events were happening right in its backyard, South Buffalo rode out the downturn much better than most other areas of the city. The reason, once again, was the cushy civil-service jobs that a disproportionate number of its residents held (especially during the four mayoral terms of Jimmy Griffin, who took special care of his native First Ward and the rest of South Buffalo during the rock-bottom '80s and early '90s). As well, its residents' clannish nature and dogged loyalty to their neighborhood meant that South Buffalo did not lose nearly as many of its residents to the suburbs as other neighborhoods. And the urban renewal that wrought such havoc in places like the West Side and the Ellicott District barely touched South Buffalo, with the notable exceptions of Frank Lloyd Wright's Larkin Administration Building in The Hydraulics, which was demolished in 1950, and the construction of the Buffalo Skyway in 1953, the first controlled-access highway in Erie County, an elevated eyesore that serves as a giant wall between South Buffalo and the waterfront. Eventually, Buffalo bottomed out and slowly began pulling itself together, and today there are some parts of South Buffalo that are undergoing revitalization: the Cobblestone District is home to a handful of hip bars and a glitzy new casino, the Outer Harbor is now a state park, The Hydraulics has been reborn as a business district-cum-festival venue dubbed Larkinville, the Old First Ward became a nucleus for Buffalo's growing craft beer industry, the grain elevators are finally getting their due as engineering marvels of the Industrial Age, and most recently, Tesla's 1 Gigafactory 2, the largest solar panel manufacturing facility in North America, opened on a former industrial brownfield along the river. But by and large, despite these changes, everyday life in South Buffalo continues on the same as ever.
Thanks to Lake Erie, South Buffalo's climate is a little bit different than other parts of the city.
Much as in downtown, in the warmer months areas near the waterfront are noticeably cooler and windier than other parts of the city. This can be a double-edged sword: the fresh lake breezes are a godsend on a hot summer day, but if you're birdwatching at Times Beach or biking the Shoreline Trail in the spring or autumn, you might want to wear a jacket and long pants.
These same winds over the lake also mean that, even more than other parts of the city, South Buffalo really gets pummeled in the winter with lake-effect snow. After the winds pass onto dry land, it takes some time for the snow to condense out of the moisture-rich air — so, curiously enough, it's not unusual for Cazenovia Park to get walloped while the Outer Harbor only sees a dusting.
- Against the Grain: The History of Buffalo's First Ward by Timothy Bohen (ISBN 9780615620527). An engaging chronicle of the Old First Ward from its initial settlement in the 1820s and '30s to the present day, as well as the larger-than-life characters who have called it home over the years — including champion prizefighter Jimmy Slattery, politico William "Fingy" Conners (more on him below), World War I hero and intelligence agent William "Wild Bill" Donovan, and, of course, Buffalo mayor Jimmy Griffin.
- Author Richard Sullivan mines the lore of three generations of his ancestral family for The First Ward, a five-part series of novels that paints a slightly fictionalized but remarkably true-to-life portrait of life in the colorful titular neighborhood from the 1850s through the first decades of the 20th century. In Fingy Conners, the Sullivan Brothers & Mark Twain (ISBN 9781463636586), an account of the friendship between Twain (then a columnist for the Buffalo Express) and the author's great-grandfather and great-great-uncle (a police detective and city councilman, respectively) serves as window dressing for the nefarious exploits of Conners, a local dock laborer turned shipping magnate and political boss who the author describes as "America's most hateful yet least-known villain". Fingy Conners and the New Century (ISBN 9781478172932) follows the further rivalries between Conners and the Sullivan brothers, with Teddy Roosevelt, Nellie Bly, William Randolph Hearst, and other turn-of-the-century luminaries putting in appearances. Conners is relegated to a supporting role in the third and fourth installments: Murderers, Scoundrels and Ragamuffins (ISBN 9781515212515), wherein Detective Sullivan, haunted by the memory of the McKinley assassination, is tasked with reforming the city's corrupt and incompetent police department amidst a series of brutal murders and ahead of President Taft's visit to Buffalo, and His Lips Forgot the Taste of Truth (ISBN 9781974190126), which pits the Sullivans against serial killer J. Frank Hickey, who claimed a dozen Western New York victims in the 1910s. And of course, keep your eye out for the exciting conclusion, on which the author is currently hard at work!
- The World According to Griffin: The End of an Era by Brian Meyer (ISBN 1879201119). Sixteen years' worth of colorful, no-holds-barred sound bites from the eminently quotable Jimmy Griffin, four-term mayor of Buffalo and proud native son of the First Ward, as collected by the Buffalo News freelancer who worked the City Hall beat during his tenure.
Despite the bilingual street signs installed in 2008 on Abbott Road between Southside and Red Jacket Parkways — Buffalo's officially recognized "Irish Heritage District" — few if any South Buffalonians speak Gaelic, or anything other than English.
Get in and around
South Buffalo is surrounded on three sides by highways. Though the New York State Thruway (I-90) runs just beyond and roughly parallel to the city line, it doesn't provide direct access to South Buffalo. However, the district is well-served by the other two.
Interstate 190 skirts the border between South Buffalo and the East Side on an east-west trajectory from the Thruway toward downtown, then turning north and passing through the West Side on its way toward Niagara Falls and the Canadian border. I-190 serves South Buffalo via the following exits:
- Exit 1 (South Ogden Street). Following Ogden Street southbound through Kaisertown and turning right on Mineral Springs Road will lead you to Cazenovia Park and the heart of the Seneca Street business district.
- Exit 2 (Clinton Street/Bailey Avenue) and Exit 3 (Seneca Street) are the main points of highway access to South Buffalo. Get off at Exit 2 and follow Bailey Avenue north to Seneca-Babcock or south to Heacock Park in The Triangle. Southbound travellers can also turn off at Seneca Street into Larkinville, continue along Abbott Road toward Cazenovia Park, or follow the US 62 Southbound signs down South Park Avenue to access the Botanical Gardens and South Park. Exit 3, accessible from the southbound lanes only, lets you off on Elk Street a block before Bailey Avenue, where you can follow the same directions to the same destinations as Exit 2.
- Exit 4 (Smith Street) leads northward to Larkinville or southward to The Valley.
- Exit 5 (Hamburg Street via northbound lanes; Louisiana Street via southbound lanes) provides access to the Old First Ward.
- Exit 7 (NY 5 westbound), accessible via the southbound lanes only, is the northern terminus of the Skyway, described below. To get to the Skyway via the northbound lanes, get off at Church Street downtown and follow the signs for the Outer Harbor.
The Buffalo Skyway (NY 5) begins downtown at I-190 and extends southward parallel to the lake shore, providing access to the Outer Harbor and various other parts of South Buffalo:
- Take the Outer Harbor Drive exit and head north on Fuhrmann Boulevard to get to Wilkeson Pointe and Times Beach Nature Preserve.
- The Ohio Street exit lets you off just north of Gallagher Beach. As well, you can take Ohio Street northbound to get to Elevator Alley and the Old First Ward.
- The Tifft Street exit also provides access to Gallagher Beach. Otherwise, you can take Tifft Street east to Tifft Nature Preserve, Ship Canal Commons, and, further afield, The Triangle and the Olmsted parkways.
- The Skyway ends at the Ridge Road exit, which technically is beyond the city line in Lackawanna. Nonetheless, following Ridge Road east will take you to Ship Canal Commons (via Commerce Drive), South Park, and the Botanical Gardens.
If you're visiting in the winter, keep in mind that the Skyway is often closed when there is inclement weather.
South Park Avenue is the main surface route between downtown and South Buffalo, running from the foot of Main Street somewhat south of due east through the Cobblestone District, the Old First Ward, and The Valley, then turning sharply southward at a complicated intersection with Bailey Avenue and Abbott Road where it picks up the designation of US 62. Thenceforward, it runs along the eastern edge of The Triangle, past South Park, and on beyond the city line. This somewhat confusing trajectory results from the fact that the portion of its route north of Southside Parkway was cobbled together in the 1930s from what was once Triangle Street and parts of Abbott Road and Elk Street. A GPS system or map will come in handy when navigating South Park, as there are a lot of opportunities for wrong turns. At the aforementioned confusing intersection, South Park meets Bailey Avenue (US 62), which runs north through Seneca-Babcock and into the East Side, and Abbott Road, which continues southeastward past Cazenovia Park and into the residential heart of South Buffalo.
Seneca Street (NY 16) straddles the murky, poorly-defined northern border of South Buffalo, running roughly southeastward from downtown through the Ellicott District, Larkinville, and Seneca-Babcock, through the South Buffalo business district, past Cazenovia Park, and into suburbia. Further north still, Clinton Street (NY 354) clips the northern boundary of Seneca-Babcock.
Like many other districts of the city, Frederick Law Olmsted's parkway system extends into South Buffalo. The backbone of South Buffalo's parkway system is McKinley Parkway, which begins at the Olmsted-designed Heacock Park and runs southeastward to 2 McClellan Circle, where it intersects with the short Red Jacket Parkway heading toward Cazenovia Park. It then proceeds due south to Dorrance Avenue, where 3 McKinley Circle sits directly on the city line. McKinley then proceeds for a short distance southwestward through Lackawanna, ending in front of the Botanical Gardens at South Park. Those who've seen Olmsted's work in other parts of the city will notice that South Buffalo's parkways are somewhat less impressive than the more northerly ones: though lined with shade trees, they are much narrower and lack a center median, bearing more resemblance to Richmond Avenue than Lincoln or Chapin Parkways. Olmsted had originally planned to link the northern and southern sections of his park system via Fillmore Avenue, Smith Street, and South Park Avenue, which were to be redesigned as a grand parkway that would have connected with McKinley Parkway at Heacock Park. However, with the exception of a few blocks of Fillmore south of Humboldt Park on the East Side where rows of stately elms were put in, his plans never came to fruition. The long-term plans of the Buffalo Olmsted Park Conservancy include improvements to those streets to better integrate the two halves of the system, but in the meantime, the Conservancy has also been hard at work elsewhere on South Buffalo's parkways: they were responsible for the construction of McKinley Circle in 2002 — a never-built feature of Olmsted's original plan — as well as installing charming period street lamps and thoroughly landscaping the parkways and circles with delightful flowers and new trees.
Though it didn't appear in his original plans, Olmsted's influence is also evident in the Outer Harbor Parkway, a three-and-a-half mile (5.6km) stretch of Fuhrmann Boulevard that runs along the Outer Harbor between Times Beach and the Union Ship Canal, which was redesigned in 2010. The Outer Harbor Parkway's design pays tribute to the grand avenues Olmsted built elsewhere in the city with all the classic features of his work: elegant roundabouts, charming antique lampposts, and a wide central median lush with trees and greenery.
Other major streets in South Buffalo include Ohio Street, which runs from South Park Avenue southward through the Old First Ward and across Elevator Alley, ending at Fuhrmann Boulevard; Tifft Street, an east-west route that links the Outer Harbor with South Buffalo proper; and Hopkins Street, which runs west of and parallel to South Park Avenue between The Triangle and South Park.
Parking in the Cobblestone District can be especially tight during Sabres games and other events at the KeyBank Center. The surface lots between Mississippi and Columbia Streets charge $2 per day, and at the KeyBank Center parking ramp on Illinois Street it's $2 per hour up to a maximum of $5 per day; naturally, both of these numbers increase sharply when there's an event at the arena. As for on-street parking, it's prohibited on Perry Street and South Park Avenue, but permitted on the side streets with some restrictions: parking meters are in effect on the southern half of Illinois Street on weekdays from 8AM to 5PM, charging $1 per hour to a maximum of 2 hours, and parking is prohibited on Columbia Street after 5PM. Larkinville is another place where parking can be a pain — there are plenty of surface lots, but most of them are restricted to workers in the various office buildings except during special events. For visitors, the best bet for parking is the Larkin @ Exchange visitors' lot on the corner of Exchange and Van Rensselaer Streets — parking is free and nominally limited to two hours, though it's not too well-enforced. There's also metered parking on Exchange Street between Van Rensselaer and Smith Streets, in effect on weekdays from 7AM to 5PM at a flat rate of $2 per day. Parking is free and unrestricted on Seneca Street, Swan Street, and the side streets, and is generally easier to find the further you get from Larkin Square.
Elsewhere in South Buffalo, parking on Abbott Road is free of charge and only subject to time limits in the vicinity of Mercy Hospital, with parking between Columbus and Alsace Avenues limited to two hours at a time between 7AM and 7PM, Monday through Saturday. Beware, though, because empty spaces on Abbott and its side streets can be hard to find, especially between Heacock and Cazenovia Parks. Two-hour parking is also in effect for the same days and times on Seneca Street between Pomona and Hayden Streets and between Zittel Street and the city line; on South Park Avenue between Abbott Road and the city line, the hours are 7AM to 7PM, Monday through Friday. However, on-street parking on Seneca and South Park is usually much easier to find than on Abbott. In the Old First Ward, The Valley, and Seneca-Babcock, on-street parking is free, unrestricted, and virtually always easily available.
By public transportation
Public transit in Buffalo and the surrounding area is provided by the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA). The NFTA Metro system encompasses a single-line light-rail rapid transit (LRRT) system and an extensive network of buses. The fare for a single trip on a bus or train is $2.00 regardless of length. No transfers are provided between buses or trains; travelers who will need to make multiple trips per day on public transit should consider purchasing an all-day pass for $5.00.
South Buffalo is traversed by a number of NFTA Metro bus routes:
To and from downtown
NFTA Metro Bus #2 — Clinton. Beginning at the Bank of America Operations Center in West Seneca, Bus #2 proceeds down Clinton Street through the far northern part of Seneca-Babcock, with service to the Niagara Frontier Food Terminal. It ends on the Lower West Side.
NFTA Metro Bus #14 — Abbott. Beginning at Erie Community College South Campus in Hamburg, Bus #14 proceeds through South Buffalo via Abbott Road and South Park Avenue, passing by Cazenovia Park, along the northern edge of The Triangle, and through The Valley and the Old First Ward. Turning north at Michigan Avenue and proceeding to Exchange Street via Carroll and North Carroll Streets (outbound buses use Seneca Street), Bus #14 then passes through the Cobblestone District before ending at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
NFTA Metro Bus #15 — Seneca. Beginning at the Southgate Plaza in West Seneca, Bus #15 proceeds along Seneca Street past Cazenovia Park and through Seneca-Babcock and Larkinville. Bearing right onto Swan Street at the fork, it then enters the East Side and ends downtown.
NFTA Metro Bus #16 — South Park. Beginning in the Village of Hamburg, Bus #16 enters South Buffalo via South Park Avenue, passing by South Park and the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens, and proceeding through The Triangle, The Valley and the Old First Ward. Turning north at Michigan Avenue and proceeding to Exchange Street via Carroll and North Carroll Streets (outbound buses use Seneca Street), Bus #16 then passes through the Cobblestone District before entering downtown and ending its run at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
NFTA Metro Bus #42 — Lackawanna. Beginning at the Southgate Plaza in West Seneca, Bus #42 detours slightly to serve South Park and the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens during the Lackawanna portion of its route, then enters South Buffalo proper via the Skyway, exiting onto Fuhrmann Boulevard at Tifft Street with service to the Tifft Nature Preserve, Gallagher Beach, and Buffalo Harbor State Park. Turning north on Ohio Street and again onto Michigan Avenue, the bus proceeds to Exchange Street via Carroll and North Carroll Streets (outbound buses use Seneca Street), then passes through the Cobblestone District before ending downtown.
NFTA Metro Bus #18 — Jefferson. Beginning at the Delavan-Canisius College Metro Rail Station, Bus #18 passes through the East Side via Jefferson Avenue and Hamburg Street, then makes a sharp right at Seneca Street with service to Larkinville. Turning right again, Bus #18 serves the Old First Ward via Van Rensselaer Street and South Park Avenue, ending at the corner of South Park and Louisiana Street. Northbound trips loop through the Ward via Louisiana, Perry, and Hamburg Streets before rejoining the above-described route via South Park Avenue.
NFTA Metro Bus #19 — Bailey. Beginning at the University Metro Rail Station, Bus #19 enters South Buffalo via Bailey Avenue, serving Seneca-Babcock and ending at the corner of Abbott Road near the northern tip of The Triangle.
NFTA Metro Bus #23 — Fillmore-Hertel. Beginning at the Black Rock-Riverside Transit Hub, Bus #23 proceeds through North Buffalo and the East Side and enters South Buffalo near where Fillmore Avenue and Smith Street merge. Serving Larkinville and The Valley via Smith Street and South Park Avenue, Bus #23 ends its route at the corner of Bailey Avenue and Abbott Road near the northern tip of The Triangle.
By Metro Rail
The Metro Rail lies north of South Buffalo, on a 6.4-mile (10.3 km) stretch of Main Street running south and west from the South Campus of the University at Buffalo. However, the southernmost station, 1 Erie Canal Harbor Station, is located at the corner of Main and Scott Streets, adjacent to Canalside and a stone's throw away from the Cobblestone District. As well, connections to Buses 14, 16 and 42 are also available a block down Scott Street, at Washington Street.
In early 2013, plans were hatched to extend the Metro Rail an additional 0.6 miles (1 km) past its current southern terminus. Trains would turn eastward around the back of the KeyBank Center, pass through the upper level of the former DL&W Train Shed that currently serves as the NFTA's terminal depot, and continue along South Park Avenue through the Cobblestone District, ending at a parking ramp to be built at the corner of Michigan Avenue (and across the street from the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino) that would serve commuters to the intentionally parking-poor Medical Corridor. At last check, the project had moved beyond the conceptual stage into the realm of feasibility studies and public workshops — but given the constant service delays and sharp reduction in ridership during the reconstruction of Main Street downtown, not to mention the scores of Metro Rail expansion plans over the decades that never went anywhere, the smart money says "don't hold your breath".
Buffalo has been making great strides in recent years in accommodating bicycling as a mode of transportation, with recognition from the League of American Bicyclists as a Bronze-Level "Bicycle-Friendly Community" to show for its efforts. The development of bike paths and lanes in South Buffalo lags somewhat behind more cycle-friendly parts of the city like Allentown and the Elmwood Village, but as in the rest of the city, it's steadily improving: notably, the conversion of Ohio Street into a vital link in Buffalo's bicycle transportation network — with two off-street bike lanes flanking an attractive tree-lined swath through the Old First Ward — was completed in July 2015.
The showpiece of South Buffalo's bicycle infrastructure is the Industrial Heritage Trail, the Outer Harbor leg of the Shoreline Trail that runs along the waterfront all the way to North Tonawanda. Completed in 2010, this waterfront path extends along the shore of Lake Erie from the Coast Guard station southward along the waterfront into Lackawanna, passing by or through waterfront attractions such as Times Beach, Buffalo Harbor State Park, Tifft Nature Preserve, and Ship Canal Commons. The Shoreline Trail continues to downtown and the more northerly waterfront via Ohio Street and South Park Avenue, mostly along off-street paths (including a particularly interesting stretch on the shore of the Buffalo River behind the old DL&W Train Sheds that gives you an up-close-and-personal look at the grain elevators), with the exception of a few stretches along Ohio Street with dedicated on-street bike lanes. From Memorial Day through Columbus Day, you can also get to the Outer Harbor from Canalside via the Queen City Bike Ferry; the fare is $1.
Aside from the Shoreline Trail, South Buffalo's original Olmsted parkways are also great places to enjoy a bike ride. McKinley Parkway has a bike lane on each side of the street from Southside Parkway at Heacock Park through to McKinley Circle and onward into Lackawanna, where it comes to an end at South Park in front of the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens. Red Jacket Parkway links Cazenovia Park to McKinley Parkway at McClellan Circle, again with bike lanes on each side of the street.
A growing number of other South Buffalo streets have also been fitted with bike lanes and other accommodations. The Cazenovia Park area has a particularly dense concentration — with "sharrows"(pavement markings on roads too narrow to accommodate dedicated bike lanes, indicating that drivers should be aware of bicyclists) on Seneca Street between Southside Parkway and the city line, on Warren Spahn Drive through the park itself, as well as a dedicated bike lane on each side of North Legion Parkway for its entire length — as does the Cobblestone District, where there's a bike lane on each side of Michigan Avenue between Scott and Ohio Streets, as well as one in each direction along South Park Avenue between the KeyBank Center and Marvin Street (the bike lanes also continue up Marvin, behind the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino, to Perry Street). Further down South Park Avenue, bike lanes appear again between Hamburg and Dorrance Streets. Elsewhere, the Tifft Street Greenway serves as a brief spur of the Shoreline Trail along Tifft Street east to Ship Canal Parkway, with dedicated on-street bike lanes east of there as far as Hopkins Street, and a similar spur runs off the Ohio Street trail to Mutual Park via St. Clair Street and South Street. Finally, in Larkinville there's a bike lane on each side of Seneca Street between Emslie and Smith Streets, with plans in place to eventually bridge the gap between Smith Street and Southside Parkway with dedicated lines, sharrows, or some combination thereof.
Bike sharing and rental
South Buffalo has two Reddy Bikeshare racks:
- at Larkin Square, alongside Seneca Street at the end of the first walkway past Van Rensselaer Street
- at RiverWorks on Ganson Street (follow the signs for the entrance; the rack is on the right side of the blue-gray office building next to the Labatt Blue grain silos)
If you're planning a weekend visit to the Outer Harbor but human-powered cycling isn't your thing, 2 Buffalo Fat Bikes is another option. On Saturdays and Sundays in summer between 11AM and 8:30PM, these folks rent out motorized bicycles (with specialized fat tires for balance) from their kiosk at Wilkeson Pointe at a rate of $20 for the first hour plus $10 for each hour after. If a regular old pedal-powered bike is more to your liking, they have those, too, at half of the foregoing rate or $25 all day; tandem bikes go for $15 for the first hour and $10 each hour thereafter, as well as various other fun contraptions (check website for rates).
While walking is not a feasible way to travel between the neighborhoods of South Buffalo, there are many areas within this sprawling district that are great for pedestrians. Abbott Road, especially north of Cazenovia Park, is a nice place for a stroll and some window-shopping. Similarly, if you want to go bar-hopping on Seneca Street, it's perfectly possible to leave your car at the hotel.
Buffalo's glorious past as an industrial giant is on full display in South Buffalo's range of historic museums and attractions.
- 1 Edward M. Cotter, moored at north end of Michigan Avenue Lift Bridge (Metro Bus 14, 16 or 42). Sometimes open for tours during festival appearances. The 118-foot (36m) Edward M. Cotter is the oldest fireboat in the world still on active duty, and is inscribed on the National Register of Historic Places and as a National Historic Landmark. Launched in 1900, the boat was originally named the William Grattan after Buffalo's fire commissioner at the time. After it suffered a devastating explosion in 1928 (flying sparks from a burning oil barge entered its fuel tank), it was rebuilt from the burned-out shell of its hull at a cost of nearly $100,000. With a maximum speed of about 15 miles per hour (24 km/h), the Cotter is currently the slowest piece of firefighting machinery the Buffalo Fire Department owns, but it's indispensable for its ability to reach places on the waterfront inaccessible to ordinary fire trucks, and it has ten times the water-pumping capacity of the average fire truck. Over the years, the Cotter has seen action such as going across the lake to Port Colborne in 1960 to help fight a fire at a grain elevator complex; helping keep afloat the Buffalo Naval and Military Park's USS Little Rock after it began taking on water in 1978, and towing the Polish ship Zawisza Czarny off of a sandbar when it came to Buffalo Harbor for a visit in 1983. During the quiet winter months, the Cotter serves double duty as an icebreaker on the Buffalo River; during the summer, it can frequently be seen at local waterfront festivals and boat shows, where tours are also offered.
- 2 Heritage Discovery Center, 100 Lee St. (Metro Bus 14 or 16). Tu, Th & Sa 10AM-5PM. Opened in 2012 on a 35-acre (14 ha) site that was formerly home to a chemical dye plant, the Heritage Discovery Center contains space for community organizations and events as well as a pair of small museums that celebrate various aspects of Buffalo's industrial history. As money from government organizations and private donors continues to flow toward the restoration of the old Buffalo Color buildings, more developments are on the way.
- Steel Plant Museum, ☏ . Between 1903 and 1982, Lackawanna, the industrial city immediately south of Buffalo, was home to the largest steel plant in the world, which covered 1,600 acres (640 ha) and employed 20,000 workers at its height. Established in 1984, the Steel Plant Museum tells the story of the Lackawanna Steel Plant and its workforce, as well as other area steel companies such as Republic Steel and Hanna Furnace, by displaying memorabilia such as union records, safety gear, signs, tools, steel specimens, and technical literature. Donation.
- Western New York Railway Historical Society, ☏ . The marquee attraction at the Heritage Discovery Center is the Western New York Railway Historical Society, which has been working since 1980 to preserve the Buffalo area's disappearing railway heritage, but has lacked a space to display its collection until quite recently. At this expansive site are housed over 50 steam engines and railroad cars including a 1924 Baldwin locomotive that's been carefully restored to full working order, as well as hundreds of other historic artifacts and exhibits. Railroad history researchers will be in heaven in the library, where a vast array of books and maps are available for their perusal. Donation.
- 3 Seneca Indian Park, 129 Buffum St. (Metro Bus 15). Seneca Indian Park is a tiny, out-of-the-way patch of lawn in a quiet residential neighborhood near the city line, but the historical importance of the site is huge. During the early 19th Century, the land was part of the cemetery next to the Seneca Indian Mission Church, which was located a few steps away on what's now called Indian Church Road. Originally buried here were such Seneca luminaries as Chief Red Jacket and Mary Jemison, the "White Woman of the Genesee"; their remains were moved to Forest Lawn Cemetery and the grounds of the Glen Iris Estate at Letchworth State Park, respectively. It's said that the Buffalo Creek Reservation's longhouse was located on the site too; while that's not certain, it was definitely somewhere nearby. Commemorating the site's historical importance are a trio of large boulders, on which are placed historical plaques explaining local Seneca history.
- 4 Waterfront Memories & More, 41 Hamburg St. (Metro Bus 42), ☏ . Tu & Sa 10AM-2PM. Founded in 2008 and moved to the newly completed Mutual Park four years later — an opportune setting, in the shadow of the towering grain silos in the heart of Elevator Alley — Waterfront Memories & More is a neighborhood heritage museum dedicated to the history of Buffalo's waterfront, with exhibits culled from the combined personal collections of museum co-owners Bert Hyde and Peggy Szczygiel, a pair of neighborhood boosters who've been active in the First Ward Community Association for over thirty years. Displayed at Waterfront Memories & More are historic photographs, documents, newspaper clippings, school and church records, family histories, and other memorabilia that tell the story of Buffalo's riverfront, harbor, and industrial district from pre-Columbian times, to the construction of the Erie Canal, to Buffalo's advent and zenith as one of America's premier inland ports. As well, the museum hosts special events on a regular basis. Free.
- 5 Flying Bison Brewing Company, 840 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15, 18 or 23), ☏ . Tours Th-F 6PM, Sa 1PM and 4PM. Flying Bison offers three tours a week of its brewery in Larkinville, where guides explain the company's history and mission, walk visitors through the beermaking process step-by-step, and furnish a glimpse of brewers in action. The atmosphere is laid-back and friendly as can be, and frankly it's almost unfair to say these tours are free — they're so liberal with the free samples it's almost like you are being paid to take the tour. (According to one reviewer, the staff, who are notorious for shooting the breeze with visitors over drinks before and after tours, "basically get you drunk on the house".) Free.
- Labatt Brew House, 79 Perry St. (Metro Bus 6, 8, 14, 16, 24 or 42; Metro Rail: Erie Canal Harbor), ☏ . Su-Th 11AM-10PM, F-Sa 11AM-11PM. Even if you're not hungry or thirsty, Labatt's U.S. corporate headquarters and test brewery is worth a visit for anyone who's interested in beer: inside you'll find a couple rooms of museum-style displays detailing the history, production, and culture of beer and other alcoholic drinks in North America and elsewhere. Check out the giant "wall of beer", set up like a color scale from straw to amber to brown to black, reflecting the diversity of different beers manufactured in the onsite brewery.
- 6 Resurgence Brewing, 55 Chicago St. (Metro Bus 14, 16 or 42), ☏ . The opening of the second location of Resurgence was borne of a problem shared by many of its compatriots among the first wave of homegrown craft breweries in Buffalo: the production capacity at its modest-sized original home was not nearly enough to keep up with demand. Enter the much larger, National Register of Historic Places-listed E. & B. Holmes Machinery Company Building into the equation, newly renovated after nearly two decades of abandonment and dereliction and on the hunt for new tenants; a "resurgence" of its own, if you will. Nowadays Chicago Street is where Resurgence brews its roster of regularly-available beers, including the flagship Resurgence IPA (West Coast-style, heady and redolent of citrus and tropical fruit), Sponge Candy Stout (dark and rich but oddly thin-bodied, more like a porter, with notes of coffee on the finish) and Loganberry Wit (almost cloyingly sweet, perfect if you don't like beer but got dragged here anyway), with the Niagara Street location relegated to the status of research & development brewery. Aside from visiting the taproom-cum-restaurant, brewery tours are offered as well; contact the number listed here for details.
- 7 The Cass Project, 500 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15 or 18), ☏ . M-F 7:30AM-7PM. Headed up by longtime community fixture Tina Dillman, The Cass Project is a multifaceted new institution for local artists that's contained within a portion of the redeveloped 500 Seneca warehouse in Larkinville, and named in honor of Mary Rebecca Cass, a prominent player in Buffalo women's history and former president of the F. N. Burt Paper Box Company whose factory was once located in this warehouse. The Cass Project encompasses studio and performance space, loft apartments for artists, and — most prominently — an airy gallery space in the building's lobby, where five days a week visitors can take in changing exhibits of the work of local artists in a variety of media (for instance, the inaugural exhibition, opened in January 2017, featured abstract paintings by Ian de Beer).
- 8 Flat Man, on the Greenway Nature Trail just south of the Bell Slip. The Flat Man sure gets around: from its creation in 1963 through today, this 30-foot (9 m) sculpture — the work of Buffalo's own Larry Griffis, whose other works of public art around town include Birds Excited Into Flight on Bidwell Parkway and Spirit of Womanhood in Delaware Park — has been moved from its original site at the Kissing Bridge ski resort in Colden, to the 400-acre Griffis Sculpture Park in Cattaraugus County, to the Essex Arts Center on the West Side, to his new home on the Outer Harbor, where he's currently giving Canalside's Shark Girl a run for her money as a popular destination for selfie-snapping visitors. Sculpted in the artist's preferred medium of cold-rolled steel (milled just down the road at the Lackawanna Steel Plant), it's an oversized, abstract depiction of what its title indicates, with a heart-shaped opening in its chest promoting a message of love and inclusiveness for all.
- (716) GAL-LERY, 716 Swan St. (Metro Bus 15, 18 or 23). Tu-Th 4:30PM-10PM, F-Sa 4:30PM-11PM. Located at the Hydraulic Hearth restaurant on Swan Street, (716) GAL-LERY bills itself as Buffalo's smallest art gallery. It's a repurposed 1950s-era phone booth where works from a local artist are displayed. Pick up the phone and it plays a recording that tells you a bit about the artist and his or her work. The featured artist changes on a bimonthly basis. There's also a "gift shop" that consists of a 50-cent vending machine that dispenses stickers and temporary tattoos designed by local artists.
Despite its former industrial character, today's South Buffalo is all about the outdoors, with a huge, breathtaking expanse of shoreline at its front door and many former industrial facilities that have been repurposed as green spaces.
In 1887, twenty years after the first phase of his work in Buffalo was complete, landscape architect extraordinaire Frederick Law Olmsted was called back to design an extension of his extremely popular park system to serve residents of the southern part of the city. His original design for the new sector would have been centered on a large park stretching inland from Lake Erie (around the site of the present-day Ship Canal Commons), rivaling Delaware Park in size and boasting a beach, athletic fields, and a Venice-like maze of man-made canals for pleasure boaters extending all the way to downtown. After city leaders balked at the cost of such a park, he returned in 1894 with a second proposal that's the basis for what exists today: two inland parks, South Park and Cazenovia Park, linked to each other by a network of parkways that merge at the small Heacock Park to the north. Today, compared to the damage inflicted over the years by careless planners on the original parks and parkways, South Buffalo's Olmsted elements remain remarkably true to their original design. The links at Cazenovia Park draw golfers from all over Western New York — and, of course, locals by the thousands flock to the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens, the verdant centerpiece of South Park.
- 9 Cazenovia Park, North side of Potters and Abbott Rds. between Cazenovia St. and the city line (Metro Bus 14 or 15). Straddling Cazenovia Creek in the southeast corner of the city, Cazenovia Park is most famous as the site of an eponymous 9-hole golf course that's arguably the finest in the city. More than that, though, this is a place of wooded walking paths, serene creekside views, and friendly games of pickup baseball on well-manicured diamonds. There's also a swimming pool and an ice rink. When the park was first built, the creek was dammed to create the large Cazenovia Park Lake, on the shore of which stood a pleasant, airy lodge (still in existence today as the Peter J. Crotty Casino) with charming views over the water from the veranda. Athletic fields, a carriage concourse, a bandstand, and gardens almost as extensive as South Park's rounded out the original offerings. In 1925, Cazenovia Park's size was almost doubled by the addition of a golf course to its east end; though not designed by Olmsted, the seclusion of the new portion from the rest of the park means that the divide between Cazenovia's two halves seems nearly seamless. Aside from the lake, which was drained in 1965 due to persistent problems with flooding and pollution (revealing the previously submerged Cazenovia Park Falls; see below), the park remains mostly true to its original design and is in better shape than many of the other Olmsted parks in the city.
- 10 Cazenovia Park Falls (Located along Cazenovia Creek 500 feet [140m] upstream from Cazenovia Street, access via footpath; Metro Bus 14 or 15). Ask locals about Cazenovia Park Falls and you'll likely get little more than quizzical looks: even more so than Buffalo's other natural waterfall, Forest Lawn Cemetery's Serenity Falls, this is truly a hidden gem. Strange, because it's easily the more impressive of the two — by comparison with its counterpart which is little more than a series of rapids, the horseshoe-shaped Cazenovia Park Falls is a six-foot (1.8m) vertical plunge along Cazenovia Creek over a ridge of dark, oil-rich shale. The scene at the falls is a very changeable one — after heavy rains the falls might be temporarily submerged again, and during the dry summer months the flow often slows to a trickle, but come at the right time and you'll bear witness to a lively affair of trout or bass jumping up the cascade as anglers try their luck.
- 11 South Park, West side of South Park Ave. between Nason Pkwy. and former B&O Railroad tracks (Metro Bus 16 or 42). In Olmsted's 1894 plan, South Park was intended to be an expansive meadow reminiscent of an "English deer park", circumnavigated by a ring road and peppered by a pair of small ponds that would complement but not overwhelm the peaceful, pastoral views. However, meddling from city officials resulted in that plan being tweaked, and what was built instead rather resembles Delaware Park in miniature: a large lake in the middle, a small Meadow that's now the site of the 9-hole South Park Golf Course, and an ornamental garden, greenhouse and arboretum that eventually grew into the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens, the park's marquee attraction (see below). Like Cazenovia, time has been much kinder to South Park than to most other Olmsted parks around the city, remaining true to its original design save for the intrusion of the golf course in 1915 and the construction of a turnaround loop for public buses in the 1940s. Among the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy's plans is the revitalization of South Park Lake, which has unfortunately served almost as an afterthought to the park's other features; when work is done, word is it may once again be deep enough for boating.
- 12 Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens, 2655 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 16 or 42), ☏ . Daily 10AM-5PM. Located at South Park, the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens were founded in 1898 and today consist of several collections of plants — the Panama Cloud Forest & Epiphyte Pavilion, the Palm Dome, the Florida Everglades pavilion, the Victorian Ivy & Herb House, the Orchid House, and the Rose Garden are only a few — arranged carefully in Victorian style. All in all, 1,500 varieties of plants are displayed here to more than 100,000 visitors annually. The lovely Victorian conservatory building of the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens was designed by Frederick A. Lord and William A. Burnham, who went on to design the conservatory at the National Botanical Gardens in Washington, D.C. some years later. $7, seniors and students $6, 12 and under $4, members and children under 3 free.
- 13 Buffalo Harbor State Park, Along Fuhrmann Blvd. between Ohio and Tifft Sts. (Metro Bus 42), ☏ . In May 2014, the Outer Harbor became the site of the 180th State Park in New York, and the first one to be located within Buffalo's city limits. These 190 acres (77 ha) of waterfront land incorporate the already-existing Gallagher Beach (see below) and Safe Harbor Marina as well as the new Tifft Street Pier. In addition to those amenities which are described in more detail below, there's also a free carousel and playground for the kids, facilities for picnickers, a slate of special events, and a bike and walking path that extends about a third of a mile (600 m) from the parking lot and boat launch (under construction as of autumn 2016) along the L-shaped breakwall on the perimeter of the Small Boat Harbor, with great views over the lake and several access points for fishing. Free.
- 14 Gallagher Beach, 1515 Fuhrmann Blvd. (Metro Bus 42), ☏ . For many decades an "unofficial" swimming hole and summer recreation area for South Buffalo residents (including inimitable former mayor Jimmy Griffin), Gallagher Beach is one of Buffalo Harbor State Park's marquee attractions. Buffalonians flock to Gallagher Beach in the summer months to walk and bike along the new boardwalk and to enjoy sunbathing, fishing, kayaking, and windsurfing. (Swimming is nominally prohibited, but enforcement is lax, and if you visit you'll likely see folks in the water. However, it's probably not a good idea to follow suit.) Gallagher Beach is easily accessed via the Shoreline Trail and is also adjacent to Tifft Nature Preserve. Free.
- 15 Tifft Street Pier, 1699 Fuhrmann Blvd. (Metro Bus 42). Inaugurated in 2014, the Tifft Street Pier begins as a pleasant bow-shaped boardwalk, beautifully landscaped with greenery and space for public art installations, that leads joggers and walkers along the Shoreline Trail directly onto the shore. But the main attraction is a floating pontoon that extends 130 feet (40 m) into the water, ending in a sleekly-designed, covered observation deck with unbeatable views over Lake Erie — a perfect spot for fishing, birdwatching or just relaxing on the waterfront. There's docking space for boats at the end, too.
- 16 Red Jacket Riverfront Park, foot of Smith St. (Metro Bus 14, 16 or 23). The crown jewel of the Buffalo River Greenway, a partially completed chain of parks and green spaces along the shores of the Buffalo River, Red Jacket Riverfront Park was established in 1997 on four acres (1.6 ha) of reclaimed industrial land in The Valley. A hundred years ago, the scene at the foot of Smith Street was dominated by railroad tracks, trains, industrial facilities, and freighters plying their way up and down the river, but the only legacy of that period left today are a couple of railroad bridges and the foundation of a traffic control tower that was demolished in the 1980s. What Red Jacket Riverfront Park does have is plenty of shady spots for fishing and picnicking, great views of the inland end of Elevator Alley (including the quarter-mile-long [400m long] Concrete-Central Elevator, Buffalo's largest), walking trails, and a boggy wetland area that's reminiscent of what was here before the encroachment of industry. Also present in the park is a monument to its namesake, a Seneca Indian chief and orator who eloquently plead his people's case before the U.S. Senate and received a medal from President Washington in return.
- 17 Ship Canal Commons, Fuhrmann Blvd. at Ship Canal Pkwy. (Metro Bus 42). Years ago, the Union Ship Canal was a pretty crowded place: it was the centerpiece of the 70-acre (28 ha) campus of the Hanna Furnace Company, founded in 1899 by the same group of local industrialists who brought the Lackawanna Steel Company to the area. Here, freighters docked and unloaded their cargo of iron ore from the Midwest to be milled into pig iron by, at the company's peak, a workforce of 800 at a rate of 3,100 tons (2,800 metric tons) per day. Like the rest of the Western New York steel industry, Hanna Furnace went belly-up in the 1980s, but the peaceful, pleasant park that's on the site today pays homage to its predecessor in a number of ways: dense groves of trees mimic the towering buildings that once lined the canal, artificial hills recall heaps of limestone and ore, its east end is anchored by a massive ladle once used to pour molten iron into molds to harden, even the pavement design of the walking paths along the canal's edge echoes the pattern of the railroads that used to be there. Ship Canal Commons also boasts over two miles (3 km) of nature trails and a lovely footbridge over the canal, and its waters are fully ecologically restored and boast aquatic plants, waterfowl, and fish such as smallmouth bass and perch. Ship Canal Commons is easy to reach by bike via the Shoreline Trail and on foot via the footbridge at the south end of Fuhrmann Boulevard, but automobile access is trickier: you have to take either Tifft Street or Ridge Road and wind your way through the industrial park.
- 18 Wilkeson Pointe, 225 Fuhrmann Blvd., ☏ . Opened in May 2013, Wilkeson Pointe is 22 acres (9 ha) of waterfront green space named for Samuel Wilkeson, the former War of 1812 hero, State Senator and Buffalo mayor who vigorously oversaw the dredging and improvement of Buffalo Harbor, which was the deciding factor in the location of the end of the Erie Canal there rather than in Black Rock. Today, Wilkeson Pointe's location between two slips at the former site of Seaway Piers makes for excellent water access: public docking is available, and the park packs in a ton of amenities befitting its status as a focal point of the Outer Harbor: more than just the great views over Lake Erie, Elevator Alley, and downtown that you can get anywhere on the lake shore, Wilkeson Pointe has a large playground for kids, volleyball courts, rain gardens, a beach, a concession stand run by Consumers' Beverages selling beer and light snacks, and its signature feature — a pair of lovely, pinwheel-like rotating wind sculptures. The Shoreline Trail also passes directly through the park: the chunks of marble you see alongside it near the wind sculptures were once part of St. Joseph's New Cathedral on Delaware Avenue, dumped here after its demolition in the 1970s when this was still a derelict industrial site. You can still see architectural details in the stone, such as Ionic volutes, fluting, and dentils. Free.
In addition to those listed above, South Buffalo is also home to a number of smaller parks. Many of them are part of the Buffalo River Greenway, an "emerald necklace" of small parks and green spaces along the shores of the Buffalo River. Aside from Thomas Higgins Riverfront Park and Seneca Bluffs, both listed below, and the aforementioned Red Jacket Riverfront Park, the Buffalo River Greenway includes 19 Mutual Park, located at the foot of Hamburg Street in the Old First Ward and boasting a neighborhood historical museum, a riverfront promenade and small amphitheater, and the best views of Elevator Alley you can get outside of a boat, as well as 20 Buffalo RiverFest Park, which, as its name implies, is the setting for a three-day celebration of Buffalo's waterfront history each June.
Other parks in South Buffalo include 21 Conway Park, a pleasant expanse of ball fields, playgrounds and open lawns on the former site of the Ohio Basin, a vital link in the Old First Ward's 19th-century labyrinth of ship berths and canals, Seneca Indian Park, covered above, and 22 Heacock Park, a tiny Olmsted park whose significance lies not in its amenities but in its importance to Olmsted's design, as the northern hub of South Buffalo's parkway network and planned nexus with the northern parkways.
- 23 Thomas F. Higgins Riverfront Park, 154 Bailey Ave. (Metro Bus 14, 15, 16, 19 or 23). Named for a former county sheriff native to South Buffalo, this 3½-acre (1.4 ha) park is located on the Bailey Peninsula, at the junction of Cazenovia Creek and the Buffalo River on the west side of Bailey Avenue (parking is at the northwest corner of Bailey and McKinley Parkway; a footpath leads over the creek to the peninsula). Along with the Seneca Bluffs upstream, Higgins Riverfront Park is different from the other elements of the Buffalo River Greenway in that the site was never used for heavy industry, being located too far upstream for freighters to go and away from any railroad tracks. Today, it's a wetland habitat for the type of wildlife that frequented the area prior to urbanization, such as fox, snapping turtle, beaver, white-tailed deer, and birds such as kingfisher and great blue heron. At the bank of the river there's a kayak launch and some nice places for fishermen to cast their lines, or you can take it all in while strolling along one of the manicured walking trails.
- 24 Seneca Bluffs Natural Habitat Park, Seneca St. at Pomeroy St. (Metro Bus 15 or 19). An expanse of meadows, wetlands and forests on a natural floodplain of the Buffalo River just a few hundred feet (meters) from Thomas Higgins Riverfront Park, the land on which the Seneca Bluffs sit was originally a truck farm before going fallow in the middle 20th Century. Today it's been redeveloped as a park and nature preserve very similar to its downstream counterpart. The Seneca Bluffs are not only a haven for wildlife but also a great place for fishing — particularly walleye, which teem in this stretch of the river. Walking trails crisscross the greenery, but otherwise it's just you and nature. Free.
- 25 Tifft Nature Preserve, 1200 Fuhrmann Blvd. (Metro Bus 42), ☏ . W-Sa 10AM-4PM, Su 12PM-4PM. Operated by the Buffalo Museum of Science, Tifft Nature Preserve is 264 acres (106 ha) of greenery that serves as an important wetland habitat for native wildlife such as beaver, fox, turtle, deer, and 264 species of native and migratory waterfowl. Originally the site of George Washington Tifft's dairy farm, what is now the nature preserve was later used as a transshipment terminal for the Lehigh Valley Railroad and then as a garbage dump; by the time it became a nature preserve in 1976, it had already "rewilded" on its own to a great degree. The preserve has been thoroughly cleaned up since the days of heavy industry, and today the nature trails and wildlife viewing stations at Tifft are one of the best ways for Buffalonians to get "back to nature" without leaving the city limits. The 75 acres (30 ha) of freshwater cattail marsh are one of Western New York's largest natural expanses of this type of ecosystem. Fishing on Lake Kirsty is popular in the summer, as are guided nature walks; in winter, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are on offer. The Makowski Visitors' Center is open all year. Donation.
- 26 Times Beach Nature Preserve, 2 Fuhrmann Blvd.. Like Tifft, Times Beach Nature Preserve is situated on former industrial land that has been reclaimed and cleaned of pollutants. These 50 acres (20 ha) adjacent to the harbor were the site of coal docks and a contained disposal facility for industrial waste before its opening to the public as a nature preserve. Though no facilities are available, boardwalks, nature trails and wildlife viewing blinds are on offer at this photogenic expanse of greenery that, in addition to its role as a haven for native flora and fauna, is one of the most important stopovers on the Great Lakes for migratory birds. NOTE: As of November 2019, the trails, boardwalks, and most other visitor infrastructure at Times Beach are closed due to damage from a wind storm. Free.
South Buffalo's main contribution to Buffalo's rich architectural heritage is the grain elevators of the former industrial district. It was in Buffalo where Joseph Dart built the first grain elevator in 1843, and today Elevator Alley is still the largest single collection of grain elevators in the world. Long derided as eyesores, these rock-solid monoliths were saved from the wrecking ball largely by virtue of how expensive it would have been to demolish them. These days, though, Buffalonians have taken to embracing their scrappy industrial history, with grain elevators being repurposed for a variety of uses.
As well, South Buffalo contains a number of neighborhoods that are interesting to fans of historic architecture. In the entire city, there are 12 historic districts listed on the National Register of Historic Places as well as nine additional ones that have been granted landmark status by the Buffalo Preservation Board, and although only one of them is located in South Buffalo, there are also a couple of "unofficial" ones that are notable.
- Slightly over 13 acres (5.3 ha) in size, the Cobblestone Local Historic District is bounded by Perry Street, Columbia Street, South Park Avenue, and Illinois Street, and also includes the two blocks of Michigan Avenue north of the Buffalo River, where the historic fireboat Edward M. Cotter is docked. Dating to the 1820s and '30s, in its day this was one of the nation's nastiest slums, populated by poor Irish industrial laborers and crisscrossed with a network of man-made shipping lanes that radiated out from the harbor, by which factories received raw materials shipped across the Great Lakes or sent finished products on their way to market via the Erie Canal. The neighborhood began to decline in importance around the turn of the century, when the canals were filled in, and as the Irish, with newfound political and social clout, gradually became well-off enough to move to the much safer, still-semirural lands south of the Buffalo River. The Cobblestone District's main attraction to history buffs today are the streets themselves — many are still paved with the granite blocks that gave the neighborhood its name, brought over as ballast in the hulls of lake freighters and discarded at port. As for the buildings in between, most of them have been demolished, with the exception of a collection of 19th- and early 20th-century brick industrial buildings between Illinois and Mississippi Streets (anchored by the Bendin Building, a five-story warehouse at 95 Perry Street) that are now being actively restored as bars, restaurants, office space, and loft apartments.
- Though it's not yet been named to any historic register, The Triangle is a charming expanse of turn-of-the-century homes that's well worth a visit for architecture fans. The district is aptly named: the classic boundaries of The Triangle are South Park Avenue on the northeast, Amber Street on the south, and Hopkins Street on the west, though the streets west of Heacock Park on the other side of South Park Avenue share essentially the same identity. The Triangle started out as rural farmland belonging to Reuben Heacock, a wealthy banker and industrialist, but its history really began in the 1890s, when Frederick Law Olmsted was called back to Buffalo to design a southern extension to his park system. At the time, urban development in South Buffalo lagged far behind the rest of the city, from which it was separated not only by the Buffalo River but also a series of busy railroad tracks — and in wet weather, the swamps around the riverbanks would often flood, cutting off what few roads led north. Before beginning his work, Olmsted stated that city leaders needed to make South Buffalo more easily accessible from the rest of the city and to mitigate the constant flooding problems. The city responded by building more streets and dredging the river into a concrete channel, and as soon as Olmsted's park system opened, The Triangle began developing into a classic turn-of-the-century "streetcar suburb" with South Park Avenue as its main shopping street. Today, the side streets of The Triangle are dominated by homes that date from the 1890s to the 1930s and reflect the architectural fashions of that period: wood-frame houses in the Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, Craftsman, and American Foursquare styles, many of which were partially prefabricated "kit houses" available through mail-order catalogs. Peppered among them are a few larger buildings, including some fairly impressive churches, Holy Family Catholic Church at 1887 South Park Avenue and St. Jude's Episcopal Church at 124 Macamley Street among them.
- Proposed for the National Register of Historic Places, Larkinville is centered on the corner of Seneca and Swan Streets, in a part of Buffalo once known as The Hydraulics. Named for the Hydraulic Canal, built in 1828 by local entrepreneur Reuben Heacock, this was supposed to be one of the foremost industrial districts in the world — but the canal was only big enough to support a few tanneries, slaughterhouses, and other industries. Luckily, The Hydraulics' proximity to the railroads preserved its importance as a center of industry even after the canal was filled in, and it soon came to be dominated by the Larkin Company, a mail-order giant whose huge campus of factory buildings was centered around its beautiful Administration Building, designed by Darwin Martin's close friend Frank Lloyd Wright. The company went out of business in 1943, wracked by the effects of the Great Depression combined with a decline in popularity of catalog sales, but most of Larkinville's buildings (with the notable exception of Wright's Administration Building; see below) still stand and, in many cases, have been renovated and restored for offices. These include the gargantuan Larkin Factory Complex at 701 Seneca Street and Terminal Warehouse Building at 726 Exchange Street; the U Building at 239 Van Rensselaer Street, which now houses offices, and the Kamman Building at 755 Seneca Street, now the home of a local architectural firm. At the center of it all is 27 Larkin Square, with pleasant greenery, restaurants and food trucks, and frequent special events.
- 28 Remains of the Larkin Administration Building, between Swan Street and Seneca Street adjacent to the New York Central Railroad tracks (Metro Bus 15 or 18). The last remnant of the Larkin Administration Building is this 20-foot (6 m) brick and sandstone exterior wall. Built in 1906, the Administration Building was the most majestic Frank Lloyd Wright building in Buffalo and the prototypical adaptation of his favored Prairie Style to a large office building. Five stories tall and faced in dark red sandstone brick adorned with bas-relief sculptures and with two waterfall-like fountains flanking the entrance, the building consisted of offices arranged around the perimeter, with balconies looking onto a central court. The Administration Building's interior walls were of hard cream-colored brick with accents in Greek magnesite, and it boasted a state-of-the-art ventilation system and lighting and electrical fixtures designed by Wright himself. After the Larkin Company's bankruptcy in 1943, the Administration Building was left abandoned and decaying, and was eventually purchased by a trucking company who demolished it in 1950 to make room for a parking lot. The wall was restored in 2003; adjacent to it is an interpretive plaque with information on Larkin Company history and Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural legacy in Buffalo.
- 29 Our Lady of Seneca Street Shrine, 847 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15, 18 or 23). An odd sight to see amongst the restored warehouses, quirky restaurants, and trendy craft distilleries of Larkinville, this roadside shrine was built around 1950 by local barber Joseph Battaglia, inspired by a vision he had of the Virgin Mary several years earlier. In the ensuing years, Our Lady of Seneca Street has attracted the attention of local Catholic devotees, who still deliver prayers to the Blessed Mother by mail (the postal service drops them in the adjacent mail slot), the area preservationist community (who sprung into action to save the shrine when Battaglia's former barber shop — now the parking lot to its rear — was razed in the late 1980s), and dramatist Tom Dudzick, whose 2009 play Miracle on South Division Street was based on Battaglia's vision and its aftermath.
Festivals and events
The Outer Harbor has lately become Buffalo's festival venue of choice, with many events previously packed like sardines into places like Canalside or the streets of North Buffalo (respectively, the Buffalo Irish Festival and the Galbani Italian Festival) relocated to this wide-open lakeside space in the previous years.
However, by far the most interesting festival venues in South Buffalo can be found in Elevator Alley, where many of the old grain silos have been ingeniously redeveloped into innovative spaces. 1 Silo City is the larger of these: a trio of grain elevators on Childs Street (the American, Perot Malting and Marine "A" Elevators) owned by local entrepreneur Rick Smith which, after having been abandoned for almost half a century beforehand, reopened in 2012 to a growing schedule of concerts, guided tours, activities, and events within and around these majestic, weather-beaten monoliths. Hot on Silo City's heels in late 2014 came 2 RiverWorks, the product of an $18 million restoration of the Grange League Federation Elevator complex on Ganson Street offering indoor and outdoor rock climbing, a zipline, performance space, a variety of sports, and — above all — two regulation-size ice rinks that play host every year to the Labatt Blue Pond Hockey Tournament.
- Old Neighborhood St. Patrick's Day Parade. Held every year since 1994 on the Saturday before March 17 by the Valley Community Association, the Old Neighborhood St. Patrick's Day Parade lacks the massive scale and some of the glitz and glamour of its better-known counterpart on Delaware Avenue. But it more than makes up for that with tradition — its route along O'Connell and Hamburg Streets, South Park Avenue, and Elk and Smith Streets approximates that of the original St. Patrick's Day parades through Buffalo's traditionally Irish neighborhoods. Like its counterpart, the Old Neighborhood Parade features step dancing, over 100 floats, and plenty of Irish joie de vivre, but there's more of an emphasis on homegrown community pride here in the Old First Ward and The Valley. Also, after the parade, the 4 Valley Community Center hosts a lively "Irish Hooley" where music is played, corned beef and cabbage and other traditional Irish foods are served, and the beer flows freely.
- Boom Days. The "ice boom" is a long chain of metal bars placed across the mouth of the Niagara River at the beginning of winter to prevent floating chunks of ice from damaging bridges and other structures along the river, and its removal is heralded each year as the unofficial start of spring. That's where this festival comes in. Boom Days was first celebrated in 2002, bouncing around various venues along the Niagara Frontier before settling in to its permanent home at Silo City in 2012. This day of celebration in mid-April features a lineup of local musicians strutting their stuff on the floor of the Perot Malting Elevator, along with hayrides, historical tours of the elevators, rides on the historic fireboat Edward Cotter, beer from local and regional craft brewers such as Flying Bison and the Southern Tier Brewing Company, food trucks, and a grand fireworks display at night. Proceeds go to benefit the Edward Cotter.
- Parade of Circles. The Greater South Buffalo Chamber of Commerce and South Buffalo Alive kick off the summer each year on the first Sunday in June with a morning parade that runs the whole length of McKinley Parkway: a jamboree of music, dancing and community pride passing along the tree-lined thoroughfare and snaking around the Olmsted-designed traffic circles that give the festival its name. The Parade of Circles was first held in 2001 to celebrate the restoration of the Olmsted parkway system in South Buffalo, and its grand finale takes place at Heacock Park, where there's a picnic lunch and fun activities for the whole family.
- Buffalo River Fest. Every June since 2000, the Valley Community Association, in conjunction with Rigidized Metals Corporation and the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation, has held the Buffalo River Fest. Since 2009, this celebration of the history of Buffalo's waterfront has been held at Buffalo RiverFest Park, a lovely new green space located at the foot of Chicago Street in the Old First Ward, adjacent to the Buffalo River. Events during this three-day festival include a local artists' and artisans' show, a beer garden, rides on the historic fireboat Edward M. Cotter ($10 per person), the Rigidized Metals River Regatta, live music, and a fishing contest. On display also are historical exhibits with an accent on the grain elevators, shipyards, and other waterfront industrial facilities that drove Buffalo's economy in earlier times; a historic walking tour of the Cobblestone District, Elevator Alley, and Canalside is held annually. Food and refreshments are available.
- BBQ & Blues Bash. Launched in 2009, the BBQ & Blues Bash is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: a rollicking lineup of blues bands from Western New York and beyond, coupled with mouth-watering barbecue delights whipped up by various restaurants around the area, with proceeds benefitting Gateway-Longview children's behavioral health services. Illinois Street in the historic Cobblestone District is where the action is every mid-June rain or shine; free parking is provided in the KeyBank Center ramp, and the afterparty at Buffalo Iron Works keeps the festivities going long after dark. 21 and over. Tickets $20 presale, $25 at the gate.
- Buffalo Niagara Blues Festival. A premier destination for "fans of industrial relics and the hottest blues bands in the area" (in the words of Buffalo Rising), the Buffalo Niagara Blues Festival was inaugurated in mid-July 2014 with an all-day free concert at Silo City. Spearheaded by the Western New York Blues Society, a lineup of about half a dozen blues, jazz, soul, and Cajun singers and bands played — a mix of nationally famous stars and local acts. Also onsite are food trucks and merchandise vendors of various descriptions.
- Buffalo Brewfest. The Buffalo Brewfest is an annual event that takes place in early August to benefit the Buffalo Hearing and Speech Center and the New York State Brewers' Association. A "beer tasting" expanded to massive size, the Buffalo Brewfest sees over a hundred craft brewers from Western New York and around the world converge on Illinois Street in the Cobblestone District, with Buffalo Iron Works as ground zero. Fine food, live music, raffles, giveaways and more round out the offerings. $25 advance purchase, $35 day of.
- South Buffalo Italian Festival. By contrast with the much larger Italian Festival in Niagara Square, South Buffalo's little Italian-American community has its own day in the sun in mid-August at South Park, on the lawn in front of the Botanical Gardens. The South Buffalo Italian Festival features delicious food from Francesca's, Ilio DiPaolo's, and other Italian restaurants in South Buffalo and the Southtowns, as well as free-flowing Italian beer and wine. There are activities galore, too — you can play bocce ball while listening to local bands play live, and for the kids there's face painting, jugglers, and other fun stuff. Proceeds from the festival go to South Buffalo Alive to benefit a variety of neighborhood improvement projects.
- Buffalo Irish Festival. The Buffalo Irish Festival has taken place at various locations downtown for 31 years running; as of 2016 it seems to have found a permanent home at the Outer Harbor. These three days of revelry in late August ring with performances of traditional Irish folk music, step-dancing and theatrical productions, and full of shops and stands selling Irish-made handicrafts and imported food and drink. Genealogical experts are on hand to guide those interested in tracing family roots, raffles and souvenirs are offered, and Sunday Mass is conducted in both English and Gaelic.
- South Buffalo Irish Feis. This raucous shindig at Cazenovia Park marks the end of summer in South Buffalo, held every year on the first or second Saturday in September. A wide variety of live musical acts are the main attraction at the South Buffalo Irish Feis, featuring local bands playing a free concert of traditional Irish music, Celtic rock, and alternative to a rapt audience. Local Irish step dancing troupes like Rince na Tiarna also put on performances. As well, local restaurants in the South Buffalo area provide food, there's more beer than you can shake a stick at, and activities for kids include face painting and a rock climbing wall. The festival is capped off by a huge fireworks display over the park.
- Silo City Tapped. In mid-September, Silo City plays host to this daylong celebration of music, food, Buffalo's industrial history, and — above all — craft beers. Thirsty attendees of the inaugural Silo City Tapped in 2014 sampled about two dozen brews from beermakers in the local area, like the Hamburg Brewing Company, Flying Bison, and the Ellicottville Brewing Company, as well as some hailing from further afield, such as Ommegang, Magic Hat, and the Southern Tier Brewery, to the strains of about a half-dozen local rock, blues and jazz bands. A range of food trucks and booths representing area restaurants are on hand, and guided tours of the grain elevators that make up the Silo City complex are offered. Attendees under the legal drinking age are welcome but must wear ID wristbands, and those 17 and under must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Free parking. $5 admission, food and drink prices range from $1-8.
- Larkinville Ice Festival. The inaugural edition of the Larkinville Ice Festival joined the growing roster of Buffalo wintertime events in 2015, with a smattering of different events at venues around the neighborhood: a series of guest speakers on Buffalo history at The Filling Station, an art opening at the Hydraulic Hearth's pint-sized (716) GAL-LERY, special brewery tours, beer tastings and food trucks at Flying Bison Brewing, and — the marquee event — an ice sculpture competition at Larkin Square. This brand-new annual happening takes place in late January.
- Labatt Blue Pond Hockey Tournament. The Labatt Blue Pond Hockey Tournament moved to RiverWorks in 2014 after two straight years of its previous iteration at the Erie Basin Marina were cancelled due to lack of ice on Lake Erie. Thankfully, the refrigeration systems under the surface of its new home's two regulation-sized ice rinks mean that the show will always go on even if the temperature peaks above freezing, and the 50,000-square-foot (4,600m²) open-air canopy above them maintains an outdoor feeling while keeping folks dry and comfortable even if it's a blizzard outside. A fun, action-packed annual tradition for participants and spectators alike, the 2014 edition saw 120 amateur hockey teams of four to seven players each face off in a two-day, ten-division round-robin tournament in late February. The 2015 tournament is set to be even bigger, with a third day of play added as well as food and drink tents, live music, and more.
Together with nearby Canalside, the historic industrial waterways of South Buffalo are ground zero for the kayaking craze that's hit the Buffalo area over the last few years.
- 3 Elevator Alley Kayak (At Mutual Park; Metro Bus 42), ☏ . Hours vary seasonally. Elevator Alley Kayak is not only easily the most reasonably priced of the myriad new kayak rental outfits that have popped up in Buffalo, but their staff is also a strong contender for the most helpful — they're as adept at advising visitors on the practical side of kayaking as they are at pointing out the landmarks along the Buffalo River — and Mutual Park presents a much less daunting scenario for the novice kayaker, with only a small step down from the launch into the boat. Once on board, you're free to paddle around the river and harbor at your leisure for however long you're reserved the boat (but do make sure not to overstay your reservation; they tend to get prickly otherwise). However, if you prefer, you can also opt for a slate of scheduled guided tours that focus on either Buffalo's industrial history or the natural environment that's beginning to reclaim a place along area waterways, presented by the staff in conjunction with Explore Buffalo or the Audubon Society and the Western New York Land Conservancy, respectively. And if you leave your Elevator Alley Kayak session hooked on this hot new pastime, you can check out their retail shop in the historic Barrel Factory two blocks away on Vandalia Street. Single kayak $25/2 hours or $40/4 hours (4 hour rate available M-F only); tandem kayak $45/2 hours.
- Safe Harbor Boat Rentals, 1111 Fuhrmann Blvd. (At Safe Harbor Marina; Metro Bus 42), ☏ . Daily 8AM-8PM, Apr-Oct. For those who don't have a boat of their own, the pontoon boats rented out by the folks at the state park's 4 Safe Harbor Marina are a great if pricey way to experience the Outer Harbor from the water without the hassle of paddling one's own kayak. You register at the Ship's Store building on the left side of Charlie's Boatyard restaurant, pay the reservation fee (plus a $50 Loss Damage Waiver if you're so inclined), and then head back to the dock where your 30-foot, 16-seater craft with onboard barbecue grill and restroom facilities awaits you. Renters are free to take their boat wherever they like within the breakwall that runs from Stony Point north to Times Beach. M-F $300 per half-day (4 hours) or $400 per full day (8 hours); Sa-Su $475 per full day (no half-day rentals). $100 reservation fee upfront is applicable to final bill.
- 5 Silo City Paddling Company, 120 Childs St. (Metro Bus 42), ☏ . Th-Su 9AM-6PM, May-Sep. "Launched" at the start of the 2016 season, Silo City Paddling is yet another outfit that offers a selection of kayaks for rent on an hourly or all-day basis. Starting from their private dock located at the base of the Marine "A" Elevator at the far end of Silo City Row, you can get an up-close-and-personal look at the historic grain silos of Elevator Alley, catch glimpses of native waterfowl as well as deer and other wildlife wandering in from nearby Tifft Nature Preserve, or paddle further afield to Canalside, the Naval Park, or the Outer Harbor. You can choose from a wide range of different kayaks optimized for boaters of various sizes, shapes, and skill levels, and there are even a few stand-up paddleboards if you want to try your hand at that instead. With the exception of the guided kayak tours Silo City Paddling occasionally offers (check website for schedule), no reservations are taken: boats are available on a first-come, first-served basis, so your best bet is to show up early and/or on a weekday. Single kayak rental $20 for first hour plus $5 for each additional half-hour to a maximum of $55; tandem kayak rental $25 for first hour plus $5 for each additional half-hour to a maximum of $65; kids' kayak rental $15 for first hour plus $5 for each additional half-hour to a maximum of $45.
- Seas the Day Charters, 1111 Fuhrmann Blvd. (At Safe Harbor Marina; Metro Bus 42), ☏ . The Great Lakes are home to some of the best shipwreck diving in the world, and with Seas the Day, Buffalo is finally claiming a piece of the action. Groups of up to four divers can charter guided or unguided trips departing from Safe Harbor Marina to a number of wrecks in the waters off Buffalo. Popular destinations include the Tonawanda, a steamer that foundered off Point Abino during an October 1870 windstorm, as well as Barge 43, sunk in 1961 near the mouth of the Buffalo River while being used as a floating wood burner. If you'd rather commune with Lake Erie's increasingly abundant marine life, you can head instead to the Seneca Shoals about a mile off Woodlawn Beach. Check website for schedule and pricing info.
Harbor and river cruises
- 6 Buffalo CycleBoats, 301 Ohio St. (Metro Bus 14, 16 or 42), ☏ . Check website for departures schedule. Though an outing with Buffalo CycleBoats is really more of a "booze cruise" than a sightseeing tour like those that populate the rest of this section, it's also a unique and fun way to get out on the water among the imposing monoliths of Elevator Alley. These 15-seat, pedal-powered craft offer two-hour jaunts along the Buffalo River, past Canalside, and through other area waterways supervised by a certified captain, with an onboard bar (BYOB) and lively music to help the good times roll. The lack of restrooms on the CycleBoats are a drawback, but the frequent stops made at various waterfront attractions along the route can double as bathroom breaks. And there's a "cheater motor" on the boat to do the work for you if you get tired. Reservations are strongly recommended: they're fully refundable if cancelled 10 days or more in advance, or you'll get a voucher for a future cruise if you cancel three to nine days in advance (or if they cancel on you due to inclement weather). $40 per person, $562.50 to charter the entire boat (for groups of 8 or more only).
- Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper Tours, ☏ . Check website for schedule. Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, the community organization whose mission is to contribute to Buffalo's revitalization through the remediation of local waterways, holds a series of educational kayak tours in Buffalo, Niagara Falls, and points between. The lineup of tours changes from year to year, but as an example, in South Buffalo the 2014 schedule included four tours along the Buffalo River launched from Mutual Park in Elevator Alley, where immigrant history, industrial heritage, and ecological restoration were covered. Participants can bring their own kayak or reserve one of Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper's limited supply. Free.
- 7 Buffalo River History Tours (Metro Rail: Erie Canal Harbor), ☏ . Buffalo River Tour departs daily 10:30AM, 12:30PM, 2:30PM, 4:30PM & 5:30PM, Silo City tour daily 11:30AM, Silos and Stemships Tour daily 2PM, harbor cruises daily 12:30PM, 2PM & 3:30PM; season runs May-Oct. Choose your own adventure with this boat tour outfit operating from the Central Wharf at Canalside. The classic Buffalo River Tour aboard the River Queen leaves five times daily, destination Elevator Alley: you'll feel the wind whip through your hair as you listen to the captain recount the history of the grain elevators and their contribution to the huge importance of Buffalo Harbor in the 19th and 20th centuries. Other tours include the Silo City Tour, which also offers a brief walking tour inside three of the grain elevators themselves, and the Silos and Steamships Tour for a close-up look at the SS Columbia, which at the time of its retirement in 1991 was the last of the old passenger steamers that once plied the Great Lakes. For something a bit less in-depth, non-narrated one-hour cruises around the harbor and Canalside are offered on a separate boat. Buffalo River Tour $23, children $12; harbor cruise $15, children $10; all other tours $33, children $18.
- 8 Grand Lady, RiverWorks, 359 Ganson St. (Metro Bus 14 or 16), ☏ . May-Oct, check website for schedule. The Grand Lady is an 80-foot cruise ship that's been offering scheduled cruises and private charters since 1998, first on the upper Niagara River from their former home at Rich Marina in Black Rock, and since 2017 of Elevator Alley from RiverWorks. Passengers on the Grand Lady have their choice of itineraries: the Buffalo River and adjacent areas of Lake Erie are the focus of 90-minute narrated afternoon sightseeing cruises (some departures include a three-course plated lunch; see schedule); dinner cruises are a longer (2½-hour) more elaborate affair with live entertainment, a cash bar, and an elegant three-course meal; craft beer-themed cruises and evening casual cruises are also offered. The schedule is variable, but in general it features one to two of both types of cruise weekly; it's recommended you reserve as early as possible. The Grand Lady sails rain or shine. River cruise $18, children under 12 $9; lunch cruises $45, children under 12 $23; dinner cruises $60 Jul-Labor Day & $57 all other times, children under 12 $30 Jul-Labor Day & $29 all other times.
- 9 Historic Buffalo River Tour (Metro Rail: Erie Canal Harbor), ☏ . Seven tours yearly Jul-Sep, see website for details. During the warm months, the Miss Buffalo II, in partnership with the Industrial Heritage Committee, takes visitors on a two-hour educational cruise down the Buffalo River, exploring the city's mighty industrial past with a visit to the old Erie Canal terminus and Elevator Alley. Tours leave rain or shine from the Miss Buffalo's dock at the Erie Basin Marina. $18, children $12.
- Pontoon Saloon, 1111 Fuhrmann Blvd. (At Safe Harbor Marina; Metro Bus 42), ☏ . If what you're looking for in a harbor cruise is just the standard itinerary of the Outer Harbor, Canalside, and Elevator Alley, this 33-foot, catamaran-style pontoon boat docked at Safe Harbor Marina will be more than happy to accommodate you with a two-hour spin around the waterfront. But if you want to get creative, the Pontoon Saloon is also available for private charters: the team of Coast Guard-licensed captains helming the operation can take you anywhere you want to go on the waterways of the Niagara Frontier. And if you want to let your hair down a little, there's an onboard bar, a sound system for tunes, and food and drink courtesy of the adjacent Charlie's Boatyard restaurant. Check website for cruise schedule and pricing info.
- 10 Lakeside Complex (Along Fuhrmann Boulevard between the Bell Slip and the Queen City Landing site; Metro Bus 42). Opened in 2019, this 20-acre (8 ha) park right at the center of the Outer Harbor action is the destination of choice on the Buffalo waterfront for the more active visitor. The Lakeside Complex features a grassy lawn perfect for a pickup soccer or baseball match, a pleasant bike-ped trail along its outer perimeter, and — the pièce de résistance — an exciting mountain-bike obstacle course with loops, a pump track, and rock and tube hazards for the kind of experience you definitely won't find on the Shoreline Trail or any of the on-street bikeways around town.
- Pickleball. Larkin Square's retro quirkiness is a great part of its appeal — and one of the best expressions of that whimsy are the two 11 pickleball courts located just off the rear of the square, behind the Kamman Building. A popular recreation for visitors as well as workers in the nearby office buildings who want to blow off steam after a long workday cooped up at their desk, pickleball is an old-time sport that's sort of a cross between badminton, volleyball, and ping-pong. You can play on the courts for free, on a first-come-first-served basis, and paddles and plastic whiffleballs are stored in a basket beside the courts (don't forget to return them after you're done). Those who want to brush up on the rules can take a look at the Larkin Square website, or just read the back of your paddle — they're printed right on them.
- Queen City Roller Girls, RiverWorks, 359 Ganson St. (Metro Bus 14 or 16), toll-free: . This is not your father's rollerderby — far from the WWE wrestling-style campy sports entertainment of old, this is a fast-paced, hard-hitting sport that's been exciting Buffalo fans since 2006. The Queen City Roller Girls is actually a league of four teams which battle it out each year for the Queen City Cup, but it also fields an all-star "travelling team" that hosts other squads from around the Women's Flat Track Derby Association, of which they've been a member since 2010. After spending the previous eight years playing at the Rainbow Rink in North Tonawanda, as of the 2015 season the Queen City Roller Girls' home turf is at RiverWorks, which boasts the only purpose-built rollerderby track in the country (not to mention a 20-foot HiDef LCD screen scoreboard that's bigger than the Jumbotron at KeyBank Center). The season runs from February to June; tickets are cheap and games are family-friendly.
- 12 Silo City Rocks, 105 Childs St. (Metro Bus 42), ☏ . M-F 9AM-5PM. A Buffalo Spree writeup describes how avid rock climber Kevin Cullen came home to Buffalo after a stint out West as a park ranger in Colorado, and immediately began looking at the elevators along the Buffalo River, with their stout, rock-solid concrete faces, in a new light. A short time later, he's teamed up with BFLO Harbor Kayak founder Jason Schwinger and local ski instructor Andy Minier to open the world's tallest rock climbing gym at Silo City. Open since 2013, visitors to Silo City Rocks can rappel 120 feet (36 m) up the side of the Marine "A" Elevator along several routes that vary in length and difficulty, or scramble up an artificial bouldering wall located inside. As well, yoga classes are held inside a 600-square-foot (55 square meter) "round room" carved out of one of the old silos.
If you're a golfer in Buffalo, you're in the right neighborhood. South Buffalo contains two of the city's four golf courses, where you can hit the links amid a setting of impeccably manicured greenery designed by the United States' foremost landscape architect.
- 13 Cazenovia Park Golf Course, 1 Willink Ave. (Metro Bus 14 or 15), ☏ . Daily 6AM-5PM. Secluded at the southeast end of the Olmsted park of the same name, Cazenovia Park Golf Course is the larger and better-maintained of South Buffalo's two golf courses. An easy, flat course perfect for beginners, golfers at Cazenovia play in a simple but extremely pleasant setting, with nice wide fairways and hazards that mostly consist of the huge shade trees that are peppered here and there throughout the course. As well, Cazenovia Creek itself, which bisects the course through the middle, serves as a water hazard on the 3rd and 9th holes. Cazenovia is a nine-hole course, but those who want a full 18-hole round can play the course through twice as a discounted price: each hole has two separate tees, making for a distinctive experience for each go-round. Cart rental is available — not that you'd need one, this course is easy to walk — and there's a putting and chipping green and a snack bar. Weekday green fee $9 (9 holes) and $12 (18 holes), weekends $11 (9 holes) and $15 (18 holes).
- 14 South Park Golf Course, 2535 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 16 or 42), ☏ . Tu noon-9PM, all other days 6:30AM-9PM. Built in 1915 on the site of South Park's Meadow, South Park is an odd little nine-hole golf course — there's seemingly no rhyme or reason to its layout, and its small size makes for a cramped, tight-off-the-tee scenario on many holes. Still, this is a pleasant course with a great pro shop and an impeccably beautiful landscape courtesy of the great Frederick Law Olmsted. The course doesn't look like much of a challenge at first glance, but don't be fooled — South Park Lake makes for a formidable water hazard on many of the holes. There's a driving range and putting green for practice, and as at Cazenovia, you can play through the course twice at a discounted rate if you want a full 18 holes of golf. $11 for 9 holes; $14 for 18 holes.
If "full-size golf" is not your thing, head to Larkinville instead:
- 15 Larkin Links, 763 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15, 18 or 23). Located in the empty lot just east of the Kamman Building along the south side of Seneca Street, Larkin Links is Buffalo's first "nano-golf" course (think miniature golf, except scaled down even further in size) which also doubles as a public art exhibit, with sculptures and other installations designed by local artists serving as hazards on the course's 11 holes. The course is open for play between June and September, whenever the red flag on the mailbox is raised. Putters (vintage ones, scored by course operator Harry Zemsky from a local antique shop), golf balls, pencils, and scorecards are provided free of charge. Free.
- RiverWorks, 359 Ganson St. (Metro Bus 14 or 16), toll-free: . See website for open skating and skate & shoot schedule. Skating $5, children 10 and under free; skate & shoot $10, children 10 and under $5 (bring your own equipment).
- 16 Timothy J. Burvid Ice Rink, 25 Cazenovia St. (Metro Bus 14 or 15), ☏ . Open skate M 1PM-3PM, Th 6PM-8PM, F-Sa 7PM-9PM, Su 2PM-4PM, Sep-Mar; closed Apr-Aug. $3, $2 for Buffalo residents, $1 for seniors or children under 18 who are Buffalo residents.
- 17 Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino, 1 Fulton St. (Metro Bus 14, 16 or 42), ☏ , toll-free: . Daily 24 hours. Located in the historic Cobblestone District and convenient to downtown and the waterfront, the brand-new, $130 million permanent home of the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino opened with great fanfare in August 2013, and was expanded four years later to the tune of an additional $40 million. Today, over 3 million people a year flock here to try their luck on over 1,100 slot machines and 36 table games, both on the main casino floor and in the exclusive High Limit Room. If you get hungry, choose from four bars and restaurants onsite: the rowdy Stixx Sports Bar with pub grub and local brews on tap, the brand new B Lo Bar, light casual dining at The Creek, and a satellite location of the upscale Western Door Steakhouse that has proven a huge draw at the Niagara Falls Seneca casino, whose second-floor dining room features panoramic views over Elevator Alley and the downtown skyline.
- 18 Bowl Inn, 727 Bailey Ave. (Metro Bus 2 or 19), ☏ . M-F 4PM-1AM, Sa 11AM-1AM, Su noon-1AM. No one would ever call this place huge — it's not much more than a dozen bowling lanes, a tiny bar and a kitchen — but the Bowl Inn turns its small size to its advantage, offering friendly service with a personal touch. Also, the prices here are cheap — a 3-game outing usually runs between $5.50 and $7.50, and if you're a family with kids you save even more. The food is great, too.
Live music and performance
With the emergence of the Cobblestone District as a hip cluster of bars in the shadow of the KeyBank Center and Canalside, plus a growing slate of offerings around the Outer Harbor, the live entertainment scene in South Buffalo has exploded in size in recent years.
- 19 Buffalo Irish Center, 245 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14), ☏ . Aside from the scads of Irish-American not-for-profit groups who have their home offices here (such as the Gaelic-American Athletic Association and Rince na Tiarna Irish Dancers), the Buffalo Irish Center also includes a pub which, every Friday and Saturday night, plays host to live music featuring local bands of diverse genres — everything from country to hard rock to Dixieland jazz. For those in the mood for something more Irish, head down to a seisiún if you're in town at the right time: held on the third Sunday of each month, these hoedowns of traditional music, dancing, and storytelling feature Guinness on tap and plenty of merriment.
- 20 Buffalo Iron Works, 49 Illinois St. (Metro Bus 6, 8, 14, 16, or 42; Metro Rail: Erie Canal Harbor), ☏ . Five nights a week, this hip Cobblestone District bar hosts live music in an intimate yet appropriately gritty setting, all exposed ducts and rough brick. Shows here split the difference between major national touring groups and local acts playing rock, country, and acoustic music.
- 21 Helium Comedy Club, 30 Mississippi St. (Metro Bus 6, 8, 14, 16, or 42), ☏ . W-Th 4:30PM-10PM, F-Sa 4:30PM-midnight. Buffalo's scrappy clique of stand-up comics, whose acts were long shoehorned between local bands at random bars scattered across town, finally have a place to call their own. It was local comedienne Kristen Becker who convinced Helium's owner to open the third and newest branch of his national chain of comedy clubs in the Cobblestone District. Since its opening in 2013, Helium has come to do double duty: it's not only the premiere showcase for the talented and previously under-the-radar local comedy scene, but it's also the venue of choice for nationally famous touring comedians, having played host to greats like Charlie Murphy, Dave Attell, Brian Posehn, and, on opening night, Rob Schneider. This is a small club, which cuts both ways: the intimate atmosphere is perfect for comedy shows and it's pretty much impossible to get a bad seat, but they pack folks in like sardines (especially when a big name is in town). Also, you're required to order a minimum of two food or drink items from the bar, and while the menu is ample, the food is expensive and of lackluster quality. Parking is free and easily available most of the time, though, except when there's a Sabres game on at the nearby KeyBank Center.
- KeyBank Live at Larkin. A favorite of such icons of the Buffalo music scene as the Jony James Blues Band, John & Mary and the Valkyries, and the late Lance Diamond, the Live at Larkin concert series is a showcase for local music that's been compared to the early years of Thursday at the Square. Every Wednesday evening from mid-June through mid-September, two local groups take the stage at Larkin Square for a free concert in front of ever-growing crowds that, these days, average out at about 2,000 attendees.
- RiverFest Park Summer Concert Series. Every Wednesday evening at 6:30PM from the week of Memorial Day through the week of Labor Day, RiverFest Park in the Old First Ward plays host to free concerts featuring local rock bands. If you've been waiting for your chance to catch Hit N Run, The Kensingtons, Wide Right, or other mainstays of the local scene as they gig around town, here's your chance.
- Silo City Reading Series. The Silo City Reading Series was launched in 2014 in tandem with the weekly video-blogged performance series Silo Sessions — but unlike its sister project, these events are open to the public, and are held on a frequent but irregular basis. All through the summer, poets descend on Silo City from all over the local area and around the country to recite their art inside the ghostly ambience of the Marine "A" Elevator's hulking shell. Performances of acoustic music, enhanced by the natural eight-second reverb the concrete walls provide, have been known to accompany the poetry as well.
- 22 Woodside Coffeehouse, 675 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14), ☏ . Not often do you see a church gradually metamorphose into a concert hall, but that's exactly what happened here: Ned LaMarti was never quite able to abandon his background as a professional musician, and before you knew it, he was no longer pastor of the Woodside Community Chapel but instead the owner of a lively Christian coffeeshop-cum-performance venue hosting religious and secular music of all genres: everything from heart-on-sleeve CCM balladry to local rock bands to jazz to country. If you've got your own joyful noise to make, open-mic night is Friday from 7-10:30PM.
South Buffalo is the home of 5 Trocaire College, a small, private Catholic junior college founded in 1958 by the Sisters of Mercy. Expanded from its initial mandate of training teachers for Buffalo-area Catholic Schools, Trocaire now offers associate and bachelors' degrees in about a dozen health care, hospitality and technology programs at its campus adjacent to Mercy Hospital.
South Buffalo Business District
Though it's been outshined in recent decades by the more suburban-flavored Abbott Road corridor, "downtown South Buffalo" still boasts its share of shops, bars and eateries.
Clothing and accessories
- 1 LADD Thrift Shop, 2280 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☏ . M-Th & Sa 10AM-3PM. Shoppers at this thrift shop know their money is going to a good cause: "Living Arrangements for the Developmentally Disabled" is the acronym of the charitable organization that runs it. Though prices here are among the best you'll find at any local secondhand shop, the selection at LADD — which consists of the usual thrift-store fare such as books, kitchenware, toys, Franklin Mint-style decorative knickknacks, and above all, clothes — is usually unimpressive. It's worth trying your luck, though: interesting items do happen along occasionally. If you see something you like, don't delay, because good stuff goes quickly.
- 2 Moria Piercing and Jewelry, 2118 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☏ . Tu-Sa noon-8PM. Not just South Buffalo's new favorite piercing studio, with all the relaxing vibes and attention to cleanliness and professionalism you need to set your mind at ease, but also a place to get your hands on some of the finest-quality and most creative body jewelry in town. The selection is not what you would call massive, but it's definitely well-curated, with a house style that's based on simple but elegant designs inspired by the shapes of nature: gold, titanium, and semiprecious gems forged into flowers, crescents, starbursts, helixes, even cute little bumblebees.
- 3 The Struggle, 1770 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☏ . M-Th 11AM-6PM, F-Sa 10AM-9PM. "Clothing and beard care" is what the sign outside this converted gas station advertises, but the inventory trends heavily toward the former: more specifically, rough and ready streetwear in sizes ranging from small to 6X. At The Struggle, you can shop for some really nice designer jeans, t-shirts, hoodies, polo shirts and tracksuits from well-known urban stylehouses like Akoo, Crooks & Castles, Hustle Gang, and more, all displayed in a retail space that's much more brightly lit and smartly decorated than you'd think coming in from the street. As for beard care, you've got a relatively modest but decent quality selection of trimmers and beard oils and butters to choose from.
- Bottle Rocket Beer Reserve, 2182 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☏ . Su-M noon-6PM, Th-F 5PM-midnight, Sa noon-midnight. Located in the beautifully remodeled Shea's Seneca building, Bottle Rocket is part bar, part South Buffalo's answer to Village Beer Merchant. Here you can pick up four- or six-packs (or mix-and-match if you like) of a changing variety of craft beers sold out of a couple of vintage wooden bookcases and an old locker (repurposed from the defunct Public School 77 on the West Side) in a corner of the room. As with the selections at the bar, locally-brewed beers are largely eschewed in favor of harder-to-find options sourced from breweries elsewhere — so if you're on the hunt for something obscure, put this place on your list.
- 4 Hookah Palace, 2239 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☏ . M-F 10AM-9PM, Sa 11AM-8PM, Su 11AM-5PM. Hookah Palace is probably best described as a sort of cross between a head shop, tobacconist, and one of those newfangled places that sell CBD products. If you're an epicurean when it comes to your smoking experience, stop by and check out some of the highest-quality supplies and accessories in town, from glass pipes to vaporizers to incense in dozens of flavors — and if your fashion sense is a throwback to the psychedelic '60s, they've got tie-dyes 'til Tuesday on the shelves.
- 5 Section 8 Gaming, 2282 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☏ . Tu-Sa noon-8PM. RPG aficionados, take note: the sister store to Section 8 Hobbies (see below) is now open just down the street with an inventory of playsets and accessories for Warhammer, Dungeons & Dragons, and other fantasy games, plus modeling supplies, paint, and the like for those who like to customize their own characters. And if you want to network with the local gamer community while you're in town, Section 8 is the perfect place to do that: check their Facebook page for the lowdown on the open play nights, tournaments, and other events they host in-store frequently.
- 6 Section 8 Hobbies, 2243 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☏ . M 1PM-6PM, Tu-F 11AM-8PM, Sa 9AM-6PM. Section 8 claims — believably — to boast Western New York's largest selection of model kits and supplies. Stop in to check out model sets of all kinds — from trains to kites to cars to airplanes to rockets — or peruse shelf after shelf stocked with accessories and supplies. If there's something you need that you can't find in the store, the staff can virtually always order it — and if you're headed back home, they'll ship their products worldwide (exceptions are spray paint, enamel and lacquers, which can be sent to points within the continental U.S. only). If you're selling rather than buying, Section 8 will pay a fair price for model collections of all kinds.
- 7 South Buffalo Wheelhouse, 1872 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☏ . Tu-F 10AM-6PM, Sa 10AM-4PM, shorter hours in winter. If you're in the market for a brand new bike, the friendly folks at this Seneca Street bike shop will be glad to sell you one, but wouldn't you rather be the proud new owner of a gently used vintage bike from the '80s or '90s, lovingly restored and sold at a decent price? And if you already own a bike and are just looking for a tune-up, you're in luck: the real specialty here is expert repairs and installations done with a smile (check their website for their "menu of services"). Best of all, the bevy of discounts you get by becoming a member makes the $135 annual fee worth it even if you're not planning to stay in town for an extended time.
- 8 The Urban Kottage, 1890 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☏ . W & F noon-5PM, Th 2PM-8PM, Sa 11AM-4PM. "Furniture rescue" is Darlene Ungaro's business: "transforming older, sturdy, but no longer loved pieces int unique, one-of-a-kind creations" that take myriad forms, from bedroom and dining room sets to decorative baubles to miniature galvanized boats repurposed as ice buckets. Stop by the shop on Seneca Street to peruse this and other handiwork, or to pick up supplies such as chalk mineral paint for your own DIY project.
Cobblestone District, the Old First Ward, and The Valley
The latest phase of Buffalo's ongoing renaissance has seen developers set their sights on the precincts of South Buffalo closest to downtown, notably the Cobblestone District and the Ohio Street corridor. As that gets off the ground, a bevy of stores and other attractions for visitors will surely follow; however, at present there's not much here for shoppers.
- 9 Mazurek's Bakery, 543 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 14, 16 or 18), ☏ . M-F 8AM-5:30PM, Sa 8AM-3PM. This old-school Polish bakery has been open since 1933 and absolutely looks the part, from the humble yet proud exterior to the staff who know their customers and their products by name. Speaking of, these home-baked bundles of goodness sport real, old-fashioned flavors, far from the sanitized stuff you'll find in supermarkets. Crispy, golden-fried, sugar-dusted chruściki is their most famous offering, but you'll also find delicious Polish-style cheesecake, fresh pączki baked Thursday through Saturday, seeded rye bread that's the closest thing to the genuine New York article you can find in Buffalo, and doughnuts that drive folks to reverie.
- 10 Snowy Owl Kombucha, 65 Vandalia St. (At The Barrel Factory; Metro Bus 42), ☏ . F 4PM-8PM, Sa noon-8PM. Snowy Owl is a "kombucha production studio" that opened in September 2016 as one of the inaugural tenants of The Barrel Factory's "makers' market" selling artisanally produced goods. Snowy Owl makes theirs in a sustainable manner using 100% organic, fair trade-certified tea leaves. On Fridays and Saturdays, thirsty customers descend on their brewery-cum-tasting room-cum boutique to sample one of about a half-dozen plain and flavored kombuchas (also available is a "blend your own" option, where you can go to town on Snowy Owl's own juicer and your choice of fruits) — either imbibe at the bar or bring your own growler.
Liquor, beer and wine
The industrial precincts of South Buffalo have lately asserted themselves as the epicenter of Buffalo's incipient craft spirits scene. Along with Larkinville, the Cobblestone District and the Old First Ward are where it's at.
- 11 Lakeward Spirits, 65 Vandalia St. (At The Barrel Factory; Metro Bus 42), ☏ . W-Th 5PM-10PM, F 3PM-11PM, Sa noon-11PM Su noon-6PM. The Barrel Factory is where you'll find the production facility, tasting room, and retail outlet for this craft distillery where the theme — stewardship of Buffalo's local water resources — is reflected in everything from the company's name, to their partnership with Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper in developing eco-friendly, conservation-minded water use policies for the distillery, to their signature spirit, "Grain Canyon" vodka, named in homage to the historic grain elevators that line the Buffalo River just a stone's throw from here.
- Lockhouse Distillery, 41 Columbia St. (Metro Bus 14, 16, or 42; Metro Rail: Erie Canal Harbor), ☏ . Tu-F noon-midnight, Sa 4PM-midnight. It was "An Idea So Crazy, It Just Might Work": in 2013, Lockhouse was the first distillery to open in Buffalo since the end of Prohibition. Made entirely with locally-sourced ingredients, the spirits crafted here run the gamut from barrel-aged gin, to a coffee liqueur produced in conjunction with Public Espresso, to their original flagship product and still their most popular offering: a vodka distilled from grapes grown at Freedom Run Winery in Lockport. Lockhouse's products can be purchased to take home from their small retail shop or else sampled in the form of topnotch craft cocktails in their rustic yet classy tasting room.
- Pressure Drop Brewing in the Barrel Factory; see below.
- 12 Elevator Alley Kayak, 65 Vandalia St. (At the Barrel Factory; Metro Bus 42), ☏ . Hours vary seasonally. If you've just gotten back from a paddling trip on the Buffalo River with these guys and you're still thirsty for more, make the trip a few blocks over to The Barrel Factory, where they operate a retail store selling a wide selection of new and used kayaks, plus gear such as drybags, sunscreen and sun hats, and Buffalo- and kayaking-themed T-shirts and souvenirs.
The Triangle and South Park Avenue
As a shopping street, South Park Avenue is the happy medium between the historic but largely deserted Seneca Street business district, and the somewhat more upscale boutiques of Abbott Road.
Clothing and accessories
- 13 Fierce Accessories, 942 McKinley Pkwy. (Metro Bus 14, 16, 19 or 23), ☏ . M-W 10AM-6PM, Th-Sa 10AM-8PM, Su 11AM-5PM. With a true-to-its-name inventory that stands apart from the competition with its brash, colorful, and eye-catching style, Fierce is a place for fashion-forward urban ladies who seek to make a bold statement. In addition to the unique fashion jewelry that owner Junida Brice made her name with (selections incorporate the work of local designers and range from cute and trendy designs for young adults, to stylish yet understated pieces perfect for the boardroom, to elegant formalwear), you'll also find handbags, winter accessories, and a robust selection of shoes and boots.
Antiques and vintage
- 14 Raditude Vintage, 1801 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 16), ☏ . Th-F 2PM-7PM, Sa 1PM-6PM. '90s nostalgia: it took a long time to show up on the scene, but now it's most definitely a thing, and Raditude is one of several new shops in Buffalo catering to millennials' newfound need to reminisce on childhood memories (and stretching the definition of "vintage" in the process). On the racks and shelves you'll find all the expected standards — framed Nirvana and New Kids on the Block posters, World Wrestling Federation action figures, vintage bobbleheads — but the star of the show is vintage sports apparel, so especially stop by if you're in the market for (let's say) a Buffalo Bills "AFC Champions" hoodie or a Sabres jersey in the old red-and-black color scheme.
- 15 Side by Side Antiques, 26 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14, 16, 19 or 23), ☏ . M-F 9AM-5PM, Sa 9:30AM-1PM. Side by Side is headquartered at an unassuming little shop at the north end of Abbott Road, but don't be fooled: this place is a powerhouse, stocking a huge and wide-ranging selection of antiques sold both in-store and through a thriving eBay business for fair and honest prices. Specialties include an amazing selection of hard-to-find coins, stylish vintage jewelry, and furniture and decorative items with a tendency toward Roycroft pieces and other Americana. Side by Side also offers free appraisal, and will buy your antiques as well — anything from single pieces to entire estates.
- 16 Habitat for Humanity ReStore, 1675 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 14, 16, 19 or 23), ☏ . Tu-F 10AM-6PM, Sa 9AM-6PM. Wherein Habitat for Humanity operates what basically amounts to a huge thrift store for furniture and housewares: the shelves are stocked with gently used (and some new!) chairs and tables, sofas, bedroom sets, lamps, cabinetry, doors and windows, building materials, and appliances donated to them by the public. Best of all, this place operates with very little overhead — it's staffed by volunteers, so almost all the money you pay goes to help Habitat for Humanity build new homes and rehab old ones to help out the less fortunate.
- 17 Laurie's Gifts and Treasures, 1983 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 16), ☏ . W 11AM-5PM, Th-F 11AM-6PM. This emporium of high-quality previously-loved merchandise promises something for everyone, and that's no exaggeration: the odd hodgepodge at Laurie's runs from clothing and accessories (think floral-print summer dresses, inexpensive handmade jewelry, tie-dyed t-shirts, and Buffalo swag), to housewares (rustic country-style pieces abound), to Precious Moments figurines and Franklin Mint bric-a-brac. And if it's holiday time and your house could do with a touch of extra pizzazz, stop by for more kitschy decorations than you can shake a stick at.
- 18 Liberty Gold and Music, 1826 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 16), ☏ . M-F 11AM-6PM, Sa noon-5PM. From the name of this place, you might assume it's little more than a garden-variety gold buyer. Old gold is indeed half of the equation at Liberty Gold & Music, but they also have vintage musical instruments available at great prices. All major brands of guitars, string instruments, drums, keyboards, brass band instruments, amps, effects pedals, and pretty much anything else you can think of are represented in Liberty's inventory. They will also buy your old musical instruments (or pretty much anything else of value, for that matter) at the best prices around, either outright or on a consignment basis. A small range of movies and games are also to be had.
- 19 Logo Imprinted Sportswear, 645 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15 or 18), ☏ . M-F 9AM-5PM. Founded in 1980 and now located on Seneca Street in Larkinville, Logo Imprinted Sportswear's main business is custom-producing jerseys and caps for local sports teams. However, even if you're not on a team, they'll also screenprint a design of your choice on t-shirts, sweatshirts, and even embroidery.
Liquor, beer and wine
- 20 Buffalo Distilling Company, 860 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15, 18 or 23). Tu & Th 4:30PM-9PM, F 4:30PM-10PM, Sa noon-8PM. Though its official website traces the business's roots back to 1883, when the original company of the same name was founded by a pair of German immigrants on the Near East Side, today's relaunched Buffalo Distilling Company got its start in a Wyoming County barn in 2012. Their Larkinville retail shop and tasting room are open four days a week to fans of the "One Foot Cock" (no snickering please; it's named after the rooster weathervane on top of said barn) line of small-batch craft spirits. Distillery tours are also offered; get in touch on their Facebook page for details.
- Flying Bison Brewing Company, 840 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15, 18 or 23), ☏ . Retail store open Th-Sa noon-8PM. The first in a long line of local craft breweries, and the heirs of a proud tradition of Buffalo brewing that never quite recovered after Prohibition, Flying Bison's 2000 launch marked the first time beer was brewed in Buffalo for commercial purposes since Iroquois closed up shop twenty-eight years prior. Despite an increasingly crowded field of competitors, they're still giants on the local scene: "Aviator Red" is Buffalo's best-selling red ale, the Vienna-style "Rusty Chain" is sweet, smooth and yeasty, and seasonal offerings such as the holiday favorite "Blizzard Bock" abound.
- 21 Tommyrotter Distillery, 500 Seneca St., Suite 110 (Metro Bus 15 or 18), ☏ . Retail shop and tasting room open Th-F 4PM-8PM, Sa noon-4PM. Tommyrotter Distillery owes its name to an early-20th Century offshoot of the Arts and Crafts Movement who according to the place's website "broke rank... to create for creation's sake, [seeking] adventure, mischief, and inspiration in nature" — and in their roster of small-batch spirits you'll get a taste of that same joy in the creative process. All ingredients are sourced from New York State growers, crafted artisanally "with back, hand and heart", bottled and labelled by hand, and sold in a bevy of local restaurants, supermarkets, and liquor stores as well as the distillery's own retail shop and tasting room.
- 22 Winkler & Samuels, 500 Seneca St., Suite 115 (Metro Bus 15 or 18), ☏ . Tu-W 11AM-7PM, Th-F 11AM-8PM, Sa noon-7PM. Wine lovers, welcome to your Larkinville happy place: owner and certified sommelier Melissa Winkler has assembled an extensive, well-organized, and expertly curated selection of wines that draw heavily from small-scale vintners who emphasize sustainable production techniques. In other words, this is miles from the same-old same-old that you'll find at the supermarket or ordinary bottle shops. If you're new to the wine world, Winkler & Samuels usually holds two or three "wine education classes" per month (see website for details), complete with copious free samples!
- 23 Animal Outfitters, 500 Seneca St., Suite 150 (Metro Bus 2, 15 or 18), ☏ . M-F 7AM-6PM, Sa 9AM-2PM, Su by appointment. Most of what's offered up by this second location of Animal Outfitters consists of doggy daycare, pet grooming, obedience classes, and the like, but they also stock a small, curated selection of some of the same pet goods you'll find at the Elmwood Avenue store: holistically-formulated food and treats and high-quality accessories such as leashes, food bowls, and toys for today's discriminating urban pet owner. You'll also enjoy the same level of friendly and knowledgeable service from "Uncle Omar" and the rest of his staff.
- Larkin Market (At Larkin Square; Metro Bus 15, 18 or 23), ☏ . Th 4PM-7:30PM, Jul-Sep. In the words of Larkinville executive Leslie Zemsky, the Larkin Market is all about "social shopping": a place where you can not only shop but meet up with friends, have a bite to eat, relax to the tune of live light acoustic music performed by local bands, and get to know your friendly neighborhood artists and artisans. Offerings run the gamut from vintage fashions, bath products, farm-fresh produce, artisanal foods, photo prints of Buffalo scenery, and even full meals courtesy of area restaurants and food trucks. Beer, wine, and gourmet food tastings are hosted frequently.
The closest thing South Buffalo has to an Elmwood Avenue, the section of Abbott Road adjacent to and north of Cazenovia Park is densely packed with a variety of shops and restaurants, many with an Irish theme (in keeping with its designation as Buffalo's Irish Heritage District). South of there, it takes on a more spread-out, suburban feel.
- 24 Burkey's Sportswear, 904 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14), ☏ . M-F 10:30AM-4:30PM, Sa 10:30AM-3PM. With an inventory composed in equal measures of jerseys, activewear, t-shirts, and other apparel on the one hand, and sporting goods of all descriptions on the other hand, Burkey's is a friendly neighborhood shop that's equipped to attend to the needs of the athletic-minded community of Buffalo. Locally owned and operated, Burkey's demonstrates its engagement in the South Buffalo community with a range of locally-themed merchandise sold both in-store and at local events such as the South Buffalo Irish Feis and the Larkin Market, and its sponsorship of local amateur sports teams.
- 25 Impress Apparel, 313 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14), ☏ . Open by appointment. You might call Impress Apparel South Buffalo's answer to New Buffalo Graphics, where the focus is on both custom screenprinted apparel and sloganeering. The marquee product is a line of t-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, and baseball caps — not to mention coffee mugs, tote bags, Christmas ornaments, and other baubles — imprinted with the slogan "Buffalo: We Roam All Over", a reminder that although local natives can be found all over the world, they always have a home in Buffalo. Designs also include iconic local scenes like the downtown skyline and the grain elevators, as well as personalized tiles customizable with anything from photos of loved ones to business logos.
- 26 McKay's, 851 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14), ☏ . M-Sa 10AM-6PM, Th-F till 9PM. Family-owned for over 45 years, the main order of the day at McKay's is work gear, specifically Carhartt brand: their gamut of jackets, cargo pants, coveralls, neon-colored high-visibility vests, tool bags, backpacks, and other accessories earned them Carhartt's Retailer of the Year award in 2006, as well as various brands of work shoes and boots, gloves, lab coats, and scrubs. But if you're looking for something more in the way of a souvenir, McKay's contribution to the Hibernian offerings in Buffalo's Irish Heritage District includes a range of sweatshirts featuring custom-made Irish embroidery designs produced right in-store.
- 27 Dog Ears Bookstore & Café, 688 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14), ☏ . M-Sa 10AM-8PM, Su 11AM-3PM. Not only "a fun, funky place where the written word rules", but also a force for good in the community: the money you spend at the not-for-profit Dog Ears Bookstore goes to such good causes as community literacy workshops, children's reading programs, and donations to school libraries. But even if you're just here to buy books, this friendly, unpretentious mom-and-pop bookstore/café hybrid stocks titles for everyone, but especially young children. There's also a good selection of Irish literature (this being South Buffalo, after all) and works by local authors.
- 28 Empire Comics, 1069 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14), ☏ . M-Tu & Th-F 2PM-7PM, W noon-7PM. South Buffalo's comic book store of choice, but that's just the beginning of the story. At Empire Comics, the selection, while not quite measuring up to the gargantuan Queen City Bookstore in North Buffalo, comprises a surprising breadth of titles (mostly traditional superhero stuff, though you'll find some edgy graphic novels and the like here and there), especially given the modest size of the place, plus the usual figurines and other collectibles. But it's in the little touches where Empire shines: handpainted shelves, a TV behind the counter playing a loop of superhero movies, and a super friendly owner who sells T-shirts airbrushed with his own original art on the side.
- 29 KupKates, 956 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14), ☏ . Su 10AM-4PM or by appointment. Kathleen Cunningham's is a small, cheerily-decorated neighborhood cupcake shop where the specialty is imaginatively conceived custom orders for weddings, parties, and other special occasions. But if you're just popping in for a quick bite on a Sunday morning or afternoon, KupKates does stock a selection of premade cupcakes to take home, scratch-made from premium ingredients, as well as cookies, pastry hearts, pies, and other treats. And if you're gluten-sensitive, you don't have to miss out: there's a selection of goodies for you too!
Chocolate and candies
- 30 Ko-Ed Candies, 281 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14), ☏ . M-Sa 10AM-7PM, early Oct through mid-May. Since 1947, the specialty at Ko-Ed has been sponge candy — homemade and dipped in your choice of milk or dark chocolate — and Buffalo sweet tooths (or is that "sweet teeth?") agree that this is some of the best you'll find anywhere. It's a bit pricey, but worth it. If that's not your sweet indulgence of choice, how about chocolate-covered popcorn (a distant second on the ranking of favorite products), other local specialties like Charlie Chaplins, or special novelties around the holidays? And if you're lucky enough to be in town in spring, stop by to take advantage of steep end-of-season discounts!
- 31 Park Edge Sweet Shoppe, 325 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14), ☏ . M-F 10AM-4PM. Despite coming under new ownership a couple years back, Park Edge Sweet Shoppe is a real throwback, with the old 1950s-vintage recipes and ambience retained from the original even as new innovations have been added to the mix. Compared to Ko-Ed Candies down the road, the goods here are more diverse and more reasonably priced. Homemade sponge candy is indeed a specialty — unusually, it's sold here in narrow sticks, sort of like Kit Kat bars — but you'll also find other confections in dark, milk, white, and orange chocolate, rich butter toffee, candy apples, cookies (courtesy of Cookie Expressions), and even flowers and other non-edible gifts.
- 32 Tara Gift Shoppe, 250 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14), ☏ . M-Sa 10AM-4PM. There's perhaps no shop that better encapsulates this neighborhood: the themes uniting Tara Gift Shoppe's wide-ranging inventory are split evenly between Ireland, Buffalo, and Irish Buffalo. Stop by if you like to pick up green-white-and-orange "South Buffalo Forever" t-shirts or green Bills or Sabres baseball hats, but Tara is at its best as a purveyor of authentic Irish imports of consistently high quality (prices can be high, but you get what you pay for). Jewelry comes in Celtic motifs, including some nice claddagh rings; stained glass, wind chimes, and decorative baubles feature Celtic tribal symbols and Irish crosses; fine Waterford china and crystalware abounds.
Since 1931, Seneca-Babcock has been the home of the Niagara Frontier Food Terminal, founded in 1931 by the Erie and Nickel Plate Railroads as an alternative to the congested Elk Market Terminal for wholesale produce vendors. Despite both the demise of the railroads and the rise of suburban-style supermarkets as the dominant option for grocery shoppers, the Niagara Frontier Food Terminal continues in operation and is today the home of a number of specialty food concerns, as well as the Clinton Bailey Farmers' Market.
- 33 Chateau Buffalo, 1500 Clinton St. #175 (At the Niagara Frontier Food Terminal; Metro Bus 2 or 19), ☏ . Th-Sa 11AM-7PM. Chateau Buffalo is best known for locally-produced wines (as in right here in Buffalo, not the Finger Lakes or the Niagara Wine Trail), but in the same drab but well-stocked wine cellar-cum-warehouse at the Niagara Frontier Food Terminal they also make their own craft cider (under the brand name "Dancing Buffalo"; the German-style apfelwein is said to be especially tasty) and sell a range of other gourmet artisanal foods sourced from New York State producers, such as cheese, jams, jellies, and sausages.
- 34 Great Lakes Shrimp Company, 1500 Clinton St. #154 (At the Niagara Frontier Food Terminal; Metro Bus 2 or 19), ☏ . The Niagara Frontier Food Terminal is the somewhat unlikely home of Upstate New York's only shrimp farm: inside this unassuming warehouse you'll find twelve saltwater tanks full of the little critters, Pacific whiteleg shrimp to be exact, destined to be sold not only to area stores and restaurants but also directly to the consumer (call for details). Ask owner Nigel Hebborn about the difference in taste between his never-frozen product and the average selection in your supermarket's freezer section and he'll go off at the hip, but he's not exaggerating: it really is night and day.
- 35 The Sausage Maker, 1500 Clinton St. #123 (At the Niagara Frontier Food Terminal; Metro Bus 2 or 19), ☏ . M-F 8:30AM-4:30PM, Sa 8:30AM-1PM. The Sausage Maker is at the service of not only its namesake customer but also DIY home cheesemakers, canners, brewers, and winemakers, with a wide variety of supplies custom-manufactured by engineers in the local area. Here you can find machinery such as meat grinders and sausage stuffers, electric appliances like smokehouses and dehydrators (perfect for making your own jerky!), and supplies including sausage casings, spices and curing agents.
- 36 T&T Trading, 1500 Clinton St. #135 (At the Niagara Frontier Food Terminal; Metro Bus 2 or 19). M & W-Th 8AM-4:30PM, Tu 8AM-6:30PM, F 8AM-2PM, Sa 10AM-2PM. If you're in the market for new or used household items, furniture, sporting goods, electronics, power tools, or any of a host of other goods, head to this Niagara Frontier Food Terminal wholesaler that sells them right off the pallets for unbelievable prices. And if those prices aren't quite unbelievable enough for you, you can become a member of their Facebook group, "The Stock Room", to get access to special discounts, first crack at new items, and other exclusive benefits.
Aside from what's at the Food Terminal, Seneca-Babcock is also where you'll find the famous...
- 37 , 1503 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15 or 19), ☏ . M-Sa 10AM-8PM, Su 11AM-7PM. All your favorite new and used military surplus goods, now at a new location: as of 2019, the corner of Bailey and Seneca is where you'll find all the field jackets, pea coats, bandanas, Kevlar helmets, face masks, gas masks, backpacks, blankets, etc. etc. ad nauseam you could ever imagine. (A word to international visitors: some of the stuff Uncle Sam's sells, such as survival knives, mortar tubes, and the like, will probably earn you unwanted attention passing through Customs; use your judgment.)
If you want the most elegant fine dining Buffalo has to offer, look elsewhere. But if you want neighborhood dives brimming with local color and serving up delicious homestyle foods at shockingly low prices, South Buffalo has you covered.
One unique specialty of South Buffalo cuisine that many locals don't know about, let alone out-of-towners, are Smitty-style wings — a variant chicken wing recipe invented in the late '60s (only a few years after Teressa Bellissimo cooked up the first batch of classic Buffalo-style wings) by Carol O'Neill, chef of the long-gone Smitty's Tavern on Abbott Road. The ineffable seasoning blend that made the original recipe so distinctive remains a closely-guarded secret that current purveyors of Smitty-style wings can only guess at, so nowadays the flavor varies slightly depending on where you get them. But broadly speaking, by comparison with the classic Buffalo style, the meat tends to be crispier on the outside yet more tender on the inside, while the sauce is less spicy and sports a pronounced flavor of garlic and vinegar, as well as (here's where things get especially murky) a blend of sweet and aromatic spices that may include ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon. The best places to find Smitty-style wings nowadays are not the sit-down restaurants in this section but the neighborhood taverns listed below in "Drink" — Doc Sullivan's and the Nine-Eleven Tavern are the consensus favorites.
|This page uses the following price ranges for a typical meal for one, including soft drink:|
South Buffalo Business District
- 1 Cantina 62, 2178 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☏ . Su-Th 10AM-10PM, F-Sa 10AM-midnight. Its name may no longer be apropos — the place moved in 2019 from its former location on South Park Avenue (aka U.S. Route 62) to the Shea's Seneca building — but the tacos, nachos, burritos, and other classic Tex-Mex fare is still on point. Don't be fooled by a menu that seems run-of-the-mill at first blush: there are some interesting innovations to be found among the specialty tacos, such as Korean barbecue, Philly cheesesteak, and even a beef on weck taco dressed with horseradish slaw. The food is serviceably good though a bit bland, perfect for those who like Mexican cuisine but can't handle spice, and if you don't like Mexican cuisine, check out their selection of specialty mac and cheese bowls. It's all served up fast-casual style for reasonable prices in a cavernous space that gets loud when it gets crowded. $10-25.
- 2 Seneca Texas Hots, 2449 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☏ . Daily 24 hours. A humble neighborhood dive with an important place in Buffalo culinary history, it's claimed that this is where Greek immigrant George Ladas invented the Texas hot in 1957. Though plenty of imitators have sprung up in the years since — and though many people say this place is not as good as it was before Ladas retired — Seneca Texas Hots are still hands-down the best in Buffalo, and they even ship nationwide! Order yours with standard fast-food sides like fries (in tiny portions; ask for two orders if you're hungry), milkshakes, and the like, or enjoy all-day breakfast if that's your thing. Downsides include the service, which can be inattentive and surly, and the fact that they only accept cash, though there's an ATM in the dining room. $5-10.
- 3 Blackthorn Pub, 2134 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☏ . Su-Th 11:30AM-10PM, F-Sa 11:30AM-11PM. As seen on the Food Network series Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives (Guy Fieri really liked the jalapeño tater tots). The food served at this prototypical South Buffalo Irish pub splits the difference between local standbys like beef on weck and chicken wings (both classic-recipe and Smitty-style), and Hibernian specialties such as corned beef and cabbage, shepherd's pie, and beer and cheddar soup. The Blackthorn is an old-school kind of place that doesn't look like much from the outside, but venture in and you'll find a friendly, welcoming ambience. However, service is often brusque, especially if you're seated at the bar rather than in the dining room. $15-40.
- 4 Francesca's, 2022 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☏ . Tu-Su 11AM-10PM. If the name of this place didn't clue you in to what kind of food is served here, the exterior sure will: this building screams "Italy" in the heart of Irish South Buffalo, from the bright orange stucco walls up to the red tile roof. Classic and contemporary fare with a local twist is the name of the game at Francesca's, served in an upscale, trattoria-style ambience: the "classic" half of the equation dominated among the main courses, a standard but well-executed roster of homestyle red-sauce favorites, while the "local twists" come into play with the appetizers, especially the house special "Unstuffed Hot Pepper Soup", an ingenious take on the local favorite where spicy Anaheim peppers come in a creamy broth made with ricotta cheese. The dining room is spacious yet intimate, but on summer nights the back patio is the place to be. $15-45.
The following pizzerias are located in the South Buffalo business district. Those who are interested in pizza delivery (as opposed to pickup) might want to also check listings in adjacent districts; local pizzerias will often deliver to several different neighborhoods of the city.
- 5 Blasdell Pizza, 2368 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☏ . Su-Th 11AM-10PM, F-Sa 11AM-midnight.
- 6 Emergency Pizza, 1870 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☏ . M-Th 11AM-2AM, F-Sa 11AM-4AM, Su 11AM-midnight.
- 7 Extreme Pizza, 2298 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☏ . Sa-Th 11AM-10PM, F 11AM-11PM. A locally-owned takeout-and-delivery outfit, not a location of the fast-casual chain of the same name.
- 8 Leo's, 2077 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☏ . Su-Th 11AM-11PM, F-Sa 11AM-midnight.
- 9 Wiseguys, 1965 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☏ . Su-W 11AM-11PM, Th-Sa 11AM-4AM.
- 10 Dollar General, 2137 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☏ . Daily 8AM-9PM.
- 11 Family Dollar, 2250 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☏ . M-Sa 9AM-10PM, Su 9AM-9PM.
- 12 Tops, 1989 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☏ . Daily 6AM-11PM.
- 13 South Buffalo Farmers' Market, Peter Crotty Casino, Cazenovia Park (Metro Bus 15), ☏ . Su 10AM-2PM beginning in June. Wherein local farmers and artisans converge on Cazenovia Park on Sunday mornings offering up not only the usual array of fresh produce, meats, eggs, dairy products, and prepared foods, but also products such offbeat vendors as Chateau Buffalo with its craft wines and hard ciders, and the locally-themed photography of John Angelo. Unique among local farmers' markets, the South Buffalo Market also has food trucks on hand so you can munch on a snack while shopping, and live bands perform in front of the Crotty Casino most days.
Cobblestone District, the Old First Ward, and The Valley
If the pricier dining options directly inside the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino don't appeal to you, there are cheaper eats across the street.
- Ballyhoo, 211 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 14, 16 or 42), ☏ . Su-Th noon-midnight, F-Sa noon-2AM. "Links and drinks" are the rule at Ballyhoo: the short but sweet menu consists entirely of a maddeningly creative range of house-made sausages like the "Curry Lamb Bam" (topped with the contrasting flavors of harissa and raita and served with tabbouleh on the side), the "Church Chicken" (seasoned with Old Bay and dressed with whole-grain mustard and celery and apple slaw), and the "Short Round" (ground Korean-style short rib flavored with ginger, garlic and scallions and topped with kimchi slaw and sambal aioli). A modest range of salads and soups are offered for sides, and ice cream sandwiches made with house-baked chocolate chip cookies make a delectable dessert. $15-25.
- 14 Milo's, 126 Michigan Ave. (Metro Bus 14, 16 or 42), ☏ . Daily 8AM-2PM. If you're looking for a really delicious breakfast or lunch served in an ambience straight out of the '60s by a waitstaff that's friendly, funny and spunky in the way you just don't see anymore in this age of faceless multinational chains, head to Milo's. Even the prices will make you think you just stepped off a time machine. Breakfast is served till 11AM and features all the usual options, while the lunch menu features a slate of 8-inch subs on locally baked Costanzo's rolls as well as hot dogs, burgers, and hot sandwiches off the grill (for something a little more unique, try the salmon burger). $5-15.
- 15 Buffalo's Best Cucina, 65 Vandalia St. (At The Barrel Factory; Metro Bus 42), ☏ . Th 5PM-9PM, F 3PM-9PM, Sa noon-9PM, Su noon-6PM. The dining experience at the Barrel Factory's resident restaurant might be likened to a sort of indoor sidewalk café, with charming bistro-style tables set up in the corridor in front of the "storefront" ordering counter inside this converted turn-of-the-century warehouse. But it's not just the ambience: the menu, too, calls to mind the simple yet elegant fare you see at classic French bistros, yet with a much more international (and not just Italian!) flare: escargot in vodka garlic sauce and beer-braised mussels certainly afford a Gallic flavor to the small-plates menu, but then there's the tuna poke salad — and main courses are yet another matter, with panini sandwiches and artisanal thin-crust brick-oven pizzas dominating (nods to local cuisine abound; beef on weck pizza, anyone?) $15-35.
- 16 Duende, 85 Childs St. (At Silo City; Metro Bus 42), ☏ . Th-F 3PM-midnight, Sa noon-midnight, Su noon-6PM. The Buffalo River's towering grain elevators make a truly unique urban landscape, and if fine dining with them as a backdrop sounds like your cup of tea, Duende is the place for you. The menu is brief and changes weekly, but always features a selection of gourmet appetizers, bar snacks, and light summery fare, often with a Latin flair: the chipotle pork rouladen with chimichurri sauce, one of the most frequently-featured and best-liked specials, is a good example. Inconsistent service is a sore spot: it ranges from quick and efficient to glacially slow and friendly as can be to openly hostile, so don't catch these folks on a bad day. $15-30.
- Labatt Brew House, 79 Perry St. (Metro Bus 6, 8, 14, 16, 24 or 42; Metro Rail: Erie Canal Harbor), ☏ . M-Th 11AM-1AM, F-Sa 11AM-2AM, Su 11AM-midnight. The ground floor of the Labatt Brewing Company's U.S. home office is given over to a small brewery as well as "The Draft Room", a full-service bar and restaurant. There's nothing too outlandish on the menu, but this being Labatt, the selection of Canadian pub-grub specialties is unsurprisingly ample: the "poutine burger" is an interesting concoction, and they make a killer Montreal smoked meat platter. For dessert are a range of tasty cookies and pastries whipped up daily at Bakery 55 in the back of the restaurant. Every menu item is accompanied by a suggested beer pairing: represented on the list are not only the beers brewed onsite but also some selections from Labatt's sister brewery in Rochester, Genesee, plus other local craft beers. Order either at the bar or at one of several touch-screen kiosks, then take a number and your food will be delivered when ready. $15-35.
- Resurgence Brewing, 55 Chicago St. (Metro Bus 14, 16 or 42), ☏ . Tu-Th 3PM-11PM, F 3PM-midnight, Sa noon-11PM, Su noon-10PM. In keeping with the (in spite of everything) still blue-collar, salt-of-the-earth character of the surrounding neighborhood, the food menu at Resurgence's new Old First Ward taproom hews closely to familiar pub-grub standards. But in keeping with the spirit of the "new" Buffalo, it all comes with an upscale twist: witness, for example, the "RBC Burger", two Kindred Kreek beef patties topped with fried onion rings and slathered with Resurgence's own homemade "beer BBQ" sauce. But crowning the menu is a selection of wings that make up for with creativity what they lack in size: sauces include classic Buffalo-style, the "beer BBQ" sauce again, even a dill pickle wing with tzatziki! The execution is a little inconsistent, but feel free to take that with a grain of salt; they've only been open a month as of this writing. $15-35.
- 17 The Rose Bar & Grille, 199 Scott St. (Metro Bus 14, 16 or 42), ☏ . Tu-Th & Su 4PM-9:30PM (bar till 11PM), F-Sa 4PM-midnight (bar till 2AM). Located in the Fairmont Creamery building in the space that used to be The Mahony, The Rose presents a menu that's quite a bit less upscale and eclectic, but also quite a bit less expensive, than its predecessor. All-American pub grub is the name of the game here: burgers, quesadillas (garnished with sour cream, salsa, and pico de gallo), and fish fry duly impress, roasted banana peppers stuffed with ricotta cheese and breadcrumbs pay tribute to the local cuisine, and salads bring out the chef's more refined and creative side. Service is friendly but can be rather slow, and just as before, the exposed brick of the walls makes for trendy decor but lousy acoustics. $15-40.
- 18 Tewksbury Lodge, 249 Ohio St. (At RiverFest Park; Metro Bus 14, 16 or 42), ☏ . Lunch W-F 11AM-2PM, dinner F 5PM-9PM, brunch Sa-Su 10AM-2PM. The game here is simple, light, classic, reasonably-priced American fare cooked up right, served in generous portions in an awe-inspiring setting at RiverFest Park, with a front-row seat to the majesty of the Buffalo River's grain elevators. Tewksbury Lodge is open for lunch five days a week with a menu of sandwiches (the classic corned-beef Reuben is a hit), burgers (which, with monikers such as "The Longshoreman", "The Grain Scooper" and "The Irishman", pay tribute with their monikers to the neighborhood's heritage), and wraps (including a killer take on Philly cheesesteak), but on Fridays opening hours extend to dinner, featuring a rather modest selection of full-sized main courses tilted slightly toward seafood. $10-30.
- 19 The Ward, RiverWorks, 359 Ganson St. (Metro Bus 14 or 16). Open daily for lunch and dinner starting at 11AM. RiverWorks' onsite restaurant sports a menu of comfort food on offer, with a few upscale touches to class things up (and prices to match): think along the lines of sandwiches, pub grub-style appetizers, build-your-own artisan pizzas, and a limited and lackluster selection of stick-to-your-ribs full-size mains like the bacon-wrapped, tater tot-stuffed "Ganson Meatloaf". Consensus is that the food is just okay, and the service is a consistent weak spot (at best your friendly and attentive waiter might apologize profusely for the backup in the kitchen; worst-case scenario it's as if you're invisible), but if you're looking for industrial ambience, you're hard-pressed to find a more privileged location along the Buffalo River. Wash it all down with your choice of seven craft beers produced right onsite in the world's first grain-elevator brewery. $15-45.
The following pizzerias are located in the Cobblestone District, the Old First Ward, and The Valley. Those who are interested in pizza delivery (as opposed to pickup) might want to also check listings in adjacent districts; local pizzerias will often deliver to several different neighborhoods of the city.
- 20 Carbone's, 568 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 14, 16 or 18), ☏ . Su-Th 11AM-11PM, F-Sa 11AM-midnight.
- 21 Ricota's, 206 Elk St. (Metro Bus 14, 16, 18 or 23), ☏ . M-Sa 10:30AM-10:45PM, Su 10:30AM-9:45PM.
The Triangle and South Park Avenue
- 23 Apollo Family Restaurant, 423 Hopkins St. (Metro Bus 16), ☏ . M-Sa 7AM-7PM, Su 7AM-3PM. Since 1992, Konstantin Mazaris and his staff have operated this friendly Greek diner in an out-of-the-way location at the back end of The Triangle. At this classic greasy spoon, all the expected specialties such as souvlaki, gyro and Greek salad are dished out, as well as a selection of simple American favorites and a breakfast that can't be beat. Service is friendly and folksy, and the prices are remarkably low. $10-25.
- 24 Jacobi's, 141 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14, 16, 19 or 23), ☏ . M-Sa 11AM-midnight, Su noon-midnight. Jacobi's is a Buffalo institution, a longstanding chain of casual Italian restaurants with several locations in the area, including this one in South Buffalo. It's basically a locally-owned equivalent of Pizza Hut, with offerings much the same as what you could get with delivery, except served to you by actual waitstaff in an actual dining room. The pizza, wings, chicken fingers, subs, and pasta dishes (Wednesday is all-you-can-eat pasta night) are reliably good, if unremarkable. Service is a definite weak spot at Jacobi's, ranging from disengaged to hostile. $10-30.
- 25 Pete-n-Paul's Pockets, 2124 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 16), ☏ . M-Sa 10:30AM-7:30PM. Pull up to Pete-n-Paul's and you might think you're at an old-fashioned drive-in or snack bar, and you'd not be entirely wrong: there is indeed a variety of burgers, hot dogs, milkshakes and frozen treats on the menu. But appearances can be deceiving: the backbone of the menu is actually a long list of sandwiches wrapped in healthy, cholesterol-free pita bread (hence the "pockets" part of this place's name). Chicken souvlaki, Italian sausage, beef Stroganoff, and fried bologna are only a few of the delights available here. Elsewhere on the menu you'll see wraps, tacos, salads, and entrees including Greek souvlaki platters and a killer fish fry on Fridays. Service is fast, and the food is delicious and cheap: what's not to love? $5-10.
- 26 Wayside Family Restaurant, 2301 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 16), ☏ . Daily 7AM-11PM. Wayside has legions of rabidly loyal fans in South Buffalo, many of whom have been swearing by this place for decades and come so often the staff knows them by name. Why? Because, simply put, they serve diner food done right: classic, all-American comfort food; no frills, but service is lightning-fast and among the friendliest in town. There must be two or three dozen sandwiches on the menu to choose from, a build-your-own burger basket that's a hit with regulars, and a few nods to Buffalo's storied Greek diner tradition (all sandwiches, not just their delicious chicken and beef souvlaki, are available on pita bread for no extra charge). There's a modest selection of heartier dinners, too, including beef and turkey roasts, steak, stuffed porkchops, grilled or fried chicken, and a beer-battered fish fry every Friday. $10-25.
The following local chains have locations in The Triangle and on South Park Avenue. Descriptions of these restaurants can be found on the main Buffalo page.
- 27 Mighty Taco, 1039 McKinley Pkwy. (Metro Bus 14, 16, 19 or 23), ☏ . Su-Th 10AM-1AM, F-Sa 10AM-2AM.
The following pizzerias are located in The Triangle and on South Park Avenue. Those who are interested in pizza delivery (as opposed to pickup) might want to also check listings in adjacent districts; local pizzerias will often deliver to several different neighborhoods of the city.
- 28 Chick-N-Pizza Works, 129 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14, 16, 19 or 23), ☏ . Su-Th 11AM-10PM, F-Sa 11AM-11PM.
- 29 Leo's, 2249 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 16), ☏ . Su-Th 11AM-11PM, F-Sa 11AM-midnight.
- 30 LombarDough's, 615 Hopkins St. (Metro Bus 14, 16 or 23), ☏ . Su-Th 11AM-11PM, F-Sa 11AM-midnight; last delivery order accepted 30 minutes before close.
- 31 Mineo's, 2154 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 16), ☏ . M-Th 11AM-11PM, F-Sa 11AM-midnight, Su 11AM-10PM.
- 32 Mr. Submarine, 1977 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 16), ☏ . M-Sa 11AM-11PM, Su noon-10PM.
- 33 Dollar General, 942 McKinley Pkwy. (Metro Bus 14, 16, 19 or 23), ☏ . Daily 8AM-10PM.
- 34 Family Dollar, 1909 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 16), ☏ . Daily 8AM-10PM.
- 35 Tops, 1460 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 14, 16, 19 or 23), ☏ . Daily 6AM-midnight.
- 36 Charlie's Boatyard, 1111 Fuhrmann Blvd. (Metro Bus 42), ☏ . M-Th 11AM-9PM, F-Sa 11AM-10PM, Su 9AM-8PM. If you've been to Buffalo before, you may remember this place as Dug's Dive, who were famous for charging premium prices for the lake views from their dining room while cutting corners on food and service. Have things improved? Yes and no. The ambience has definitely been kicked up a notch (though you still won't feel out of place in shorts and boat shoes), and the menu is more considerate to those who don't like seafood (while there's plenty of the former to choose from, the best-loved options include the house special "Boatyard Burger" and the apple walnut salad). On the other hand, the food itself gets mixed reviews, and the service is, if anything, worse than before. Still, Charlie's is the only game in town on the Outer Harbor, and those views over the lake are pretty impressive... $20-45.
Larkinville has a variety of brick-and-mortar restaurants to choose from, listed here. However, when it comes to dining, doubtless the most well-known attraction in the neighborhood is Food Truck Tuesdays, where a revolving cast of about two dozen food trucks from Buffalo, as well as visitors from Rochester and elsewhere, descend on Larkin Square from 5PM to 8PM, May through October.
- Chautauqua Café, 726 Exchange St., Suite 132 (At Larkin @ Exchange; Metro Bus 15, 18 or 23), ☏ . M-F 7:30AM-2PM. In the first-floor atrium of the 6 Larkin @ Exchange building is where you'll find this pleasant full-service bistro-style dining room where the food is reasonably priced but delicious. The Chautauqua Café is open for breakfast, which features a menu of egg sandwiches as well as a self-serve Belgian waffle bar with a range of toppings, as well as lunch, where the menu changes weekly but features soups, hot sandwiches, deli-style sandwiches, and personal pizzas (your choice of two each) as well as a heartier entree and salad. Full lunch service ends at 2PM, but soup and salad continues to be available for an hour thereafter. $5-15.
- 37 Swan Street Diner, 700 Swan St. (Metro Bus 15, 18 or 23), ☏ . Tu-Su 7AM-3PM. Lunch breakers from the surrounding offices are welcome, but the menu at this fully restored 1937 Sterling Diner car aims squarely at the weekend brunch crowd. At first, Swan Street's menu seems like just the usual diner fare, but look a little closer and you'll notice just enough of a creative flourish to bring in the hipster foodies while staying accessible to Middle America. Southern influences abound: alongside the standards, biscuits and gravy are a hit at breakfast (which is served all day), while lunch options include a buttermilk fried chicken sandwich with sweet potato fries. Wash it down with a cup of locally-brewed Undergrounds Roastery coffee or an even-more-locally-brewed Flying Bison beer. Service is speedy, and the ambience has all of Larkinville's trademark retro quirkiness, but sky-high prices are a downside. $10-25.
- Belt Line Brewery & Kitchen, 545 Swan St. (Metro Bus 2, 15 or 18), ☏ . Tu-Th noon-11PM, F-Sa noon-midnight, Su 11:30AM-8PM. It's named in homage to the New York Central Railroad's commuter service, which ferried thousands of Buffalo working stiffs to and from their jobs daily until around the end of the First World War, and a bit of that hardworking blue-collar identity does carry over to the place's "hipster but accessible" ambience. But the menu is a different story. Small plates of upscale pub grub seem similar at first look to what other brewpubs around town offer, but look a little closer and you'll discover the perfect place in Buffalo to take your craft beer-loving friends who are vegan or have other special dietary needs: Chicago hot dogs and Italian sausage sandwiches come in convincing "Beyond Meat" iterations, and the "keto burger", dressed with guacamole, bacon, and Cheddar cheese, is a hit too. $15-25.
- 38 Dobutsu, 500 Seneca St., Suite 119 (Metro Bus 15 or 18), ☏ . Lunch W-F 11:20AM-2:30PM;, dinner Tu-Sa 5PM-10PM, bar open till midnight. Dobutsu is best known as a destination for seafood lovers, and if that's you, you haven't been steered wrong: from crispy-fried coconut shrimp to seafood-stuffed Chinese steamed buns to poké bowls, this is among the best you can get in Buffalo. But if your tastes don't stray off dry land, they've got you covered too, and — with a roster of favorites including bone-in tonkotsu porkchops, Korean braised short rib, and a roster of ramen soups — that goes double if you're into Asian cuisines. The indecisive can opt for the omakase — loosely translated as "I'll leave it up to you" (i.e. the chef) — which comes at various price points. Speaking of prices: they're high, but again, you're paying for seafood of a freshness and quality that's hard to find in an inland city like Buffalo. $20-55.
- 39 The Filling Station, 745 Seneca St. (At Larkin Square; Metro Bus 15, 18 or 23), ☏ . M-F 11AM-3PM. A fully restored 1930s-era gas station (hence the name) with a short menu emphasizing the local, the fresh, and the seasonal: at the Filling Station, you can choose from a range of homemade soups, burgers and sandwiches, and a choice of two pizzas with prosciutto and San Marzano tomatoes, respectively. What really stands out, though, is the wine list, which is longer than any office lunch-break spot ought to be: over a dozen vintages are available. Beverage-wise, locally brewed Flying Bison "Rusty Chain" amber ale is also available, and for teetotalers, there's an extensive slate of gourmet teas and locally bottled Johnnie Ryan sodas. Parking is available a block away in the lot behind the Swan Street Diner. $15-25.
- 40 Hydraulic Hearth, 716 Swan St. (Metro Bus 15, 18 or 23), ☏ . Tu-Th 4:30PM-10PM, F-Sa 4:30PM-11PM. The handsome and historic Hydraulics Hotel building (c. 1885) has been revamped as a gourmet bar and eatery where artisan brick-oven pizzas take center stage: the selection ranges from classics like margherita, sausage (sourced from Spar's in Black Rock), and pepperoni, to local favorites like Buffalo chicken, to innovations like pulled pork with radicchio slaw and a blend of cheddar and goat cheese. But it's in the appetizers that the true diversity of the Hydraulic Hearth's oeuvre comes out to shine: there's Swedish meatballs with lingonberry jam, matzo ball soup, a cheese and charcuterie plate, and what would a Buffalo pizza restaurant be without wings — bourbon wings in this case, with a side of smoked blue cheese? $20-35.
- 41 Eckl's@Larkin, 703 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15, 18 or 23), ☏ . M-F 11AM-10PM, Sa 4PM-10PM, bar open later. Easily the most luxurious dining experience in Larkinville — in all of South Buffalo, actually — can be found at the branch location of Eckl's restaurant in the Larkin Center of Commerce. The original Eckl's in Orchard Park lays a somewhat dubious alternative claim to have invented the beef on weck, and for those not in the mood to splurge, it's available here in the form of sandwiches as well as "prime rib-n-weck egg rolls", an interesting bit of fusion that's one of the most popular features on the menu. But the lion's share of the menu follows the classic upscale steaks/chops/seafood template fairly closely, with end results that, while not outright bad, don't really justify the prices. But service is impeccable and the Art Deco-inspired ambience is as posh as it comes, so if money is no object, stop in. $30-125.
- 42 Abbott Pizza, 1177 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14 or 42), ☏ . Su-Th 11AM-10PM, F-Sa 11AM-11PM. Among South Buffalonians, the rivalry between Abbott and Imperial Pizza up the street is intense. The latter has better pizza, but the former sports a more diverse menu, going beyond the usual pizzeria fare to include tacos and other simple Tex-Mex favorites, a huge range of subs and wraps, and even family-sized fried chicken dinners. As for the pizza, it's reliably good (if, again, not as good as Imperial), not too greasy, and decently priced. Favorites include the spicy "Hot Topic" with two kinds of peppers, the meat-lovers' dream "Abbott Special" with ham, cappicola, salami and sausage, as well as a Greek pizza topped with a blend of mozzarella and feta, onions, olives and souvlaki meat. Minus a couple of points for the astonishing fact that this place doesn't serve fountain drinks (soda comes in cans only). $10-25.
- Dog Ears Bookstore & Café, 688 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14), ☏ . M-F 6:30AM-8PM, Sa 8AM-8PM, Su 9AM-3PM. Dog Ears is not only a bookstore, but also a cafe where you can get a whole range of gourmet sandwiches served up in a cozy, intimate setting. Creative names for menu items evoke the literary classics of the past: the "Dubliner" features bacon, sharp Irish cheese, roasted tomatoes, and spinach on panini, and the vegetarian-friendly "Walden" sees grilled zucchini, mushrooms, artichokes, red peppers, and sun-dried tomato pesto piled onto on toast. Grab a scone out of the bakery case for a side; they're out of this world. At breakfast, bagels, French toast, and some pricey-but-good breakfast sandwiches are the rule. If you're here on Friday mornings, take advantage of "Free Coffee Friday"; if not, have a coffee anyway — it's ridiculously cheap on the other six days of the week too! $10-15.
- 43 Brick Oven Bistro, 904 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14), ☏ . M-Th 11AM-3PM and 4PM-9PM, F-Sa 11AM-3PM and 4PM-10PM, Su noon-8PM. Brick Oven Bistro stands out from the rest of the neighborhood's underwhelming dining scene with its focus on creative, upscale cuisine — especially, as the name implies, a selection of about a dozen artisanal brick-oven pizzas ranging from well-executed classics (margherita, pepperoni, mushroom) to unusual innovations (a Reuben pizza complete with sauerkraut) and paeans to the local cuisine (a beef on weck pizza with Swiss cheese, horseradish aioli, and a kümmelweck crust). If you like your crust thin, this place is for you; one reviewer suggested they'd be better described as flatbreads. At lunchtime is served a selection of sandwiches, the best of which features mouth-watering Angus steak dressed with hot peppers, onions, provolone, and garlic aioli. $15-35.
The following pizzerias are located on Abbott Road. Those who are interested in pizza delivery (as opposed to pickup) might want to also check listings in adjacent districts; local pizzerias will often deliver to several different neighborhoods of the city.
- 44 Imperial Pizza, 1035 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14), ☏ . Daily 11AM-11:30PM.
- 45 Jo Jo's, 528 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14), ☏ . Su-Th 11AM-10PM, F-Sa 11AM-midnight.
- 46 Michele's Café, 1373 Clinton St. (Metro Bus 2 or 19), ☏ . M-Sa 6AM-2PM, Su 7AM-2PM. Michele's is not so much a greasy spoon as a time machine that takes you back to what dining out in Buffalo was like 50 years ago: the interior is done up in whites and blues and decorated with old magazine ads from the '50s and '60s, the customers are blue-collar neighborhood Joes, and the menu is classic diner fare with subtle ethnic influences reflecting the identity of the neighborhood: chicken and waffles bring a soul-food touch to breakfast, while lovers of Polish cuisine will notice kielbasa subbing for chorizo in the breakfast burrito plus homemade chicken soup with kluski noodles just like babcia used to make. But easily the best choice are the burgers: handmade patties grilled to perfection with a pickle on the side and either French fries (identical, sadly, to the stuff in the freezer section at any supermarket) or soup. $10-20.
- 47 Yummy's, 1527 Clinton St. (Metro Bus 2 or 19), ☏ . M-Th 10:30AM-11PM, F-Sa 10:30AM-midnight. If you're an aficionado of Puerto Rican food, the conventional wisdom — to seek it out on the West Side — is for the most part true. But on the corner of Clinton and Bailey you'll find a big exception to that rule. Yummy's may not look like much from the outside, but what it serves is the most shockingly authentic island fare in town: above all pastelillos made with real yuca (which you used to have to go to NYC to get) and your choice of chicken, beef, or shrimp. But the printed menu is only a prelude to a slate of main courses that changes daily but popularly includes such favorites as oxtail stew, arroz con gandules, fried chicken, even mamposteao and other Puerto Rican-Chinese fusion dishes. $10-20.
The following pizzerias are located in Seneca-Babcock. Those who are interested in pizza delivery (as opposed to pickup) might want to also check listings in adjacent districts; local pizzerias will often deliver to several different neighborhoods of the city.
- Bowl Inn, 727 Bailey Ave. (Metro Bus 2 or 19), ☏ . M-Tu & Th-F 4PM-4AM, W noon-4AM, Sa-Su 11AM-4AM.
The Niagara Frontier Food Terminal is home not only to Buffalo's largest farmers' market, but also a cooperatively-run community food market as well as a "cash and carry" market where you can buy groceries directly from distributors at wholesale prices.
- 48 African Heritage Food Co-op, 1500 Clinton St. #98 (At the Niagara Frontier Food Terminal; Metro Bus 2 or 19), ☏ . W-Su 11AM-7PM. The African Heritage Co-op is not only a food market, but also a blow struck for entrepreneurship in the local black community, because (as they say around here) "anything less than ownership is unacceptable". $50 a year makes you a member-owner, giving you access to discounts and a say in how the place is run, but even if not, stop by the Niagara Frontier Food Terminal five days a week to pick up fresh fruits and veggies, organic toiletries, and other healthy goodies — or to the Black Business Bazaar on the first Saturday of each month, where a range of local independent vendors convene to proffer their own goods.
- 49 US Food Supply Cash & Carry, 1500 Clinton St. #136 (At the Niagara Frontier Food Terminal; Metro Bus 2 or 19), ☏ . M-F 8AM-4:30PM, Sa 8AM-3:30PM, Su 9AM-1PM.
- 50 Clinton Bailey Farmers' Market, 1443 Clinton St. (Metro Bus 2 or 19), ☏ . Daily 7AM-6PM May-Oct, Sa 6AM-1PM Nov-Apr. Many Buffalonians look at farmers' markets as a new phenomenon, maybe even a fad. But the Clinton Bailey Farmers' Market has been around a lot longer than the Johnny-come-latelys: founded in 1930 as an outgrowth of the wholesale food distributors across the street at the Niagara Frontier Food Terminal, it's by far the oldest and largest farmers' market in Buffalo, and the only one that remains open year round (though with sharply reduced hours in winter). You'll find stall after stall of growers and vendors each specializing in something a little different from their neighbor — fresh produce, flowers and ornamental plants, baked goods, specialty foods, Christmas trees around the holidays. There's even a small flea market on summer weekends with jewelry and other goods.
South Buffalo is a drinker's paradise: the main drags of Seneca Street, South Park Avenue and Abbott Road are lined with colorful and unpretentious spots where you can mingle with the locals or even have a pint with one of Buffalo's finest after the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade.
South Buffalo Business District
- Blackthorn Pub, 2134 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☏ . "If I had to imagine a South Buffalo Irish pub, this would probably be it", said one reviewer, and while that's maybe giving old Seneca Street a bit too much credit — there are more than a few spots on the strip that fall on the wrong side of the line between "unpretentious" and "seedy" — all in all it's not an inaccurate description of the Blackthorn. Sure, you'll find a decent selection of craft beers on tap at the bar, but they seem out of place: the Blackthorn is the kind of place where the thing to do is relax over an ice-cold Guinness stout and a plate of homestyle stick-to-your-ribs pub grub and drink in the old-school ambience of Buffalo as it was before the hipsters started taking over.
- 1 Bottle Rocket, 2182 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☏ . Located in the beautifully remodeled Shea's Seneca building, Bottle Rocket is part beer store, part chilled-out, hipster-friendly watering hole pouring a constantly changing selection of craft beers. There are eight on tap at any given time, including a few local beers but emphasizing diverse and interesting selections from craft breweries around the East Coast that you won't necessarily find elsewhere in Buffalo. The centerpiece of the place is an enormous 84-inch flat-screen TV, which, when it's not tuned to the big game or blaring classic rock standards, is put to use for the video game tournaments the place hosts from time to time.
- 2 Daly's, 2423 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☏ . A classic working-class South Buffalo Irish pub, but with a side order of neighborhood history. Founded in 1896 as an outgrowth of the long-gone Lakeview Brewery, Daly's is not quite as old as the Swannie House, but it's old enough, and retains enough of its original vibe, to be a frequent stop on the Forgotten Buffalo Tours of blue-collar old-Buffalo remnants. Knock back an ice-cold beer or cocktail while perusing photos and memorabilia on the walls that rep every era of the bar's history, in an ambience utterly free of pretension.
- 3 Hopper's Rush Inn, 2104 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☏ . Another classic neighborhood watering hole that's been around for decades, Rush Inn doesn't have the history that Daly's has, but it certainly does have the same old-Buffalo charm — not to mention as friendly a rogue's gallery of barkeeps and regulars as you're likely to come across anywhere. The lighting is dim, the decor is spartan, the pool table and dartboard are fun diversions, and live music happens from time to time; stop by to drink it all in (along with a pint of Guinness or a cold bottle of Genny)!
"Industrial chic" is the name of the game in the nightlife district nestled in the shadow of the KeyBank Center. As you can imagine, these bars really hop when the Sabres are playing, but when there's nothing going on at the arena, the scenario is no less pleasant: you can imbibe in a quieter and more intimate ambience, and enjoy ample free parking at the huge, deserted KeyBank Center lots.
- 4 Ballyhoo, 211 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 14, 16 or 42), ☏ . You'll find it where the Malamute used to be, but don't be fooled: in sharp contrast to that old-school gin mill, Ballyhoo would give any of the trendy cocktail bars on Elmwood a run for their money, let alone scruffy South Buffalo. Here, you can imbibe any of an impressive range of microbrews hailing from the local area and elsewhere, or perhaps a smart craft cocktail made with homemade mixers, while obscure British post-punk drones on the stereo. In summer, Ballyhoo has one of Buffalo's most unusual patios: a wooden deck facing Michigan Avenue built with salvaged military-surplus materials (the planter boxes hanging from the rails are made from old missile casings!)
- Buffalo Iron Works, 49 Illinois St. (Metro Bus 6, 8, 14, 16, or 42; Metro Rail: Erie Canal Harbor), ☏ . Iron Works is probably best known as a concert venue, but if you happen to be in town on one of those few nights when there's nothing on the event calendar, it's still worth a visit to enjoy a drink (a great selection of local craft beers on tap and big-name domestics and imports in cans; no bottles) or a bite to eat (courtesy of the taco stand set up near the entrance, operated by the folks from Left Coast Taco in East Aurora) in a friendly ambience.
- 5 Cobblestone, 130 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 14, 16 or 42; Metro Rail: Erie Canal Harbor), ☏ . The history of this c. 1860 converted warehouse shows in its interior decor, all exposed brick and ductwork, but don't mistake Cobblestone for a hipster hangout: it's more for the kind of person who'd rather stick to classic bar food and an ice-cold Miller Lite or Molson while watching sports on one of a multitude of big-screen TVs positioned around the barroom. The food menu is brief and specializes in chicken wings and brick-oven pizza, and the rowdy, bro-oriented clientele and atmosphere "personif[y] the ethos of late-'90s Buffalo" (in the words of the Buffalo News).
- 6 Labatt Brew House, 79 Perry St. (Metro Bus 6, 8, 14, 16, 24 or 42; Metro Rail: Erie Canal Harbor), ☏ . The ground floor of the Labatt Brewing Company's U.S. home offices is given over to a 200-seat restaurant as well as this small "innovation brewery" for limited-edition and seasonal beers, most unavailable elsewhere. (They seem to be positioning Blue Citra, a hoppy lager with notes of grapefruit, as the next new breakout star in the Labatt lineup; get it here before it hits stores.) Enjoy any of these dozen or so beers either in the restaurant, a large beer garden out back, or a small tasting room with a bird's-eye view onto the production floor — and if you want to help any of them find a wider market, put in a good word on the feedback form they provide!
- 7 Lockhouse Distillery, 41 Columbia St. (Metro Bus 14, 16, or 42; Metro Rail: Erie Canal Harbor), ☏ . The drink selection at Lockhouse Distillery's tasting room begins with a line of creative specialty craft cocktails featuring the same vodkas, gins, and liqueurs distilled onsite, but by no means does it end there. Here in this hipster-friendly but not intimidatingly trendy barroom you can also sample a well-curated selection of other quality spirits sourced from across New York State, a short but oddly eclectic beer list (blue-collar quaffs like Miller High Life and Genny Cream Ale mix incongruously with obscure microbrews), or even take in the occasional live music performance or DJ set.
Old First Ward and The Valley
Aside from the spanking-new craft brewery and distillery tasting rooms — which, needless to say, are an entirely different story — bar-hopping in the Old First Ward and The Valley is like taking a trip back in time to working-class Buffalo of old. These rough-and-tumble gin mills go way back — in fact, some of them (like the Swannie House) have been in business since the late 1800s, when the First Ward was home to Irish canal workers and grain scoopers.
- 8 Adolf's Old First Ward Tavern, 555 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 14, 16 or 18), ☏ . If its rather unfortunate name isn't enough to tip you off as to how long this place has been around, that point will be made clear as soon as you scope out the interior, with its original tin ceiling and the proud Irish shamrocks on the wood-panelled walls. But like the best of the First Ward's bars, Adolf's strikes a careful balance between old-Buffalo throwback and destination for hipsters in search of gritty authenticity. Alongside the usual big-name beers, Genny, and Guinness on tap you'll find an ample roster of craft brews, plus a food menu of pub grub classics with a Hibernian flair and occasional performances by local rock bands livening up an already plenty convivial atmosphere.
- 9 Bar Cultivar, 65 Vandalia St (At The Barrel Factory; Metro Bus 42). If cider is your adult beverage of choice, pencil in a stop at the Barrel Factory for some of the best that Western New York growers have to offer: Bar Cultivar is the tasting room operated by Orleans County's SteamPunk Cidery. The selection comprises a couple dozen varieties on tap and in bottles, sourced from SteamPunk and other New York State suppliers (plus a few carefully chosen ones from elsewhere), as well as creative cider-based craft cocktails — and speaking of steampunk, that's a good word to describe the ambience that you imbibe in.
- 10 Buffalo Bar & Grille, 307 Louisiana St. (Metro Bus 14, 16, 18 or 42), ☏ . This "historical meeting place for the famous and famished" may only be open Fridays, but it's a great destination for those who want a real neighborhood dive bar experience without a hint of hipster affectation. That goes double for history buffs, who can knock back a cold beer or tuck into a plate of chicken wings or fish fry (both with their share of votes for the best in town) in a dimly-lit but bustling barroom where the decor varies between old-time Buffalo memorabilia and pinup photos of 1950s movie stars.
- 11 Buffalo RiverWorks Brewery, 359 Ganson St. (Metro Bus 14 or 16). RiverWorks is where you'll find the world's first fully functioning grain-elevator brewery, with the former Consolidated Grange League Federation Elevator (aka the iconic Labatt Blue "six-pack" painted with the logo of the corporate sponsor of the pond hockey tournament RiverWorks hosts every February), retrofitted as storage tanks for five permanent and two changing seasonal beers, including "Trainwreck", the signature brew at downtown's Pearl Street Grill, which shares the same owners. Enjoy them in one of four interior bars, in the outdoor "Stonehenge" beer garden set among the foundations of the ruined Wheeler Elevator next door, or at the onsite restaurant, The Ward.
- 12 Cook's, 222 Katherine St. (Metro Bus 14 or 16), ☏ . On the scale of well-kept neighborhood secrets, Cook's ranks even higher than Buffalo Bar & Grille: it's a real honest-to-goodness corner watering hole, to the extent that you as a visitor might get some side-eye when you first arrive. Don't worry, though: the folks here are ultimately friendly, the drinks are dirt cheap, the ambience is cozy, and if you want real Old First Ward authenticity, you're hard-pressed to do better. Genesee beers are the specialty of the house, with all three staple varieties (regular, light, and cream ale) on tap. Darts, shuffleboard, and table bowling are on hand for a spot of fun.
- Duende, 85 Childs St. (At Silo City; Metro Bus 42), ☏ . A breathtakingly different bar experience: you pay a pretty penny for Duende's decent but not mind-blowing selection of local beers and ciders in cans (no taps, oddly), range of well-made specialty cocktails, and gourmet light meals, but the setting in the shadow of the massive grain elevators of Silo City is the kind of thing you'll find pretty much nowhere else but Buffalo. The interior of the place is no slouch either: the 1940s-era American Malting Company Office Building has been reimagined in a rustic style using upcycled construction materials sourced from around the Silo City site. If you prefer your drinks al fresco, head out back to the similarly rustic indoor-outdoor beer garden.
- 13 Gene McCarthy's, 73 Hamburg St. (Metro Bus 42), ☏ . It's best known among local beer snobs as home of the Old First Ward Brewing Company, with nine different house-brewed beers on tap at any given time (the malty, chocolatey "HO Oats" English oatmeal stout and the pine- and citrus-tinged "This Is Not a Pale Ale" are particular favorites), but in many other ways, Gene's is still the same gin mill that's been slaking the thirsts of South Buffalonians since 1963: neighborhood old-timers certainly don't feel out of place in the homey ambience of the barroom or with the menu of pub-grub favorites done right (Gene's spot on the Buffalo Wing Trail is well-earned), and if your taste in beer runs more toward the conventional, you won't be left out in the cold either.
- Lakeward Spirits, 65 Vandalia St. (At The Barrel Factory; Metro Bus 42), ☏ . If you just can't wait to get home before you sample Lakeward's line of high-quality, locally-sourced craft vodkas, gins, rums, and whiskeys, head to their onsite tasting room on the mezzanine level of The Barrel Factory. The "Grain Canyon" vodka is the marquee offering, a clean, refreshing, sweet-finishing blend of barley, wheat and rye. Other quaffs, such as Ginger Lime Kombucha vodka, are produced in conjunction with their friendly neighbors, Snowy Owl Kombucha.
- 14 Pressure Drop Brewing, 65 Vandalia St. (At The Barrel Factory; Metro Bus 42), ☏ . W-Th 5PM-10PM, F 3PM-11PM, Sa noon-11PM Su noon-6PM. With character to spare, the old fashioned, wood-panelled tasting room on the ground floor of the Barrel Factory is the perfect setting to sample Pressure Drop's quintet of hoppy, assertively-flavored West Coast-style microbrews. The roster includes not one but two IPAs (the lighter-bodied "Sticky Trees" presents notes of grapefruit, while the "Space Monkey" double IPA packs a punch at 8.4% ABV), as well as "Strummer", a Belgian blonde ale described by Step Out Buffalo as "perfect for Blue Moon fans who want to get weird".
- Resurgence Brewing, 55 Chicago St. (Metro Bus 14, 16 or 42), ☏ . With the expansion into the former E. & B. Holmes Machinery Company building, the entirety of Resurgence's roster of regularly-available beers is now brewed at their new facility on Chicago Street. On tap you'll find a rotating selection of their beers (always including the flagship Resurgence IPA, Sponge Candy Stout and Loganberry Wit) poured in what's far from typical "brewery tasting room" ambience: spacious, sleek and minimalist with just a few industrial-chic touches, and immaculately clean to boot. Best of all, they've now got a full food menu to go with.
- 15 Swannie House, 170 Ohio St. (Metro Bus 14, 16 or 42), ☏ . Buffalo's second-oldest bar has been an after-work destination for generations of grain scoopers, canal workers, and longshoremen who trudged in from the elevators in whose shadow the place stands. But unlike many of the old stalwarts among South Buffalo's taverns, the Swannie House doesn't try to milk its history to drum up interest from the hipster contingent; you won't see tons of old photos and memorabilia on the walls or anything like that. Simply put, it's just a blue-collar old-Buffalo relic through and through — right down to the vintage ad for "Old Hardie" Kentucky whiskey painted on the side of the building — where the beers are cold, the food is hearty, and the vibe is festive.
- 16 Tilly's, 692 Fulton St. (Metro Bus 14, 15, 16, 18 or 23), ☏ . In recent years, the Old First Ward has increasingly been defying its insular reputation and finding its way onto the beaten path for Buffalo drinkers — all the while conserving much of the old-school vibe that drew their notice in the first place. All well and good, but if you prefer authenticity over "authenticity", then head instead to the next neighborhood east, The Valley, which is where you'll find Tilly's. No fancy bells or whistles here, just cold beer, friendly camaraderie, and a classic dive-bar atmosphere.
Coffee shops and miscellaneous
- 17 Undergrounds Coffeehouse & Roastery, 580 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 14, 16 or 18), ☏ . M-F 6AM-5PM, Sa-Su 7AM-5PM. Hip café brewing house-roasted pour-over coffee, lattes, espressos, etc., and whipping up sandwiches and other light lunches, in a former funeral home in the Old First Ward. Undergrounds pays playful tribute to the building's former tenant with both its name and the quirky, Tim Burton-esque interior elements. Service can be a bit aloof, but the coffee and food both pass muster.
The Triangle and South Park Avenue
South Park Avenue's lengthy roster of Irish (of course) pubs are not quite as gritty as the ones you'll find in the Old First Ward, but there's still plenty of opportunity to mingle with the locals in an environment that's utterly free of pretension.
- 18 Avenue Pub, 2115 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 16), ☏ . With a clientele that's resolutely local and an ambience that falls somewhere between sports bar and neighborhood dive, Avenue is a good place to go if you want a real South Buffalo bar experience without the grunginess that can sometimes entail. It's also a place to go if you like bar games to go with your drinks: the game room's stocked up with a pool table and multiple dartboards, and out back there's even a horseshoe pit and a sand volleyball setup. At the bar you'll find a decent selection of beers and mixed drinks served with a friendly efficiency — including a few craft brews from the likes of Great Lakes and Southern Tier, but nothing too outlandish — and a food menu where wings are the standout.
- 19 The Blarney Castle, 1856 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 16), ☏ . The Blarney Castle may not look like much from the outside (or from the inside, for that matter; decor is spartan and runs toward a mix of green construction-paper shamrocks and mounted deer heads), but it differentiates itself from South Buffalo's sometimes borderline-indistinguishable roster of Irish pubs with its signature drink, the Bloody Mary, which comes brimming with flavor and an indelible hint of spice. Aside from that, you'll find the usual roster of big-name beers plus the ubiquitous Guinness on tap, and 50¢ wings on Monday and Tuesday nights.
- 20 Can You Digg It, 317 Hopkins St. (Metro Bus 16), ☏ . It may be hidden way off the beaten path on a side street in a working-class neighborhood, but Can You Digg It holds its own on the bar scene in the old Triangle. Picture a typical neighborhood dive kicked up a notch in quality on all fronts: Guinness on tap is of course de rigueur in South Buffalo, but you've also got a decent range of options from the local craft beer scene; pub grub includes handmade burgers, house-cut fries, and enormous wings in several creative styles; the place is spotlessly clean; service is efficient and comes with a smile.
- 21 Griffin's Irish Pub, 81 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14, 16, 19 or 23), ☏ . You'll find a friendly (if decidedly earthy) experience at pretty much any Irish pub you may happen across in South Buffalo, but if that gregarious camaraderie is an especially important element of the bar experience for you, put Griffin's near the top of your list. And if you're interested in dipping your toes into the local and regional craft beer scene — say, with a Ringside Irish Red or something from Flying Bison — but don't want to get too crazy with it, do the same. (And if not, don't worry: you'll still find Irish pub staples like Jameson whiskey, Guinness, and all your favorite big-brand domestics on tap too.)
- 22 Jordan's Ale House, 107 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14, 16, 19, or 23), ☏ . Established in 2015, Jordan's Ale House is definitely the "new kid on the block" in South Buffalo's somewhat staid bar scene, but it's been spending the intervening years carving out a niche for itself as a place where the ambience is a cut above the usual corner pubs, with a beer list that includes some interesting craft brews from around the region, yet where the vibe is friendly and approachable and there's none of the intimidating hoity-toitiness of the hipster hangouts elsewhere in the city. Open mic night is on Tuesday, and there's live music most weekends.
- 23 Molly's, 1803 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 16). If you want the happy medium of South Buffalo Irish pubs, head to Molly's. Ice-cold Labatt Blue, Miller High Life, and other plebeian beers poured in a divey ambience to a clientele of local neighborhood folks; darts and other bar games; a QuickDraw machine if you're feeling lucky: the usual routine.
- 24 Nine-Eleven Tavern, 11 Bloomfield Ave. (Metro Bus 16), ☏ . Can you go to Nine-Eleven for the typical South Buffalo dive-bar experience? Sure, if you like: they've got a respectable selection of beers on tap, the friendly barkeeps pour a decent cocktail, and there's shuffleboard for a bit of fun. But what most people come here for are the wings: with a house recipe that's a variation on Smitty-style wings in which some detect notes of malt or apple cider vinegar, Nine-Eleven's name is a perennial contender in the age-old debate about who serves the best wings in Buffalo, and given the fierce tone said debate often takes and the sheer number of competitors vying for the title, the size and loyalty of its fanbase is nothing to sneeze at.
- 25 Talty's, 2056 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 16), ☏ . If all you want is a beer (or maybe a game of darts, pool or shuffleboard), Talty's will serve you just as well as any of the other Irish pubs in the old Triangle. But where this place distinguishes itself is with its event calendar: live music is a specialty, with open mic on the first Monday of each month and local rock, blues, and acoustic bands playing three days a week.
Even more so than the Old First Ward, Larkinville is where to go in South Buffalo if you want to taste what local craft brewers, distillers, and cocktail artisans have to offer.
- 26 Belt Line Brewery, 545 Swan St. (Metro Bus 2, 15 or 18), ☏ . Located on the ground floor of the old Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company Warehouse at the west end of Larkinville and sporting an appropriately industrial-chic vibe, Belt Line was the first craft brewery in Buffalo to jump on the sour beer bandwagon, with options such as the citrus-tinged, pleasantly mild "Everything Is Fine" American wild ale as well as the more assertive "Tastes Like Brunch", but the flagship offering is a farm-to-table Honey Kölsch with a subtle sweetness that goes down easy. And if you happen to be vegan or have other special dietary needs, you'll find a lot more to like on the food menu than at similar places around town.
- Buffalo Distilling Company, 860 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15, 18 or 23). If you're looking to sample the Buffalo Distilling Company's "One Foot Cock" line of craft spirits — bourbon (apparently the first ever produced in Western New York; light and sweet with notes of caramel and corn), apple brandy (not too sweet; oak, almost even more than apple, is the dominant flavor), and vodka (their newest offering has a pleasant, warm richness and a tinge of sweetness), all produced with locally-sourced ingredients — the spiffy tasting room just off the production floor is the place to do it.
- Dobutsu, 500 Seneca St., Suite 119 (Metro Bus 15 or 18), ☏ . At the bar at Larkinville's seafood emporium of choice, it's all about creative specialty cocktails served to you by friendly and attentive bartenders in a spacious, chilled-out environment. The two favorites among the selection are the "Botany Points" (vodka or gin with quinquina and various floral mixers, garnished with an edible orchid) and "Epona's Song" (a tangy, citrus-y tequila concoction with carrot as the novelty ingredient). A range of import and domestic craft beers and a small sampling of premium sake complete the picture.
- Eckl's@Larkin, 703 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15, 18 or 23), ☏ . The bar at this swanky Larkinville steakhouse pours some pretty nifty house cocktails and has a decent selection of beers on tap and in bottles, comprising a mix of big names and locally- and regionally-brewed craft brews (try a Rusty Chain or Pressure Drop Blackalicious stout for a true taste of South Buffalo), poured in an elegant ambience. But you sure do pay for the privilege: $16 for a rye Manhattan? In Buffalo?
- Hydraulic Hearth, 716 Swan St. (Metro Bus 15, 18 or 23), ☏ . Aside from artisan pizza, craft beer fans will be pleased to know that the Hydraulic Hearth doubles as a satellite brewpub for the beloved Community Beer Works. But that's only part of the picture: also represented are beers from other craft brewers around the region (and beyond; this is the place to come for West Coast microbrews that are otherwise tough to find around here), as well as artfully concocted cocktails and some of the best boilermakers in town. Just a few feet over from the bar is Buffalo's smallest art gallery, (716) GAL-LERY.
- 27 Marinaro's Larkin Tavern, 131 Van Rensselaer St. (Metro Bus 15 or 18), ☏ . At Marinaro's you'll find a few concessions to the hipster ethos that characterizes the rest of Larkinville's bar scene: there are about a half-dozen craft beers on tap from the likes of Flying Bison, Big Ditch, and Buffalo Brewing. But the bulk of the beer list is still comprised of the usual big-brand domestics, and the food menu, while extensive, is not what you'd call gourmet haute cuisine (do try the loaded fries, though). Buffalo sports fanatics will be enthralled at the vast collection of memorabilia adorning the walls. Cash only.
- Tommyrotter Distillery, 500 Seneca St., Suite 110 (Metro Bus 15 or 18), ☏ . Tommyrotter's tasting room is a spiffy glass-walled space where you can enjoy tasty cocktails while taking in a bird's-eye view of the production floor where they were made. The oeuvre consists of three products — an 80-proof vodka distilled from a blend of wheat and corn, with a clean texture and a sweet vanilla note; an 84-proof American gin infused with a blend of twelve aromatics for a bold, spicy flavor; and a triple-barrel whiskey finished in French oak — high-end in price but worth every penny.
- 28 Top Hill Grill, 104 Fillmore Ave. (Metro Bus 2, 15 or 23), ☏ . If you're looking for an antidote to all the la-dee-da Larkinville cutesiness, head up to this cozy, divey sports bar that's been in business since 1940 on Fillmore Avenue at the north end of the district. Knock back a cold brewski, shoot a game of pool, or catch the Bills or Sabres in action on TV surrounded by all the wood-panelled ambience of someone's finished basement.
Coffee shops and miscellaneous
- 29 Kornerstone Café & Juice Bar, 701 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15, 18 or 23), ☏ . M-F 6AM-6PM, Sa 9AM-3PM. East Aurora's Kornerstone Café opened their Larkinville satellite location in 2018, and would you believe it's actually an improvement on the original? The menu (of locally-roasted, fair-trade, organic, intricately-flavored coffee; healthy juice blends and smoothies in literally dozens of varieties, sandwiches and other light meals including a wide selection for vegans) is identical, service comes with the same smile, but here at the Larkin Center of Commerce you've actually got room to stretch out and make yourself comfy! Reasonable prices are the icing on the cake.
- Brick Oven Bistro, 904 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14), ☏ . There's no more classic combination in Buffalo cuisine than pizza and beer — and there's nothing that goes better with Brick Oven Bistro's fancy-shmancy artisanal brick-oven pizzas than any one of 18 varieties on craft beer tap and dozens more in bottles representing local brewers as well as harder-to-find beers from elsewhere in the country. Beer aficionados who want to compare and contrast from among the selections can opt for a flight.
- 30 Conlon's, 382 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14), ☏ . First off, you can feel free to ignore Yelp and the other online sources that say this place is closed: a few months after announcing their retirement in May 2018, owners Dan and Emily Conlon had a change of heart and are back at it, albeit on a limited basis. So if you're in town on a Thursday or Friday night and are in the mood for a somewhat more classed-up take on the typical South Buffalo Irish pub experience — with Guinness on tap (not to mention a decent selection of craft beers from around the region) and a full menu of hearty stick-to-your-ribs comfort food — then stop in.
- 31 Doc Sullivan's, 474 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14), ☏ . If you're looking for a spot with that classic Abbott Road not-quite-a-dive-but-certainly-not-fancy ambience, you'll find this place to your liking, with a couple of local craft beers on tap to boot. But if you've heard of Doc Sullivan's for any reason, it likely has to do with Smitty-style wings, South Buffalo's unique alternate take on the chicken wing. Though Nine-Eleven Tavern's iteration is better-known among locals, Doc's wings are said to be the truest to the original Smitty's Tavern recipe — and when the Food Network series Burgers, Brew & 'Que wanted to investigate Smitty-style wings, they came here. If you're intrigued, come on a Monday or Tuesday, when they go for 50¢ each and draft beer is $1 off.
- 32 Molly Maguire's, 834 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14), ☏ . By contrast with the spiffier places elsewhere along the Abbott Road strip, Molly Maguire's hews closer to the prototypical grungy South Buffalo dive, with cheap drinks poured in a dark, loud barroom sparsely decorated with the usual Irish-themed tchotchkes. That's certainly no knock on the place, though; the clientele is friendly, the vibe is gregarious, and free concerts by local bands liven the place up further on Saturday nights.
- 33 Froggy's Inn, 150 Babcock St. (Metro Bus 15), ☏ . Froggy's successfully walks a fine line that not many Buffalo watering holes can manage: it sports an old-school and unpretentious vibe without being a dive, and certainly without attracting a rowdy or troublemaking clientele. If you're after a relaxing night out without paying through the nose, head off the beaten path to the heart of Seneca-Babcock and knock back a cold beer (nothing over $3 a bottle), tuck into a plate of all-American comfort food (Friday fish fry packs the house), or play a tune on the jukebox where the sounds of the '70s predominate.
- 34 Mr. A's Village Corner, 805 Elk St. (Metro Bus 15 or 19), ☏ . Sure, it's another South Buffalo neighborhood dive, but it's a lot less dingy than your average, with a down-to-Earth clientele to enjoy your cheap drinks with. Catch the game on the huge-screen TV mounted on the wall, play a game of pool, or just relax in the chilled-out ambience.
- 35 Old School Tavern, 1263 Clinton St. (Metro Bus 2), ☏ . Hooray for truth in advertising: though blue-collar gin mills aren't exactly hard to find in this part of town, the extra dose of friendly service and conviviality you'll find at Old School Tavern sets it apart from the competition. The beer selection is surprisingly wide, including some local offerings, and the food menu is a showcase of classic Buffalo cuisine (beef on weck, fish fry on Friday nights, and 25¢ wings on Wednesdays).
South Buffalo doesn't have any hotel accommodations of its own, but there are ample options in nearby areas. Clustered near Exit 55 of the Thruway in West Seneca and around Exit 1 of Interstate 190 on the border between Cheektowaga and the East Side, you'll find a range of budget- and mid-priced chains — and of course, downtown you'll find a more upscale selection that tends toward quirky boutique hotels and luxury properties for business travelers. Also, if the Outer Harbor is on your agenda, there's a La Quinta located on Route 5 in Lackawanna, less than five minutes by car from the state park.
For postal service, head to the 7 South Side Post Office at 2061 South Park Ave., corner of Woodside Ave.
As in other neighborhoods in Buffalo, for those who need access to the Internet and don't have a usable smart phone or laptop of their own, a public library is the best bet. South Buffalo is represented in the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library System by the 8 Dudley Branch Library, at 2010 South Park Ave. at the southern edge of The Triangle. Not only do they offer free WiFi, but there are also twenty computer terminals available for public use, all with Internet access and printers. Also, though it's no longer affiliated with the county library system, the 9 Cazenovia Library & Resource Center at 155 Cazenovia St. remains open as a community center with publicly accessible computers.
Despite the fact that Buffalo's crime rate has fallen steadily since the 1990s, it is still higher than the national average for cities its size. If you're passing through the Commodore Perry Projects on the northern edge of the Old First Ward, watch out: robberies, vehicle break-ins, and assaults happen here frequently. But these crimes aren't targeted at tourists, and tourists don't have much reason to be in that area anyway. Another hot spot is the northern half of The Triangle immediately west of Heacock Park (extending south to around Koester Street) and around the corner of McKinley Parkway and Tifft Street, an area where cars get broken into from time to time.
However, for the most part, South Buffalo is a quiet residential area that boasts among the lowest crime rates of any district in the city. This includes the bars on Seneca Street and South Park Avenue, which, while gritty and blue-collar, are almost never the scenes of drunken violence. Of course, as in any urban area, common sense pays — lock your car doors, keep your valuables out of sight, and so forth — but you have little to worry about in this part of town when it comes to crime.
The panhandlers that are becoming more and more of a nuisance in places like the Elmwood Village and Allentown are almost completely absent from South Buffalo.
In operation since 1920, the South Buffalo News is a weekly community paper that covers local news and high school sports for both South Buffalo and neighboring Lackawanna. Event listings, a police blotter, and Lackawanna City Council proceedings are also featured.
- 10 Mercy Hospital, 565 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14), ☏ . Mercy Hospital was founded in 1904 by the Sisters of Mercy, a Catholic religious order native to Ireland who also operate Trocaire College and Mount Mercy Academy on the same campus. Today. Mercy Hospital is part of Catholic Health Systems of Buffalo. Its newly expanded emergency room is the largest in Western New York, staffed around the clock with physicians, nurses and assistants. Mercy is also renowned for excellence in the field of orthopedic surgery and cardiovascular care (it's the only hospital in the area to be recognized by the American Heart Association as a "comprehensive stroke center".)
Laundry and dry cleaning
South Buffalo Business District
- 11 Bestway Cleaners, 2075 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☏ . M-Tu & Th-F 8AM-5PM, W 8AM-2PM, Sa 8AM-1PM.
- 12 Sudsey's, 1834 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☏ . Daily 7AM-midnight.
- 13 The Washroom, 2265 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☏ . Daily 24 hours.
The Triangle and South Park Avenue
- 14 M&T Laundromat, 2050 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 16). Daily 7AM-11PM.
The Larkin Convenience Store, open weekdays 10AM-2PM in the atrium of the Larkin @ Exchange office building, offers dry cleaning services.
- 15 Abbott Village Laundry, 1149 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14 or 42), ☏ . Daily 6AM-11PM.
- 16 Alterations by Candice, 968 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14), ☏ . M-Tu & Th-F 8AM-5PM, Sa 8AM-3PM. Offers dry cleaning services.
- 17 Connie's Tailors and Cleaners, 813 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14), ☏ . M-Tu & Th-F 8:30AM-5PM, Sa 9AM-1PM.
- 18 Louis Dry Cleaners, 1032 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14), ☏ . M-F 8AM-5:30PM, Sa 8AM-1PM.
Places of worship
Not much religious diversity here: South Buffalo is the most monolithically Christian area of the city.
True to its own history in particular as well as the demographics of the Niagara Frontier as a whole, the Catholic Church remains a dominant force in South Buffalo's religious life.
- Our Lady of Charity RC Church, ☏ . Headed up by Fr. Bryan Zielenieski, Our Lady of Charity is a large Catholic congregation that was founded in 2010 as a merger of three smaller parishes: Holy Family, St. Ambrose, and St. Agatha. Mass is still held seven days a week in the former two churches, while the St. Agatha campus houses a rectory and is used occasionally by the congregation for special events.
- 19 Holy Family Church, 1885 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 16). Mass Su 8:30AM & 11AM, Sa 4:30PM, M-F 7:30AM in basement chapel. Situated at the corner of South Park Avenue and Tifft Street, Holy Family is one of the oldest churches in this part of the city — the congregation was founded in 1902 to serve the rapidly growing community that had moved in to take jobs at the huge new steel plant in nearby Lackawanna. With its stout arches and twin steeples looking over South Park Avenue, the building is one of the most magnificent examples of Romanesque Revival architecture anywhere in the city, thanks to the firm of Lansing & Beierl, famous around Buffalo for designing churches for the Catholic diocese. Holy Family's interior seats 950 people and boasts stained glass imported from Austria and mural paintings by Danish artist Holvag Rambusch based on the Book of Kells (it's said to be the only church in the United States that uses ancient Irish art in its interior decoration).
- 20 St. Ambrose Church, 65 Ridgewood Rd. (Metro Bus 16). Mass Su 8:30AM, 10AM, 11:30AM & 7PM; Sa 4PM; M-F 8:30AM. Dating to 1930 — toward the end of the great South Buffalo building boom — St. Ambrose Church is located on a charming side street between South Park Avenue and McKinley Parkway. The current church building was erected in 1950 and absolutely looks it: the façade of this striking modernist building features a blocky, monolithic brick wall centered on a column of rectangular-paneled stained glass windows with images celebrating the church's relevance in the modern world.
- 21 Our Lady of Perpetual Help RC Church, 115 O'Connell Ave. (Metro Bus 14, 16, 18 or 42), ☏ . Mass Su 10:30AM, Sa 4:30PM. Located in the very heart of the Old First Ward, "Pets" is the last remaining of what were once three Catholic churches in the neighborhood. Founded by the diocese due to overcrowding at other neighborhood parishes, Our Lady of Perpetual Help's founding priest, Father Richard O'Connell, was honored after his death when the street his church stands on was renamed for him. The congregation worships in a magnificent Gothic sandstone edifice that dates to 1900 and was designed by the local firm of Lansing & Beierl.
- 22 St. Clare RC Church, 193 Elk St. (Metro Bus 14, 16, 18 or 23), ☏ . Mass Su 8:30AM & 11AM, Sa 4PM, M-Tu & Th-F 8AM. Helmed by Msgr. Steven Pavignano, St. Clare is another merged congregation, founded in 2007 on the ashes of five other congregations and headquartered in the former St. Stephen RC Church on Elk Street. St. Stephen's itself dates back to 1875, when it was carved out of the territory of St. Brigid, the First Ward's mother church which was by then overcrowded and a long walk away for residents of The Valley. The present church building, a magnificent Gothic edifice of locally quarried limestone, was erected in 1888 and contains a Garrett House pipe organ dating to 1869 and originally installed at First Presbyterian Church. The church also contains a shrine to St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes, where those at the end of their rope flock to recite novenas on the days leading up to his feast day, October 28.
- 23 St. Martin of Tours RC Church, 1140 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14), ☏ . Mass Su 8AM, 10AM & noon; Sa 4PM; M-F 8:30AM. Today a robust congregation of some 1,600 families led in prayer weekly by Father James Judge, St. Martin of Tours' history stretches back to 1926, when the far southeast corner of Buffalo was still a mostly empty, semirural expanse of land. The Kinsey Realty Company donated the plot to the Catholic diocese, and their plan came to quick fruition: the church attracted home buyers to the neighborhood who otherwise would have had a long trip every Sunday to St. Thomas Aquinas or St. John the Evangelist on Seneca Street. In 1958, the original church, a modest wood-frame structure designed by local architect George Dietel, was replaced with the structure in use today, which also boasts a striking modernist open-work bell tower.
- 24 St. Teresa RC Church, 1974 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☏ . Mass Su 8AM, 10AM & noon; Sa 4PM; M-F 8:30AM. Located in the heart of "downtown South Buffalo", St. Teresa was the first Catholic parish to be established in the newer neighborhoods south of the Buffalo River: it went up in 1898, when this part of town was just beginning its transition from German-owned farmland to middle-class Irish city neighborhoods. This changeover was spearheaded by William Fitzpatrick, who went down in history as the "builder of South Buffalo", and his own former home was pressed into service as St. Teresa's rectory. The building is a beauty — faced in ruddy Medina sandstone and designed in a resplendent neo-Gothic style by locally notable architect Albert Post — and was fully restored in 1994. Today, a vibrant flock gather each week at St. Teresa for three Sunday morning Masses led by Father James Cunningham.
- 25 St. Thomas Aquinas RC Church, 450 Abbott Rd. (Metro Bus 14), ☏ . Mass Su 9AM, 11AM & 7PM; Sa 4PM; M-W & F 8:15AM. St. Thomas Aquinas was founded in 1920, making it about average in age as far as South Buffalo Catholic churches go — the neighborhood was undergoing something of a population explosion at the time, as newly well-to-do residents of the crowded Old First Ward and Valley streamed into the more spacious neighborhoods to the southeast. You'd be forgiven for thinking the church is older than that, though — the grandeur of the building, done up in the style of a Central Italian villa, truly belongs to an earlier era. The church was erected in 1949 to replace a much smaller structure dedicated by none other than Father Nelson Baker himself, and every Sunday it's visited by the faithful who come to hear Father James Judge preach (he also does double duty at St. Thomas' sister parish further down Abbott, St. Martin of Tours).
- 26 Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church, 231 McKinley Pkwy. (Metro Bus 14), ☏ . Latin Tridentine Mass Su 10AM. Located on McKinley Parkway about halfway between McClellan and McKinley Circles, Our Lady of the Rosary is a traditionalist Catholic congregation that meets in the former home of the Kennedy Free Methodist Church, a handsome Colonial-style brick building that dates to 1937. The church is affiliated with the Society of St. Pius X, which split from Rome over the reforms of Vatican II; accordingly, the experience at Our Lady of the Rosary is a bit more pious and conservative, with all Masses held in the original Latin. Also in keeping with its affiliation, Our Lady of the Rosary is known for its charitable works in the South Buffalo area and its zeal in sharing its unique brand of Catholicism with the community at large.
- 27 Cazenovia Park Baptist Church, 520 N. Legion Dr. (Metro Bus 14 or 15), ☏ . Services Su 11AM. Founded in 1897, "Caz Church" is headed by Pastor Lonnie Atwood, an ex-Marine native to Tennessee who's made his home in South Buffalo since 2013 and who instills in his flock a mission to love God and their fellow man through spreading their faith and engaging in charitable endeavors and other works for the benefit of the community. The congregation is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention and meets weekly in a modest Colonial-style building built in 1939 that serves as one of the final works in the career of Buffalo's preeminent architect of all time, E. B. Green.
- 28 Good Shepherd Community of Faith, 187 Southside Pkwy. (Metro Bus 14, 16, 19 or 23), ☏ . Services Su 10:30AM. The sign at the front of the building reads "Good Shepherd Baptist Church", and it was founded in 1887 as South Buffalo's first congregation of that denomination. But that's only half of the story: this church does double duty, affiliated with both the American Baptist Convention and the United Church of Christ. Come down to this stately red-brick Colonial on Southside Parkway and enter the door in the shadow of its proud 60-foot (18m) steeple, and you'll surely have a warm, faith-affirming experience with friendly folks.
- 29 Grace Lutheran Church, 174 Cazenovia St. (Metro Bus 14 or 15), ☏ . Services Su 10:30AM. At Grace Lutheran Church, Reverend Marlene Hyden "preaches a changeless Christ in a changing world", with services mixing traditional and contemporary elements and taking place in a leafy setting facing Cazenovia Park. Founded by Reverend Theodore Kretchmann, Grace started out as a mission of the Lutheran Church of the Atonement in present-day Larkinville, and was one of the first Lutheran churches in Buffalo to hold services in English rather than German. The building is a stately one of red brick, with an architectural style that's a hybrid of Gothic and Romanesque; it was built in 1908 and expanded to its present size in 1930.
- 30 St. Jude's Episcopal Church, 124 Macamley St. (Metro Bus 14, 16, 19 or 23), ☏ . Services Su 8:30AM. On a quiet street of well-kept homes in The Triangle stands this charming, understated church where Rev. Linda Malia preaches to her devoted flock. St. Jude's Episcopal Church was the first of its denomination to be located south of the Buffalo River, founded in 1895 as a mission of St. James Episcopal in the Ellicott District. The present building, designed in the English country style and constructed of locally quarried Onondaga limestone, was erected in 1931.
- 31 St. Matthew's Episcopal Church, 1182 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☏ . Services Su 9AM. Describing itself as "a friendly and caring parish family united in fellowship to share the Word of God with the community", the resilient St. Matthew's Episcopal Church has made much of its fidelity to the Seneca-Babcock neighborhood it's served for over 125 years — it has maintained its independence and identity despite the advice of the Episcopal diocese to relocate to Cheektowaga or merge with neighboring congregations (though in recent years it has taken on a "sister parish", St. Jude's in The Triangle). Founded in 1884 when the neighborhood was still largely rural, the little wood-frame church on Seneca Street where Rev. Judy Hefner preaches to a small but steadfast congregation is the second building to be located on the property.
- 32 St. Simon's Episcopal Church, 200 Cazenovia St. (Metro Bus 15), ☏ . Services Su 8AM & 10AM. At St. Simon's Episcopal Church, the atmosphere is delightfully different — you might even call it a breath of fresh air. Even more so than most congregations, people of all stripes are warmly welcomed to join in worship, but there's a special emphasis on engaging with young people. There are times when you might even forget you're at a religious service — the atmosphere is easygoing, even jovial, and it's less about preaching in the usual sense than an evenhanded conversation between a flock whose questions are welcomed and a pastor, Rev. Karen Hardy, who openly "doesn't claim to have all the answers". All this takes place in a handsome English Gothic church built of locally quarried limestone; though the building dates to 1926, the church is a few decades older than that, dating to a time when the vicinity of Cazenovia Park was just beginning to become the neighborhood of choice for middle-class Irish.
- 33 Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church, 10 McClellan Cir. (Metro Bus 14), ☏ . Services Su 8:15AM & 10:45AM. Situated in a verdant setting on McClellan Circle at the heart of South Buffalo's Olmsted parkway system, "The Church of Peace on the Circle" takes its nickname from the fact that "Salem" comes from the Hebrew word for "peace". And peace lies at the heart of the church's mission, one of sharing a robust faith, doing charitable works, and fostering goodwill among the community. Salem was founded in 1917 and originally located on Abbott Road; its current building, an understated but charming piece of Colonial Revival architecture with white oak pews and numerous high arches, is the work of notable Buffalo architect Duane Lyman and was erected in 1951. The Reverend John Pingel holds two services there each week.
- 34 Seneca Street United Methodist Church, 1218 Seneca St. (Metro Bus 15), ☏ . Services Su 4PM. Seneca Street United Methodist Church's roots stretch back to 1887, when St. Mark's Methodist Episcopal Church in the First Ward established a Sunday school to serve residents of the semirural hinterlands east of the city. The current building, faced in buff brick and boasting exquisite Classical detailing, was built in 1919 after a fire claimed the original wooden church. At Seneca Street United Methodist, the name of the game is charitable generosity and community service: according to its mission statement, its dedication to "working to bring Christ to the people of the Seneca-Babcock neighborhood" encompasses the nurturing of its "spiritual, educational, emotional, and physical growth". While the Seneca Community Development Corporation, located on the same site, sees to the latter three — notably, with after-school programs for inner-city youth that include academic tutoring, job training, music lessons, cooking classes, and group outings — Pastor Brian Rotach helms the spiritual end, with services on Sunday evenings that are preceded by a free dinner at 3PM and followed at 5:15PM by a cornucopia of baked goods and other treats donated from area supermarkets.
- 35 South Park United Methodist Church, 73 Ashton Pl. (Metro Bus 16), ☏ . Services Su 10:30AM. The Lackawanna Steel Company's new plant on the lake shore south of the city line was such a massive operation that within three years of its inauguration in 1899, over 7,000 new residents had settled at the southern extremity of Buffalo. This was the genesis of many of the churches in this part of town, including South Park United Methodist Church, only the second Protestant church in the South Park Avenue area. The church, built in 1905, is a modest red-brick Romanesque structure with truly exquisite stained glass, and is the site of weekly services presided over by Pastor Evelyn Woodring.
- 36 Bread of Life Christian Church, 1632 South Park Ave. (Metro Bus 14, 16, 19 or 23), ☏ . Services Su 10AM & W 7PM. Bread of Life Christian Church is a friendly, vibrant congregation that's been alive with faith and genuine love for the community since 1983. Raucous and joyful services are helmed by Dominic and Lucy Schipani, a husband-and-wife tag team of pastors, in an environment that's welcoming, down-to-earth, and nonjudgmental. Bread of Life also hosts guest speakers, youth groups, and other special events on a frequent basis (even Sunday-evening "movie nights"!), and demonstrates their boundless compassion for those in need with a host of programs and initiatives benefiting the community.
A few African-American congregations can be found in South Buffalo, principally near its northern border with the East Side.
- 37 Berea Church of God in Christ, 49 Indian Church Rd. (Metro Bus 15), ☏ . Services Su noon. Founded in 1997 and led with the steady hand of Pastor Nathaniel Lee, Berea Church of God in Christ is a friendly flock that meets every Sunday at a church on a leafy residential side street not far from Seneca Street. The handsome brick building that welcomes these worshipers was built in 1914 as the home of St. Paul's Reformed Church, a congregation of German-speaking Presbyterians. Today, aside from weekly services, Berea's positive, loving engagement with the community is exemplified by programs such as a vibrant women's ministry and extensive outreach to the poor.
- 38 DeLaine Waring African Methodist Episcopal Church, 680 Swan St. (Metro Bus 15 or 18), ☏ . Services Su 10AM. The DeLaine Waring A.M.E. Church has been going strong in the heart of Larkinville since 1956, when its half-namesake, Reverend Joseph DeLaine, came to Buffalo from South Carolina and founded a new congregation in the handsome red brick church recently vacated by St. Matthew's German Evangelical Protestant Church, who had been there for almost ninety years previously. DeLaine Waring is today a multigenerational church, with old folks who've been worshipping there since day one joined — in both worship service and at numerous uplifting special events — by younger congregants whose zeal keeps the fire burning. At the helm is the newly installed Pastor A. Iona Smith Nze, the first female one in the church's history.
- 39 Royal Church of God in Christ, 1335 Clinton St. (Metro Bus 2 or 19), ☏ . Services Su at noon. The story of Royal Church of God in Christ begins in 1952, when Elder Roy Rodolph, an Alabama native who'd been preaching at the State Tabernacle Church of God in Christ since arriving in Buffalo three years previous, was compelled to start his own congregation, which he named after a passage in the First Epistle of Peter. Through the years, Royal has evolved from a humble storefront operation on the Near East Side to its current home at the former Christ German Evangelical Church, a stout Gothic edifice on Clinton Street. Services are held weekly, but that's just the tip of the iceberg: Royal sponsors a huge variety of special ministries and community programs including music and dance programs, food donations to the needy, prison ministry, and special worship groups for children, women, and young men.
- Did the towering monoliths of Elevator Alley, or perhaps the historic exhibits at the Heritage Discovery Center, whet your appetite for more Western New York industrial history? Cross the city line into Lackawanna, once the site of the world's largest steel plant, where 20,000 workers (many from South Buffalo) once toiled. The plant closed in 1982, and Lackawanna has yet to truly get back on its feet, but there's still a surprising amount of vitality around the main intersection of South Park Avenue and Ridge Road, where a cluster of shops, bars and restaurants soldiers on. That same corner is where you'll find Lackawanna's main landmark: the gleaming white marble Basilica of Our Lady of Victory is a Baroque masterpiece built in 1926 under the direction of Father Nelson Baker, whose philanthropy earned Lackawanna the nickname "City of Charity" and put Baker himself on the road to sainthood.
- Or maybe it's more Irish culture you're hungry for? If so, check out the Southtowns, whose changeover from rural farming communities to commuter suburbs started in the 1950s, as South Buffalo's "lace-curtain Irish" pushed further and further away from the First Ward and eventually past the city line, into...
- Hamburg, which has a little something for everyone. In the Southtowns' largest town (population about 55,000), you'll find a diverse environment that runs the gamut from the scruffy blue-collar neighborhood of Blasdell in the far north, which doesn't look terribly dissimilar to South Buffalo, to the historic Village of Hamburg in the south with its quaint downtown full of cute shops, to sprawling waterfront mansions along Old Lake Shore Road. For the visitor, Hamburg boasts a wealth of attractions: beachcombers can laze by the shore of Lake Erie at Woodlawn Beach State Park, amateur paleontologists can dig for 300-million-year-old fossils at the Penn Dixie Center, and at the end of the summer, you can join over a million Western New Yorkers at the twelve-day-long Erie County Fair. And if your money is burning a hole in your pocket, why not splurge on a day of shopping at the McKinley Mall or try your luck on the horses at the Buffalo Raceway?
- Orchard Park, which is more than just the home of the Buffalo Bills' New Era Field. First settled by Quakers in 1804, this upscale outer-ring suburb boasts a handsome village center full of cute little boutiques, elegant restaurants, and historic character. Also in Orchard Park is Chestnut Ridge Park, a twelve-month-a-year destination for outdoor lovers: over 1,200 acres (490 hectares) of forested hills with disc golf, verdant nature trails, one of Western New York's most popular sledding and tobogganing hills, and an eternal flame hidden behind a low waterfall.
- West Seneca, which before the South Buffalo Irish arrived was solidly German — in the 1840s and '50s, it was home to the Ebenezer Society, a reclusive sect of renegade Lutherans from Hesse who came here seeking a place far removed from the evils of the outside world. You can learn about them at the West Seneca Historical Society, located in an original Ebenezer home built about 1848. The Ebenezers are long gone, and the town is a lot more crowded now than it was 150 years ago, but you can still "get away from it all" in West Seneca: the Charles E. Burchfield Nature & Art Center is a patch of woods along the shore of Buffalo Creek that was an inspiration for its namesake, once one of the premier watercolor painters in the United States.
- When the once-poor First Ward Irish began to enter the halls of power, their new leaders found themselves with cushy jobs downtown. Then as now, the business district is the nerve center of Buffalo, thanks in no small part to the radiating street pattern designed by Joseph Ellicott and centered on Niagara Square, where stands City Hall, that paragon of Art Deco architecture. If those 19th-century Irishmen were here today, they probably wouldn't recognize Canalside at all: instead of railroad tracks, lake freighters, warehouses, and docks, today it's a waterfront green space where you can take in a crowded calendar of festivals and events, tour World War II-era warships at the Naval and Military Park, and catch an exciting hockey game at the KeyBank. Downtown also boasts a vibrant Theater District, the Chippewa Street entertainment district, and, at its northern edge, the hospitals and research facilities of the Medical Corridor, where the UB Medical School has set up shop.