Sure, for now the Elmwood Village is Buffalo's premier neighborhood for fine dining and cute urban boutiques; Allentown is where local artists and bohos congregate, and downtown still takes the cake when it comes to the urban rehabilitation that Western New Yorkers have grown more and more used to. But look out — the West Side is poised to snatch all three of those crowns. And even if this part of town is still very much a work in progress, there's a seductive appeal to the chaotic cacophony of cultures that's already there today, courtesy of the vibrant immigrant communities that have moved in in the early 21st century.
Diversity, to the nth degree, is the name of the game here. Munch on samosas while perusing through a shop full of authentic African handicrafts, then go up to the cash register while the folks behind you in line chitchat in Burmese and a car drives by outside with thumping reggaeton on the stereo — that's the West Side. And when your busy day is done, why not head to the waterfront, through leafy streets lined with gorgeous old Victorians, to relax and enjoy cool breezes and stunning views over the mighty Niagara River?
Less hip locals will try to dissuade you from crossing west of Richmond Avenue. It's "dangerous", they'll tell you. A "ghetto". And while it's true that the West Side has had a rough go of it over the past half-century and it's still a ways from exorcising its demons when it comes to crime, poverty and other social ills, this is probably the neighborhood that best embodies Buffalo's phoenixlike rise from the ashes. So do yourself a favor and ignore the naysayers. But you better experience it now, before the double-edged sword of gentrification scours all the beautiful grit out of these streets.
The West Side is less a single, homogeneous district than an amalgamation of neighborhoods, broadly similar but with subtly distinct individual identities that are all worth getting to know.
Undoubtedly the hub of the newly-hip West Side is 1 Grant-Ferry, a bustling business district that has spent the last fifty years constantly reinventing itself: first as Little Italy, then with a Puerto Rican flavor, and finally as home to a multicultural rainbow of first-generation immigrant communities — Burmese, Vietnamese, Nepali, African, Arabian, and more — as well as a growing student presence fostered by nearby Buffalo State College. The Hispanic community still predominates in the 2 Lower West Side, but it's also increasingly being colonized — and rehabilitated — by young, middle-class "urban pioneers" migrating west from Allentown and the Elmwood Village, buying up and renovating lovely but dilapidated old Victorian houses in places like Prospect Hill, the West Village, and 3 Five Points, where a small cluster of art galleries, upscale restaurants, and specialty shops has sprouted around the titular intersection of Rhode Island, Brayton, and West Utica Streets.
To the north are a trio of neighborhoods set off from the rest of the West Side and sometimes considered a separate district entirely. 4 Black Rock is a quiet, historic residential area still populated by the working-class Germans of the 19th-century West Side, today affectionately known as "river rats". Technically speaking, the 5 Grant-Amherst business district, centered around the corner of the two streets of the same name, is also part of Black Rock — banners hanging off streetlights on Amherst Street "welcome" visitors to "downtown Black Rock", but due to its separation from Black Rock proper by the New York Central Railroad tracks, Grant-Amherst has always had a distinct identity. Today it's a microcosm of the West Side as a whole: here immigrants, Hispanics, college students, urban pioneers, and blue-collar whites like those in Black Rock all rub shoulders. Further north still, 6 Riverside is an off-the-beaten-path area of working-class homes and neighborhood shops whose centerpiece, Riverside Park, boasts wonderful views over the Niagara River.
Unbeknownst even to many locals, the West Side is one of the most historic areas of Buffalo: its history began in 1802 when the federal government constructed a 30-mile (48 km) Military Road north from here to Lewiston. In the years after the Revolution, tensions between the United States and Britain remained high — and in case of a British incursion from Canada, the Military Road would enable troops to move as needed between Fort Niagara and Fort Tompkins, which would soon be built near what is today the corner of Niagara and Hampshire Streets. Two years later, Peter Porter, a State Assemblyman from Canandaigua and a former associate of Buffalo's founder, Joseph Ellicott, began laying out a settlement on the large parcel of riverfront land he owned along Military Road about two miles (3.2 km) north of Buffalo; he named the incipient hamlet "Black Rock" after a ledge of dark limestone that jutted into the Niagara River just north of what is today the Peace Bridge. Much larger than the modern-day neighborhood of that name, Porter's Black Rock occupied essentially all of what is today the West Side, and was made up of three parts: the larger Upper Black Rock in what is today the Upper West Side, centered around the corner of Niagara and West Ferry Streets; the smaller Lower Black Rock (later also known as Black Rock Dam for the lock and dam that was installed on the Erie Canal in 1833), which corresponds to today's neighborhood of Black Rock; and South Black Rock, what is today the Lower West Side, where streets were surveyed in a distinctive grid angled parallel to the shoreline that still exists; however, the land remained a sparsely settled forest, and none of the streets were actually constructed until the 1830s, '40s and after. Between Upper and Lower Black Rock was the harbor, located at the mouth of Scajaquada Creek and dominated by a shipyard owned by Porter.
The same year that Black Rock was officially incorporated as a village, the long-feared military confrontation along the Niagara River came to pass. The attempted American invasion of Canada that began the War of 1812 saw U.S. forces under General George McClure sack and loot the frontier villages of York (now Toronto) and Newark (now Niagara-on-the-Lake); in retaliation, before dawn on December 30, 1813, a British detachment crossed the river and landed in Black Rock, burning it to the ground then heading south to Buffalo to do the same. Though it was rebuilt quickly, Black Rock remained a battleground till the end of the war — Porter's shipyard did a brisk business building warships for Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry's fleet, and a second British incursion across the river was thwarted at the Battle of Scajaquada Creek Bridge in August 1814. The war ended in 1815, but things hardly quieted down: the always-heated rivalry between Black Rock and Buffalo took on a new urgency around 1816 when planning began for a huge canal linking the Hudson River and Lake Erie. It was understood that the Erie Canal would be a huge economic boon, opening up the West to large-scale settlement, and that it would begin at Albany — but the exact location of its western end had yet to be determined. Porter used his political connections to vigorously argue that Black Rock be selected over its rival. At first, its superior harbor — sheltered by Unity Island from the strong currents of the Niagara River — as well as the fact that two more miles (3 more km) of canal would need to be dug to reach Buffalo, seemed to give Black Rock the advantage. The successful launch from its harbor of the Walk-in-the-Water, the first steamboat on Lake Erie, further aided Black Rock's cause, but after a contingent of Buffalonians finally set about dredging the harbor there to a suitable depth, Buffalo was chosen in 1821 as the canal's terminus. When it opened in 1825, the Erie Canal passed through and beyond Black Rock; as a final insult, Black Rock even lost the rock formation that inspired its name: it lay in the path of the canal and had to be blasted away.
As predicted, Buffalo grew explosively, expanding its borders in 1832 to include newly developing South Black Rock. Black Rock might have been able to soldier on independently in the shadow of its now-much larger neighbor, but the years after the canal's construction were exceptionally harsh: the Panic of 1837 laid waste to its economy (half its businesses failed) just when Black Rock was getting back on its feet again after a damaging windstorm a few years earlier. Moreover, when relief came to the village, it was at the expense of some of its independent spirit: the Buffalo and Niagara Falls Railroad, the area's first, helped transform Upper Black Rock into an important center for milling and coopering — which, in turn, attracted throngs of German and Irish laborers — but, by the same token, inextricably bound its new economy to Buffalo's. Thus, though Lower Black Rock was able to retain much more of its distinct identity and pastoral character, with a small-town feel to the streets around Market Square, a change to Buffalo's charter enabled it to annex Black Rock along with the remainder of the surrounding unincorporated township in 1853, ending its history as an independent village.
In spite of it all, the next decades would be ones of rapid growth for Buffalo's newly annexed West Side. It was about 1850 when former mayor Ebenezer Johnson moved to Tennessee, placing his vast Lower West Side estate up for sale. The estate was subdivided into streets and houses that quickly took on a working-class character: the canal was only a few blocks away, and the crowded tenements of the First Ward were a place that canal laborers, largely Irishmen, were keen to escape if they could afford it. As the Irish pushed north, they were joined on the blocks closest to downtown by Italians, who, beginning in the 1870s, competed with the Irish for canal and railroad jobs. Further north, the park and parkway system that eminent landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted had planned for the city attracted development to Prospect Hill; its western arm, Porter Avenue, lined with rows of stately elms, cut a swath through the old South Black Rock street grid, passing Prospect Park and ending at "The Front" (now Front Park), the pleasant green space Olmsted planned for the beautiful Lake Erie shoreline. The similar Richmond Avenue additionally extended north toward Delaware Park along the eastern fringe of the district.
The West Side continued to grow and diversify in the ensuing years. The New York Central Railroad's Belt Line, a commuter loop built in 1883 through Buffalo's outer neighborhoods, attracted residents to the undeveloped eastern outskirts of Black Rock: a community of industrial workers from Poland, Hungary and Ukraine gathered around the new Church of the Assumption near the corner of Grant and Amherst Streets. Meanwhile, as the more affluent Germans and Irishmen continued to push outward, the land north of increasingly industrial Black Rock also began to develop, with a second Olmsted park, Germania Park (soon to be renamed Riverside Park), built around 1900 as the centerpiece of the area in Buffalo's far northwest corner now known as Riverside. Originally the site of many summer homes belonging to Buffalo's elite aristocracy, Riverside became a pleasant "suburb" of Black Rock, with a greener, more countrified ambience, larger homes on more spacious lots, and a wealthier citizenry.
With the advent of the railroads in the late 19th Century, the Erie Canal gradually became obsolete and fell into disuse; however, other than that, the early 20th Century was a time of stability for the West Side. But subtle changes were afoot citywide that would rattle the district to its core in the second half of the century. Growth in Buffalo progressively slowed, then stopped altogether just after World War II, as the rise of the automobile enabled city residents to move to less crowded suburbs while retaining jobs downtown. The automobile age also meant the decline of the railroads, and the construction of the Saint Lawrence Seaway, which gave lake freighters a direct route to the ocean that bypassed Buffalo, brought the city's era as a major inland port to a screeching halt. Worse yet was the city's response to the resulting economic crisis: shortsighted attempts at urban renewal ravaged many areas of Buffalo, but the West Side was harder-hit than any other part of the city. Block after block of lovely brick Victorian cottages on the Lower West Side were demolished; these stable and vibrant, if poor, Italian communities were derided as "slums" by city leaders and replaced with public housing that was no better than what came before them, with the Italians dispersed to various parts of the city (most notably the Hertel Avenue area). As well, no sooner was the bed of the abandoned Erie Canal filled in than the monstrous Interstate 190 was built over its top. With the opening of I-190 in 1958, Buffalo was essentially cut off from its own waterfront; Front and Riverside Parks' serene river views were replaced by that of a noisy expressway. Thankfully, at the end of the 1960s, grassroots pressure forced the cancellation of plans for the West Side Arterial, another highway which would have bisected the Lower West Side along Virginia Street (the huge Niagara Street exit of I-190, the intended west end of the West Side Arterial, is a gruesome example of what might have been in store for the neighborhood).
By the 1980s, the West Side was in rough shape. Though the Hispanic community that had replaced the Italians on the Lower West Side (and, later, spread northward to Prospect Hill and the Upper West Side) tried their best to keep the area up, the battle against drugs, crime and poverty at times seemed hopeless. However, glimmers of hope were emerging by the turn of the millennium, and it came about that what saved the West Side was its trademark ethnic diversity — which, along with cheap housing and a low cost of living, began to attract newly landed immigrants to the district. By 2003, when Dr. Myron Glick founded Jericho Road Ministries, an offshoot of his Upper West Side medical practice providing refugees assistance with food, housing, finances, literacy and education, Buffalo had overtaken New York City as the state's leading destination for new immigrants. At the same time, Buffalo State College was instrumental in helping small businesses sprout on Grant Street after student-oriented shops began being priced out of the increasingly tony Elmwood Village, and D'Youville College also made massive investments in the surrounding neighborhood of Prospect Hill as it expanded during the 2000s. In turn, this investment attracted that of urban pioneers as well as preservationist-minded business owners such as Prish Moran, the 2007 opening of whose coffee shop Sweet_ness 7 is widely seen as the single turning point that cemented Grant-Ferry's arrival as Buffalo's newest hip neighborhood. The boom in property values that resulted from all this is still ongoing, and today the West Side, probably more than any other area of Buffalo, is truly rising from the ashes.
Much like downtown Buffalo but not nearly to the same extent, the West Side riverfront is noticeably cooler and windier than other areas of the city and region. The refreshing breezes are a big part of why locals are drawn to waterfront oases like LaSalle Park during the stifling summer months, but by the same token, visitors looking to walk the Bird Island Pier during the spring or autumn would be well-advised to wear a windbreaker and long pants.
As the longtime home of Buffalo's Hispanic community, visitors to the West Side will likely hear Spanish spoken almost as frequently as English. Those who want to practice their Spanish on the West Side may run into some difficulty, though: the fast-paced, somewhat slurred Caribbean dialects most often heard here may be difficult to understand for those used to standard Spanish.
However, Spanish's strong second-place position among languages spoken on the West Side is gradually eroding away: the growth of the immigrant communities that have settled here — particularly the area around Grant Street — means that visitors stand a good chance of hearing Burmese, Vietnamese, Taiwanese, Somali, and Amharic, among others.
Monolinguals need not worry — no matter their nationality, it's quite rare to encounter any West Side residents who cannot speak English at all.
Get in and around
Interstate 190 (I-190) passes along the length of the West Side riverfront from downtown to Tonawanda (and onward to Niagara Falls and the Canadian border), via which the whole district can be easily accessed:
- Exit 8 (Niagara Street) provides access to the West Village and the Lower West Side as well as downtown.
- Exit 9 (Peace Bridge via northbound lanes; Porter Avenue via southbound lanes) leads to Prospect Hill and also Fort Erie, Ontario via the Peace Bridge. Cars headed southbound exit directly onto Porter Avenue, with the Peace Bridge onramp accessible via the roundabout on the other side of the overpass. Northbound traffic can either proceed directly to Customs and over the bridge or else keep to the left lane and exit at the corner of Busti and Massachusetts Avenues. (Despite what the signs say, there's no direct access to Porter Avenue from the northbound 190).
- Exit 12 (Amherst Street) and Exit 13 (Austin Street) are accessible from the northbound lanes only, providing access to Black Rock and, in the former case, also to Grant-Amherst slightly further afield.
- Exit 14 (Vulcan Street via northbound lanes; Ontario Street via southbound lanes) is located in Riverside.
As well, the Scajaquada Expressway (NY 198) is a short highway that begins in Black Rock at Exit 11 of I-190, passing eastward through the West Side and North Buffalo and ending on the East Side at the Kensington Expressway. The Scajaquada's Grant Street exit makes for a convenient route to Grant-Ferry, Grant-Amherst and Buffalo State College. There's also a Niagara Street exit accessible to westbound traffic only.
The main thoroughfare of the West Side is Niagara Street (NY 266), which begins downtown at Niagara Square and proceeds through the Lower West Side in a straight southeast-to-northwest orientation (in conformity with the old South Black Rock street grid); shortly after crossing Hampshire Street, it turns north and parallels the Niagara River shore through the Upper West Side, Black Rock, Riverside and on beyond the city line. As well, Grant Street, the West Side's main shopping street, runs northward from Hampshire Street through the heart of the Upper West Side and into Black Rock, where it ends at Military Road.
Other main drags on the West Side include Richmond Avenue, a verdant, tree-lined boulevard designed by Frederick Law Olmsted that extends along the inner fringe of the West Side from Symphony Circle north to Forest Avenue, and Tonawanda Street, the main street of Black Rock and Riverside which splits off Niagara Street just north of Scajaquada Creek and runs north and northwest past the city line and into Tonawanda. From south to north, major crosstown routes on the West Side include: on the Lower West Side, Virginia Street, Porter Avenue, Connecticut Street, Massachusetts Avenue, and Hampshire Street; on the Upper West Side, West Ferry Street, Lafayette Avenue, West Delavan Avenue, and Forest Avenue; and in Black Rock and Riverside, Amherst Street, Hertel Avenue, and Vulcan Street. Additionally, in Riverside, Ontario Street runs from a point on Niagara Street about midway between Hertel Avenue and Riverside Park northeastward to Kenmore Avenue, intersecting at acute angles with Niagara and Tonawanda Streets.
Driving in the Lower West Side can be tricky due to its many one-way streets. An easy trick to navigating the Lower West Side that dates back to the initial survey of the South Black Rock street grid is that most of the crosstown streets (those that run perpendicular to Niagara Street) are named after the United States' Eastern Seaboard states, with more southerly states closer to downtown and more northerly ones further out. Thus, anyone with basic knowledge of U.S. geography can judge what direction they're heading and approximately how many blocks they are from their destination. The system isn't perfect, though: the word "New" has been shed from the street names (for instance, it's "Jersey Street", not "New Jersey Street"), there's only one Carolina Street, rather than a North and South, the Olmsted-designed Porter Avenue supplanted the portion of York Street west of West Avenue in the early 1870s, Hudson Street interlopes between Maryland and Pennsylvania Streets, and Maine and Delaware are not represented (respectively, to avoid confusion with Main Street and because Delaware Avenue already exists elsewhere in the city). After Hampshire Street, the scheme of state names (and the old South Black Rock street grid) ends.
Grant-Ferry is the only place on the West Side where on-street parking is ever hard to find. Parking meters are in place on Grant Street between West Delavan Avenue and West Ferry Street, as well as on West Ferry for half a block in either direction from Grant. They're in effect till 5PM every day except Sunday, at a rate of 50¢ per hour to a maximum of 2 hours. Additionally, though parking is free north of West Delavan, the 2-hour maximum rule on Grant extends as far as Potomac Avenue, except Sundays.
Elsewhere on the West Side, parking is a breeze. Parking meters are in place on the Lower West Side along Niagara Street south of Hudson Street (the same rules apply as on Grant, but parking is $1.00 per hour) and in Riverside along Tonawanda Street between Hunt and Crowley Avenues. Signs indicate that paid parking in Riverside is in effect till 6PM every day but Sunday with rates of 50¢ per hour to a maximum of 2 hours, but word is that some or all of the meters don't work and are slated to be removed. As well, the 2-hour maximum rule is also in effect along Ontario Street between Tonawanda Street and Kenmore Avenue.
Grant-Amherst has no parking meters or restrictions of any kind, but visitors to that neighborhood should keep in mind that the lot on the north side of Amherst Street between Howell and Bush Streets is for the exclusive use of customers of Casey's Tavern and Nick's Place, and enforcement is vigilant. If you can't find on-street parking along Amherst (unlikely), try the large lot at Tops Plaza at the corner of Grant Street.
Members of Zipcar have access to their choice of three vehicles parked at Buffalo State College's Parking Lot G-22, opposite the Grant Street entrance to campus: a Honda Civic and a Ford Focus sedan are each available for a price of $7.50/hour or $69/day M-Th; $8.50/hour or $77/day F-Su, while a Ford Escape SUV goes for $8.50/hour or $77/day M-Th; $9.50/hour or $83/day F-Su. These rates all include fuel, insurance, and 180 free miles (about 290 free kilometers) per day.
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.
If you'll be doing a lot of coming and going on the West Side via public transportation, you're likely at some point to have a transfer at the 1 Black Rock-Riverside Transit Hub, located at the corner of Niagara and Ontario Streets. It's a major nexus for many of the Metro buses that serve the West Side, as well as North Buffalo and the northwestern suburbs of Tonawanda and Amherst.
The West Side is traversed by a number of NFTA Metro bus routes:
To and from downtown
NFTA Metro Buses #1 — William, #2 — Clinton, and #4 — Broadway all begin and end on, and take the same route to and from, the Lower West Side: outbound buses proceed southward down 4th Street from Carolina Street, turning left on West Genesee Street and entering downtown; inbound buses turn right from West Genesee Street onto 7th Street and proceed as far as Carolina Street. Buses #1, #2 and #4 end, respectively, at the AppleTree Business Park in Cheektowaga, at the Bank of America Operations Center in West Seneca, and at the Thruway Mall Transit Center in Cheektowaga.
NFTA Metro Bus #3 — Grant. Beginning at the city line at the corner of Tonawanda and Vulcan Streets, Bus #3 serves Riverside via Vulcan and Skillen Streets, proceeding thenceforward down Military Road and Grant Street through Black Rock and the Upper West Side, with service to Buffalo State College. Turning right on Hampshire Street, inbound buses pass through the Lower West Side via Normal Avenue, York Street, and West Avenue, emerging onto Carolina Street and proceeding downtown via Elmwood Avenue. Outbound buses serve the Lower West Side via Hudson Street and Plymouth Avenue, turning right on Hampshire Street and rejoining the above-described route.
NFTA Metro Bus #5 — Niagara-Kenmore. Beginning at the University Metro Rail Station, Bus #5 enters the West Side via Kenmore Avenue, serving Riverside via Ontario Street, Tonawanda Street, and Vulcan Street. The bus then turns left at Niagara Street, passing through Black Rock with service to the Black Rock-Riverside Transit Hub, then proceeds through the West Side proper, ending downtown.
NFTA Metro Bus #7 — Baynes-Richmond. Beginning at the Richardson-Olmsted Complex in the Elmwood Village, Bus #7 proceeds southward on Baynes Street through the Upper West Side, then turning on West Ferry Street and continuing southward down Richmond Avenue through the Lower West Side to Symphony Circle, ending downtown. Bus #7 does not run Saturdays, Sundays or holidays.
NFTA Metro Bus #40 — Buffalo-Niagara Falls. Beginning at the Portage Road Transit Center in Niagara Falls, Bus #40 proceeds through the West Side via Niagara Street, serving the Black Rock-Riverside Transit Hub on its way south toward downtown, where it ends. It is important to note that Route #40 does not serve passengers whose trips are located entirely south of Hertel Avenue.
NFTA Metro Bus #12 — Utica. Beginning at the corner of Niagara Street and Busti Avenue, eastbound buses on Route #12 head northward along Niagara Street, proceeding eastward through the Upper West Side and Grant-Ferry via West Ferry Street. Turning southward onto Richmond Avenue, the route then enters the Elmwood Village at West Utica Street and ends at the University Metro Rail Station.
NFTA Metro Bus #22 — Porter-Best. Beginning at the corner of Jersey Street and Lakeview Avenue, eastbound buses on Route #22 serve Prospect Hill via Jersey Street, 7th Street, and Porter Avenue, entering the Elmwood Village at Symphony Circle and ending at the Thruway Mall Transit Center in Cheektowaga. Westbound buses proceed along Porter as far as Lakeview, then turning left and proceeding as far as Jersey Street.
NFTA Metro Bus #23 — Fillmore-Hertel. Beginning at the Black Rock-Riverside Transit Hub, Bus #23 serves Black Rock via Niagara Street before turning eastward at Hertel Avenue. From there, the bus enters North Buffalo, continues through the East Side via Fillmore Avenue, and finally ends in South Buffalo.
NFTA Metro Bus #26 — Delavan. Beginning at the corner of Niagara Street and West Delavan Avenue, eastbound buses on Route #26 proceed along West Delavan Avenue through the Upper West Side, ending at the Thruway Mall Transit Center in Cheektowaga. Westbound buses turn left from West Delavan to Herkimer Street, then proceed westward again via Lafayette Avenue and return to West Delavan via Niagara Street.
NFTA Metro Bus #29 — Wohlers. Beginning at the corner of Efner and Maryland Streets, eastbound buses on Route #29 proceed through the Lower West Side via Maryland Street. Buses then turn right on Cottage Street and enter Allentown, ending at the Delavan-Canisius College Metro Rail Station. Westbound buses serve Trenton, Esperar, and Efner Streets, ending back at Maryland Street. Bus #29 does not run Saturdays, Sundays or holidays.
NFTA Metro Bus #32 — Amherst. Beginning at the Black Rock-Riverside Transit Hub, Bus #32 serves Black Rock via Niagara Street before turning eastward at Amherst Street. From there, the bus enters North Buffalo before finally ending its run at the Thruway Mall Transit Center in Cheektowaga.
NFTA Metro Bus #35 — Sheridan. Beginning at the Marina Vista Apartments, Bus #35 heads northward on Niagara Street, passing through Black Rock and Riverside with service to the Black Rock-Riverside Transit Hub. From there it crosses the city line into Tonawanda and ends its run in Amherst at the North Campus of the University at Buffalo.
By Metro Rail
The Metro Rail runs along Main Street, far east of here. However, the West Side is easily accessible from the Amherst Street, Delavan-Canisius College, Utica, and Summer-Best Metro Rail Stations by way of NFTA Metro Buses #32, #26, #12, and #22, respectively. Those traveling to the West Side by both bus and subway are strongly advised to purchase a day pass for $5.00.
Buffalo has made great strides 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 quality of bicycle infrastructure on the West Side is variable, but it's generally quite good by local standards and, as in the rest of the city, steadily improving. The Lower West Side is undoubtedly the most bicycle-friendly area in the district, populated largely by immigrants whose habituation to alternative modes of transportation, including bicycles, is imported from their home countries — as well as young, middle-class "urban pioneers" for whom carfreedom is a conscious choice.
Buffalo's oldest, largest, and best-known bike path is the Shoreline Trail, a multi-use trail that connects the Bethlehem Steel site in Lackawanna to Gratwick Park in North Tonawanda via the West Side waterfront, for a total distance of 22.6 miles (36.4 km). The Shoreline Trail passes into the West Side near the posh Waterfront Village condos and closely hugs the shore of Lake Erie and the Niagara River for its length, with excellent views over the water and easy access to many waterfront attractions including LaSalle Park, the Fontana Boathouse, Broderick Park, Unity Island Park, and Riverside Park. Best of all, for the vast majority of its length, the Shoreline Trail follows its own off-street right-of-way with no traffic to contend with — the exception is a short, unsigned stretch of 0.4 miles (700 m) along Busti Avenue and Niagara Street between Hampshire and West Ferry Streets, but the roadway boasts wide shoulders and sidewalks that provide a modicum of safety for cyclists. The trail is paved with asphalt in its entirety, and a speed limit of 15 mph (24 km/h) is enforced.
As well as being a lovely trail in itself, the Shoreline Trail also serves as a central spine for Buffalo's larger network of bike paths. Branching off of it is the Jesse Kregal Pathway. The path follows the north shore of Scajaquada Creek opposite the expressway for a distance of 2.4 miles (3.8 km), with the attractions of Black Rock and Grant-Amherst within easy striking distance. Passing out of the West Side, the Scajaquada Creekside Trail enters Delaware Park and ends near the Buffalo History Museum. Near its northern terminus in Tonawanda, the Shoreline Trail also connects with the Erie Canalway Trail.
As indicated above, in Prospect Hill and the Lower West Side especially, bike lanes and other accommodations have also been steadily added to the street grid. Among the streets which have been improved in this way is Richmond Avenue, with "sharrows" (pavement markings on roads too narrow to accommodate dedicated bike lanes, indicating that drivers should be aware of bicyclists on the road) in place between Forest Avenue and Colonial Circle, and a dedicated bike lane on each side of the street from Colonial Circle south to Symphony Circle. The ongoing redesign of the Niagara Street corridor saw dedicated bike lanes added to the stretch between South Elmwood Avenue and Hudson Street, with sharrows north from there to Porter Avenue. Niagara Street also has bike lanes further north in Riverside, from Ontario Street north through Riverside Park to the city line. Elsewhere, Porter Avenue sports a dedicated bike lane on each side between Symphony Circle and Niagara Street plus a signed off-street bike path west of Niagara Street as far as LaSalle Park where it connects to the Shoreline Trail, and Hudson Street boasts parallel bike lanes on each side between Plymouth and Busti Avenues, with sharrows in place east to Wadsworth Street and west to 4th Street with access to LaSalle Park via a pedestrian bridge over Interstate 190. As well, sharrows lead from Hudson Street to Symphony Circle by way of West Avenue and Pennsylvania Street, and are in place on Connecticut Street between Niagara Street and Richmond Avenue, on Wadsworth Street from Symphony Circle to Allen Street, on Grant Street from Forest Avenue south to Hampshire Street, on Forest Avenue from Niagara Street to Richmond Avenue (from which point cyclists can continue eastward into the Elmwood Village via an off-street pathway), on the entirety of Hampshire Street from Grant Street to the Shoreline Trail, and in Black Rock on Amherst Street from Bridgeman Street east into North Buffalo.
The West Side has eleven Reddy Bikeshare racks:
- on the east side of Niagara Street between Virginia and Carolina Streets, alongside the back end of the parking lot of the Turner Brothers Building
- on the south side of Porter Avenue at the corner of Fargo Avenue, in front of the D'Youville College Center
- on the south side of Porter Avenue at the corner of Jersey Street and Normal Avenue, across the street from Grover Cleveland High School
- on the north side of Connecticut Street at the corner of Normal Avenue, in front of Horsefeathers Market
- on the south side of Vermont Street between West and Fargo Avenues, in front of West Side Community Services
- on the north side of Rhode Island Street between West and Plymouth Avenues
- at the Five Points intersection, on the south side of West Utica Street at the corner of Rhode Island Street, across the street from Black Monarchy
- on the south side of Rhode Island Street at the corner of Landis Place, in front of Left Bank
- on the east side of Grant Street at the corner of Lafayette Avenue, in front of Our Lady of Hope Catholic Church and across the street diagonally from Sweet_ness 7
- on the north side of Amherst Street between Bush and Howell Streets, across from The Dapper Goose
- on the east side of Military Road just north of Amherst Street, on the side of Hot Mama's Canteen
The various neighborhoods of the West Side cover a large geographic area, and it's not practical to see all of them without the aid of a car, bicycle, or public transit. Still, there are many lovely places for a stroll on the West Side. Aside from the bike paths and waterfront trails listed above, paramount among pedestrian-friendly West Side areas are the bustling Grant-Ferry commercial strip with its vibrant multiethnic street culture, as well as compact, charming Grant-Amherst. Visitors should be on guard after dark, though the West Side remains one of the highest-crime areas of Buffalo, and when the sun goes down these streets take on a noticeably sketchy character. See the Stay safe section for more information.
- 2 Black Rock Historical Society, 1902 Niagara St (Metro Bus 5, 32 or 40), ☏ . Th F 10AM-3PM. The Black Rock Historical Society's small storefront exhibit space opened in 2015 in a building they share with the Black Rock Riverside Alliance, and its exhibits represent ten years of acquisition by museum curators from their personal collections and donations from neighborhood residents and businesses. Through a series of historic photographs, artifacts, and other exhibits, the 200-year story of the Black Rock, Riverside, Grant-Amherst, and West Hertel neighborhoods — one of the most historic areas of Buffalo — is recounted. The Black Rock Historical Society also offers brochures for several self-guided walking tours around the neighborhood, covering everything from historic sites from the War of 1812 to modern-day community gardens.
- 3 Frances Folsom Cleveland House, 168 Edward St. (Metro Bus 3, 11, 20, 25 or 29). Privately owned, not open for tours. This delightful cottage on Edward Street is where Frances Folsom Cleveland, wife of President Grover Cleveland, lived from her birth in 1864 to her matriculation at Wells College about 1880. Frances' father Oscar Folsom, a prominent lawyer, died at a young age in a carriage accident, whereupon his friend and colleague, Grover Cleveland, took on the responsibility of caring for his widow and two daughters. Cleveland's relationship with Frances would blossom into a romance, culminating in their marriage in 1886, the first and still the only presidential wedding to ever take place at the White House. Folsom Cleveland was immensely popular — the public was struck by her beauty, poise and intelligence, and ladies of the day slavishly copied her fashion sense — and she's still the youngest First Lady in U.S. history. Though the house at 168 Edward Street is not open for tours, the city has placed an interpretive plaque in front of it with details on Folsom Cleveland's life, historical importance, and legacy. Architecture buffs will also take note of this fine example of the mid-19th Century red brick Italianates that remain popular on the Lower West Side.
- 4 Karpeles Manuscript Library (Porter Hall), 453 Porter Ave (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 22), ☏ . Su-Tu 11AM-4PM. The brainchild of California real estate magnate David Karpeles, the Karpeles Manuscript Library is the world's largest privately-owned collection of historic documents and manuscripts. The library consists of twelve branches nationwide, including two in Buffalo: Porter Hall, located in Prospect Hill at the beautifully restored former home of the Plymouth Methodist Church, and North Hall in Allentown. In addition to the travelling exhibits that rotate among all twelve branches of the library, Porter Hall houses the permanent collection of the Buffalo branch of the Karpeles Manuscript Library, including the William McKinley Room where original documents concerning the 1901 assassination of President William McKinley at Buffalo's Pan-American Exposition are displayed. Free.
In the wake of the gentrification that has lately transformed Allentown and the Elmwood Village from boho to bourgeois, the West Side is largely where the Buffalo art scene has reconvened in the 21st century. Grant-Amherst and Five Points are home to some of the West Side's more longstanding artist communities, but nowadays the bulk of the action is on Niagara Street, where many of the old warehouses of the Upper West Side and Black Rock have been transformed into gallery spaces where the luminaries of the local scene exhibit.
- 5 Argus Gallery, 1896 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 32 or 40), ☏ . Operated by the same team of folks behind the Eleven Twenty Projects gallery on Main Street in Midtown, Black Rock's Argus Gallery launched in spring 2017 with a focus on supporting and nurturing emerging artists who come from communities that are underrepresented in the art world, through the exhibition of contemporary works in a variety of media that explore thought-provoking and sometimes controversial themes.
- 6 Artsphere Studio & Gallery, 447 Amherst St. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☏ . Th-F noon-5PM, Sa 11AM-3PM or by appointment. A pioneering institution in the now-burgeoning art scene in Grant-Amherst, Artsphere Studio opened in 2003, across the street from its current building. This bright, airy, and spacious gallery features the work of its owner Doreen Boyer DeBoth, a painter, photographer and jewelrymaker; her husband, noted potter Douglas DeBoth, whose works are available for sale at the gallery; and other local artists working in a diverse variety of media. As well, temporary exhibitions are frequently held whose themes are often related to the rich history and unique identity of Black Rock and Grant-Amherst: Boyer DeBoth is a founding member of the Black Rock Historical Society and spearheaded the Black Rock Historic Photo Project whose constituent works can be seen on the exterior walls of several Amherst Street buildings. As well, a modest selection of books on local history and art are available for sale.
- 7 Buffalo Religious Arts Center, 157 East St. (Metro Bus 5, 32 or 40), ☏ . By appointment. Located at the former St. Francis Xavier Roman Catholic Church in the heart of historic Black Rock, the mission of the Buffalo Religious Arts Center is to salvage and display some of the works of religious art contained in the many churches and other places of worship (particularly on the East Side) that have closed their doors in the wake of Buffalo's half-century of population loss. In addition to the priceless works from other churches that curator Mary Holland has collected, such as statuary from St. Mary of Sorrows, icons from SS. Peter & Paul Russian Orthodox Church, and various items from Temple Beth El, St. Francis Xavier itself is a magnificent old building full of beautiful and uplifting art which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was a longtime cornerstone of the Black Rock community. $10, students $5, members free.
- 8 Essex Arts Center, 30 Essex St. (Metro Bus 7 or 12), ☏ . A complex of four buildings that serve as living quarters as well as studio and exhibition space for painters, sculptors, photographers, musicians, and all manner of other artists, the Essex Arts Center has been a mainstay on the West Side for four decades running. The center traces its history back to 1969, when local steel sculptor Larry Griffis and his Ashford Hollow Foundation, which was established three years previously to administer the 400-acre (160 ha) sculpture park he'd established in Cattaraugus County, purchased the former Webster-Citizens Company Ice House to use as an arts studio and performance venue. The Essex Arts Center immediately attracted to its roster a veritable Who's Who of Buffalo's arts scene of the 1970s and '80s, and over the years it has proven to be an incredibly prolific incubator of institutions that have gone on to become major players in the local arts scene — Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, the CEPA Gallery, and the dearly missed Artists' Committee Gallery all got their start at 30 Essex before striking out on their own, and Big Orbit Gallery, founded in 1991 and described below, carries on the tradition at its original location. Besides the gallery, the Essex Arts Center also hosts frequent events such as art auctions, musical performances, and educational workshops and seminars whose proceeds go directly to benefit the local arts community.
- 9 Big Orbit Gallery, ☏ . F-M noon-5PM or by appointment. Established in 1991, Big Orbit Gallery is a collective run by and for artists, featuring a changing schedule of experimental exhibitions in a diversity of media. This expansive gallery — situated in a former warehouse whose high ceiling, adjacent interior courtyard, and minimalist decor lend it a cavernous, airy ambience — features diverse exhibitions of works by local artists. Everything from traditional media like painting and photography, to performance art and sound sculpture, to genre-defying, avant-garde spectacle of all kinds can be found here. These works are united by their transcendence of cultures and viewpoints: Big Orbit Gallery prides itself not only on bringing established artists from the Buffalo area to the national and international stage, but also on building awareness of emerging artists of underrepresented demographics. A word of warning: updates to their website are sporadic at best, so Facebook or the pages of Artvoice are probably better bets for those who want to see what's on at Big Orbit.
- 10 The Fargo House, 287 Fargo Ave. (Metro Bus 3, 5, 22, or 40). Open by appointment. This handsome old Victorian in Prospect Hill is part private residence, part archaeological dig and part art gallery: award-winning artist, architect, author and UB professor Dennis Maher bought it in 2009 when it was on the city's demolition list and has been living in and renovating it ever since, a process that has yielded a treasure trove of salvaged structural and decorative elements that he assembles — along with found items from thrift stores, flea markets, and other sources — into imaginative collages displayed in the gallery space on the house's first floor. This ongoing project has earned him praise from the New York Foundation for the Arts and in the pages of the New York Times, among others. Aside from Maher's own work, the Fargo House also occasionally hosts exhibitions by other artists from the local area.
- Sugar City. Sugar City is the loose arts collective that's been best known for their impromptu "guerrilla"-style art shows and performances that popped up at various spots around town over the two-year interval between their departure from their former home on Wadsworth Street in Allentown and the grand opening of their second one in the Upper West Side on Niagara Street. True to their usual nature, most of the renovation work at the second facility was performed by the seven "Sugar Citizens" themselves, but it wouldn't be exactly accurate to pin the "DIY" label on the collective: its community-based, participatory approach to art would be better described as "do it together". The Niagara Street location closed in Aug 2020, and the collective is looking for new ways to support artists who cannot obtain space in more traditional galleries, with an aim of blurring the lines and redefining what is and is not considered art. There's probably no way to describe their exhibits, other than to say these are the misfits of Buffalo's art scene whose creative output defies categorization, so expect the unexpected.
- 11 The WASH Project, 593 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3 or 7), ☏ . M-F 11AM-5PM and during events. The humble West Side Value Laundromat on Massachusetts Avenue is hardly the place you'd expect to be a reliable clearinghouse for information on community cultural happenings, let alone the venue for art studio space, a small library, and a wide gamut of artistic and cultural events. Yet that's exactly what the WASH Project (the acronym stands for "Westside Art Strategy Happenings") consists of. Owner Zaw Win, one of the West Side's growing legion of Burmese refugees who boasts a long history of political activism in his home country, teamed up in 2012 with local activist Barrett Gordon and financial benefactors including Houghton College and the local chapter of AmeriCorps to turn his laundromat into a beehive of community cultural life where the accent, not surprisingly, is on the diverse patchwork of ethnic groups that have forged a cohesive community on the West Side. At the WASH Project's small gallery, you can peruse monthly changing exhibitions of work by local artists, attend classes and workshops on a wide range of artistic subjects, create your own masterpiece in the "Creative Spin" studio (chalk art on the sidewalk outside the building is popular during the warmer months) — and maybe throw in a load of laundry while you're at it. NOTE: The WASH Project has temporarily moved to a new location in Grant-Ferry, where it will remain while renovations on their original Massachusetts Avenue location are ongoing. Laundry facilities are available across the street at The Laundry Spot. The address and directions given in this listing are for the temporary location.
Though Larkinville and the Old First Ward have lately usurped the title of epicenter of the incipient Buffalo craft brewing and distilling industry, the West Side retains a measure of importance as home of two of the heavy hitters of the local scene.
- 12 Community Beer Works, 520 7th St (Metro Bus 5, 22 or 40), ☏ . On a limited basis, Community Beer Works offers free, informal tours of the newly expanded production facility where it churns out such Buffalo craft-beer favorites as the zesty, piney "Frank" American pale ale and the 5.9% ABV "Whale" brown ale. As of November 2018, a permanent tour schedule is said to be forthcoming. Contact brewery staff for more information.
- Resurgence Brewing, 1250 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 12 or 40), ☏ . Tours by appointment. With a moniker that pays tribute to the newfound ambition and vigor in Buffalo, Resurgence Brewery opened in June 2014 in the former Sterling Engine Company warehouse that's also home to the offices of Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper. Though they've since moved most of their production to a much larger facility in the Old First Ward, the original location remains in operation brewing seasonal and limited-edition beers in small batches, as well as developing and testing new varieties in preparation for their introduction to the public. The tasting room and beer garden remain open as well.
The West Side is the greenest part of Buffalo — in particular, the waterfront is the place to find Buffalonians basking in the summer sun and enjoying cool breezes off the lake and river. Among the West Side's parks are two that were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the eminent landscape architect who did some of his best work here in Buffalo.
- 13 Broderick Park, West end of W. Ferry St., access via Ferry Street Lift Bridge (Metro Bus 5, 12 or 40). Broderick Park is a small waterfront green space located at the southern tip of Unity Island. This spot is historically important as one of Western New York's major crossing points into Canada for fugitive slaves travelling the Underground Railroad, as attested to by a prominent historical marker and the occasional historical reenactments that take place there. This was also the site from which the ferry service to Fort Erie, Ontario set off in the days before the Peace Bridge. Today, Broderick Park is a popular fishing spot where perch, yellow and northern pike, smallmouth bass, muskellunge, and other species native to the Niagara River are reeled in, and is also a haven for picnickers, sunbathers, and bicyclists who pass through the park along the Shoreline Trail. Amenities include a picnic shelter, as well as a newly constructed amphitheater, gardens, and interpretive exhibits. Broderick Park is also the northern terminus of the Bird Island Pier (see below).
- 14 Front Park, North side of Porter Ave. between Busti Ave. and I-190 (Metro Bus 5, 22 or 40). One of Buffalo's many Olmsted parks, Front Park (or "The Front", as it was originally named) is situated along Porter Avenue just south of the Peace Bridge and contains a soccer field, tennis courts, and picnic facilities, as well as original features such as "The Hippodrome", a 3.5-acre (1.5 ha) lawn intended for picnicking or informal team sports, and a terrace concourse for carriages adorned with a handsome statue of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry. Intended to both showcase and enhance the beauty of the Niagara River and Lake Erie and emphasize its significance to the history and identity of Buffalo, the park once also boasted extensive formal gardens. At the north end of the park stood Fort Porter, built in the mid-1840s as a customshouse and military installation. Some time later, Olmsted was given the green light to extend the Front beyond the canal to the edge of the river itself; though it never materialized, this extension would have included playgrounds, a beach, and a boardwalk. Sadly, together with the West Side's other Olmsted park, Riverside Park, Front Park was badly damaged by the urban renewal that decimated the West Side in the middle 20th Century: the construction of Interstate 190 over the former canal bed robbed the concourse of its serene lake views, and the construction of the new plaza for the Peace Bridge in 1951 culled seven acres (2.5ha) from the size of the park, resulted in the demolition of Fort Porter, and routed noisy trucks bound for Canada through the park (the latter problem will be solved by the controversial expansion of the Peace Bridge plaza slated for the next few years, after which trucks will access the bridge from a new entrance away from the park).
- 15 LaSalle Park, South side of Porter Ave. between I-190 and lake shore (Metro Bus 22 or 29). Though not an Olmsted park, LaSalle Park is the largest park along Buffalo's waterfront, and its plethora of amenities — baseball diamonds, soccer fields, a swimming pool, a skate park, and a dog run ("The Barkyard") — have made it popular among locals. This 89-acre (36 ha) expanse was named Centennial Park when it opened to visitors in 1932, Buffalo's 100th year as a city. Later, of course, its name was changed to honor the French explorer René-Robert Cavalier de La Salle, whose ship Le Griffon passed along the Lake Erie shore in 1679, the first European to see the land now called Buffalo. Architecture buffs will enjoy the Buffalo Water Authority's historic Colonel Francis G. Ward Pumping Station, built between 1909 and 1915 to a design by the local firm of Esenwein & Johnson in a style that's an eclectic hybrid of Beaux-Arts Neoclassicism and the Romanesque Revival.
- 16 Riverside Park, West side of Tonawanda St. between Vulcan St. and Crowley Ave. (Metro Bus 5, 35 or 40). Situated on 39 acres (16 ha) in the far northwest corner of the city, Riverside Park features facilities for every outdoor activity imaginable: baseball diamonds, football and soccer fields, basketball and tennis courts, a swimming pool, a playground, and the Ruben "Bud" Bakewell Ice Rink. Riverside Park was the last addition to Buffalo's Olmsted park system — it was not conceived and built until after Frederick Law Olmsted's death, commissioned by the city in 1898 and designed by his two sons. Riverside Park was intended to finally fulfill the elder Olmsted's dream of a true waterfront park for the city and included all the classic Olmsted elements — a meadow, footpaths, wooded thickets, and a carriage concourse — as well as pleasant minnow pools along its northern boundary. It was to have been connected to the rest of the park system by Roesch Avenue, a parkway leading north and west from Delaware Park which was never built. Sadly, Riverside Park is probably the least well-preserved of Buffalo's Olmsted parks today, owing to the construction of Interstate 190 along the canal bed and the removal of many of the historic Olmsted features. However, the scenic overlook still provides a stunning view over the Niagara River (with direct access to the shore provided by the Irene K. Gardner Pedestrian Bridge over the expressway), and the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy unveiled River Rock Gardens in 2014 on the former site of the minnow pools, now reinterpreted as a large chain of stone-bedded rain gardens peppered with greenery, traversed by footpaths, and centered on an elegant stone arch bridge.
In addition to the large parks listed above, the West Side also contains many smaller green spaces that are pleasant places for visitors. Covering two blocks at the corner of Porter Avenue and Niagara Street, in the shadow of the massive Connecticut Street Armory, is 17 Prospect Park. When Frederick Law Olmsted was doing his work in Buffalo, he also redesigned this already-extant park and integrated it into his system, albeit with a layout that bears little resemblance to his typical work. Further north, 18 Unity Island Park has occupied the north end of its namesake since 2004; it's popular for fishing and boasts an ample lawn perfect for picnickers. Near the corner of Niagara and Ontario Streets, 19 Black Rock Canal Park contains a dog run, fishing pier, and boat launch and boasts lovely views of the Buffalo waterfront, Grand Island, and Canada. Finally, the West Village contains the charming 20 Johnson Park, a small "residential park" similar to the two in Allentown that's located on the former estate of Buffalo's first mayor, Dr. Ebenezer Johnson.
Other outdoor attractions
- 21 Bird Island Pier, access from Broderick Park (Metro Bus 5, 12 or 40). The Bird Island Pier dates from 1822, when it was built as a buffer between the Erie Canal and the rough waters of the Niagara River, and was once a lively place of fishing shacks, canal boats, and pleasure steamers bound for Canada and Grand Island. Though those are long-gone, an extensive renovation and structural stabilization of the pier was completed in the early 2010s and, it was reopened as a scenic pedestrian walkway. Proceeding southward from Broderick Park past the Peace Bridge and onward to a point parallel to LaSalle Park — 1.3 miles (2 km) in all — walkers can experience an unparalleled view of the Niagara River and Fort Erie to their right, then turn their head and watch rowing crews from Canisius, St. Joe's, and other area high schools set off along the canal from the West Side Rowing Club. At the end, you're treated to a waterfront panorama that is simply without equal, with the Erie Basin Marina in the foreground and the downtown skyline and grain elevators off in the distance.
- 22 Massachusetts Avenue Project, 389 Massachusetts Ave. (Metro Bus 3), ☏ . Staff-led tours Tu 4PM & Sa 10:30AM. Founded in 1992 by West Side residents, the Massachusetts Avenue Project's vision encompasses access to affordable and nutritious food for all, the transformation of blighted urban areas into productive green space, community education, and economic betterment on a grassroots level. Its centerpiece is the Growing Green Urban Farm, the first one in Buffalo, located on thirteen vacant lots totalling more than an acre (4,000 square meters) in area. Produce is grown in a large greenhouse as well as expansive garden beds, and the farm also features a small orchard of fruit trees, free-range chickens, and a fish hatchery — all kept green by a state-of-the-art, rainwater-fed aquaponics system installed in 2009. Farm work is performed by local youths recruited through the Mayor's Summer Youth Program, educating them with information about healthy food as well as valuable work skills. There's also a farm stand onsite where the fruits of the land are sold. $2 suggested donation.
More and more, Buffalo's exquisite and well-preserved architecture has grabbed the attention of locals and tourists alike. As of March 2020, there are 12 historic neighborhoods in Buffalo listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as well as 11 additional ones that have been granted landmark status by the Buffalo Preservation Board. Five of those districts are located on the West Side:
- 24 Fargo Estate Historic District. Covering an irregularly-shaped expanse of 49 acres (20 ha) on the south slope of Prospect Hill bounded very roughly by Prospect Avenue, Hudson Street, Normal Avenue, York Street, and Porter Avenue, the Fargo Estate Historic District is situated right next door to the Allentown Historical District, with which it shares some similarities especially in terms of architecture. The district's namesake is the opulent country manor that once occupied two and a half of these blocks — home to William Fargo, a onetime Buffalo mayor and millionaire shipping magnate who went down in history as co-founder of Wells, Fargo & Co. — but the Fargo Estate itself was short-lived, existing only for two decades before Fargo's heirs subdivided the land into residential lots around 1890. What you'll see here now is a tract of two- and three-story wood-frame or brick houses that date to between roughly 1880 and 1930 and were once home to a middle-class Italian-American community; one of the most historically intact residential neighborhoods on the West Side. Italianate, Second Empire, Queen Anne, and Colonial Revival styles dominate, along with some later styles such as Craftsman and American Foursquare. Today, it's the intactness of the period streetscape, more so than any individual buildings, that's at the heart of the Fargo Estate's appeal to fans of architecture and urban design. However, if you're interested in seeing some neighborhood historical and architectural landmarks, you can head to the former Plymouth Methodist Episcopal Church at 453 Porter Ave., built in 1911 and now home to the Karpeles Manuscript Library, or the lovely Second Empire-style Engine No. 2 and Hook and Ladder No. 9 fire house (1875, 310 Jersey St.) Another facet of the district's history is exemplified by Life Memorial Park at the corner of Porter and Normal Avenues, a pleasant garden established in 1992 in commemoration of local victims of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
- 25 Market Square Historic District. This small historic district is centered on the three blocks of Amherst Street between Niagara and Tonawanda Streets, represents what was originally the village center of Lower Black Rock; the wide grassy esplanade flanking each side of Amherst Street's westernmost block, now filled with historic monuments and interpretive panels, was once the site of a large public market gifted to the village by its founder, Peter Porter. In contrast to what was once called Upper Black Rock, which became heavily industrialized after annexation and grew into an integral part of the city, Lower Black Rock retained its independent spirit and, even in the present day, still has the look and feel of a small village. The architecture of the buildings here — which include some of the oldest extant houses in Buffalo — comprises fine examples of such styles as the Italianate, Queen Anne, Greek Revival, and Federal. The red-brick Gothic St. John's United Evangelical Church (81 Amherst St., 1890), the Federal-style Jacob Schmidt House and Tavern and Stephen W. Howell House and Store (71 Amherst St. and 189 Dearborn St. respectively, both c. 1830), and the gargantuan St. Francis Xavier Roman Catholic Church (161 East St., 1912) are some of the historic sites to be found in the Market Square Historic District.
- 26 Prospect Hill Historic District. Located on the waterfront near the foot of the Peace Bridge at the west end of the larger neighborhood with which it shares its name, the Prospect Hill Historic District is a 21-acre (8.5ha), five-block cluster of single- and two-family homes bounded roughly by Busti Avenue, Rhode Island Street, Niagara Street, Columbus Parkway, 7th Street, and Porter Avenue. The houses in the district span a relatively long period of history — from the 1850s through the 1950s, roughly — during which time Prospect Hill's evolution from a proto-suburban scattering of houses and small farms on the outskirts of town to a well-off inner-city neighborhood populated by the upper crust of Buffalo's Italian-American community was set into motion largely by Frederick Law Olmsted's park system, the far western reaches of which — Front Park, Porter Avenue, and Prospect Park — abut the district. Though it held up to Buffalo's late 20th-century decline better than most West Side neighborhoods and remains a desirable address today, sadly, the majority of Prospect Hill's most historic buildings have been lost to the wrecking ball over time — notably, the castlelike Fort Porter (built in 1844 at the north end of Front Park and used by the military as a customs and guard house) and the Tuscan villa-style Colonel Samuel Wilkeson House (c. 1863, once located at 771 Busti Ave.) were demolished for two separate expansions of the Peace Bridge plaza, in 1926 and 2013 respectively. However, the district still contains a number of handsome homes in a wide variety of architectural styles.
- 27 Upper Black Rock Local Historic District. Comprising the buildings on either side of Niagara Street between Breckenridge Street and Lafayette Avenue, as well as the adjacent buildings to the west on Mason Street, this is a remarkably intact period streetscape that dates from the years between 1885 and 1915, when the Upper Rock was a buzzing industrial district at the crossroads of numerous methods of transportation — the old warehouses and factory buildings on the west side of the street back up directly onto the New York Central Railroad tracks and what was once the Erie Canal, while the east side of the street is characterized by houses and storefronts serving the working-class residents of the neighborhood. Some of the buildings you'll see in the Upper Black Rock Historic District are the former Sterling Engine Company (1246-1270 Niagara St.), built in 1907 and now redeveloped as the home of Resurgence Brewery, and the old Union Meeting House (44 Breckenridge St.), which predates all other buildings in the district as the oldest extant church building in Buffalo, erected in 1827.
- 28 West Village Historic District. Much like the Fargo Estate Historic District, the West Village is a period residential neighborhood located on the site of what was once a large private estate: in this case, that of Buffalo's first mayor, Dr. Ebenezer Johnson, which was sold to developers after he left town in 1850. The West Village is the closest part of the West Side to downtown — 22 acres (9 ha) bounded by South Elmwood Avenue, Tracy Street, Carolina Street, Whitney Place, and West Chippewa Street — and it contains a veritable encyclopedia of late-19th Century architectural styles, with the Italianate, French Second Empire, Romanesque Revival, and Gothic Revival all well-represented. In addition, the single-family dwellings that dominated the neighborhood through the 1800s were joined around the turn of the century by a few handsome brownstone apartment buildings. As with the Fargo Estate district, the appeal of the West Village doesn't have as much to do with individual buildings as with its overarching identity as an unusually intact example of an attractive mid-19th Century residential district — as well as its street pattern, where the radial avenues laid out by Joseph Ellicott in Buffalo meet the diagonally-tilted old South Black Rock gridiron in an irregular labyrinth centered on Johnson Park, deeded to the city by the former mayor on what was once the site of his front lawn and redesigned by Frederick Law Olmsted in 1876. Nonetheless, the Gothic Revival Prospect Avenue Baptist Church at 262 Prospect Ave. (corner of Georgia St.), built in 1867 and enlarged in 1881, is a real beauty.
Prospect Hill is also home to one of the Niagara Frontier's six Frank Lloyd Wright buildings:
- 29 Fontana Boathouse, 40 Porter Ave. (Metro Bus 22), ☏ . Open for tours (Apr-Sep: check website for schedule, Oct-Mar: by appointment only). The only boathouse ever designed by the eminent Frank Lloyd Wright, the Charles and Marie Fontana Boathouse has perhaps the most unusual history of any of Buffalo's Wright buildings. Designed in 1905 (contemporaneously with Wright's most famous Buffalo commissions, the lost Larkin Administration Building and the very-much-alive Darwin D. Martin House), it was intended to be built for the University of Wisconsin Boat Club in Madison, but was instead built in Buffalo — in 2007, over a century after Wright's design was finalized — and only thanks to the dogged efforts of a local group of Wright aficionados financed largely by Buffalo-born screenwriter Tom Fontana. The only alteration to the original design was the replacement of the stucco on the exterior walls with concrete. The Fontana Boathouse does double duty today as both the working boathouse of the West Side Rowing Club and a destination for the growing legion of architectural tourists who come to Buffalo to see the works of Wright and other greats. It's also available to rent for private events. Tours $10.
Festivals and events
Yet once again, "diversity" is the key word when it comes to the West Side's calendar of festivals. There seems to be an annual event for every component of the area's identity — from the immigrants of Grant-Ferry, to the working-class Germans of Black Rock, to the hipster-friendly Buffalo Small Press Book Fair.
- Buffalo Small Press Book Fair. Held annually in early April, the Buffalo Small Press Book Fair sees authors, artists, poets, booksellers, bookmakers, and book enthusiasts descend on Karpeles Manuscript Library's Porter Hall to break bread, exchange ideas, and interact with fans and aspiring authors. Books, zines, artwork, and other materials can be bought and sold, and lectures, symposia, poetry readings, and other cultural performances are also put on. Attendance is free of charge and open to the public.
- Discover Downtown Black Rock. Every year since 1997 on the third Saturday in June, the Discover Downtown Black Rock festival has shined a limelight on the newly revitalized Amherst Street business district. A huge variety of activities, events and sales are put on by neighborhood businesses all day, culminating with a parade that begins at noon at the festival's ground zero, the historic Flemish Renaissance-style Ladder #12 Firehouse. Trolley rides and horse-drawn buggies traverse Amherst Street all afternoon, live music is performed at various places around the neighborhood, and don't forget the annual weiner-eating contest at Spar's European Sausages!
- Taste of Diversity. The Taste of Diversity has been held on Grant Street every summer since 2003 on varying dates, and has become the most popular street festival on the West Side, with almost 2,000 attendees gathering on the block between Lafayette and Auburn Avenues in the heart of the strip. As might be inferred from its title, what's celebrated at the Taste of Diversity are the delicious and vibrant cuisines of each of the West Side's vibrant ethnic communities. But don't mistake this for a clone of downtown's Taste of Buffalo: rather than the area's hoity-toitiest restaurants duking it out for prize money and publicity, the Taste of Diversity takes a decidedly more grassroots approach, where the food is prepared by smaller, more humble (but, it should be emphasized, equally delicious and arguably more authentic) neighborhood restaurants and food trucks, and where the goal is to celebrate the beauty of West Side's diversity — and perhaps more importantly, the fact that a united, cohesive community with an increasingly high quality of life has been forged out of these disparate elements. Festivities at the Taste of Diversity also comprise traditional music, dancing, and other events representing the full spectrum of the West Side's cultural rainbow.
- Black Rock Riverside Oktoberfest. Inaugurated in 2016 as the largest of several observances that compete for the attention of Buffalo's German-American and Germanophile communities (others include River Rocktoberfest on Grant Street and a celebration at the Central Terminal on the East Side), the festivities at Black Rock Riverside Oktoberfest begin in the afternoon at the 2 Artisan Kitchens & Baths warehouse on Amherst Street with live oompah music, a ceremonial keg tapping of special Oktoberfest beer, and kiosks staffed by various neighborhood businesses and restaurants, before continuing late into the night at a range of bars and restaurants all over Black Rock, Riverside, Grant-Amherst, and West Hertel (shuttle service between venues lasts through 1AM), each of which have their own lineups of drink specials, delicious German food, music and revelry.
- 1 Ruben (Bud) Bakewell Ice Rink, 2607 Niagara St. (At Riverside Park; Metro Bus 5, 35 or 40), ☏ . Su & F 2PM-3:50PM, M 3PM-4:50PM, Th 5PM-6:50PM, Sa 1PM-2:50PM except during special events, Oct-Feb only. City residents $2, non-residents $3, skate rental $3.
- 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, on the West Side the 2014 schedule included the annual Scajaquada Creek Regatta, a "leisurely paddle down the Black Rock Canal and up historic Scajaquada Creek, an underutilized resource full of history and ecology" that launched at the 3 Great Lakes Center off Porter Avenue. Participants can bring their own kayak or reserve one of Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper's limited supply. Free.
- 2 Classic Cruises, 1 Dann St. (At Rich Marina; Metro Bus 5, 32, 35 or 40), ☏ . By appointment. Offering customized cruises for up to 6 people on the Summerlove, a 1956-model Chris Craft express cruiser with ample room on the deck for sightseeing, sunbathing or just taking in the surroundings, "Captain Rich" and "First Mate Pat" will take you anywhere you want to go on the upper Niagara River — whether it be a trip through the historic Black Rock lock, a cruise down to Canalside, a visit to the Erie Canal or Beaver Island State Park, a full circle around Grand Island, or whatever suits your fancy. A relaxing day on the water is in store for customers: as the website put it, "the way she cuts through the water, the smell of varnish, the sight of glistening mahogany wood and the rumble of a vintage motor all lend themselves to an unforgettable experience." In case of inclement weather, you can reschedule your cruise at no charge (subject to availability) or else receive a full refund. $50 per hour.
- 3 Kavinoky Theatre, 320 Porter Ave. (Metro Bus 3, 5, 22 or 40), ☏ . The Kavinoky Theatre is located in Prospect Hill on the campus of D'Youville College. Over the course of its history, not only has the Kavinoky Theatre thoroughly restored the historic former Porter-View Room under the auspices of the D'Youville Capital Campaign, but this local repertory company of professional actors has produced nearly 150 plays and musicals of a consistently high quality, earning them more awards than any other troupe in Buffalo. The Kavinoky Theatre has given many actors of local extraction their start in the business.
- 4 New Phoenix Theatre on the Park, 95 Johnson Park (Metro Bus 3, 5, 11, 20, 25 or 40), ☏ . Buffalo's premier alternative theatre, the New Phoenix Theatre on the Park opened in 1996 in a historic house in the West Village and has quickly gained an impressive reputation for the high-quality, diverse range of performances it has hosted in its tiny space, trending heavily towards bold contemporary works of theatre as well as avant-garde reinterpretations of old favorites. The New Phoenix Theatre on the Park hopes to foster a spirit of community collaboration not only through its exciting theatrical offerings, but also by playing an active role in the ongoing revitalization of the West Village neighborhood.
Grant-Amherst is the place to go on the West Side for live music, with a trio of venues that are among the best-loved in Buffalo. As well, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra has its magnificent home stage on Symphony Circle.
- 5 Gypsy Parlor, 376 Grant St (Metro Bus 3 or 26), ☏ . Grant-Ferry's live performance venue of choice. From indie rock bands and acoustic troubadours, to DJs spinning cutting-edge electronica, to big-band jazz, to such exotica as drum circles, belly-dancing and poetry slams, there's really no rhyme or reason to the array of local acts that take the stage at the Gypsy Parlor. Open-mic night is held every Tuesday at 8PM.
- 6 Hot Mama's Canteen, 12 Military Rd. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☏ . Anchoring the west end of the Amherst Street strip, the favorite watering hole of Buffalo-area shuffleboard enthusiasts and hot sauce aficionados now does double duty as a music venue, where local funk, blues, and rock bands take the stage at least three (and usually more!) nights a week.
- 7 Imagine Event Center, 71 Military Rd. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☏ . Owned and operated by the impresarios behind the Sportsmens Tavern (see below) yet about as far as you can get from the rowdy, raucous roadhouse vibe of that place, what the Imagine Event Center offers, in their own words, is "an intimate listening room, combined with wine, craft beers and topnotch acoustics for the best listening experience in Buffalo". What's to listen to? Local artists working in a wide diversity of genres, from rock to jazz to worship music to the "Bridging the Gap" live poetry/hip-hop series.
- 8 Kleinhans Music Hall, 3 Symphony Cir. (Metro Bus 7 or 22), ☏ . Designed by the internationally-famous father-and-son team of Eliel and Eero Saarinen, Kleinhans Music Hall is among the most architecturally distinguished buildings in Buffalo (it has served as a model for Festival Hall in London, among other venues), and boasts world-renowned acoustics. Aside from the several-times-weekly performances of the Buffalo Philharmonic itself, Kleinhans also features performances by other orchestras, small theatrical shows, and popular music acts — which have included Natalie Merchant, Johnny Mathis, and the Indigo Girls — performing either on their own or backed by the Philharmonic as part of the BPO Rocks! concert series.
- 9 Rohall's Corner, 540 Amherst St. (Metro Bus 20 or 32), ☏ . You can catch all kinds of performances at this hip yet unpretentious neighborhood watering hole at the heart of Grant-Amherst, but the marquee attraction happens the first Saturday of each month: the Black Rock Fiddle Jam, where local musicians get together for a rousing round of old-time acoustic music. It's an informal, freeform hoedown of fiddles, mandolins, banjos, guitars and good times. For those who would rather try their hand at playing instead of just watching and listening, lessons for all skill levels are provided free of charge.
- 10 Showplace Theater, 1065 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☏ . It was scarcely possible to be a rock fan in Buffalo in the '90s and early '00s without having an intimate familiarity with the old Showplace — it was a linchpin of the local scene, with a list as long as your arm of punk, alternative and indie bands who graced the stage at this former silent movie palace just before reaching megastar status. Then in 2019, after a twelve-year hiatus, the marquee lights flickered back to life and the Showplace went back to doing what it does best. Nowadays, rather than up-and-comers, new owner Joe Roxbury has a penchant for booking '80s and '90s throwback acts, especially in the glam-metal genre: recent shows as of this writing include Slaughter, Ratt, Bret Michaels, Aaron Carter, and the Ying Yang Twins.
- 11 Sportsmens Tavern, 326 Amherst St. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☏ . With an authentically gritty roadhouse vibe, the self-described "honkiest, tonkiest beer joint in town" is among Buffalo's premier places to see live local country, folk, blues, and roots-rock acts. Sportsmens is a venue by musicians and for musicians — its owner is a longtime stalwart in the Buffalo scene, and many local artists and bands cite it as their favorite place to play in the city. The 325 seats are regularly filled with an eclectic mix of hipsters, college students, and neighborhood regulars who probably remember the days when the place was just a garden-variety neighborhood gin mill. And the Grille at Sportsmens Tavern goes above and beyond the usual pub grub, serving probably the best food of any live-music venue in the city. For a truly unique experience, try to get seats in the upstairs balcony.
- 12 Sugar City, 1239 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 12 or 40). Sugar City is back: after ballooning rents priced the venerable DIY arts collective out of their former headquarters in Allentown (now the home of PAUSA Art House), they reemerged in August 2014 in a new spot on what the Buffalo News has termed the "suddenly sexy 1200 block of Niagara Street", which is also home to the Resurgence Brewery. The performance space in the rear of Sugar City seats audiences of up to 170 — quite a bit bigger than the stage at their old digs — and plays host to a variety of local bands that run the indie gamut from hardcore punk to ambient noise to neo-garage rock. Theatrical productions, poetry readings, and other performances take place as well. As before, all shows at Sugar City are all ages and alcohol-free.
- 13 The Tabernacle, 211 Lafayette Ave. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 26), ☏ . A full calendar of rock, jazz, and acoustic performances await in the incomparable environs of the pub-cum-performance venue Prish Moran opened in 2018 next door to her iconic Sweet_ness 7 coffeeshop. A psychedelic interior covered with garish frescoes lends the Tabernacle a trippy, jittery vibe described in Step Out Buffalo as reminiscent of such long-gone '90s-era underground coffeeshops as Stimulance and Coffee &.
- 14 The WASH Project, 417 Massachusetts Ave. (Metro Bus 7 or 12), ☏ . This neighborhood laundromat-cum-cultural nucleus boasts WASH the Mic!, a bimonthly open-mic event where local musicians come to jam, as well as a monthly curated concert series that's a showcase for the local ambient, drone, and experimental noise scenes.
- 15 Gather & Game, 212 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 26), ☏ . W Th 11AM-9PM, F Sa 11AM-10PM, Su 11AM-3PM. A friendly venue for West Siders and others to do the two titular activities in a chilled-out, welcoming environment. At Gather & Game $3 per visit or a $25 annual membership buys you access to the vast library of store-owned games they offer on a "try-before-you-buy" basis (everything from classic board games like Monopoly to card games like Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh to RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons), plus there's a full schedule of game nights, tournaments and strategy classes, and of course, game sets for sale (including many that are not available anywhere else locally!)
4 D'Youville College is a private Catholic college that's been located in Prospect Hill since 1908. The college was established by the famous Grey Nuns of Montréal and named after their founder, St. Marie-Marguerite d'Youville. A pioneer in the field of higher education for women, D'Youville was the first college in the Niagara Frontier to admit women, and though it went co-ed in the 1970s, its student body is still about three-quarters female. The school has expanded aggressively over the past quarter-century, taking a leading role in neighborhood revitalization and constructing many new buildings in the area (and rehabbing several vacant ones too) for their use. Today, D'Youville is a robust college with a student body of 2,700, including over 1,000 post-graduate students. Undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs are offered in a wide range of fields such as international business, education, and information technology, but especially in health-related professions such as nursing, dietetics, chiropractic, and physical therapy.
If art classes are your bag, head up to Riverside and check out...
- 5 Queen City Fine Arts, 1111 Tonawanda St. (Metro Bus 5, 35 or 40), ☏ . A two-year labor of love on the edge of Riverside Park, Justin Dahl singlehandedly converted this old Tonawanda Street storefront from an abandoned wreck to a multipurpose, minimalist, almost yoga studio-like space that plays host to an ever-changing lineup of art classes covering all media and appropriate for all skill levels (but especially novices!) Since its May 2019 opening, Queen City Fine Arts' roster of local artists have led introductory courses in pencil drawing, painting, and ceramics, as well as more advanced classes in jewelry design and such. Check out their website or Facebook page for the calendar of offerings — and even if nothing strikes your fancy, you're more than welcome to just peruse the onsite gallery of student work.
Grant-Ferry and the Upper West Side
Every shopping neighborhood in Buffalo seems to have its own specialty. On Elmwood it's the latest in trendy urban fashions, Allentown has art galleries galore, and Hertel Avenue is the place for antiques and home decor. As for Grant Street — well, if you're in the market for ethnic handicrafts or exotic foods and you can't find what you're looking for here, you're probably out of luck.
- 1 West Side Bazaar, 25 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 12), ☏ . Tu-Th 11AM-7PM, F Sa 11AM-8PM. Inspired by the Malcolm Shabazz Market in Harlem and in keeping with the old tradition of large public markets like the East Side's Broadway Market that you could once find all over town, this central hub of the Grant Street's internationally-flavored business district is not only a business incubator helping newly landed immigrants on their way to successful entrepreneurship, but also a gathering place providing a friendly reminder of their native lands. At the West Side Bazaar you'll find an ample lineup of vendors selling ethnic fashions and crafts, as well as an International Kitchen of food stalls serving authentic cuisines from around the world.
- Gadget Bazaar. At the helm of Gadget Bazaar is Romala Rajendran, who came to Buffalo after fleeing the civil war in her home country of Sri Lanka along with her husband Sujakshan. What you'll find at the oddly named Gadget Bazaar are not the latest in electronic gizmos but rather a handpicked selection of South Asian- and Western-style clothing and accessories, with a range of brightly-colored, statement-making jewelry at the forefront.
- Gysma's African Style. Gysma Kueny moved to Buffalo in 2002 from war-torn South Sudan, and her eponymous Bazaar stall features a range of handmade goods imported from Africa: fashions and accessories such as artisan jewelry, handbags, and even scarves and gloves, shea butter and toiletries including black soap from Ghana, and a selection of crafts crowned by a line of miniature wooden figurines depicting African wildlife. Best of all, you're supporting a good cause: part of the profits go to fund a charitable initiative to promote education for South Sudanese girls.
- Julienne Boutique. Julienne Nyiranjishi's whole family are artisans — both those in Buffalo and back home in Rwanda — and it's their work that's for sale at Julienne's Boutique. Clothing, jewelry and accessories, traditional baskets, and postcards bedecked with beautiful African imagery are on offer, but the specialty here is handmade wooden carvings: from traditional bowls to statuettes to tableware.
- Macramé by Nadeen, ☏ . Macramé may be a retro novelty in the U.S., but it's big in the Levant — and by the time Iraqi native Nadeen Youssef arrived in Buffalo in 2009, she'd already begun making a name for herself with her skill in the craft. At Macramé by Nadeen she offers a small but charming (and growing!) range of handmade goods including wall art, jewelry, and plant hangers, as well as special made-to-order items.
- Moonlady Arts & Crafts. The rear wall of the West Side Bazaar is given over to Ma Theint's sprawling collection of ethnic clothing, home decor, and (above all) artworks and Burmese handicrafts. Customers can peruse traditional tapestries, Buddhist religious items, drums and musical instruments, lacquerware, dolls and puppets, and scads of other items that serve Theint's mission of promoting appreciation of Burmese culture and the immigrant community in Buffalo.
- Once Upon a Time. The sign hanging above this Iraqi-owned Bazaar vendor advertises "crafts and clothes, home decor, and gifts from a variety of Middle Eastern countries". At the delightfully named Once Upon a Time, that can mean lots of different things: brightly colored flowing dresses, smart handbags, elegant wall tapestries festooned with Arabic calligraphy, even musical instruments.
- Zigma Naturals. Once a nurse in a government-run hospital in Myanmar, Raine Manuel is today hard at work selling a hodgepodge of different goods: half the inventory at Zigma Naturals is a line of all-natural skin care products, vitamin supplements, and toiletries for adults and children; the other half consists of casual clothing that's decidedly more Western in style than what's sold elsewhere in the West Side Bazaar (though lovely nonetheless).
- 2 Bootleg Bucha, 1250 Niagara St (Metro Bus 5, 12 or 40). Tu Sa 11AM-5PM, W-F 11AM-7PM, Su 11AM-3PM. Buffalo's first kombucha brewery (a lightly carbonated, fermented tea native to East Asia with a wide array of purported health benefits; the owners will be only too happy to go over these for you) offers a rotating selection of about four dozen different varieties on tap, the most popular of which include ginger beer, carrot pineapple, and blueberry lavender. You can buy kombucha in disposable plastic bottles if you like, but Bootleg Bucha will also sell you a more environmentally friendly reusable glass bottle for $2, or you can even bring your own growler to fill.
- 3 Cookie, 1197 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 12 or 40), ☏ . M 10AM-4PM, Tu 10AM-5PM, W 9AM-5PM, Th F 9AM-6PM, Sa 9AM-2PM. Owned and operated by Rich Products, the famous food products megacorporation headquartered across the street, the name of the game at Cookie is an ever-evolving menu of cookies, pastries, and other baked goods made exclusively with Rich brand ingredients. The interior is decked out like an old-school sweet shop, complete with classic black-and-white checkerboard floor and a huge glass display cooler packed with tempting treats — but the Cookie experience, in practice, is decidedly a grab-and-go affair (though if the single table-and-chairs setup happens to be free, they also pour hot coffee all day!)
- 4 5 Loaves Farm, 70 W. Delavan Ave. (Metro Bus 3, 5, 26 or 40), ☏ . Jul-Aug: F 2-7PM. Since 2012, this farm on ten vacant Upper West Side lots has pursued its mission of promoting sustainable gardening as a way of providing neighborhood residents not only with fresh produce, but also vital education regarding healthy dietary choices. The food grown at 5 Loaves is disseminated mostly to local residents who've signed up for food shares through the Community-Supported Agriculture program, as well as to local restaurants, schools and food banks — but seasonal produce is also available at their farmhouse on West Delavan Avenue, open on Friday evenings in season.
- 5 Guercio & Sons, 254 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 26), ☏ . M-Sa 7AM-6PM. Guercio's history stretches back to 1961 — a time when Grant Street was the heart of a lively Italian-American neighborhood — and it remains today one of Buffalo's prime destinations for gourmet groceries, with both imports and locally produced items such as sliced bread from Luigi's Bakery and Anchor Bar brand wing sauce. When you're done marveling at the colorful produce and herbs stuffed in the carts on the sidewalk out front, come on inside and stroll through the fragrant corridors stocked with everything you could ever want from an Italian grocery store: canned goods, imported pasta, sliced-to-order Italian cold cuts, a dizzying array of fine olive oils, and more.
- 6 Lorigo's Meating Place, 185 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 26), ☏ . M-Sa 9AM-5PM. The corny puns come fast and furious: Lorigo's "Meating Place", so the slogan goes, is "Your Link to Quality". Indeed, since its opening in 1986, the specialty of the house at this real old-school butcher shop has always been homemade, family-recipe Italian sausage and meatballs. But times have changed on Grant Street, and so has Lorigo's: it's grown since then into a full-scale grocery market stocking a range of ethnic foods as diverse as the West Side itself: everything from Latino (including a full line of Goya products) to Caribbean to Somali to Southeast Asian. The aisles are jumbled and hard to navigate and the place often gets crowded, but that's part of the charm.
- 7 What's Pop-In' Gourmet Popcorn, 418 W. Ferry St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 12), ☏ . W 3PM-7PM, Th F noon-7PM. Call it a too-precious-by-half hipster indulgence if you want, but don't write off What's Pop-In' until you get your hands on a bag of the dill pickle popcorn that owner Stefan Coker churns out daily: one taste of it and you'll be an instant convert. Don't misunderstand, there are other varieties to choose from too — 23 total to be precise; from BBQ pineapple to black truffle to pizza to lemonade, it's clear why they call this guy the "flavor mastermind" — but trust us, start with the dill pickle.
- 8 African Market, 355 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 26), ☏ . Daily 6AM-6PM. Despite its name, the variety of imported foods offered here spans not only Africa, but the whole world. Though canned goods, spices, rice and other staples, and other miscellaneous groceries are sole here, the marquee item at the African Market is a wide variety of meats, many of which are halal or kosher — from everyday selections like beef and chicken to more unusual ones such as goat. A small selection of kitchenwares and ethnic clothing rounds out the stock. Best of all, unlike most small Grant Street businesses, the African Market boasts off-street parking: there's a small lot on the left side of the building, which is also where you'll find the main entrance.
- 9 All in One Global African Family Store, 83 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 12), ☏ . M-Th 9AM-9PM, F 9AM-5PM, Su 11AM-8PM. As its name attests, this entrant in the Upper West Side's extensive lineup of ethnic markets specializes in African goods — and as its name also attests, groceries aren't the be-all-end-all of the place. If you're hungry for African food, you've got the usual selection of staple starches such as dried beans, fufu flour, cornmeal, and rice (huge sacks of which are displayed in the front window), as well as copious other nonperishables and a smaller selection of meats and produce; if you're in the market for something else, how about a fine selection of chunky African jewelry, ethnic garb, toiletries, and housewares?
- 10 Asia Super Bazaar, 294 W. Ferry St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 12), ☏ . Daily 9AM-9:30PM. This place bills itself as a specialty grocery selling "Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian, Burmese, Vietnamese, Nepali, Arabian, Somalian, African, Spanish, and American food and spices". But that's a bit of an exaggeration — the offerings here consist of a selection of South and East Asian packaged foods that's really nothing special by Grant Street standards, plus some convenience-store snacks, basic toiletries, and a smattering of toys, bedding, clothes and gifts. One strong point Asia Super Bazaar does boast is a large frozen food section containing some interesting exotic goodies.
- 11 Bungtla Asian Market, 540 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3 or 7), ☏ . M-F 9AM-8PM, Sa 9AM-9PM. This shop takes its name from one of the most spectacular natural wonders of Myanmar's Chin State, and it's certainly indicative of the type of food you'll find there. Bungtla's aisles are stocked mainly with Southeast Asian staples such as rice and dried noodles, as well as snacks, dried vegetables, spices, and other nonperishables, but head for the pair of stand-up coolers on the far side of the store and you'll find a pretty good selection of fresh(-ish) produce.
- 12 Family Asian Grocery Store, 163 W. Ferry St. (Metro Bus 3, 5, 12 or 40), ☏ . Daily 9:30AM-9PM. June 2019 saw the debut of yet another in the parade of Southeast Asian specialty grocers on the West Side. The sign above the entrance to this Burmese-owned, matter-of-factly-named place advertises "international foods, vegetables, meats, fish, etc.", and the goods on the shelves are pretty much as advertised, though the promised meats and fish are in comparatively short supply. Really what distinguishes Family Asian Groceries from its competition is the store itself, which is brightly lit, impeccably clean, and well organized; also, the selection of ethnic produce is topnotch (albeit mostly found in coolers or freezer cases).
- 13 Golden Burma, 92 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 12), ☏ . Daily 9AM-7PM. Golden Burma serves the growing community of immigrants and refugees from that country that have settled on Buffalo's West Side with a wide range of Burmese groceries, including fresh seafood, meat and vegetables, as well as canned, packaged, and frozen foods. For fans of Southeast Asian cuisine, the perpetually crowded aisles of Golden Burma are an excellent place to find exotic and unusual products and ingredients that aren't available anywhere else in Buffalo. Pots, pans, woks, and miscellaneous kitchenware are also on offer.
- 14 Hatimy Market, 278 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 26), ☏ . M-Sa 9:30AM-7PM, Su 10AM-6PM. Mirroring the neighborhood in which it's located, diversity is the name of the game at this friendly food market. Hatimy Market's helpful staff, helmed by Somali-born UB nursing student Ali Mohamed, serves nearly all of the West Side's varied communities of immigrants with a maddeningly eclectic variety of groceries from Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia, and the Arab world. Meats from beef and chicken to lamb and goat, many of them certified halal, are joined on the shelves by seafood, canned goods, rice, spices, and various and sundry food items.
- 15 Jomow International Market, 188 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 26), ☏ . Opens daily at 10AM, closing time flexible. Founded in 2010 under the name Marka Halal Market, this is yet another West Side destination for imported African and Arabian food. A variety of general groceries are stocked, but Jomow International Market's true claim to fame is its wide selection of halal meats, from beef and fish to goat and camel.
- 16 Kat Food Market, 287 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3 or 26), ☏ . M-Sa 10AM-6:30PM. Founded in 2014, the name of the game at this ethnic grocery at the north end of the Grant-Ferry strip is African and Middle Eastern specialty foods: from staples like rice and fufu flour, to frozen foods, to a wide selection of fresh produce, meats and fish. A range of toiletry products and other daily essentials are also on offer.
- 17 Win Asian Market, 113 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 12), ☏ . M-Sa 9AM-8PM, Su 9AM-6PM. This place's small size and spartan interior belie an impressive variety of Burmese and other Southeast Asian grocery items that serve the culinary needs of the West Side's burgeoning community of immigrants and refugees.
Clothing and accessories
When it comes to cute, hip clothing boutiques, Grant Street is still a long way behind more established retail areas in Buffalo such as the Elmwood Village and Hertel Avenue. However, those in search of authentic, vibrantly-colored ethnic clothing and urban streetwear should be pleased with the offerings in the area.
- 18 Empire Kicks, 281 W. Ferry St. (Metro Bus 3 or 12), ☏ . Su-Th 10AM-9PM, F Sa 10AM-10PM. High-fashion clothing with an urban flair is the stock in trade of Empire Kicks. An authorized retailer of Nike, Akoo, Timberland, Polo, Rocawear, and Reebok, this large store is located in a small plaza just off Grant Street. Empire Kicks is the place to go on the West Side for a wide range of authentic designer t-shirts, hoodies, jeans, and athletic shoes. Sports fans can choose from among the wide array of baseball caps and swag here, with all their favorite team logos on it. Empire Kicks also offers layaway.
- 19 Global Villages, 216 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 26), ☏ . M-Sa 7AM-9PM. Best described as a locally-based iteration of Ten Thousand Villages, Global Villages is where Rwanda-born Louise Sano sells a range of unique, hand-selected fashions and accessories, soaps and bath items, and fair-trade handicrafts from around the world. More interesting still is the book section, featuring a small range of literature primarily on African topics. Best of all, Sano prides herself on her extensive familiarity with her suppliers and their work, whether it be a traditional artisan in Kenya or Thailand, a local crafter on the West Side, or Sano herself, who designs much of the jewelry sold here.
- 20 Paloma Exchange, 363 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 26), ☏ . M-Sa 11AM-8PM, Su noon-6PM. If you're a fashion-conscious type with a flair for the retro, you know that scratching the vintage itch can sometimes come at a steep price. Not so at the Paloma Exchange, where the selection of secondhand men's and women's clothing and accessories is expertly curated by a repatriated local native who knows her stuff inside and out and includes a surprising abundance of souvenir-worthy Buffalo swag — and where prices undercut the competition by far. And the shopping environment couldn't be more trendy (or less "thrift store-ish"): floor-to-ceiling windows make for an airy ambience, the decor is understated yet stylish, changing rooms are ample in size, and the playlist of piped-in music is hipster heaven.
- 21 Positive Approach Press, 631 Fargo Ave. (Metro Bus 5, 12 or 40), ☏ . M-F 9AM-4PM, Sa by appointment. Positive Approach Press works with customers to create custom-designed screen-printed t-shirts, sweatshirts, and even jackets and pants, handcrafted in-house by some of the best designers Western New York has to offer. The folks at Positive Approach offer great rates and even better turnaround times (less than seven days in most cases) and will also custom-design business cards, posters, wedding invitations, stationery, and other paper goods.
- 22 San-Bor Sports, 116 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 12), ☏ . M-F 10AM-6PM, Sa 10AM-5PM. For over forty years, through all the ups and downs of the surrounding neighborhood, San-Bor has been at locals' service in the realm of sporting goods — and even more than that, with a wide selection of sportswear. Here you'll find a wide gamut of athletic shoes (including Converse and Air Jordans), baseball caps, custom sports jerseys, jeans, and other casual urban streetwear — plus, in season, a range of bubble jackets, boots, and other cold-weather gear to see customers through the bleak Buffalo winters. If you want to really buy local, pick up a designer t-shirt from the Buffalo-based boutique label Stacks and Kicks.
- 23 Unique, 183 W. Ferry St. (Metro Bus 3, 5, 12 or 40), ☏ . Tu-F 11AM-2PM & 5-8PM, Sa noon-2PM & 5-8PM. From the outside it seems barely distingushable from the numerous other urban clothing boutiques to be found in the business districts of Buffalo's inner city, but Unique's name isn't all hype — among the designer labels that make appearances on the shelves are Gucci, Fendi, Louis Vuitton, and other big names. There's a well-rounded inventory of fashions for both women and men, but especially check out the selection of sneakers (priced at a flat rate of $100 a pair regardless of size) as well as designer shades.
- 24 Unity Traditional Clothes & Grocery, 85 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 12), ☏ . After a brief stint occupying a cramped space in the back corner of the West Side Bazaar, Unity Traditional Clothes moved in 2018 to its own storefront up the road apiece — and with the expansion of the retail space has come an expansion in the range of tems they sell. Owner Ezgiamn Aka still sells traditional garb from her native Eritrea and elsewhere in the Horn of Africa (bright colors and vibrant patterns abound, naturally) along with the same interesting selection of jewelry and accessories, but now a full range of African groceries is on hand as well. And if you're in need of custom alterations and tailoring, look no further!
- 25 Rust Belt Books, 415 Grant St (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 26), ☏ . M noon-6PM, Tu W 10:30AM-6PM, Th-Sa 10:30AM-8PM, Su 11AM-5PM. One of Buffalo's best, and best-loved, secondhand bookstores, with an exhaustive selection of reading material of every genre — from old cookbooks to '70s music journalism to esoteric feminist essays to the classics of literature — and an enthusiastic and helpful staff and colorful clientele. More than that, Rust Belt Books' relentless devotion to the local community sees them playing host to a variety of community happenings, as well as poetry readings, plays and other special events.
Furniture and home decor
- 26 Priceless Home Decor, 118 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 12), ☏ . M-Sa noon-6PM. Whether you're looking for something for your living room, dining room, or bedroom, or in the market for new kitchen appliances, washer and dryer, TVs, or practically anything else for your home, furniture, appliance and home electronics emporium has you covered with aplomb. Both formal and casual styles are available, all united by a genuine class that may come as a surprise to those whose first impression is the rather humble exterior of the shop.
- 27 Black Dots, 368 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 26), ☏ . M-Sa noon-8PM, Su noon-5PM. Black Dots' June 2013 opening in the basement of a Lafayette Avenue flat was so audacious in the face of steeply declining sales of tangible music that the Buffalo News devoted a lengthy article to it, and the fact that they've now expanded to a much larger location is more remarkable still. The store is named for the groundbreaking 1979 debut by D.C. punkers Bad Brains, and aptly so: Black Dots deals exclusively in new and used punk, hardcore, and indie releases on vinyl and cassette, as well as a selection of stickers, patches and band t-shirts. Even the hand-scrawled logo, reminiscent of an old-school concert flyer, screams "punk rock".
- 28 Sweet Sound Music, 257 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 26), ☏ . M-W 10AM-8PM, Th 10AM-9PM, F Sa 10AM-10PM, Su noon-5PM. Since 2006, Luis Rodriguez has operated this small Grant Street record shop where the accent is on rap, R&B, reggae, soca, and Latin sounds, as well as racks of streetwear styled to match the hip-hop bent of the music. If you're interested in the Buffalo hip-hop scene, look no further: Sweet Sound stocks a wide selection of the latest releases by local rappers at prices that can't be beat.
- 29 Daddy's Plants, 1250 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 12 or 40), ☏ . W-Su 11AM-7PM. From exuberant local YouTube personalities to popular pop-up shop owners to the newest tenants of the buzzing Sterling Engine Company warehouse, Billy and Pat Sandora-Nastyn are two characters that Buffalo has come to know and love over the years. And with Daddy's Plants, they've gone into the horticulture business with their usual aplomb: if you're looking for a little greenery to spice up your home or office decor, they've got a wide selection (that goes double if you're thinking along the lines of succulents or other tropical plants) and the friendly customer service and knowledgeable plant-care expertise to go with. What they don't have, sadly, are low prices.
- 30 Maman Samy Wa Abondoki, 314 Hampshire St. (Metro Bus 3 or 12), ☏ . M-F 9AM-9PM, Sa Su 9AM-10PM. "100% African" is the motto that ties together the motley range of merchandise on offer here — a little bit of everything, from beauty supplies to groceries to a selection of secondhand clothes, DVDs, decorative items and other gifts.
- 31 Stitch Buffalo, 1215 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 12 or 40), ☏ . Tu Th 1PM-4PM, F 9AM-4PM, Sa 10AM-2PM. Stitch Buffalo's main mission is to help refugee women develop economic, educational, and practical skills, and it does this by employing over 55 of them as skilled textile artisans who hand-stitch a variety of goods using the native colors, styles, and methods of their respective homelands. One thing they don't make is clothing, but stop by Stitch if you're in the market for an embroidered pin (peace signs and "Buffalove" are popular motifs), a hair clip, a felt elephant figurine, or the like. And if you'd rather DIY, check their website for the date of the next "Second Stitch" pop-up event, where surplus yarn, knitting needles and other supplies are sold.
Amherst Street has made a name for itself as a small-business shopping district that, despite its upswing, proudly retains a blue-collar, "real Buffalo" feel. Art and antiques are a particular specialty in the area.
Additionally, proximity to campus makes Tops Plaza, on the southwest corner of Grant and Amherst Streets just across the bridge, a handy destination for the everyday shopping needs of Buffalo State students — it contains locations of Family Dollar and Tops supermarkets, as well as Burger King, a pizzeria, and a Chinese take-out.
Clothing and accessories
Among the small neighborhood shops of Grant-Amherst are a number of purveyors of urban fashions.
- 32 Doll House Boutique, 440 Amherst St. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☏ . Tu-Sa 2PM-7PM. If a pair of thigh-high distressed-denim high-heeled boots sounds like something you absolutely must have in your closet, and if fur trim and sequins are staples of your fashion repertoire, you'll find everything you need (and, probably, a lot of stuff you didn't know you needed) at this urban fashion emporium. Shoes are the specialty at Doll House, but you'll also find a line of jewelry that's a good bit more subdued in style, plus sunglasses, scarves, handbags, and Doll Face by Ashley: a makeup and beauty bar in the back of the store whose eponymous owner's CV includes a stint as beautician for VH-1's "Black Ink Crew".
Grant-Amherst is an emerging local destination for antique enthusiasts.
- 33 Chotchky's Antiques and Collectibles, 352 Amherst St. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☏ . Open by appointment or chance. Bravo for truth in advertising: this spacious antique shop is indeed crammed to the gills with tchotchkes of all descriptions; rare, original and unique examples of housewares, toys, clocks, baskets, and every miscellaneous trinket you could imagine that are the end result of over 100 years of family collecting. This is the kind of place you'd see on "American Pickers". Despite the vast variety of stuff to be found here, Chotchky's is at heart a small family business and a labor of love — owner Kathleen Arries has been the sole employee of this shop since it opened in 1998. This place does a brisk mail-order business as well.
- 34 Junk & Disorderly, 979 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☏ . F 6PM-9PM, Sa 10AM-3PM. The bountiful selection of merchandise at this shop represents the personal collection of antiques and vintage collectibles that the owners have been accumulating for north of 30 years. As you might have suspected from the name, there's a lot of retro kitsch to be had at Junk & Disorderly, but that's not the end of the story: it's difficult to sum the selection up succinctly, but midcentury vintage knickknacks seem to handily outnumber outright antiques (the cutoff date seems to be around World War II) and specialties seem to include lamps, kitchenware, and above all, a treasure trove of decorative Christmas baubles, vintage ornaments, and other holiday-themed items.
Furniture and home decor
- 35 Habitat for Humanity ReStore, 501 Amherst St. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☏ . Tu-F 10AM-6PM, Sa 9AM-6PM, Su noon-4PM. 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.
- 36 Interior Design Resources, 463 Amherst St. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☏ . M-W F 10AM-5PM, Th 10AM-1PM, or by appointment. It doesn't look like much from the outside, but step through the doors and you'll be confronted with a somewhat jumbled showroom that's a lot bigger than you're expecting — not to mention an absolutely mind-boggling selection of merchandise, including what the owner claims to be the largest selection of fabrics on the East Coast. Beyond that, you'll find furniture, lamps, wall covers, and miscellaneous interior accessories from designers hailing from all over the country and world — including hard-to-find lines that folks used to have to travel to New York City to get — all available at a fraction of retail price.
Though it's of decidedly less interest to foodies than Grant-Ferry and the Lower West Side, Grant-Amherst's variety of specialty food markets ably mirrors the diversity of the West Side.
- 37 Barrel + Brine, 155 Chandler St (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☏ . W-F 11AM-9PM, Sa 3PM-9PM, Su 11AM-4PM. With Barrel + Brine's long-awaited move to Chandler Street has come a hugely expanded customer experience — nowadays it's not only a shop but a full-fledged restaurant serving upscale pub grub. But if you're just here to shop, you can expect the same merchandise as before, except more of it: from creative twists on sauerkraut, kimchi, and pickled cucumbers (try the "Southern Tier IPA Pickle" with fresh hops added to the spice blend) to more exotic finds such as fennel-pickled beets, Chinese-style pickled peanuts and Korean kkakdugi, pickled watermelon rind, and pickled sausage sourced from Spar's. They brew their own kombucha, too.
- 38 Fresh Arabic Sweets, 560 Amherst St (Metro Bus 20 or 32), ☏ . Daily 10AM-9PM. Syrian sweets, to be exact, courtesy of owner Mohammed Altahla, who was a bakery owner in his hometown of Homs before fleeing the civil war in 2016 and resettling Stateside as a refugee. Baklava is the specialty of the house, and it's easily the tastiest in town; buttery, sweet, stuffed with pistachios, and a steal at $7.99 a pound. But that's just the tip of the iceberg: ma'amoul date cookies are winners too, and those without a sweet tooth can instead nosh on not-quite-as-exquisite-but-still-not-bad shawarma and falafel sandwiches.
- 39 Lucky 7 Asian Market, 150 Military Rd. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☏ . Daily 10AM-7PM. It's not the largest Asian food store on the West Side, but Lucky 7 is a lot bigger than it looks from the outside — and far better-organized than most of its competition! This store stocks mostly Burmese and Thai items and is set up mostly for those in search of the essentials of Asian cuisine, with a friendly staff that is eager to assist those who may still need a bit of help finding what they need. Lucky 7 stocks all the usuals: staples such as noodles and rice, nonperishable packaged groceries, fresh Asian produce, frozen meats (including unique items such as frog and eel), and a range of health and beauty items.
- 40 Spar's European Sausage Shop, 405 Amherst St. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☏ . Tu-W 10AM-5PM, Th- F9AM-5PM, Sa 9AM-3PM. Founder and namesake Eric Spar hails from Augsburg, so it's no surprise that German wursts dominate the selection here. But Spar's is no one-trick pony: they carry everything from chorizo to andouille to merguez to double-smoked kabanosy; Swedish, Hungarian, Ukrainian, Polish, Italian, and on and on, all handcrafted in-house. Aside from sausages, there's also a selection of deli meats and specialty groceries to choose from, including local favorites such as Weber's horseradish mustard, the Broadway Market's Famous Horseradish, and Johnnie Ryan craft sodas.
- 41 Yasin African Market, 1044 Grant St (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☏ . Daily 7AM-7PM. Much like its counterparts on the other end of Grant Street, the Somali-owned Yasin African Market is a destination for those in search of ethnic groceries and halal meats such as fish, lamb, goat and chicken — with a surprisingly wide selection of all of the foregoing.
- 42 Allentown Music, 497 Amherst St. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☏ . Daily noon-7PM. Allentown Music may no longer be located in its namesake neighborhood, but it's still the same one-stop used musical instrument emporium that Buffalo musicians know and love, packed to the rafters with a wide range of merchandise: guitars (Fender, Yamaha, Danelectro, Ibanez, and Gibson are among the models), drum kits, violins, and brass-band instruments; oddities such as dulcimers, ukuleles, and bagpipes; amps, picks, and other supplies; instructional books and videos for beginners. Though this isn't the place to go for high-end gear, the instruments sold here are generally mid-range in quality and sold in decent condition for decent prices.
- 43 Bike & Sign Shop, 247 Amherst St. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☏ . W-Sa 11AM-7PM. Two businesses in one at the western entrance to the Grant-Amherst business strip: if you're in need of Jake Moslow's custom sign-painting services, you're probably not reading a travel guide, but if you're in the market for a previously-enjoyed bicycle to hit the Jesse Kregal Bike Path or the Shoreline Trail with, Jordan Kubik has got you covered with his half of the operation, dubbed "All Cycles". Kubik's hobby since childhood has been garbage-picking and repairing old bikes, and he brings his autodidactic expertise to bear in both sides of his business: selling carefully restored used bikes at down-to-earth prices as well as servicing, repairing, and selling parts for existing ones.
- 44 The Fretted Buffalo, 466 Amherst St. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☏ . Tu Th noon-7PM, Sa noon-6PM. If you want to pick up a new guitar during your visit to Buffalo, you have several options, but none quite like the Fretted Buffalo: this is the only shop on the Niagara Frontier that specializes solely in acoustic guitars. You'll find many brands in stock, such as Huss & Dalton, Dana Bourgeois, Furch/Stonebridge, and Avalon (in fact, the Fretted Buffalo is America's largest volume dealer of those latter two), and if those names ring familiar to you, you know that means these guys know their stuff and don't bother with anything but the best. Sound intimidating? Not at all: the vibe here is cozy, friendly, and no-pressure.
Prospect Hill, Five Points, and the Lower West Side
Niagara and Connecticut Streets are the Lower West Side's main thoroughfares for shoppers. By comparison with each other, Connecticut Street is smaller in size but noticeably more upscale, while bustling Niagara Street is larger and more typically "West Side", with a wide array of urban clothes stores, Grant Street-style ethnic food markets, and other shops. There's a smattering of more out-of-the-way shops on other streets as well.
Clothing and accessories
- 45 Black Monarchy, 527 W. Utica St. (Metro Bus 7 or 12), ☏ . Tu Th F noon-6PM, Sa 8AM-8PM, Su 11AM-4PM. Urban clothing boutiques come a dime a dozen in Buffalo, but Black Monarchy is one that seems tailor-made for the West Side. Here, streetwise sass is eschewed in favor of an Afrocentric house style where bright colors and vibrant tribal patterns abound. These are no mere imitations: the better to (in the words of their website) "recreate the conglomerate of our world", Black Monarchy sources all their pieces from artisans in Africa and elsewhere across the world. And you couldn't ask for a friendlier owner to buy from.
- 46 Kings of da West, 461 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 3, 5, 29 or 40), ☏ . M-F 1PM-7PM. The central node of a trio of related shops on the corner of Niagara and Hudson Streets, Kings of da West sells West Siders a variety of new and secondhand urban clothing, shoes, jewelry, and fashion accessories as well as a small variety of cigarettes and smoking supplies. Ladies aren't left out in the cold either: Queens of da West extends the business into the storefront next door, with ladieswear, purses and other accessories, wigs, and fragrance on offer in similar styles. Lastly, Kings Wireless is a destination for cell phones and accessories as well as electronics repair.
Those who've come to the Lower West Side in search of delicious Puerto Rican food are better off heading to a restaurant than a specialty grocery store; Hispanic cuisine is mainstream enough around these parts that its ingredients are easily available in ordinary supermarkets such as Tops on Niagara Street (which boasts what must be the best selection of Goya products Buffalo has to offer). However, if you were intrigued by the multiethnic cornucopia of immigrant-run food shops on Grant Street and are thirsty for more, the Lower West Side has what you're looking for.
- 47 Community Beer Works, 520 7th St (Metro Bus 5, 22 or 40), ☏ . M W Th 3PM-10PM, F 3PM-midnight, Sa noon-midnight, Su noon-8PM. With a motto of "Embeer Buffalo", Community Beer Works proudly produces a range of award-winning craft beer that's available not only in their own tap room and at local bars and restaurants like Allen Street Hardware and Pano's, but also in a small retail store where beer aficionados can come and fill their bottles and kegs or buy branded merchandise such as T-shirts, glasses and growlers. Best of all, Community Beer Works' commitment to the well-being of the Buffalo area is legendary, and spent grain from the brewery is donated to the Massachusetts Avenue Project to be reused as fertilizer.
- 48 Five Points Bakery, 44 Brayton St (Metro Bus 7 or 12), ☏ . M-Sa 7AM-7PM, Su 7AM-4PM. Quoting their website, Five Points Bakery is all about "raising the bar on local food" and "striv[ing] to overcome the limitations of our food system and reclaim our food heritage through education... and a dedication to sustainability". Sound a bit high-concept and pricey? It is, but those who persevere past the sticker shock will find the homemade artisanal multigrain, whole-wheat and ciabatta bread worth splurging for — and it's all made with organic locally-grown grain. If you've got a sweet tooth, the cinnamon rolls are among the hugest in town, and that's just for starters. All this goodness is available to grab and go, but if you like, you can also linger at the toast bar.
- 49 Mineo & Sapio Italian Sausage, 410 Connecticut St. (Metro Bus 7), ☏ . M-F 9AM-4PM, Sa 9AM-2PM. Along with the Armory Restaurant, Mineo & Sapio is along the last remnants of the old Italian Village: they've been on Connecticut Street since 1920. They sell a variety of sausages, but the classic-recipe Italian is unsurprisingly the marquee selection: 100% pork, no preservatives or artificial colors, all-natural hog casings. Best of all, despite the fact that the bulk of their sales nowadays are to supermarkets and restaurants, the atmosphere at the retail shop is friendly, cozy, and fragrant with the aroma of sausage spices. You can buy it frozen like at the grocery store if you want, but since you have the opportunity, you really want to go for the fresh stuff.
- 50 Paradise Wine, 435 Rhode Island St. (Metro Bus 7 or 12), ☏ . W-F 11AM-7PM, Sa 10AM-6PM, Su noon-5PM. The inventory at this hipster wine shop in Five Points eschews the big names completely in favor of a small, handpicked selection of organic, biodynamic, sustainably crafted wines (and ciders and craft spirits) sourced from small family-owned vineyards in the local area. If that sounds too high-concept for your price range, think again: an integral part of this place's mission is making holistically produced products available to those of all budgets. Eponymous owner Paula Paradise is enthusiastic about sharing her treasure trove of wine knowledge to serve each customer's individual needs and palate.
- 51 WestSide Tilth Farm, 251 Vermont St. (Metro Bus 3), ☏ . Farm stand open F 5PM-7PM in season. Co-owners Neil and Carrie's farm got its start in 2015 as West Side Herbs & Alliums, and despite the name change, those remain the cornerstones here (the selection of herbs is particularly astonishing, ranging from everyday pantry staples to medicinal herbs to obscurities like lemon balm and buzz buttons). But they've diversified their repertoire since the old days: nowadays you'll also find fruit trees, microgreens, and a whole host of other vegetal goodies, all grown organically in raised beds so as to sidestep the issue of soil contamination that is the bane of urban farmers across the Rust Belt.
- 52 Á Châu International Market, 833 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5 or 40), ☏ . M-Sa 9:30AM-7:30PM, Su 9:30AM-6PM. "International", yes, but let's be more specific: the bulk of the inventory on Á Châu's shelves comes from Southeast Asia. Here you'll find fresh meats and fish, a blockbuster selection of produce such as durian, bok choy, and flaming hot Thai chilies, frozen foods, and to quote one reviewer: "every kind of spice, edible sea critter, and sauce you could ever ask for". Authentic and gritty with none of the supermarket gloss of Wegmans or Tops, the squeamish may need to avert their gaze from sights like whole frozen bullfrogs in the coolers, buckets of freshly eviscerated organ meats, and whole ducks, chickens and rabbits strung up as window displays.
- 53 Arbin Grocery & Fresh Meats, 397 Connecticut St. (Metro Bus 7), ☏ . Daily 9AM-9PM. Situated on bustling Connecticut Street a stone's throw from Masjid al-Eiman, Arbin Fresh Meat's inventory goes far beyond what's in its name: you'll find a mishmash of goods geared toward Buffalo's growing Bangladeshi, Pakistani, and Indian immigrant communities, including Indian spices, large sacks of channa daal and other grains, Western-style snack foods, a surprisingly ample range of household items, and a modest selection of fresh produce. At Arbin the aisles are cramped and the shelves are not particularly well organized, but the small size of the store means that if they carry it, you'll probably find it before too long.
- 54 Chez La Camer & Rock Centero Market, 941 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 12 or 40), ☏ . M-W 10AM-7PM, Th-Sa 10AM-8PM, Su noon-5PM. Along with a range of hair and beauty supplies, braiding, cosmetics, and ethnic clothing, African food is the specialty at this newly established market at the north end of the Niagara Street strip. A modest variety of both fresh and frozen groceries are available for aficionados of the cuisines of West and Central Africa. Also, for anglers who are keen on trying their luck at nearby Broderick Park or elsewhere along the West Side riverfront, live bait is offered for sale.
- 55 Karibu Market, 469 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 29 or 40), ☏ . Su-F 10AM-8PM. Karibu Market's inventory of "African Foods & More" places an especial emphasis on nonperishable staple grains such as cornmeal, semolina, and ground cassava fufu — you'll see enormous sacks of these stacked up in front of the windows as you walk in. But there are also more modest selections of fresh produce and meat (goat is a specialty), as well as a few Western-style groceries and snacks.
- 56 Phu Thai Asian Market, 356 Connecticut St. (Metro Bus 7), ☏ . Daily 9AM-9PM. In stark contrast to the pan-Asian or even pan-Southeast Asian selection at many of its competitors, the groceries here are almost exclusively Thai in provenance: at Phu Thai you'll find all the usual shelf-stable dry groceries, what must be Buffalo's best selection of Southeast Asian soft drinks, a decent variety of frozen meat and fish, and a more modest selection of fresh produce (best practice is to show up on Thursday morning, when fresh shipments of Thai chilies, ginger, and other exotic greens are delivered). Drawbacks include an unfortunate tendency to not label their merchandise with prices.
- 57 Roze Myanmar Grocery Store, 931 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 12 or 40), ☏ . Lucky 7 Asian Market made the move to Black Rock some time ago, but at the old location, Roze offers more or less the same thing: staple grains in huge sacks; shelves lined with snacks, spices, condiments and nonperishables; some freezer cases; a limited selection of veggies.
Chocolate, candies, and sweets
- 58 Blue Table Chocolates, 44B Brayton St. (Metro Bus 7 or 12), ☏ . M-F 10:30AM-6PM, Sa 10AM-7PM. In review after review, these gourmet artisanal chocolate truffles are described almost more as miniature works of art than as food, and when you get the box open it's not hard to see why. But don't discount Blue Table's creativity in the culinary department either: from lemon-pistachio to coconut-passionfruit to delightfully crunchy sunflower seed, you'd be hard-pressed to find flavors like this anywhere else. And if all of this sounds unattainably expensive, think again.
- 59 The Chocolate Shop, 871 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 12 or 40), ☏ . M-F 9AM-5PM. West Side native Frank Caruana entered the confectionery business way back in 1950, and The Chocolate Shop is where you'll find him still busily custom-molding chocolates to his customers' specifications, whether it be reproducing a sample item or bringing their zaniest fantasies to life in chocolate form. The bulk of the business here is corporate orders and fundraisers, but at their Niagara Street retail location can be found a range of chocolates and candies (including sponge candy, Buffalo's favorite chocolate treat) as well as personalized gift packs made fresh daily with only the finest ingredients.
- 60 La Flor Bakery, 544 Niagara St (Metro Bus 5, 22 or 40), ☏ . Daily 8AM-9PM. After you get done munching on some of the most delicious Puerto Rican food in town, don't forget to make a stop at the attached bakery for dessert, with bizcocho, several varieties of flan, pastelillos, and other delectable tropical desserts to take home.
- 61 Burning Books, 420 Connecticut St. (Metro Bus 7 or 22), ☏ . W-Su 11AM-7PM. This is not your ordinary bookstore, but if you're on the lookout for a unique gift for that hard-to-buy-for far-left radical on your list, Burning Books probably has what you're looking for: in the words of one reviewer, "books that people in power don't want you to read". Histories, biographies, reference materials, magazines, leaflets, DVDs, and even kids' books regarding a diversity of themes of social injustice and revolutionary politics — everything from the Black Panthers to the Stonewall Riots to the Zapatistas — all come at decidedly 99%-friendly prices.
- 62 Urban Roots, 428 Rhode Island St. (Metro Bus 7 or 12), ☏ . Tu-Sa 9AM-5PM, Su 9AM-3PM, shorter hours in winter. Urban Roots is a cooperatively run community garden center where $100 will buy you lifetime status as a "member-owner" with access to exclusive promotions and discounts, first notification of special events and new items in stock, and a voice in store policy — but don't worry, you don't need to be a member to shop there! Plants for sale range from the everyday to the unusual, the selection of seeds is encyclopedic (including Baker's Creek heirloom strains and organic, non-GMO Seeds of Change), and garden accessories round out the inventory. Prices are high, but so is the quality of what they sell.
Black Rock and Riverside
There's a number of worthwhile shops along the main thoroughfare of Niagara Street, especially in Black Rock. However, the main business district in this part of the city is centered around the corner of Tonawanda and Ontario Streets in Riverside.
Clothing and accessories
When the storied Riverside Men's Shop packed up and moved to a suburban strip mall in 2004, it left in its wake a retail scene much reduced in size and vibrancy, which consists today mostly of small thrift stores and urban fashion boutiques.
- 63 Eve Fashion & Beauty Supply, 431 Tonawanda St. (Metro Bus 5, 23, 32 or 35), ☏ . Daily 9AM-10PM. If you're a claustrophobe, beware: the walls are covered from floor to ceiling with merchandise on hangers, and the sales floor is packed with displays to the point where it's tough to walk around. But if you're in the market for urban fashions, cosmetics, and hair care products at logic-defying prices, you'll find a selection that goes toe-to-toe with the big department stores. Vivacious styles abound, jewelry trends toward the chunky and flashy, and you'll find baseball caps representing pretty much any sports team you can think of. But the specialty at Eve is barrettes, beads, pins and clips, and other hair accessories, as well as styling products for all hair types.
- 64 Hearts Thrift Store, 890 Tonawanda St (Metro Bus 5, 35 or 40), ☏ . M-Sa 11AM-5PM. This large thrift store in the heart of Riverside is one of Buffalo's best, but it's not known for the great diversity of its selection, nor are folks who come looking for the usual thrift-store fare — kooky vintage clothing, hip band t-shirts, designer jeans, and the like — likely to leave satisfied. Instead, the order of the day at this "businesswoman's thrift store" (as one reviewer put it) is high-end office attire and formalwear, sold in tip-top condition for prices that can't be beat. Best of all, the money you spend here could not go to a better cause: the store was set up to benefit Hearts for the Homeless, a faith-based charity that feeds, counsels and ministers to Buffalo's homeless.
- 65 3 Star Fashion, 2211 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 23, 32, 35 or 40), ☏ . Su-Th 9:30AM-10PM, F Sa 9:30AM-11PM. 3 Star Fashion is owned by the same folks who run Empire Kicks on West Ferry Street, and if you like the designer sneakers sold there, this place will be right up your alley. Like its sister store, the fundament of this place's inventory consists of Nikes, Timberlands, Air Jordans and other well-known brands of footwear, but there's also a full range of name-brand clothing for the streetwise man, woman or child on your list, as well as a blockbuster selection of fitted New Era caps. Notably, 3 Star is also a great place to seek out designer jeans at reasonable prices.
- 66 Tomahawk Garments, 1968 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 32 or 40), ☏ , toll-free: . M-F 9AM-5PM. Don't be fooled by first impressions: this small, unassuming Black Rock storefront on a mostly residential stretch of Niagara Street houses a real heavyweight of the local retail scene. Here you can purchase Tomahawk brand leather goods — coats, vests and jackets, biker gear, accessories such as belts, gloves and handbags, wallets, backpacks and on and on — produced right in Western New York and united by an unrelenting emphasis on quality. This stuff is really top-of-the-line: it's no wonder this stuff sells for a pretty penny at fine department stores in the area, but at their Niagara Street outlet you can get it for 50 to 70% off retail prices.
- 67 CooCooU, 111 Tonawanda St., second floor (Metro Bus 5, 32 or 40), ☏ . Daily 11AM-5PM. The alpha and omega in Buffalo when it comes to everything Midcentury and Scandinavian Modern, CooCooU sports a myriad of one-of-a-kind items with a fanciful postwar aesthetic: whether it be furniture, lamps, decorative baubles, architectural elements, objets d'art, or even musical instruments and jewelry, the vast selection and impeccable quality are right up there with the best that places like Toronto and New York City have to offer. You could easily spend a whole day here. Hours of operation are variable — don't be surprised if the owner opens the place up early or stays late, especially during special sales and promotions or around the holidays.
- 68 Gothic City Antiques, 1940 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 32 or 40), ☏ . Th-Sa 11AM-5PM, Su 11AM-4PM. The big, '50s-looking Streng Oldsmobile sign just past Exit 13 is a familiar landmark to those Buffalonians whose daily commute takes them along the northbound 190, but what many of them don't know is that the junkyard where it sits isn't a junkyard at all: it's Gothic City Antiques, Buffalo's longest-standing dealer in architectural antiques and artifacts. Outside you've got a full acre (4,000m²) of garden tchotchkes, old lampposts, and that famous sign that once stood guard outside the dealership on Main Street; inside is another wonderland of furniture, lamps, doors and doorknobs, mantels, vintage plumbing fixtures such as sinks and claw bathtubs, and on and on.
- 69 Fowler's Chocolates, 100 River Rock Drive (Metro Bus 23), ☏ . M-F 8AM-5PM. An anonymous-looking industrial park backed up against the old Belt Line railroad in the back end of Black Rock may seem like an odd place for a location of Buffalo's favorite chain of chocolate shops — but after all, this is the same building where their factory has been located since 1993. Unsurprisingly, the small retail space just off the production floor keeps abbreviated hours compared to the other Fowler's locations, but if you happen to be in the neighborhood on a weekday morning or afternoon and have a hankering for sponge candy, chocolate truffles, or any of the other goodies these folks are famous for, you're more than welcome to stop in.
- 70 Gondola Macaroni Products, 1985 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 32 or 40), ☏ . M-Sa 9:30AM-6PM. First-generation Italian immigrant Guido Colla has been cooking ravioli with his own self-designed pasta maker since 1958, and now on the cusp of his seventh decade in business, his cramped little shop in Black Rock is a throwback to old times. You can get all kinds of pasta at Gondola, but ravioli is what they're most famous for — scratch-made daily in house with a simple recipe of durum flour, water, eggs, and various meat fillings; there are no additives or chemicals in this stuff, which is likely why its quality puts supermarket fare to shame. Service comes with a smile and obvious appreciation for your business, even if the owners' English isn't quite up to snuff.
It was only a matter of time before the ethnic food markets that are commonplace elsewhere on the West Side began to filter north. In Riverside the balance is tilted a bit more toward African groceries rather than Asian, but there's plenty of variety to choose from nonetheless (and more and more options each year, it seems).
- 71 Fartun Express, 860 Tonawanda St. (Metro Bus 5, 35 or 40), ☏ . M-F noon-10PM, Sa Su 10AM-10PM. In the former location of Ricotta's Pizza on Tonawanda Street in the heart of Riverside is where you'll find this Somali-owned grocer. The specialty at Fartun is meat — and whether it's familiar staples like beef, chicken, and fish or more unusual selections like goat or camel, everything they sell is 100% halal. There's also a small selection of ethnic produce and general groceries to choose from.
- 72 Htar Ni Asian Market, 472 Ontario St. (Metro Bus 3 or 5), ☏ . M-Sa 9AM-8PM, Su 9AM-7PM. Yet another in the seemingly endless parade of Burmese grocery stores on the West Side, Htar Ni Asian Market is located on Ontario Street toward the north end of Riverside. Inside, you'll find walls lined with rows upon rows of canned goods, jars of preserved vegetables, packaged groceries, frozen foods, and crunchy snacks. If you like Sriracha and other spicy Asian sauces and condiments, Htar Ni is the place for you.
- 73 International Market, 916 Tonawanda St. (Metro Bus 5, 35 or 40), ☏ . Tu W noon-9PM, Th-Sa 11AM-9PM, Su noon-8PM. If you were intrigued enough by the tantalizing aromas of the cuisine at Lucy to want to try your hand at cooking tasty Ethiopian specialties of your own, head to the African food market next door, run by the same folks. The inventory at the succinctly but accurately named International Market trends heavily toward Ethiopian spices such as berbere, shiro, mitmita, and keba, but that's not all you'll find there: if your tastes run more toward Asian or Caribbean cuisine, stop in to pick up fresh banana leaves, the only place in Buffalo where they're available!
- 74 Lin Asian Market, 929 Tonawanda St. (Metro Bus 5, 35 or 40), ☏ . M-Sa 9AM-8PM, Su 9AM-6PM. Lin moved to Riverside in 2014 from its old location on Grant Street, but aside from more spacious digs, the story is largely the same: specialty Asian groceries, the same ones they use in the kitchen at Lin Restaurant next door, the better for those who just finished enjoying Buffalo's best Burmese food and want to try their hand at making their own version of the specialties served there.
- 75 Ontario Buffalo Bakery, 205 Ontario St. (Metro Bus 5), ☏ . Daily 7AM-10PM. Once a drive-in ice cream stand, contained within this unassuming little building in Riverside is a dazzling wealth of delicious Middle Eastern foods. Not surprisingly, baked goods are the star of the show here — the fresh, crusty bread whipped up in-house every day by friendly owner Omar Aldulaimi comes in several varieties, all out of this world, and he'll also bake custom orders if you call in advance — but at Ontario Buffalo Bakery you also have your pick of hummus, falafel, cheese, and delicious Levantine pastries. This is as authentic as it gets in Buffalo, so don't miss out.
- 76 Steel Crazy Iron Art, 70 Tonawanda St. (Metro Bus 5 or 40), ☏ . M-F 8AM-4PM. Using the latest in computerized design technology and their own shared background in structural iron and steel work, artists Ed & Brian Hogle — the same folks who forged the bright blue "buffalo head" bike racks you see along the sidewalk in trendy neighborhoods like the Elmwood Village and Allentown — custom-create functional "gifts for the ungiftable" ranging from key racks to desk mounts to clocks (and for those who served in the military, personalized medallions, dog tags, and the like are also favorites).
- 77 Big Catch Bait & Tackle, 2287 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 23, 32, 35 or 40), ☏ . M-Sa 7AM-6PM, Su 7AM-4PM. An odd duopoly of items on offer here. The name is not inaccurate — they offer pretty much any type of bait you want, live or otherwise, along with various other outdoor goods, and you can get New York State hunting and fishing licenses here — but it only tells half the story. Big Catch is also a destination for Buffalo paintball fanatics in search of guns and supplies. Tippmann brand products abound (the A-5 and X7 Phenom guns are particular favorites sold at great prices), and CO2 refills don't come cheaper anywhere in Western New York.
- 78 Obersheimer's Sailor Supply, 1884 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 32 or 40), ☏ . M-Sa 9AM-7PM, Su 10AM-4PM. Even nowadays, there are still a lot of folks who come to Buffalo by boat. If you're one of them, and you're in the market for some new gear, stop in to this huge chandlery in the heart of Black Rock for a full range. If you've got a sailboat, you're in especially good hands here — halyards, furlers, adjusters, and other supplies are sold for reasonable prices, ropes and wires are spliced, and the entire second floor serves as a full sail loft where expert technicians happily fit out, sew or repair sails with spars up to 65 feet (20 m) — but motorboaters aren't left out in the cold either, with a range of motors (especially Nissan and Tohatsu models) sold and serviced.
Adventurous foodies can eat like kings on the West Side. The dining scene here mirrors the neighborhood as a whole: a flourishing, chaotically beautiful rainbow of cultures.
|This page uses the following price ranges for a typical meal for one, including soft drink:|
Grant-Ferry and the Upper West Side
With the notable exception of the West Side Bazaar's International Kitchen, Grant Street's restaurant scene lags somewhat behind that of other West Side areas like Five Points and Riverside — oddly enough given that this is ground zero for the district's ethnic grocery stores. As a counterpoint, further west on Niagara Street you have Marco's, Santasiero's, and other holdovers from the West Side's days as Buffalo's Little Italy.
- 1 Boomerang's Bar & Grill, 995 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 12 or 40), ☏ . M-Th 11:30AM-9PM, F Sa 11:30AM-10PM. While it's certainly not the West Side's most adventurous culinary experience, Boomerang's menu covers quite a lot of ground: between beef Stroganoff, BBQ spare ribs, sandwiches and burgers, pork chops with a variety of interesting toppings, and above all, a lengthy selection of Italian fare, there's no really succinct way to sum it up, except maybe "maddeningly eclectic". And the adage "the food's so good, you'll keep coming back" (hence the name of the place) holds true. Portions are huge and prices aren't, but it should be said that service is this place's Achilles heel: it's not so much bad as inconsistent, ranging wildly from warm and friendly to bitter and sarcastic. $10-25.
- 2 Gourmet Lao Foods, 643 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3), ☏ . M-Th 11AM-9PM, F Sa 11AM-10PM. Remember that brief, glorious window in time, around 2015, when Gourmet Lao Foods' West Side Bazaar location (see below) served full meals? Well, now you can head north on Grant Street to Campus Square and relive those halcyon days. Buffalo could hardly ask for a better (re-)introduction to Laotian cuisine: the menu is brief and sticks to the classics (khao poon soup, larb with your choice of chicken, pork or beef, etc.), which are executed in a way that neither compromises on authenticity nor gets overly creative and fusion-y. There's also a roster of Thai and Burmese dishes on offer that are equally as good (this includes a version of le peth salad that's a contender for the best in town). And in the place that introduced Buffalo to dok jok cookies, it hardly needs to be said that you should save room for dessert. $10-20.
- 3 Grant Street Bazaar, 68 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 12). M-F 10AM-10PM, Sa 10AM-7PM, Su 9AM-7PM. The problem with the West Side Bazaar is one of supply and demand. They occupy a fairly small space, yet the pool of wannabe entrepreneurs among Buffalo's immigrant community is large and growing. By 2019, the waiting list was reputed to be years long. Enter Sue Chauhan, owner of Vineeta International Foods down the street, who took the bull by the horns with this similar small-business incubator. The Grant Street Bazaar boasts a cell phone shop and a small area devoted to brightly-colored ethnic fashions, but (wisely, given where West Side Bazaar customers tend to focus their attention) the food hall comprises the vast bulk of its space, with eight booths that run the gamut of international cuisines and an ambience that's decidedly grungier than the competition (though foodies know that's usually a mark of authenticity, and that's certainly the case here). Hungry visitors can choose from:
- Amilyah's, ☏ . At the Grant Street Bazaar's resident purveyor of Middle Eastern food, you'll find wrap sandwiches, salads, loaded fries, and so on, but the real specialty of the house are the "New York style" platters, which bring to Buffalo an authentic taste of one of the Big Apple's most popular street foods: a heaping portion of finely chopped halal meat (choose from grilled marinated chicken, steak, lamb, or curry chicken) served over rice with French fries and a salad on the side, all topped with generous drizzles of two different sauces (Americanized takes on zabadi and harissa, respectively). Omar Muflahi is the man behind the counter, and he's one of the nicest fellows you could ever hope to meet; the restaurant is named after his young daughter. $10-15.
- Garden of Eden, ☏ . Vegetarians and vegans of the world unite: at Garden of Eden you'll find specialties from cuisines the world over, all in meat-free versions, sharing space on the menu board. The procedure is similar to what you see in those fast-casual chains that have been popping up lately: start with your choice of base (plant-based mock chicken or beef, falafel, or mixed vegetables) and build your own salad, kebab bowl, or taco with your choice of toppings and dressings. African elements predominate among the à la carte selection of appetizers: mandazi and juba salads, veggie sambusa, molokhia, and the like. $10-20.
- Mogadishu Somali Food. W-M 9AM-6PM. Given their prominence among the West Side's patchwork of immigrant communities, it's surprising that it took so long for a Somali restaurant to show up in Buffalo. But Mogadishu makes up for lost time with, first of all, the best sambusa in town: the wrapper is light and puffy with just a slight hint of crispiness, the meat inside is perfectly seasoned, and as always, spicy green basbaas chili sauce comes on the side. The specialty of the house, though, is suqaar, a classic Somali dish of finely diced cubes of meat, lightly seasoned with cumin and pan-fried with onions and peppers; the version here comes in both beef and chicken iterations, served either with flat canjeero or thicker muufo bread (traditional at breakfast time) or over rice (the lunchtime way). Less adventurous palates can tuck into a plate of spaghetti with meat sauce, a dish that arrived in Somalia in the 20th century via its Italian colonizers. $10-15.
- Robin's Kitchen, ☏ . It's not the most extensive menu you'll find in the Buffalo area, nor does it contain any obscure specialties you've never seen Stateside. But depending on what you order, Robin's Kitchen might be your source for the most authentic and delicious Indo-Pak food in Buffalo, all 100% halal. The menu presents a distinct hierarchy in terms of quality: at the top are the appetizers and finger foods (especially the samosa, which are flaky and bursting with flavor), below them the ever-changing selection of curries you'll see arranged in steam trays behind the glass display case (whose flavors are intricate but more subtle, and which are distinctively heavy on rice and light on meat), and at the bottom the bland if generously portioned rice-based dishes on the à la carte menu. $10-20.
- Taste of Sudan, ☏ . Wherein South Sudanese food makes its return to Buffalo nearly a half-decade after Taste of Africa & Soul Food's brief sojourn at the West Side Bazaar. It's a cuisine that draws heavily from that of its neighbors: ful medames is an Egyptian import; sambusa come from South Asia by way of the Horn of Africa (Taste of Sudan's are not quite as good as the ones across the counter at Mogadishu, but they're still quite recommendable, with wrappers a bit firmer and flakier and meat that's more coarsely ground); the porridge-like staple asida bears more than a passing resemblance to the fufu consumed in West Africa. But these folks are at their best when working within the "stewed meat over a grain base" template (try lamb molokhia over rice for arguably the most authentically South Sudanese specialty on offer). Flavors are vibrant but not off-puttingly fiery, service comes with a smile of genuine appreciation, and portions are generous. $10-25.
- Thai Halal Food, ☏ . Offering an abbreviated but well-executed (and, obviously, pork-free) selection of familiar Southeast Asian specialties in authentic iterations that, on the whole, tend to be more meat-heavy and less veggie-heavy than your average competitor. Most notably, these folks do not mess around when it comes to spice: if you've visited Thailand and had the real thing only to be underwhelmed by the blander fare at your local Thai restaurant back home, the basil beef (or chicken, or squid) with egg is your mouth-igniting solution. $10-15.
- West Side Grill, ☏ . Another big way in which the Grant Street Bazaar differs from the West Side Bazaar is that it doesn't leave timid palates out in the cold: the menu at the West Side Grill proposes nothing more daunting than a slate of hot and cold submarine sandwiches, burgers, chicken wings and fingers, and French fries. Pretty much the only noteworthy thing about the delicious all-American comfort food they serve is the shockingly low prices you pay: if you're hungry, you can stuff yourself with a foot-long sub, a generous portion of fries, and a soft drink all for under $10.
- 4 Santasiero's, 1329 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 26 or 40), ☏ . Daily 11AM-10PM. A relic from the days when the West Side was Buffalo's "Little Italy", hearty family-style Italian meals have been served at Santasiero's for almost a century now. The Italian wedding soup is spectacular, and sandwiches and dishes such as chicken parmigiana are available, but Santasiero's is most famous for the heaping portions of pasta they serve along with legendary red sauce. Reasonable prices, too. $10-25.
- 5 Taquería Rancho La Delicias, 1516 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 26 or 40), ☏ . M-W 11AM-9PM, Th-Sa 11AM-10PM, Su 11AM-8PM. Rancho La Delicias serves not only what's almost inarguably the best Mexican food inside the city line — a brief but dazzlingly authentic menu of tacos and quesadillas in myriad varieties — but also, as a legacy of this location's former identity as Rancho's, Buffalo's first Venezuelan restaurant, a full menu of arepas served on naturally gluten-free fried cornbread, stuffed with your choice of rotisserie beef, shredded beef, chicken, or roast pork (those who've travelled to Venezuela and experienced the cuisine on its home turf say they can't tell the difference). $10-25.
- 6 West Side Bazaar, 25 Grant St (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 12), ☏ . Tu-Th 11AM-7PM, F 11AM-8PM. The West Side Bazaar's International Kitchen is the center of the universe for local fans of exotic international flavors: its food stalls serve a dizzying range of cuisines at unbeatable prices. Best of all: because the vendors are largely fresh-off-the-boat immigrants without much experience catering to the American palate, and because the clientele is largely hipster foodies looking for uncompromising culinary authenticity, you can be assured of a representation of these cuisines that's as accurate as you're likely to find anywhere in Buffalo.
- Abyssinia. Not the best Ethiopian food in Buffalo (that would be Fast 'N Tasty in Allentown), but the attention Abyssinia has gotten from such local media sources as the Buffalo News' "Cheap Eats" column is not unwarranted. The menu includes all the standards — kitfo, alitcha, the usual permutations of watt and tibs, et cetera — and is divided about evenly between meat-based and vegetarian dishes. If you're indecisive, go with a combo platter. The sambusa are so good you won't mind that they skimp on the chutney. Perhaps this place's only weakness is the injera: they skimp on that too (though you can ask for extra at no charge), and it lacks that slight vinegary tang. $5-15.
- 007 Chinese Food. A native of Myanmar, Maung Maung Saw draws on his experience as owner of a Chinese restaurant in Malaysia to craft the best and most authentic dim sum in Buffalo (not that there's much competition). The stars of the show at 007 are lo mai fan (balls of sticky rice mixed with stir-fried chicken and mushrooms, with sriracha sauce on the side for dipping), and of course, steamed shu mai stuffed with your choice of beef, chicken, or vegetables. Unless you're an exceptionally light eater, you won't be able to make a full meal out of what you get here, but this food works spectacularly as appetizers to accompany a main course from one of the Bazaar's other food vendors. $5-15.
- Kiosko Latino. The sole Western Hemisphere representative among the International Kitchen's vendors, Kiosko Latino's hybrid menu of Puerto Rican and Mexican cuisine is a mixed bag in more ways than one. Tacos, burritos, and the like are a minimalist and somewhat halfhearted stab at the "authentic Mexican street food" trend that swept the Buffalo restaurant world a few years back, but the Puerto Rican half of the menu is where this place really shines: the menu doesn't go far beyond the standards, but everything's got an extra kick of deliciousness (pollo guisado comes with a subtle tang thanks to the olives boiled in the broth, and flaky pastelillos are literally dripping with flavor) and is served with rice and beans and tostones on the side. $10-15.
- M Asian Halal Foods, ☏ . Okay, so Indian food is not exactly hard to find in Buffalo, nor if there anything significantly more authentic about what this place serves relative to the competition. But if you've got a hankering for butter chicken, pakora, biryani, vegetarian and nonvegetarian samosas, or tandoori chicken, and you happen to be in the neighborhood, you'll find perfectly good (and 100% halal) iterations of those and more. In addition to the standards, M Asian's menu also boasts a few more offbeat items like chapli (savory patties of Indian-spiced ground chicken that come with a small salad on the side), and South Indian cuisine is represented by a fairly ample selection of dosas. $10-20.
- Nine & Night Bistro, ☏ . M noon-6:30PM, Tu-Th 11AM-7PM, F 11AM-8PM, Sa 10AM-8PM. It's perhaps a testament to the singular nature of the West Side Bazaar that Nine & Night is its least "exotic" dining option. Though they can't hold a candle to Family Thai, the predecessor in this location within the International Kitchen (the tom yum soup is a flavorless disappointment; most of the yum salads, with the exception of the seafood one, are gone from the menu), these folks still serve a decent selection of Thai specialties where the emphasis is still on authenticity rather than pandering to the American palate. Service tends to be slow, so be patient. $5-15.
- Pattaya Street Food. Gourmet Lao Foods opened their own freestanding restaurant (see above) in 2018, but the West Side Bazaar stall where it all began remains in operation — albeit with a new name — serving delicious bubble teas, Laotian desserts (including dok jok, the crispy, coconut milk-infused cookie that they're most famous for). Plus, as if to make up for a weak point in most of the International Kitchen's other food stalls, Pattaya stocks a cooler with a full range of bottled soft drinks. Under $5.
- Rakhapura Shop. Rakhapura first made its name as the Bazaar's resident sushi purveyor, and you'll still find a selection of it in the cooler (albeit not as wide of one as the 30-plus varieties they used to carry). But nowadays, the menu has evolved into a somewhat haphazard but uniformly delicious slate of options from Myanmar's Rakhine State. The marquee item is salads, salads and more salads: a superlative iteration of le peth tea leaf salad, tomato salad that bests what Pwint War used to make, ginger salad, pennyroyal leaf salad. And if you're dreaming of a big bowl of soup to warm you on a cold winter day, the rakhaing mutee — a variation of classic Burmese mohinga with a garlicky chicken broth subbing for the usual base of conger eel — is tops. $5-15.
- Thang's Family Japanese Ramen. Like the folks who run the dim sum place around the corner, owner Kap Thang is a Myanmar native who worked as a chef in Malaysia before coming to the U.S., so naturally, there's a Burmese-fusion element to the menu here (seafood lovers will want to check out the tom yum ramen). But that's not the most unusual aspect of the experience at Thang's: the love-it-or-hate-it ingredient that all the soups have in common is smoked paprika. Perhaps the most objective thing you can say is it works better in some varieties than others (it cuts the acidic tang of the Korean kimchi ramen perfectly, but the flavor overpowers the spicy chicken ramen so utterly that the best analogy is chicken paprikash in soup form). $10-20.
- Wa Wa Asian Snacks. The word "snacks" is a misnomer — the menu has expanded greatly since the grand opening to encompass an eclectic range of full-size mains — but the rest of the name is accurate. At her eponymous West Side Bazaar eatery, Wa Wa Khiang enables you to eat your way from one end of Southeast Asia to the other: Burmese pork curry and mohinga, kanom jeen soup and som tum papaya salad from Thailand, Vietnamese banh mi that give the ones at Pho Dollar a run for their money (no mean feat), and even Hainanese chicken rice, the only place in Buffalo that serves this specialty of Singapore and Malaysia. Jack of all trades, master of none? Not by a long shot: this is the best food at the Bazaar, and that's saying something. $10-15.
- 7 Freddy J's BBQ, 195 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 26), ☏ . Daily 10AM-8PM. There's a tsunami of flavor packed inside the tiny, cramped space where Fred Daniel cooks up — with fresh ingredients sourced as often as possible from West Side neighbors like Guercio's — what some describe as the best barbecue in Buffalo. The recipes are as authentic and time-tested as it gets, yet Freddy also manages to incorporate subtle Creole, Caribbean, and hometown influences into his dishes: on the menu alongside classics like ribs and brisket is a take on jerk chicken where subtle but noticeable heat is alleviated by sides of yellow rice and "Honey Hush cornbread", and a Southern-style approximation of classic Buffalo fish fry: fried haddock with mac & cheese, green beans, and (once again) cornbread on the side. $15-30.
- 8 Gypsy Parlor, 376 Grant St (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 26), ☏ . M-Th Sa 5PM-midnight, F 2:30PM-midnight, Su 4PM-midnight. Don't be confused by the red neon sign in the window that says "PSYCHIC READINGS" — this isn't that kind of gypsy parlor! This comfortable yet garishly decorated combination gastropub, bar, and performance venue is named and themed in an homage to owner Gabrielle Mattina's Roma ancestry, but the menu is a full-throated tribute to the multicultural diversity of the surrounding neighborhood. So-called "West Side Delicacies" include surprisingly authentic pastelillos, samosas, and a delicious banh mi poutine that would be right at home on the menu of the Allen St. Poutine Company. For those with more timid palates, mouth-watering half-pound burgers are the way to go: try the "Black Sheep" of peppercorn-crusted ground lamb topped with dijon & beet coleslaw. $15-30.
- 9 Marco's, 1085 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 12 or 40), ☏ . M-Th 11;30AM-9PM, F 11:30AM-10PM, Sa 5PM-10PM, Su 4PM-8:30PM. Nowadays, chef Marco Sciortino is better known for his eponymous chain of Italian delis, but this cozy old place on Niagara Street is where he first made his name. Marco's has all the no-frills ambience of a humble neighborhood bar, and the menu doesn't venture far beyond the usual red-sauce Italian standards (starters of antipasto salad, pasta fagioli, and stuffed banana peppers; veal and chicken served in marsala, parmigiana, piccata and florentine styles, pasta pomodoro, linguine with clam sauce), but don't let that fool you: this is creatively conceived, artfully executed food served in copious amounts for fair prices. Fans of spice might want to try the "Paesano Inferno", a fiery delight of hot Italian fennel sausage and sautéed hot peppers served over penne pasta. $15-35.
- 10 Pho Dollar, 322 W. Ferry St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 12), ☏ . M-Th 11AM-10PM, F Sa 11AM-midnight, Su 11AM-9PM. With a dazzling range of options including Buffalo's widest selection of pho, vermicelli bowls, stir-fried rice and noodle dishes, a slate of to-die-for banh mi sandwiches, and tasty bubble tea to wash it all down with, it's safe to say that Pho Dollar serves the best Vietnamese food in town. All this delicious ambrosia is served up in an ambience that is sleek if not exactly minimalist (it's a much larger and more upscale place than it looks like from the street!) by servers that are friendly and attentive without being intrusive. If you like it spicy, try the bún bò Huế soup: Pho Dollar is the only place in Buffalo that serves this specialty of central Vietnam, and they do so with aplomb. $15-30.
- 11 Restaurante Mi Isla, 74 Herkimer St. (Metro Bus 3, 5, 12 or 40), ☏ . Tu-Th Su 10AM-6PM, F Sa 10AM-8PM. The "isla" in question is, of course, Puerto Rico, and you'll find the cuisine thereof well represented on the menu, especially if you like mofongo — the mashed-plantain dish is one of the harder-to-find boricua specialties in Buffalo, yet Restaurante Mi Isla serves about ten different varieties. Whether that or another item on the menu, prices are a bit hefty but so are the portions, and anyway you're getting in return some of the most authentic homestyle Puerto Rican food in town, with service to match, so don't feel guilty about splurging a little bit. About the only problem is the menu itself: it's written entirely in Spanish, so if you're a monolingual English-speaker, be prepared. $15-35.
- 12 Sports City Pizza Pub, 1407 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 26 or 40), ☏ . M-F 3PM-midnight, Sa Su noon-midnight. The name of this friendly neighborhood bar and grill is apropos: pizza and wings is pretty much the beginning and end of the menu. The former has a crust that's a touch thinner than the usual local style, yet still crunchy and sturdy, and comes seasoned with a variety of toppings, à la Just Pizza. The latter are a good size and come in a variety of different flavors — classic Buffalo-style, of course, with varying degrees of spiciness to choose from, but also worth trying out are the Louisiana Cajun wings, deliciously seasoned with a dry rub of blended spices. For a nominal extra change, you can have your wings barbecued "on the pit" after they come out of the fryer, for an extra bit of char. $15-35.
- 13 Roost, 1502 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 26 or 40), ☏ . W-Sa 11AM-10PM, Su 11AM-3PM. Located in the Crescendo building and named for the huge mural painting of a red rooster that's the centerpiece of the cavernous dining room, Roost is the newest restaurant from local chef Martin Danilowicz. He's well-known locally for the eclecticism of the menus he constructs, and Roost doesn't disappoint in that department. Small plates are the name of the game here, meant to be ordered in multiples and shared around the table tapas-style; offerings change weekly, but think in terms of bone marrow with bacon onion jam, beef carpaccio with cucumber, microgreens, and miso pineapple dressing, and fig and prosciutto pizza with smoked blue cheese (cooked in a rotating Mariana Forni wood-fired pizza oven, one of only two in the United States). $25-65.
The following pizzerias are located in Grant-Ferry and the Upper West Side. 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.
- 14 La Nova, 371 W. Ferry St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 12), ☏ . Su-Th 10AM-12:45AM, F Sa 10AM-1:45AM.
- 15 Mister Pizza, 643 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3), ☏ . Su-Th 9AM-midnight, F Sa 9AM-1AM.
- 16 Dollar General, 244 Forest Ave. (Metro Bus 3), ☏ . Daily 8AM-10PM.
- 17 Dollar General, 315 W. Ferry St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 12), ☏ . Daily 8AM-9PM.
- 18 Family Dollar, 492 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3 or 7), ☏ . M-Sa 8AM-9PM, Su 9AM-9PM.
- 19 Family Dollar, 265 W. Ferry St. (Metro Bus 3 or 12), ☏ . Daily 8AM-10PM.
- 20 Save-a-Lot, 142 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 12), ☏ . Daily 8AM-8PM.
- 21 Vineeta International Foods, 98 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 12), ☏ . M-Sa 9AM-8PM, Su 9AM-7PM. Let there be no understatement: Vineeta is the place to come on the West Side for an all-encompassing range of imported groceries from the Indian subcontinent, East and Southeast Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa, including spices, curries and chutneys, frozen foods, packaged groceries, an impressive line of Goya products, a butcher section including a modest range of halal meats, as well as housewares, toiletries, and on and on. The sole sticking point is the produce section, which as often as not consists of an uninspiring range of past-their-prime vegetables, but things seem to be improving on this front lately.
Five Points has taken the lead lately in the contest for the West Side's swankiest upscale restaurant scene, but don't count Amherst Street out yet: there are some interesting options on the strip, at generally more reasonable prices to boot.
- 22 Hot Mama's Canteen, 12 Military Rd (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☏ . M-Sa 4PM-4AM, Su noon-4AM. Usually at a restaurant the condiments are little more than an afterthought, but at Hot Mama's Canteen they're the raison d'être: the place was conceived by co-owner Valerie Meli as a showcase for Headstone Heat hot sauces, which she owns and whose company headquarters share space with the restaurant. The menu is short and to the point, described in a recent Buffalo Rising article as "comfort food with a twist... familiar, but just different enough for you to think about why you had never thought to do that before": homemade sandwiches and burgers, heartier mains such as meatloaf dinners, and even breakfast fare are each paired with a fiery Headstone Heat sauce to accentuate the delicious flavors. And Hot Mama's hand-cut French fries are some of the best you're ever likely to taste. $10-20.
- 23 Nick's Place, 504 Amherst St. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☏ . Daily 7AM-3PM. What sets Nick's apart from other Buffalo-area Greek diners are little homestyle touches like the delicious homemade bread baked daily, as well as its Texas sauce which is used not on hot dogs (as is customary in Buffalo) but as a topping for some of the omelettes that dominate the breakfast menu. These are huge and uniformly delicious, with items like feta cheese, souvlaki and gyro meat available alongside the usual ingredients as part of the "create your own omelette" option. Lunch is characterized by open souvlaki and gyro and the other Hellenic-American usuals, with burgers, wraps and club sandwiches rounding out the selections. Portions are huge and prices aren't, and a full kids' menu is available. $10-15.
- 24 716 Cafe, 388 Amherst St. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☏ . Tu-Sa 10AM-9PM, Su 10AM-6PM. When a restaurant advertises its food as "100% halal", what do you envision? Middle Eastern cuisine? Indian or Pakistani? Whatever it is, it's probably not what's served here, namely all-American diner food. Though 716 Cafe's owners first envisioned it as a breakfast destination (omelettes and breakfast wraps come with your choice of beef bacon, beef sausage, turkey ham, or just egg and cheese), customers reserve their highest praise for the lunch and dinner menus: burgers, melt sandwiches, and other familiar standbys, but above all, the glorious Sweet Chili Crispy Chicken Wrap. These folks took over the old location of HaliBoyz Mexican-American Grille, and as before, parking is available across the street at the Polish Cadets lot. $10-25.
- 25 Barrel + Brine, 155 Chandler St. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☏ . W-F 11AM-9PM, Sa 3PM-9PM, Su 11AM-4PM. No longer just a place to buy a comprehensive range of house-made fermented products, Barrel + Brine is now a full-fledged restaurant/kombucha tasting room where those same items are used to garnish a short but creative and constantly changing menu of small plates: lunch and dinner are all about gourmet sandwiches and upscale bar snacks (how about fried bologna with kimchi?), while breakfast sandwiches served on locally-baked BreadHive bagels rule the roost at their ever-popular Sunday brunch. They've done a spiffy job renovating the old Linde Air Products Factory, too: the ambience is spacious yet cozy, and the decor is sleek yet rustic (think long tables made of wooden planks and flights of kombucha served on wooden paddles with built-in coasters). $15-30.
- 26 The Dapper Goose, 491 Amherst St. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☏ . Tu-Sa 5PM-1:30AM, Su 11AM-5PM. Though best known for its wine and cocktail bar, the food menu at the Dapper Goose is no afterthought: diverse influences from Continental, Asian, and (especially) Latin American cuisines make their mark on a short but sweet, vegetarian- and locavore-friendly menu that's New American cuisine at its best. Shareable small plates abound — favorites include crispy golden-fried cauliflower drizzled in a dill-rich Green Goddess dressing, as well as snapper ceviche with coconut broth and hot peppers (deliciously fresh and not as daunting as it sounds for those who can't handle spice) — but easily the most popular item is sweet and spicy Korean fried chicken over kimchi fried rice and spicy pickled cucumbers. Best of all, you won't break the bank on the bill that comes at the end of the meal. $20-45.
- 27 The Phoenix at 269, 269 Amherst St. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☏ . Tu-Sa 5PM-11PM. Opened in March 2013 with a name that pays homage both to the renovation of the building after a devastating fire and the resurgent neighborhood in which it's located, this "American Tavern" is a place for simple but delectably-prepared food served in an ambience that is a pleasant blend of classy and casual. The menu betrays diverse influences — from Polish (lazy pierogi and kielbasa, one of the Phoenix's most popular main courses) to Belgian (steak frites) to South American (flatiron steak with chimichurri sauce). Reservations are highly recommended for Friday and Saturday nights especially; in warm weather, try for a table on the patio out back, whose pleasant coziness is an extension of the dining room's. $20-45.
- 28 Tappo Wood-Fired Pizza @ Thin Man, 166 Chandler St. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☏ . M-Th 4PM-9PM, F 4PM-11PM, Sa noon-11PM, Su noon-9PM. The satellite location of not one but two of Buffalo's favorite restaurants: Mike Andrzejewski of downtown's Tappo and Mike Shatzel of Elmwood's Thin Man team up to offer not only the latter's expertly curated beer list but also a spin on the former's Italian-American oeuvre focusing on wood-fired pizzas of which the favorite is the "El Padrino" (meatballs, cherry peppers, whipped ricotta, and basil on a sesame seed crust). The system is unusual: place your order at the bar, leave them your phone number, seat yourself, then when it's ready they'll text you to pick it up. Easy enough if you're on the breezy patio, but if you're found respite from the thunderous din in the upstairs dining room (bedecked with a massive Space Ghost mural!), it presents a bit of inconvenience. $15-40.
- 29 Waxlight Bar à Vin, 27 Chandler St. (Metro Bus 3 or 32). W-Sa 5PM-10PM, Su 5PM-9PM; bar remains open 2 hours after kitchen closes. With the opening of Waxlight in the former Jewett Refrigerator Company building, the already intriguing Chandler Street dining scene took another huge step forward: the staff is a veritable All Star team of the local restaurant industry, the upscale ambience is perhaps best described as "industrial-chic meets steampunk meets retro lounge" (seating is on blue velvet couches; lighting comes courtesy of gaslamp-style sconces), and the menu is one of the most jaw-droppingly daring in town. Shareable small plates make up the bulk of the ever-changing offerings; if you've ever wanted to try (let's say) dried fermented smoked beef heart drizzled with onion butter on a bed of charred and brined cabbage, here's your chance. And if all of this sounds forbiddingly expensive, think again. $25-55.
The following pizzerias are located in Grant-Amherst. 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.
- 30 Joe's NY Style Pizza, 345 Amherst St. (At Tops Plaza; Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☏ . M-Th 11AM-11PM, F Sa 11AM-midnight, Su 11AM-10PM.
- 31 Family Dollar, 333 Amherst St. (At Tops Plaza; Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☏ . M-W F-Su 8AM-10PM, Th 8AM-6PM.
- 32 Tops, 345 Amherst St. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☏ . Daily 6AM-midnight.
- 33 Wegmans, 601 Amherst St. (Metro Bus 20 or 32), ☏ . Daily 6AM-midnight.
Prospect Hill, Five Points, and the Lower West Side
If you like Puerto Rican food, the Lower West Side is the place for you: this is the heart of Hispanic Buffalo. But that's just the beginning of the story: fans of upscale cuisine will want to head to Five Points, whose gentrified ambience is more redolent of Allentown or the Elmwood Village.
- 34 Armory Restaurant, 311 Connecticut St (Metro Bus 3 or 22), ☏ . M-F 11AM-2PM. Located in the shadow of the gargantuan Connecticut Street Armory (hence its name), the order of the day at this throwback to the old Italian Village is simple, homestyle red-sauce fare. There's no set menu, only a changing slate of about eight or nine daily specials at any given time; favorites include lentil soup, sandwiches of spicy Mineo & Sapio Italian sausage, and a concoction known as "The Brick": an ample portion of baked ziti with a blend of ricotta and mozzarella cheeses as well as the most mouth-watering sauce you've ever tasted. The Armory has been a favorite meeting place and hangout for Buffalo politicians since the 1960s, when the West Side's own Frank Sedita served as mayor, and its low prices and remarkably quick service have also won it a loyal following among D'Youville College students. $10-15.
- 35 BreadHive Cooperative Bakery, 402 Connecticut St. (Metro Bus 7), ☏ . Tu 8AM-6PM, W-Su 8AM-3PM. BreadHive first made its name with delicious fresh-baked bread (the flagship "West Side Sourdough", multigrain, deli rye and Danish-style rugbrød) and bagels (eight varieties, all baked with locally-grown organic flour and wild yeast). But with their expansion from a mere walk-up window to a full-size restaurant has come additions to the menu in the form of delicious sandwiches all named for the owners' favorite female musicians — favorites include "The Robyn" (their version of what Jewish delis call the "Rachel", with beet caraway sauerkraut sourced from the West Side's own Barrel + Brine) and "The Bjork" (a vegan-friendly concoction with tempeh "bacon"). In the morning there's a somewhat smaller range of breakfast sandwiches, plus locally-roasted Public Espresso. $10-20.
- 36 Custard Corner, 211 Porter Ave. (Metro Bus 5, 22 or 40), ☏ . Daily 11AM-11PM, Apr-Oct. Once upon a time, hot dogs at Ted's followed by delicious soft-serve at Custard Corner was the classic West Side waterfront double-shot. Though Ted's Porter Avenue location closed in the '90s, its counterpart still hops during the warm months — and as if to make up for the loss, Custard Corner's now serves hot dogs, burgers, fries, chicken fingers, and other summertime snack-bar favorites. But of course, the main draw is still a changing selection of hard and soft Perry's ice cream (try the sponge candy flavor for a true taste of Buffalo!) that comes in cones, sundaes, or as part of an "Arctic Swirl" — their knockoff version of Dairy Queen's "Blizzard". There's nothing better on a summer day than relaxing here with a sweet treat on an umbrella-shaded picnic bench and taking in the view across the street to Prospect Park. $5-10.
- 37 Essex Street Pub, 590 Rhode Island St (Metro Bus 7 or 12), ☏ . M-Sa 11AM-4AM, Su 3PM-4AM. Five Points' favorite hipster watering hole, now serving a full menu of pub grub. Barbecue is the specialty of the house at the Essex Street Pub: Texas- and Memphis-style platters of house-smoked brisket, pulled pork, ribs, and wings served with cornbread, coleslaw, baked beans, or mac & cheese, with just the right amount of sauce to accentuate but not overwhelm the flavor of the meat. And they make their own pastrami and corned beef, too: try their "PLT", where the former serves as a replacement for the bacon in the classic recipe. Downsides include the service, which can be slow and gruff; also, no one would call this place the most comfortable in the world (seating is at the bar on high stools, or at one of the few wobbly tables if they're free). $10-20.
- 38 Five Points Bakery, 44 Brayton St. (Metro Bus 7 or 12), ☏ . M-Sa 7AM-7PM, Su 7AM-4PM. If you're in search of a full hearty meal, look elsewhere. But if you just want to nosh (and especially if money is no object), Five Points Bakery's toast bar is a popular West Side locavore destination. Choose from their selection of locally-grown organic breads, pop a slice in the toaster, top it with your choice of honey, peanut butter, or various fruit compotes and cheese spreads, then find a seat either indoors at a table or along the bar, or if the weather is nice, on the rear patio, whose rustic furniture and adobe-colored stucco walls give it a distinctly Southwestern feel. Laptop jockeys can take advantage of multiple Ethernet ports, and both dining room and patio have kids' play areas that are fully stocked with toys, games and books. $10-15.
- 39 La Flor Bakery & Restaurant, 544 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 22 or 40), ☏ . Daily 8AM-9PM. Generous portions of delicious Puerto Rican specialties served up for a pittance in a genial, family-oriented atmosphere: that's the name of the game at this combination restaurant/bakery. Those in search of a light lunch or a quick snack can enjoy sandwiches that range from familiar standards like turkey and ham and cheese to Hispano-Caribbean selections such as an excellent cubano, as well as deep-fried classics like alcapurrias (described by many as the best in Buffalo), tostones, and yuca al ajillo. On the other side of the spectrum, heartier entrees — pollo guisado, pollo frito, pernil, and the daily specials that make up the true heart and soul of La Flor's delicious cuisine — are served with heaping sides of yellow rice and beans. $10-15.
- 40 Niagara Café, 525 Niagara St (Metro Bus 5, 22 or 40), ☏ . M-Sa 11AM-10PM, Su noon-8PM. Niagara Café is a Buffalo culinary pioneer, serving up Puerto Rican specialties on the main thoroughfare of Buffalo's West Side Latino community since 1992. There are those who say the place lags behind its competitors nowadays, coasting on its name recognition and status as multiple-time winner of awards from the likes of the Taste of Buffalo and Artvoice's annual "Best of Buffalo" poll (most of which they won when they were pretty much the only game in town), but that's not entirely true. The menu may not hold any surprises for those familiar with the cuisine, but it does what it does well — and there's nary a better way to put your finger on the pulse of Hispanic Buffalo than to chat it up with the locals in Niagara Café's spiffy dining room to the strain of the salsa music on the stereo. $10-15.
- 41 Sabor de Mi Tierra, 247 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 3, 5 or 40), ☏ . Tu-Su 9AM-5:30PM. If nothing else, Sabor de Mi Tierra is a testament to the fact that not only have West Side Latinos increasingly had to make way for a diverse rainbow of immigrants from across the globe, but the Latino community itself, once overwhelmingly made up of Puerto Ricans and Dominicans, has also diversified. In what was once the home of a Puerto Rican bakery, you'll find a short but delicious menu of Colombian specialties: lunchy street-food options like arepas (stuffed with your choice of chorizo or pork belly) and empanadas (beef or chicken) make their requisite appearance, but the signature dish is the gargantuan bandeja paisa, wherein a wide variety of hearty Colombian favorites come together in massive portions on a platter. Somewhat incongruously, Sabor de Mi Tierra also makes the best Cuban sandwich in Buffalo. $10-25.
- 42 Bellini's Bistro, 350 Pennsylvania St (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 22), ☏ . Tu-Sa 5PM-10PM. Everything about Bellini's says "old school", from the decor (white tablecloths, warm-toned walls, subdued lighting) to the small but well-stocked bar to the menu of traditional upscale Italian fare with a few creative flourishes here and there: highlights include chicken saltimbocca in a beurre blanc sauce over real mashed potatoes (a solid step above the instant glop other places serve, according to a consensus of diners), as well as an appetizer of meatballs in a zesty but not fiery arrabbiata sauce. It doesn't take much imagination to picture a trenchcoat- and fedora-clad Don Draper lookalike in the 1960s taking his wife out on the town to a place like this. Parking is on-street, but usually easily available — the exception is when there's a performance at Kleinhans Music Hall; do the best you can in that case. $25-50.
- 43 Pho Lantern, 837 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5 or 40), ☏ . Tu-Sa 11AM-9PM, Su 11AM-7PM. Owned by the same folks as Á Châu International Market across the way, it's no surprise that Vietnamese cuisine is the name of the game at Pho Lantern, but it is surprising that the specialty of the house is not the namesake soup but seafood: selections include steamed mussels, crab, shrimp, clams, oysters, crawfish, lobster, and a fairly faithful rendition of Buffalo-style fish fry. Sadly, most of the non-seafood options are not as good; exceptions to that rule are some not-half-bad banh mi sandwiches and the pho itself: it comes in one variety only, with tendons, meatballs, and (optionally) thinly sliced filet mignon, but it's a contender for Buffalo's best. $10-35.
- 44 The Black Sheep, 367 Connecticut St. (Metro Bus 7), ☏ . M-Th 5PM-10PM, F Sa 5PM-11PM. Building on the eclecticism of Bistro Europa, the previous eatery from owners Steve and Ellen Gedra, Black Sheep's brief but kaleidoscopically diverse menu is not just a grand tour of Europe, as before, but a round-the-world adventure: selections change frequently, but shareable small plates have included classic pierogi, pakora with squash and onion drizzled with spicy basil lime aioli, and (as always) the famous cheese and charcuterie boards, while full-size mains tend to be a touch less adventurous (think in terms of roast or fried chicken, pasta preparations, and gourmet burgers). The common threads running through everything are an emphasis on locally-sourced farm-to-table ingredients, and, in the words of one reviewer, "eyes-rolling-in-the-back-of-your head delicious[ness]". $35-75.
- 45 Las Puertas, 385 Rhode Island St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 12), ☏ . Tu-Sa 5PM-10PM. Casa Azul downtown is Victor Parra Gonzalez's innovative take on Mexican street food, but it's here where his culinary majesty truly comes into bloom. No mere upscale Mexican restaurant, Las Puertas' menu is an eclectic fusion of some of the most daring cuisine Buffalo has to offer, where French cooking is easily the most prominent (but hardly the only) secondary element. Standouts include ceviche with a spicy tomato sauce that's an interesting addition to the flavor profile, a guacamole appetizer garnished with salty caramel brittle (!) and crushed spicy crickets (!!!), and an exceptionally creative take on bone marrow: puréed into a mousse, dressed with beef consommé, tomatillo, and onion ash, and stuffed back into the bone before being served. Small plates predominate, so come prepared to mix and match. $30-75.
- 46 Left Bank, 511 Rhode Island St. (Metro Bus 7 or 12), ☏ . M-Th 5PM-11PM, F Sa 5PM-midnight, Su 11AM-2:30PM (brunch) & 4PM-10PM. Would you believe Left Bank was once a daring innovator on the Buffalo restaurant scene, serving an eclectic menu of upscale New American cuisine since 1992 in a neighborhood that, in those days, many had left for dead? Fast forward to the present and it's largely the same menu; nowadays many people describe Left Bank as staid and dated, but why fix what isn't broken? Offerings are categorized into small plates of rustic "peasant fare" (featuring the best fried calamari in the city) and more upscale "bourgeois fare" (the ahi tuna tartare is a particular standout), and a slate of artful full-size mains of steak and chops, seafood, and pasta, all served in an ambience that's arty meets industrial meets pub. Off-street parking is available, too; a rarity in this part of town. $25-55.
- 47 Providence Social, 490 Rhode Island St. (Metro Bus 7 or 12), ☏ . M-W 5PM-11PM, Th-Sa 5PM-midnight, Su brunch 11AM-3PM and dinner 5PM-10PM. Providence Social closed in January 2018, then reopened under new management a few months later. The ambience is the same: pure gangland-era Art Deco, appropriately enough for a place that was once the scene of a Mafia hit. But the food is... different now. The menu is still well-executed, though not as creative as it used to be — today you'll find as many options in the realm of "upscale takes on old favorites" (i.e. stuffed banana peppers with garlic crostini; chicken Napoleon in Grey Goose tomato cream sauce) as innovative new creations — and the new owners seem to have taken a shine to Italian cuisine, with a wide range of pasta dishes, chicken and veal piccata, and the like. Brunch is big business too, with mimosas all around. $35-70.
The following pizzerias are located in Prospect Hill, Five Points, and the Lower West Side. 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.
- 48 Pizza Town, 859 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5 or 40), ☏ . Daily 11AM-midnight.
- 49 Ricotta's, 349 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 3, 5, 29 or 40), ☏ . M-Sa 11AM-11PM, Su 11AM-10PM.
- 50 Family Dollar, 517 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 29 or 40), ☏ . M-Sa 8AM-9PM, Su 9AM-9PM.
- 51 Tops, 425 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 3, 5, 29 or 40), ☏ . Daily 6AM-midnight.
- 52 Horsefeathers Winter Market, 346 Connecticut St. (Metro Bus 3 or 22), ☏ . Nov-May: Sa 10AM-2PM. Every Saturday morning during the winter months, the ground floor of Horsefeathers Market is transformed into a winter farmers' market where over twenty farmers and vendors from all across Western New York sell fresh produce and locally crafted artisanal food products — cookies, jams and jellies, even organic dog treats and local wine.
Black Rock and Riverside
Black Rock and Riverside's restaurant scene is in a state of flux. Of course you have the working-class, "real Buffalo" greasy spoons that have been here since time immemorial, including a surprising wealth of pizza and homestyle red-sauce Italian fare that's among the best in the city (Hertel, eat your heart out). But meanwhile, the dazzling multicultural diversity of the West Side proper has been bleeding northward, and there's now a healthy roster of Asian, African, and Latin American options to choose from as well.
- 53 Angie's Pizza House, 1904 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 32 or 40), ☏ . Lunch: M-F 10AM-2PM; dinner: daily 4PM-9PM. Don't come expecting textbook Buffalo pizza: Angie's version is a hybrid, sporting a thin crust and wide, flat pepperoni that are more typical of the New York style, but also the same odd, off-putting sweetness in the sauce that you'll find elsewhere in Western New York. Pizza is only the beginning of the story, though: simple but reliable Italian favorites like ravioli, eggplant parm, and spaghetti and (homemade) meatballs earn raves, and there are also hot and cold subs, more elaborate fare like steaks and chops, and a surprisingly competent rendition of chicken souvlaki. Friday fish fry packs the house, too. Cash only. $10-15.
- 54 El Encanto, 2179 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 23, 32, 35 or 40), ☏ . Tu-Sa 11AM-8PM. El Encanto is Buffalo's largest Puerto Rican restaurant not only in terms of physical size, but also the variety on its menu. You'll find all the standards of boricua cuisine, of course, but also a selection of more obscure specialties not available elsewhere in the local area: bacalaitos (battered codfish fritters), asopao de pollo (a mildly spicy chicken and rice stew that is Puerto Rico's national dish), and jibarito de bistec (not on the regular menu but offered frequently on special, this shaved steak sandwich with lettuce and onion comes on slabs of fried plantain that substitute for the bread). The environment is bright and cheery, the flavors are as authentic as any you'll find in the city, and the owners really aim to please. They also offer delivery on orders of $15 or more. $15-25.
- 55 Emily's, 183 Hertel Ave (Metro Bus 5, 23, 32 or 35), ☏ . M-Sa 8AM-8PM, Su 8AM-3PM. Emily's could be accurately described as a classic blue-collar, mom-and-pop Greek diner, but that would be selling the place a bit short: for one, a small slate of Lebanese specialties including kofta over rice and homemade labneh are also served; for another, the food is a cut above what you'd expect. In a delightfully dated ambience is served a host of hearty, homestyle American fare like meatloaf, liver and onions, and porkchops; sandwiches, burgers, and wraps (including that old-school Buffalo standby, fried bologna); and — of course — all your favorite Greek-American standards such as souvlaki and gyro, served either "open" or as full-size entrees with a side of potatoes prepared how you like them. $5-20.
- 56 Family Thai, 863 Tonawanda St. (Metro Bus 5, 35 or 40), ☏ . M W-Sa 11AM-9PM, Su 11AM-6PM. If you've been to the West Side before, you may remember Family Thai from their lengthy stint in the West Side Bazaar's International Kitchen a couple years back. If so, you know the drill: the menu does not stray far from usual standards like pad thai, tom yum soup, red and green curry, and the like, but rest assured that the flavors are far more vibrant and the preparations far more authentic than your average American Thai joint. Sadly, it's not completely the same experience — many popular favorites from the Bazaar days (including the spicy yum nua beef salad) have been axed from the menu — but there's now a selection of Burmese specialties on offer that rivals the Thai ones in deliciousness. Service is friendly, portion sizes are huge given what you pay — what more could you ask for? $10-25.
- 57 Louie's Original Footlong Hot Dogs, 1893 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 32 or 40), ☏ . Daily 10:30AM-9PM. Not to be confused with the similarly named local chain, Louie's Texas Red Hots, the Black Rock satellite location of Louie's Footlongs sports an identical menu to the original in Tonawanda, featuring an ample selection of chicken, steak, and sausage sandwiches (if you're especially hungry, try the gargantuan half-pound "Big Luigi" Italian sausage sandwich topped with capocollo, provolone, roasted peppers, sautéed onions and spicy sauce), burgers, and — of course — flame-grilled, charred-to-perfection hot dogs. To drink you can enjoy your choice of fountain sodas or milkshakes if you like, but "loganberry iced tea" is the house specialty, and it's a real treat. $5-15.
- 58 Lucy, 916 Tonawanda St (Entrance on Crowley St., Metro Bus 5, 35 or 40), ☏ . Tu-Th 10AM-9PM, F Sa 10AM-10PM, Su noon-8PM. Much like its namesake (a 3.2 million-year-old fossil australopithecus discovered in 1974 in Ethiopia), Lucy is a pioneer: Buffalo's first Ethiopian restaurant, in business since 2012. Slow and inattentive service are forgiven for the chance to feast on huge portions of doro watt, tibs, sambusa, and other favorites that come packed with flavor, not overwhelmingly spiced, and with plenty of injera on the side. Vegetarians and vegans are well cared for, and unique among Buffalo Ethiopian eateries, a full slate of breakfast options are offered (you can sample four of them via the $9.99 "Lucy Special"). Wash it all down with some of the most delicious sweet chai Buffalo has to offer, but perhaps more interestingly, on Saturday evenings from 3PM-7PM a free traditional coffee ceremony is held. $10-25.
- 59 Riverside Café, 800 Tonawanda St. (Metro Bus 5, 23, 32 or 35), ☏ . M-Th 7AM-2PM, F 7AM-7PM, Sa 8AM-7PM, Su 8AM-3PM. "Local" is the operative word at this friendly, homey greasy spoon (actually, that's probably not the right term to use — this place is spic and span): the lunch menu features a rogue's gallery of Buffalo specialties like beef on weck, Texas hots, fish fry on Friday and Saturday nights, and fried bologna sandwiches made with locally-produced Sahlen's frankfurters, Mineo & Sapio Italian sausage, and Costanzo's rolls. But Riverside Café may be even more popular at breakfast, with a gargantuan menu that ranges from the usual eggs-toast-sausage-bacon permutations to more specialized dishes like a pepperoni and salsa omelette and flaky homemade biscuits topped with sausage gravy. $5-20.
- 60 Faso's, 2126 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 23, 32, 35 or 40), ☏ . M-F 11AM-9PM, Sa Su 4PM-9PM. The building is all decked out in red, white and green, prices are low, and the decorative elements are delightfully tawdry (colored Christmas lights up all year, framed portraits of the Rat Pack, and plaster Virgin Mary sculptures abound). But if you're expecting yet another cookie-cutter red-sauce joint, think again: with an owner who's "actually from Italy, not an nth generation [Italian-American who doesn't] know any Italian except throwing paisan' into conversation" (to borrow the words of one reviewer), what Faso's serves is the genuine article. Pasta is scratch-made in house, the "best seafood menu on the Buffalo Harbor" includes shrimp fra' diavolo, swordfish steak Italiano, and scallops cooked any way you like, and sandwiches and the like are on offer for those who want (marginally) smaller portions. $10-35.
- 61 Lin Restaurant, 927 Tonawanda St. (Metro Bus 5, 35 or 40), ☏ . Daily 11AM-10PM. Yet another addition to the roster of options on the West Side for fans of Southeast Asian cuisine. Though more than half of Lin's menu is comprised of Thai dishes (mostly the standard lineup of curries, fried rice, and noodle dishes available with chicken, beef, pork, or seafood, but with a few surprises mixed in if you look), it's in the Burmese section where the cooks here really strut their stuff in terms of creativity and authenticity: savory samosas are the star of the show in the appetizers department, tea leaf salad rivals the stuff at Sun, and mohinga is made the authentic Burmese way. Copious options are available for vegans and the gluten-free crowd, but those who like spicy food might not be quite satisfied with the preparation here (for best results, have them make your food "Thai hot"). $15-35.
- 62 Sun, 1989 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 23, 32, 35 or 40), ☏ . M-Th 11:30AM-10PM, F Sa 11:30AM-10:30PM, Su 11:30AM-9:30PM. It's old hat for local foodies these days, but Sun was the first place in Buffalo to serve Burmese food — back when it opened, owner Kevin Lin, unsure how locals would take to his homeland's specialties, hid them on a section of the menu labeled "Vietnamese". Today the range of offerings is gargantuan, with a menu broken down into Burmese (labeled as such), Thai, and Asian fusion sections featuring curries, rice and noodle dishes, soups, and yummy appetizers. Specialties include pickled tea leaf salad (Sun's version is no longer the best in town, with a more subdued flavor profile, but locals carry a torch for it), as well as the "black rice menu": a range of sushi rolls, salads and desserts prepared using an unusual variety of rice once reserved for the elites of the Chinese imperial court. $15-45.
- 63 Viking Lobster Company, 366 Tonawanda St. (Metro Bus 5, 32 or 40), ☏ . W-Sa 5PM-9PM. A classic case of "don't judge a book by its cover": hidden inside a somewhat shabby-looking building in a residential area is arguably the finest restaurant in Black Rock. Viking Lobster's menu comprises all the seafood basics while also making room for a few interesting innovations, such as steak-stuffed lobster and a creative take on paella. The prices are justified by the impeccable quality of the food, which either comes from Upstate New York's largest live-lobster holding pens located onsite, or is shipped directly from coastal processors for maximum freshness. If seafood isn't your thing, the modest range of steaks, ribs, and roasted chicken dishes tend to be lower in price than the rest of the menu. Summertime sees folks flock to the raw bar on the patio. Reservations required. Cash only, but there's an ATM onsite. $25-65.
- 64 Dollar General, 437 Tonawanda St. (Metro Bus 5, 23 or 32), ☏ . Daily 8AM-10PM.
- 65 Dollar General, 827 Tonawanda St. (Metro Bus 5, 35 or 40), ☏ . Daily 8AM-9PM.
- 66 Family Dollar, 2213 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 23, 32, 35 or 40), ☏ . Daily 8AM-10PM.
- 67 Riverside Market, 740 Tonawanda St. (Metro Bus 5, 23, 32 or 35), ☏ . Daily 8AM-9PM.
The following pizzerias are located in Black Rock and Riverside. 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.
- 68 Angelo's Pizza Plus, 955 Tonawanda St. (Metro Bus 5, 35 or 40), ☏ . Tu-F 11AM-10PM, Sa 2PM-10PM, Su noon-10PM.
- 69 Doyle's, 1981 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 32 or 40), ☏ . Daily 9AM-10PM.
- 70 Pat's, 544 Ontario St. (Metro Bus 5), ☏ . M-Th 10AM-midnight, F Sa 10AM-1AM, Su 2PM-11:30PM.
Grant-Ferry and the Upper West Side
Grant Street has a growing coffeeshop scene, but as for actual nightlife, the Upper West Side is decidedly lacking. If you're in the mood for a drink, your best bet is to head east to Elmwood.
- 1 Albert's, 296 W. Ferry St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 12), ☏ . "The Flavor of Old Times" is the slogan, and on a stretch of the West Side where the only constant lately has been change, Albert's is certainly a throwback to a different era. Albert's is an honest-to-goodness blue-collar gin mill serving cold beers and simple cocktails at cheap prices in a no-frills environment, along with a food menu highlighting classic Greek diner specialties and a renowned fish fry each Friday.
- 2 Free Street Tavern, 1469 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 26 or 40), ☏ . Although it dates back only to 2019 — and although the drink list is as heavy on craft microbrews as any other Buffalo-area watering hole these days — there's something very old-school about Free Street Tavern. That's very much by design: from the cozy dimensions of the place, to the exposed brick walls covered with old "Jimmy Griffin for Mayor" swag, to the hearty comfort-food menu, to its very name (an homage to childhood days spent at his grandma's house on the namesake Portland, Maine street), owner Joshua White is aiming to hit customers in the nostalgic feels with a chilled-out, carefree ambience. If beer isn't your drink of choice, check out the cocktail menu, which sticks to the classics but does so with skill and verve.
- 3 Gypsy Parlor, 376 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 26), ☏ . By comparison with the diversity of the West Side as a whole — and even of their own food menu and events calendar — the Gypsy Parlor's mood-lit, loungey barroom comes off as an anomaly, almost a throwback to the Grant Street of old. But if you want a break from the constant multicultural exploration, this might be just the place for you. Interesting specialty cocktails abound, the clear favorite among which is the "Gypsy Juice" (apricot, ginger, lemon and blackcurrant added to your choice of booze; the flavors complement each other a lot better than you’d think).
- 4 Resurgence Brewing, 1250 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 12 or 40), ☏ . The original location of this popular craft brewery boasts a German-style outdoor beer garden featuring homemade brews and light snacks, as well as bocce courts and a fire pit. In the winter, the operation moves to an indoor tap room with ample views over the brewhouse.
- Sports City Pizza Pub, 1407 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 26 or 40), ☏ . On the whole, Sports City Pizza Pub is a pretty good reflection of a neighborhood that's only just beginning its ascent: there are a few concessions to the hipster element (namely, two dozen or so craft brews on tap, an industrial-informed decor with snazzy but subdued colored LED lighting around and under the bar, and some moderately interesting specialty pizzas on the food menu), but at heart, this place is a good old-fashioned blue-collar neighborhood dive, and it lives up to its name with more than a dozen TV screens tuned to various sporting events. Bills and Sabres game days see a rowdy (but friendly) crowd gathered to cheer on the hometown teams.
- 5 The Tabernacle, 211 Lafayette Ave. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 26), ☏ . Step Out Buffalo described the Tabernacle as "an acid flashback", and as soon as you step inside, you'll understand why: pretty much every interior surface is covered with garishly colored, trippy frescoes, like a surrealist Sistine Chapel. The Tabernacle is Prish Moran's unconventional take on an Irish public house, with a range of drinks that's way more apropos than the decor: Guinness on tap crowns the beer list (otherwise populated with a sampling of local craft brews), and Scotch and Irish whiskeys dominate the selection of liquors. There's also a short menu of pub grub and a busy events schedule.
- 6 Tailored Tea & Coffee, 68 Grant St (At the Grant Street Bazaar; Metro Bus 3, 7 or 12). M-F 10AM-10PM, Sa 10AM-7PM, Su 9AM-7PM. It's not only the namesake caffeinated libations that are on offer: Tailored Tea & Coffee affords Grant Street Bazaar customers the opportunity to relive their childhood breakfasts courtesy of pretty much every brand of sugary cereal you can imagine. $10-25.
- 7 Sweet_ness 7, 220 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 26), ☏ . M-F 7AM-9PM, Sa 8AM-9PM, Su 8AM-6PM. Since 2007, Prish Moran has operated her friendly old-world coffee shop in this beautiful and historic old Victorian building on Grant Street. Popular with artists, hipsters, and Buffalo State College students, Sweet_ness 7 serves fresh gourmet sandwiches, salads, soups, pizza, and pastry along with the coffee, and their breakfast is also very popular with locals.
The ascent to hipness of the Grant-Amherst bar scene is still in its early stages, so a night out here is still a good way to experience Buffalo's unpretentious, blue-collar side. These places really pack 'em in during Bills and Sabres games, and if you're on the lookout for a good fish fry, you're in luck.
- 8 Barry's Bar & Grille, 277 Amherst St. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☏ . Barry's is a lovably scruffy dive where a cross-section of Grant-Amherst residents — everyone from blue-collar construction workers to college kids to the hipsterati — come to enjoy cheap cold beer in an unpretentious environment. But they're probably best known for their superlative food menu, which includes a great beer-battered fish fry made with Yuengling beer. Don't expect much in the way of customer service, though; these folks tend toward the surly.
- 9 BlackBird Cider Hall, 155 Chandler St., Suite 4 (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☏ . Newly hip Chandler Street is home to this second location of Niagara County's farm-to-table craft cidery of choice (the original is located next to their orchard in Barker), with over 30 ciders and beers (their own and those of other New York State producers) to enjoy either in the indoor barroom, which has preserved all the rustic charm of the former Linde Air Manufacturing building, or outside in the courtyard on a patio complete with bocce ball court and a couple of firepits for those nippy autumn evenings.
- 10 Casey's Black Rock, 484 Amherst St. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☏ . Back after an extensive renovation process, the venerable Casey's Tavern has upped the ante. No longer just another in the lineup of Amherst Street gin mills; the new owners have revamped the place into a friendly neighborhood haven for fans of old-school bar games (there are four pinball machines and an old school Pac-Man arcade console to whet your competitive whistle), a solid beer list and competently-made classic cockatils, and a comfort-food menu lauded in the pages of Gusto (if you're a soul food aficionado with a big appetite, try the chicken & waffles bucket). But the most shocking development of all? Casey's 2.0 is a Kansas City Chiefs backer bar (owner Vincent Garofalo is an expat), which as you can imagine takes cojones in a town where loyalty to the Bills runs deep.
- 11 The Dapper Goose, 491 Amherst St (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☏ . Though the food menu is no slouch, it's the bar that has earned the Dapper Goose most of its hype thus far — served in a rustic, pastel-painted dining room with what Step Out Buffalo described as a "turn-of-the-century supper club feel" is a modest but carefully selected range of creative cocktails that highlights locally produced craft spirits from the likes of Lockhouse Distillery and Tommyrotter, as well as an impressive wine list founded on European (especially French) vintages and a respectable selection of beer and cider too.
- 12 Hot Mama's Canteen, 12 Military Rd. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☏ . The bar at Hot Mama's features not only a great selection of beers on tap but also a fully restored vintage shuffleboard table left over from the old days, when the bar was called Hilliker's Pastime. Co-owners Valerie Meli and Jeff Davis bring a funky Allentown-type vibe to this place — they're alumni of Nietzsche's and Allen Street Hardware, respectively — for an overall effect that is "a throwback to the old muscle car and pinup days", according to one reviewer.
- 13 The Phoenix at 269, 269 Amherst St (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☏ . Going toe to toe with the Phoenix's ambitious food menu is their barroom, serving a modest but expertly curated selection of wines and specialty cocktails that really attest to this place's upscale touch, as well as a decent selection of local and regional craft brews in bottles.
- 14 Rohall's Corner, 540 Amherst St. (Metro Bus 20 or 32), ☏ . Amherst Street's roster of bars includes a wide diversity of places, from scruffy dives full of hardscrabble working Joes to hoity-toity establishments where trendy hipsters congregate. And then there's Rohall's, the best of both worlds: a hipster dive. (Don't misinterpret that: the ambience is not seedy, but it definitely feels like you've gone back in time to an old corner tavern from the '50s or '60s.) Belly up to the bar for a beer list that splits the difference between obscure imports, local microbrews, and workmanlike PBRs and Genny Cream Ales, or else head to the back room to shoot some pool, play a tune on the upright piano, or take in some live music.
- 15 Thin Man Brewery, 166 Chandler St (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☏ . The satellite location of not one but two of Buffalo's favorite bars and restaurants: Mike Andrzejewski of downtown's Tappo and Mike Shatzel of the original Thin Man on Elmwood team up to offer not only a selection of tasty wood-fired pizzas from the former but also the same fantastically discerning eye for fine beer that you see at all the latter's various area spots. On tap here are mostly selections from Thin Man's own superlative line of house-brewed beers as well as a handful of New York State-sourced hard ciders, with only a scant few of the craft brews and imports Shatzel is known for. They serve mixed drinks too, but be prepared to pay ungodly prices for middling portions.
- 16 Ukrainian-American Civic Center (Narodnij Dim), 205 Military Rd. (Metro Bus 3 or 23), ☏ . One of the last of the old ethnic social clubs that Buffalo used to have by the dozens, the "Uki Club" isn't like the other bars on this list. It's only open on Thursdays and Fridays, and to get in you must either be a member or be sponsored by a member (usually as simple as calling ahead and asking). But it's worth the trouble, especially on Fridays when Maria is on hand to serve some of Buffalo's best pyrohy and holubtsi to go with your ice-cold Ukrainian and Polish beers, along with a killer fish fry, in an unpretentious old-school ambience. Plus, they've got the hard-to-find "One Foot Cock" barreled krupnik from the Buffalo Distilling Company around the holidays.
- 17 Waxlight Bar à Vin, 27 Chandler St (Metro Bus 3 or 32). The offerings at the bar may not quite compare to the astounding diversity of their food menu — indeed, that would be a high bar to clear — but that's not to say the wine list doesn't run the gamut of styles and regions and plumb more deeply into the "deep cuts" than practically any other place in Buffalo. If the variety is a bit too much, the knowledgeable staff is always more than happy to suggest a pairing. Cocktails (tea-based, even!) are creative and crowd-pleasing as well.
Coffee shops and juice bars
- 18 Ashker's, 414 Amherst St. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☏ . M-Sa 6AM-9PM. For a description of this local chain of juice bars, see the main Buffalo article.
Prospect Hill, Five Points, and the Lower West Side
Though D'Youville College is located in Prospect Hill and much of the area is populated by students, there is no real agglomeration of greasy spoons and watering holes around it as there is near Buffalo State College or UB South Campus. This is likely because the nightlife of the Elmwood Village and Allentown is within easy striking distance. There is a small cluster of spots in Five Points, but those are hipster hangouts, not college bars.
- 19 The Black Sheep, 367 Connecticut St (Metro Bus 7), ☏ . At this Connecticut Street destination better known for its maddeningly eclectic menu of locally-sourced gourmet cuisine, you can also enjoy a selection of beers curated by Community Beer Works at a bar made of wood salvaged during the thorough restoration process that preceded the Black Sheep's opening.
- 20 Community Beer Works, 520 7th St. (Metro Bus 5, 22 or 40), ☏ . Community Beer Works was founded as Buffalo's first nanobrewery, but now that it's moved into its spacious new production facility on the Lower West Side, it's questionable whether that description applies anymore. At the attached taproom, you'll find 20 different beers on tap at any given time — from CBW perennials like "Frank" and "The Whale" to a rotating selection of seasonals, test batches, and "guest" brews — along with bar snacks and even a game room.
- 21 Essex Street Pub, 590 Rhode Island St. (Metro Bus 7 or 12), ☏ . If you've read Wikivoyage's coverage of the bars in neighboring Allentown and thought to yourself "that seemed like it was a really nice scene before the knucklehead frat bros took over", head to Essex for the closest thing to it that's left. This small, cozy dive bar offers cheap drinks, a food menu of house-smoked barbecue, a couple of pool tables and a dartboard, and a chilled-out ambience where you don't have to shout to hold a conversation. Come down for left-of-the-dial DJ sets on "Attack of the Vinyl Mondays", or on Tuesday nights for "Kold Az Ice Karaoke".
Coffee shops and juice bars
Despite the aforementioned lack of a D'Youville-area bar district, the coffeeshop scene in Prospect Hill (along with nearby Five Points) is among the most vibrant in Buffalo, with an übertrendy vibe very much in sync with the West Side's emerging identity.
- 22 Remedy House, 429 Rhode Island St. (Metro Bus 7 or 12), ☏ . M-Th 6AM-10PM, F Sa 6AM-11PM, Su 6AM-5PM. This is it, folks: peak hipster in Buffalo. An airy space with two walls of windows offering a panoramic view of Five Points' namesake intersection, Remedy House matches its straight-outta-Williamsburg vibe with a staggering range of expertly roasted coffee and tasty loose-leaf tea that's packed with nuanced flavor (for the superlative example of this, opt for the cortado), plus a selection of pastry sourced from local bakeries and even beer and wine. Best of all: if the foregoing conjures up visions of blasé service from a staff of trust-fund kids who think they're better than you, prepare for the polar opposite. The only downsides are that the space is tiny and can get cramped during peak hours (to avoid that, hit up the sidewalk patio), and prices for anything other than coffee are astronomical.
- 23 Tipico Coffee, 128 Fargo Ave. (Metro Bus 3, 5, 22 or 40), ☏ . M-F 6AM-9PM, Sa 7AM-9PM, Su 7AM-8PM. With an out-of-the-way location in a leafy residential area, Tipico is the best-established of the Lower West Side's hipster coffeeshops: if you can't make it to the shop, you'll find their coffee poured at restaurants all over Buffalo. If you can make it there, the experience is a mixed bag: thumbs up for the coffee itself (locally roasted and served in both drip and pour-over iterations; smooth, full-bodied and above all strong); thumbs down for high prices and omnipresent flies (the latter an unfortunate side effect of keeping the floor-to-ceiling windows open in summer); "meh" for a pleasant but grungy ambience (chipped flatware and dusty tabletops are almost the rule rather than the exception).
And for cat lovers, Niagara Street is where you'll find...
- 24 Buckminster's Cat Café, 577 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 22 or 40), ☏ . Tu-F 10AM-6PM, Sa 10AM-8PM, Su 11AM-5PM. Buckminster's is one of two cat cafés in Buffalo, and by comparison with its competition, it's less expensive and sports a somewhat longer and more diverse menu (local craft beer and cider are served, and breakfasters should check out the French toast sandwich, wherein bacon, egg and cheese are set between two slices of the namesake treat!), but with somewhat shorter business hours. As usual, the dining room is strictly separated from the cat area, and there are additional rules and restrictions governing the latter: to wit, Buckminster's charges $5 a head to enter the Cat Zone, no more than five people are allowed in at a time (in the warm months when the "Catio" is open, that number doubles to 10; advance reservations are a good idea in either case), and kids under 12 must be accompanied by an adult. But if you just want to nosh in the café, fear not — you can still watch the kitties frolic and play through the glass dividing wall!
Black Rock and Riverside
The bars of Black Rock and Riverside are real, honest-to-goodness blue-collar gin mills. No fancy microbrews or other pretenses here, just a room full of neighborhood Joes knocking back cold ones after a long day on the job. If you want local color, you can do no better.
- 25 Croatian Club (Holy Name of Jesus Croatian Fraternal Union Lodge #557), 226 Condon Ave. (Metro Bus 3, 5, 35 or 40), ☏ . Like the Ukrainian Center on Military Road, this is another of Buffalo's dwindling roster of ethnic social clubs that testify to the true melting pot that this part of town was in the early 20th century. If you're picturing a dimly-lit, wood-panelled barroom with neighborhood old-timers warming the stools, you're on the money, but since the Cro Club was bought from its former owners by longtime city councilman Joseph Golombek, the ethnic identity has been as much Polish as it is Croatian: yes, you can still get šljivovica plum brandy imported from Croatia, but also ice-cold Tyskie beer on tap.
- 26 Parkside Tavern, 1125 Tonawanda St. (Metro Bus 5, 35 or 40), ☏ . It's not called Kate's anymore, but the "friendly neighborhood watering hole on the corner" vibe is intact at this newly reopened spot in the heart of Riverside. The cozy Parkside Tavern sports a limited yet gamut-running selection of beers on tap (plus a range of hard liquor that's describable in similar terms) sold to you in a spotlessly clean and warmly convivial environment at down-to-earth prices.
- 27 Poize, 2081 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 23, 32, 35 or 40), ☏ . If you're looking to dance the night away at a club but don't want to deal with the parking hassles of Chippewa — and especially if you like hip-hop music — then Poize might be the nightlife option for you. A classy experience tailored to an urban clientele, here you can sip on top-shelf liquor at a bar lit up with rainbow LED lights, have a snack from a food menu featuring the best lemon-pepper wings you've ever tasted, or bust a move on one of two dance floors during Friday and Saturday night DJ sets.
- 28 Unknown Club, 44 Saratoga St. (Metro Bus 5, 35 or 40), ☏ . This unusually-named, delightfully rough-around-the-edges neighborhood dive has been pouring cheap cold beers since 1970 to a rogue's gallery of regulars who all know each other, which is not to say that you as a newbie will be made to feel left out. The Unknown Club really packs 'em in on Sunday afternoons when the Bills play, as well as during the annual Black Rock Riverside Oktoberfest celebration.
After the closure of the Porter Avenue Pied-à-Terre, the West Side went the better part of a decade without any accommodation of its own. That changed in 2018, when the former Dr. Hubbard A. Foster House on Wadsworth Street was converted to a bed and breakfast. If that doesn't suit your needs, the next closest hotels are the many located downtown. If you're on a budget, a quick five-minute drive north into Tonawanda will take you to a selection of low-cost motels of varying quality clustered around exit 15 of Interstate 190 and exit 1 of Interstate 290.
- 1 Buffalo Harmony House, 70 Wadsworth St. (Entrance on St. John's Pl., Metro Bus 7 or 22), ☏ . Check-in: 4PM, check-out: 11AM. Upstairs at this charming B&B, five guest rooms sport names and decor schemes inspired by Western New York's endemic bird life: the lower-end but still lovely "Blue Jay Billet" offers the standard amenities of queen bed, free WiFi and wired Internet, 42" LCD TV, charging station with clock radio, and private bathroom with hair dryer, while in the top-of-the-line "Hummingbird Haven" the bed is upsized to king and adorned with an antique brass frame, and the bathroom has a restored clawfoot tub. Downstairs is where breakfast is served: a changing menu of slow-cooked, healthy homemade fare by candlelight on fine china for that upscale touch. And all over the house, architecture buffs will swoon at the exquisitely restored Queen Anne-style features. $149-349/night in high season.
The 6 West Side Post Office is at 465 Grant St. on the Upper West Side.
Those in search of WiFi would be best off heading for one of the two public libraries located on the West Side: the 7 Isaías González-Soto Library located at 280 Porter Ave. adjacent to Prospect Park, and the 8 Elaine M. Panty Library, at 820 Tonawanda St. In addition to WiFi, all Buffalo public libraries have computer terminals with Internet access (18 of them at Isaías González-Soto, eleven at Elaine M. Panty) that are free of charge and available to all.
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. The question of whether crime is more prevalent on the West Side or the East Side is very much an open one, but despite the official numbers which are roughly neck-and-neck, the latter is probably a bit more dangerous. On the one hand, the suspicion and mistrust of police that's pervasive on the East Side likely means that many crimes committed there go unreported; on the other hand, the fact that the West Side is being colonized by upwardly mobile young people eager to reclaim a formerly marginal neighborhood means that crimes are probably reported more consistently there than elsewhere.
Still, there's no denying that crime remains a serious problem on the West Side. How serious the threat is depends very much on where you are and what time it is. Sadly, the center of the West Side action — Grant-Ferry — is also its most dangerous area, with robberies, muggings, and occasionally violent crimes depressingly frequent along Grant Street between Hampshire Street and Auburn Avenue. Other problem areas include the Lower West Side (particularly the blocks north of Connecticut Street and west of 15th Street) and Black Rock (Niagara Street between Austin Street and Hertel Avenue). If you're visiting Buffalo, by all means enjoy the sights and sounds of these vibrant districts, but a bit of common sense goes a long way. Make absolutely sure to keep your car locked and valuables out of sight, and keep a low profile in situations that don't feel right. Also, try to make yourself scarce after dark, especially if you're on foot — areas like Grant-Ferry that seem friendly and vibrant by day can take on a more sinister character after the sun goes down. At the very least, stick to well-lit thoroughfares and keep your wits about you.
By contrast, Riverside and Five Points are merely average in terms of crime, and Prospect Hill and Grant-Amherst's crime rates are downright low.
Panhandling isn't nearly as big a problem around here as in other areas of Buffalo. You'll occasionally see a few of them near the shelter on Tonawanda Street in Riverside, and a few beggars make nuisances of themselves at the West Side Bazaar. For now, though, this is the exception rather than the rule. As elsewhere in Buffalo, aggressive panhandling is almost unknown; if you don't want to give, a firm "no" almost always does the trick.
The West Side Times and the Riverside Review are sources for news and business listings in their respective neighborhoods.
The nearest hospitals are Buffalo General Hospital, at 100 High St. in the Medical Corridor, and Kenmore Mercy Hospital, at 2950 Elmwood Ave. in Tonawanda.
For non-emergency situations, 9 West Side Urgent Care is located on the Lower West Side at 564 Niagara St., between Jersey and Pennsylvania Sts.
Laundry and dry cleaning
Grant-Ferry and the Upper West Side
- 10 Ferry Street Laundry, 277 W. Ferry St. (Metro Bus 3 or 12), ☏ . Daily 8AM-9PM.
- 11 The Laundry Spot, 584 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3 or 7), ☏ . Daily 10AM-8PM, later on weekends (flexible).
Prospect Hill, Five Points, and the Lower West Side
- 12 Connecticut Coin Laundry, 401 Connecticut St. (Metro Bus 7). Daily 7:30AM-10PM.
- 13 Niagara Coin Laundry, 546 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 5, 22 or 40), ☏ . Daily 8AM-11PM.
- 14 Porter Avenue Coin Laundry, 136 Lakeview Ave. (Metro Bus 5, 22 or 40), ☏ . Daily 24 hours.
- 15 Vega's Exclusive Dry Cleaners, 233 Niagara St. (Metro Bus 3, 5, 20 or 40), ☏ . M-F 9:30AM-5:30PM, Sa 11AM-2PM.
Black Rock and Riverside
- 16 Riverside Laundromat, 252 Ontario St. (Metro Bus 5). Daily 7AM-9PM.
Places of worship
Though the Catholic Church is still a formidable presence on the West Side, its once-unquestioned domination of the district's religious life has been eroded somewhat in recent years (notably, by Hispanic Evangelicalism). Much like in the East Side but not nearly to the same degree, palatial churches that once housed Catholic congregations have been closed and in many cases repurposed, such as the former St. Francis Xavier in the heart of Black Rock which is now the Buffalo Religious Arts Center, as well as St. John the Baptist on Hertel Avenue.
Also, though the area where it's located would be better described today as part of downtown, the weekly Italian-language Mass at St. Anthony of Padua RC Church is a great way to get a taste of what the West Side was like 50 or 60 years ago, as Lower West Siders of years past stream back into the old neighborhood to catch up with their neighbors and wax nostalgic about days gone by.
- 17 All Saints RC Church, 127 Chadduck Ave. (Metro Bus 5), ☏ . Mass Su 8:30AM & 11AM, Sa 4PM, M-F 8:30AM (in parish center). All Saints Catholic Church was founded by Bishop Charles Colton to serve the largely Irish population of the then-new neighborhood of Riverside. The present building — the third to house the congregation — is a handsome Colonial edifice dedicated in 1937 and home to a "Mighty Wurlitzer" organ donated by famous hotelier and local native son Ellsworth Statler. All Saints remains a robust congregation headed by longtime pastor Angelo Chimera.
- 18 Assumption RC Church, 435 Amherst St. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☏ . Mass Su 9AM & 11AM, Sa 8AM & 4PM, M-F 7AM & 8AM. With the completion of the New York Central Railroad's Belt Line in 1883, the eastern outskirts of Black Rock began to develop into Buffalo's second Polish neighborhood — a sort of little brother to Broadway-Fillmore — and Assumption Church, headed at the outset by the Rev. Theophil Kozlowski, was its nucleus. The current church, a majestic "Polish Cathedral style" edifice built in 1914 to a design by the local firm of Schmill & Gould, is still a fairly active one of about 2,500 registered members.
- 19 Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary RC Church, 348 Dewitt St. (Metro Bus 3, 5 or 40), ☏ . Mass Su 9AM, Sa 8AM & 4PM, M-F 8AM. Located on the Upper West Side, Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary is where the Reverend Peter Hai Nguyen says Mass to Buffalo's Vietnamese immigrant community.
- 20 Holy Angels RC Church, 348 Porter Ave. (Metro Bus 3, 5, 22 or 40), ☏ . Mass Su 9AM, 10:30AM & noon (Spanish), Sa 8:30AM & 4PM, M-F 8:30AM. Located in Prospect Hill, Holy Angels is one of the oldest Catholic churches in Buffalo, founded in 1859 in what was then a middle-class Irish community on the outskirts of town by Bishop John Timon, in conjunction with several Oblate Fathers from Marseille. The addition in 1874 of the transept, sanctuary, and choir completed the building to its present appearance. Holy Angels has been a West Side anchor in the midst of the myriad changes that have taken place since then — neighborhood demographics have shifted from Irish to Italian to Hispanic (one Spanish-language Mass is still said every Sunday) to a multicultural pastiche, and the building is now an island in the middle of the greatly expanded D'Youville College — but the friendly and welcoming church community, 1,400 families strong, soldiers on.
- 21 Holy Cross RC Church, 345 7th St. (Metro Bus 5, 29 or 40), ☏ . Mass Su 10:30AM (English) & 12:30PM (Spanish), Sa 4:30PM (bilingual), M-W & F 8:30AM (English), Th 6:30PM (Spanish). Holy Cross was founded in tandem with the growth of the Italian community in its surrounding neighborhood, and has managed to remain a vital cornerstone of the Lower West Side despite the great changes that have taken place there over the century of its existence. Holy Cross today is a congregation that is vibrant and multicultural, but largely Hispanic, and Mass is said in both languages. True to the Italian tradition, the interior of the church is bedecked with scores of statues of the Madonna, many of which were brought over by the original parishioners from the old country.
- 22 Our Lady of Hope RC Church, 18 Greenwood Pl. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 26), ☏ . Mass Su 9AM & 11AM, Sa 4PM. Our Lady of Hope is the West Side's newest Catholic church, founded in 2009 as a merger of Annunciation (in whose handsome Gothic edifice the current congregation worships), Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and Our Lady of Loretto parishes. Here, with the help of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the Rev. Mitch Byeck ministers to a congregation that's ever-growing in size and diversity.
These are largely concentrated in Black Rock and Riverside, where the majority of the West Side's remaining Protestants live.
- 23 Charity Baptist Church, 350 Austin St. (Metro Bus 3 or 32), ☏ . Services Su 11AM. The former First Hungarian Baptist Church — a humble yet handsome wood-frame building on Austin Street in Grant-Amherst erected in 1912 as one of the few surviving works of local architect John Coxhead — has been reborn as the home to an "independent, fundamental, Bible-believing, soul-winning, compassionate gospel-preaching Baptist church" where the imposing Pastor Pete Wigdor offers old-fashioned, plainspoken solutions to the real problems of modern-day people. Charity Baptist Church's dedication to community outreach is exemplified not only in the Sunday morning services where regulars and visitors alike are welcomed with open arms, but with programs such as a weekly "Movie Night", a community food pantry, and occasional special events.
- 24 First United Methodist Church, 332 Baynes St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 26), ☏ . Services Su 11AM. If you're a Western New York history buff, sorry to say that this is not the same First Methodist Church that was founded in 1819 in what was then the Village of Black Rock and led for many years by the Reverend Glezen Fillmore, cousin of the former president Fillmore — it's actually an unrelated congregation that was founded in 1912 and so named because it was the only remaining Methodist Episcopal congregation in the city at the time. Nonetheless, if you're just looking for a pleasant faith experience, Pastor Scott Lamont Johnson continues to lead weekly services for a small but vibrant and welcoming flock in the austere but lovely skylit interior of this handsome stone church.
- 25 Grace Community Church, 175 Potomac Ave. (Metro Bus 3, 5, 26 or 40), ☏ . Services Sa 6:30PM. With an innovative and community-based approach to ministry, Grace Community Church is a multiethnic Wesleyan congregation that seeks to "put the neighbor back in the 'hood". At the "House of Grace" on Potomac Avenue on the Upper West Side, Pastor Casper "Cap" Farrow not only preaches the word to his own flock, but also teams up with three other congregations to steward a wide gamut of community outreach programs.
- 26 Nazareth Lutheran Church, 265 Skillen St. (Metro Bus 3 or 5), ☏ . Services Su 9AM. Nazareth Lutheran Church has been a steadfast presence in Riverside almost since the dawn of the neighborhood's history: it's been located on the same site since it was founded in 1914 as a mission of Calvary Lutheran Church in Cold Spring, and its current building — a charming little red-brick church in a simplified English Gothic style, with stained-glass windows from Pike Studio in Rochester — was erected in 1949. Today, Nazareth remains a friendly and welcoming congregation headed up by Pastor Dwayne Hendricks and affiliated with the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church. The church also does double duty as home of the Boys' & Girls' Clubs of the Northtowns, a testament to its commitment to community betterment.
- 27 Ontario Street United Methodist Church, 179 Ontario St. (Metro Bus 5), ☏ . Services Su 9AM. Founded in 1891 as a mission of the Richmond Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church, the Ontario Street United Methodist Church is a community linchpin whose humble but handsome 1914 edifice has been spruced up with a community garden, learning center, meeting space for neighborhood improvement programs, and other resources for Riverside residents. Best of all, pastor Nathan Lange, who also does double duty as leader of Trinity Methodist Church in Grand Island, maintains a friendly, open congregation that receives visitors with the utmost hospitality.
- 28 RiverRock Church (Buffalo Myanmar Indigenous Christian Fellowship), 410 East St. (Metro Bus 5, 23, 32, 35 or 40), ✉ email@example.com. They call themselves "An Assembly of Nations in the City", and it's no exaggeration: much like Victory International (see below), the congregation that meets in the former St. John the Baptist Catholic School building in Black Rock is a multicultural and multilingual one, with Sunday services held onsite in English (10:30AM), Burmese (2PM), plus Kirundi-language worship in the home of parishioner John William (email the church for details regarding this). Whatever your background, RiverRock is a welcoming and nonjudgmental venue for heartfelt worship in the Wesleyan tradition, headed up by the Rev. Dr. Robert Tice, a man with an interesting life story (according to his bio on the church's website, he was "converted to Christ out of Buffalo’s drug and music culture in the 1970s — from the Rolling Stones, to the Rock of Ages") and a long resume in the Western New York faith community.
- 29 Riverside Baptist Church, 346 Ontario St. (Metro Bus 5), ☏ . Services Su 11AM. From humble beginnings as a small mission in a little-developed tract north of Black Rock, Riverside Baptist Church's storied, century-long history has as a common thread an emphasis on bringing the faith into the community at large — ministering to children, the sick, and the elderly, organizing charitable efforts and programs for the less fortunate, and, of course, feeding the spiritual hunger of a robust and diverse congregation. An independent, Bible-believing Baptist church headed by the Rev. Rick English, Riverside Baptist is an inclusive congregation that welcomes all.
- 30 St. John's United Church of Christ, 85 Amherst St. (Metro Bus 5, 32 or 40), ☏ . Services Su 10AM. One of the oldest extant churches in the city, what was once called St. John's United Evangelical Church was founded in what was then the independent Village of Black Rock in 1847 — a fortuitous time, shortly ahead of a flood of German immigrants who would soon populate the vicinity. The interior of the current building, which dates to 1891, has been painstakingly restored to its original splendor. For all the history surrounding it, today St. John's United Church of Christ is a fairly unassuming place — set back on a leafy street surrounded by picture-perfect 150-year-old saltbox houses — and the congregation is as warm and friendly as all that sounds.
- 31 St. Mark's & All Saints Episcopal Church, 311 Ontario St. (Metro Bus 5), ☏ . Services Su 8AM & 10:30AM. The Reverend Henry Grace is the preacher at the West Side's sole Episcopalian church, the product of a merger between the two titular parishes that occurred in recent years. Adding to the pleasure of worship among St. Mark's & All Saints' friendly congregation is the building itself, a little sandstone church in Riverside built in a charming English country style.
- 32 Victory International Assembly of God, 688 Tonawanda St. (Metro Bus 5, 23, 32 or 35), ☏ . Services Su 10AM (English), 1:30PM (Burmese), 4PM (Kinyarwanda), & 7PM (Spanish); M 7PM (Burmese); Th 7PM (Spanish). An integral part of the Riverside community since 1933, the word "international" is no misnomer here: under the leadership of head pastor Dr. Ronald Thorington, Victory International Assembly of God goes further than any other West Side parish in spreading the good news to all the stripes of the neighborhood's ethnic rainbow — Sunday services are held in four different languages! Dr. Thorington's preaching style mixes the traditional with the contemporary, the rousing with the pensive, and the emotional with the didactic — the best of all possible worlds for everyone of all stations in life.
Though the community is still overwhelmingly Catholic, evangelical Protestantism has begun to make major inroads among Buffalo's Hispanics. The West Side's Hispanic Protestant churches are occasionally large enough to worship in proper church buildings, but as with the African-American churches of the East Side, far more often they are small congregations that meet in converted storefronts or residences. There are far too many churches to include all of them on this list; below are the largest and most important ones. Except where indicated, all services are held in Spanish.
- 33 Asamblea de Iglesias Cristianas Buffalo (Assembly of Christian Churches), 213 Ontario St. (Metro Bus 5), ☏ . Services Su noon. Erected in 1931, the former Ontario Street Presbyterian Church is now home to Buffalo's chapter of this Hispanic Pentecostal denomination. Asamblea de Iglesias Cristianas is "a church that loves the Lord and our community" and visitors, too, with an approach that emphasizes evangelism and community outreach. Sunday services are followed by a free lunch for all congregants.
- 34 Buffalo Hispanic Seventh Day Adventist Church (Iglesia Adventista del Séptimo Día), 213 Vermont St. (Metro Bus 3), ☏ . Services Sa 9:30AM, W 7PM. On Saturday nights at 7PM, Pastor Miguel Calderón preaches to a small congregation of about two dozen faithful in a handsome Lower West Side brick building.
- 35 Community Church Jehovah Jireh, 62 Virginia St. (Metro Bus 5, 29 or 40), ☏ . Services Su 11AM. Active for over three decades and counting, the newly renamed Jehovah Jireh is Buffalo's first Hispanic Methodist congregation, active for over three decades and counting. Services that blend traditionalism with a contemporary, even innovative, touch that speaks to modern-day Hispanics are led by Rev. Dr. Alberto Lanzot in a gleaming new church building a few blocks from Niagara Street. Jehovah Jireh is a congregation that is inclusive, welcoming to visitors, and at the forefront in working to address the issues facing the Lower West Side community.
- 36 Destiny Church (Iglesia el Destino), 172 15th St. (Metro Bus 3). Services Su 10AM, W 7PM. At the former Our Lady of Loretto Catholic Church, the charismatic Pastor Daniel Nieves heads up rousing, modern-style Pentecostal services conducted bilingually and with an emphasis on youth-oriented ministries. At El Destino, music, dancing, and other performances are incorporated liberally into worship services to better reflect the concerns and lifestyles of real-life people.
- 37 Iglesia El Calvario, 221 East St (Metro Bus 5, 32 or 40), ☏ . Services Su 2PM. Rev. Osvaldo Torres heads up this friendly, family-oriented Assemblies of God congregation that meets weekly in the former Ripley Memorial Methodist Church, a handsome Romanesque Revival building in Black Rock that dates back to 1889. Services at El Calvario are generally in Spanish, but the congregation is bilingual and welcoming to folks of all stripes — and the rousing sermons and loving environment make for a moving faith experience.
- 38 Iglesia Hispana Metodista Libre Nueva Visión, 168 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 26), ☏ . Services Su 1PM, Tu 7PM. A Free Methodist Church that serves Buffalo's Hispanic community, Nueva Visión was founded in 1996 by Pastor Miguel Carcaño, a native of the Dominican Republic who preached to a congregation that at first consisted of only a handful of people, but later grew to regularly overwhelm the Grant Street building it holds services in thanks to his tireless efforts in engaging the community, often on a door-to-door basis.
- 39 Iglesia Lo Esencial, 93 Massachusetts Ave. (Metro Bus 3, 5, 12 or 40), ☏ . Services Su 12:30PM & Tu 7PM. Taking its name from a passage in the Gospel of Matthew, the ministry philosophy espoused by pastor Anthony Serrano focuses on lo absolutamente esencial para vivir (what's absolutely essential for life). Two Spanish-language services a week take place in a converted 1880s-era brick commercial building at the corner of Massachusetts and Prospect Avenues.
- 40 Iglesia Misionera Pentecostal, 224 Hudson St. (Metro Bus 3, 5, 29 or 40), ☏ . Services Su noon. Located at the corner of Hudson Street and Fargo Avenue, Iglesia Misionera Pentecostal has been active since 1991. In addition to the Spanish-language services that take place every Sunday, a youth ministry and men's and women's groups are also held, on Thursday and Tuesday respectively.
- 41 Iglesia Pentecostal Elohim, 461 W. Utica St. (Metro Bus 7 or 12), ☏ . Services Su 2PM. Pastor Benjamín Bonilla helms friendly and lively Sunday services held at a lovely, stout stone building that was built in 1911 for the Trinity Swedish Lutheran Church. In addition, various ministries also take place throughout the week.
- 42 Prince of Peace Christian Church (Iglesia Cristiana Príncipe de Paz), 190 Albany St. (Metro Bus 3, 5, 12 or 40), ☏ . Services Su 10AM. This Hispanic Pentecostal congregation was founded in 1989 on the Upper West Side and features rousing bilingual services in the former home of the Normal Park Methodist Episcopal Church, led by a husband-and-wife team of pastors, Ángel and Midian Gauthier.
- 43 Spanish Church of God (Iglesia de Dios Hispana Camino al Cielo), 168 Forest Ave. (Metro Bus 3, 5 or 40), ☏ . Services Su 6:30PM; Tu, Th & F 7:30PM. Since 2010, the former home of the Forest Avenue Church of Christ — a pleasant wood-frame Tudor-style building erected in 1894 — has been a venue for energetic Pentecostal services held four times weekly in Spanish with Pastor Daniel Drohin at the helm. At the Spanish Church of God, there are frequent guest preachers, healing services, and special ministries aimed at the needs of men, women and children.
- 44 All Nations House of Prayer, 104 W. Ferry St. (Metro Bus 5, 12 or 40), ☏ . Services Su 11:30AM. The stout, red-brick Richardson Romanesque edifice that was once home to the West Avenue Presbyterian Church — a storied congregation of old whose roots stretch back to 1831 — was pressed into use in 2010 by pastors Sean and Tammi O'Brien as the home of the independent Pentecostal church they lead. In addition to joyous, energetic services attended by a congregation that's multiracial but majority African-American, All Nations hosts frequent revivals, youth-focused events, and other happenings.
- 45 Debre Selam Medhane Alem Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, 700 Tonawanda St (Metro Bus 5, 23, 32 or 35), ☏ . Services Su 8AM. Buffalonians of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo faith — a growing community of immigrants from Ethiopia, Eritrea and neighboring countries that's centered around Grant Street in the Upper West Side — now have a place of worship to call their own. The former West Side Hungarian Evangelical & Reformed Church, a stout brick edifice in Riverside that dates back to 1923, has been repurposed as the Debre Selam Medhane Alem Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. Lively, friendly, and multiethnic services led by head priest Aba Hailemariam Mewded take place weekly.
- 46 Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses (Salón del Reino de los Testigos de Jehová), 152 Albany St. (Metro Bus 3, 5, 12 or 40), ☏ . Services Su 9:30AM & 3:30PM.
With a steady stream of incoming immigrants from the Horn of Africa (among other places), the West Side is a growing center of Muslim culture in Western New York.
- 47 Al-Khulafa Mosque, 215 Forest Ave. (Metro Bus 3, 5 or 40), ☏ . This humble storefront mosque on an out-of-the-way stretch of Forest Avenue on the Upper West Side serves a largely African congregation.
- 48 Masjid al-Eiman, 444 Connecticut St. (Metro Bus 7 or 22), ☏ . A combination mosque and Islamic community center that is a gathering place for a wide variety of events relevant to the West Side Muslim community, al-Eiman is a small, quaint mosque with a diverse congregation and a traditional Sunni orientation. Services are held bilingually in English and Arabic and comprise all prayers, including formal jum'a.
- 49 Masjid Bilal (Buffalo Islamic Community Center), 358 Grant St. (Metro Bus 3, 7 or 26), ☏ . After nearly 20 years tending to the needs of the Upper West Side's burgeoning Muslim community from its former home on Potomac Avenue, in 2019 the Buffalo Islamic Community Center finally completed its move into this larger space down the block, where daily prayer services and Friday jum'a are conducted in Arabic and later translated into Somali and English. In addition to that, Masjid Bilal plays host to a wide range of other spiritual and educational activities as well.
Fort Erie, Ontario is what you see when you look across the river from Broderick Park and the Bird Island Pier. Located a short distance yet seemingly a world away from the gritty West Side, Fort Erie is a charming small city with something for everyone: a compact, strollable downtown, the meticulously reconstructed Old Fort Erie that saw action in the War of 1812, the excitement of the Fort Erie Racetrack, and, further afield, wide-open farmland and some of Canada's finest freshwater beaches along the Lake Erie shore. Fort Erie is also the southern terminus of the beautifully manicured Niagara Parkway, which extends 34 miles (55 km) along the Canadian riverfront and was praised by none other than Sir Winston Churchill as "the prettiest Sunday afternoon drive in the world."
Wondering where all the Italians ended up that you've heard mentioned a few times in this article? Or maybe you've just tucked in to a nice dinner at Faso's in Black Rock or the Armory Restaurant in Prospect Hill and are hungry for more? Look no further than North Buffalo, Buffalo's own Little Italy. Hertel Avenue is a lively strip of pizzerias and homestyle Italian restaurants, cute boutiques stuffed with imported knickknacks, and bars whose clientele would do the cast of Jersey Shore proud. North Buffalo is a lot more multifaceted than that, though: you've also got world-class architecture in Parkside, Central Park, and Park Meadow, college dives in University Heights, and the Buffalo Zoo, which comes in second only to the Falls as the Niagara Frontier's most-visited tourist attraction.
Want to see what the West Side will probably look like in ten years? Head east to Allentown for a sneak-peek. On the leafy side streets you'll see charming one- and two-story brick Victorian cottages of the same kind that the Lower West Side and Prospect Hill have, but in much better repair. Fans of the galleries in Grant-Amherst will also be in heaven here in the nucleus of the Buffalo arts community. The buzzing nightlife on Allen Street has a leg up on the West Side's lackluster bar scene, too: it's the foremost destination in Buffalo for hipsters, fans of local music, and urban "characters" of all types.
Lastly, fans of diamonds in the rough — not to mention admirers of palatial ecclesiastical architecture such as Black Rock's St. Francis Xavier and St. John the Baptist — might want to head to the East Side. Locals will try to scare you with stories of crime, poverty, and urban blight, and the East Side's reputation is not totally undeserved. But the longstanding stigma that hinders investment dollars and redevelopment efforts from penetrating east of Main Street does nothing to dim the majesty of architecturally stunning churches like St. Ann and St. Stanislaus, the charm of longstanding ethnic markets like the Broadway Market, or the vitality of cultural institutions like the Buffalo Museum of Science and the Colored Musicians Club. These are true hidden treasures, so why not take the opportunity to take advantage of what even locals miss out on?