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The Something About Food? Blog

This is the Something About Food? Blog, where Chef Chris Clarke discusses new podcast episodes, travel, restaurants, and more!

A blog about food, family, and travel by the mostly-vegan Chef Chris Clarke.   

Sum It Up Sunday - Buffalo Summers: The Pros and Con

A gorgeous view across Hoyt Lake to the  Allbright-Knox Gallery , because Buffalo is so much more than abandoned steel mills.

A gorgeous view across Hoyt Lake to the Allbright-Knox Gallery, because Buffalo is so much more than abandoned steel mills.

When I planned my stay in Buffalo, I knew there were 3 things I wanted to do while there:

  1. Eat amazing food. ✅

  2. Hit up festivals and concerts. ✅

  3. Get to know this under-appreciated city. ✅

Yep, I ticked them all off. Here is how it all worked out.

When I attended Canisius College in Buffalo, back in 1986-1990, (during the Buffalo Bills 4-time run to the Super Bowl and 4-time disappointment) I never really got to know the city very well. I didn’t have a driver’s license (more about that another time) and I was drunk about 90% of the time I was there. Friends drove me to and fro, and I knew the names of the bars or restaurants we were going to, but I couldn’t have explained to you where they were. I barely knew which way the West Side and South Towns were located.

Now I know, and word is getting out, that there is more to Buffalo than wings and piles of winter snow. It is now a summer destination for folks who, like me, want to take part in all that the City of Good Neighbors has to offer.

The Pros of Buffalo in the Summer:

Biking on the  Buffalo Rails to Trails  path and then along Ellicott Creek.

Biking on the Buffalo Rails to Trails path and then along Ellicott Creek.

Friends

Of course, I’ve got friends there who I’ve known since the college days. Yet I know that if I go to any event in Buffalo, even if no one I know is there, I’ll find it easy to strike up a conversation with just about anyone. People are friendly here. They say ‘good morning’ on the street or bike path, wave as they go by with their boat on the lake, and offer you space next to them at an event. It took me a minute to remember that when I get together with friends and their families the standard greeting, especially with folks who are older than 30, is a hug and a kiss on the cheek. It’s not an assault, it’s a expression of how they greet you with open arms and hearts.

Festivals

I wrote about the Italian Festival that I hit up the first day I arrived. If I had gotten in a few weeks earlier or stayed a few weeks later I could have gone to the Greek Festival, Irish Festival, and more Church Lawn Fetes than you can shake meat on a stick at. Not to mention all the art festivals. I did catch the Scottish Festival and popped by the Puerto Rican Festival. Your summer calendar will be filled to bursting with all the different events going on about town.

Free Events

Food Truck Rodeos, Shakepeare in the Park and weeknight concerts are going on every night of the week. Olmstead-designed parks (the same Olmstead who designed Central Park in NYC) cover over 850 acres in Buffalo and they host many of the events I mentioned. Buffalonians and others bring their lawn chairs and either tote in their own eats or line up at the food trucks that are almost always around. The Larkinville Food Truck Tuesdays had so many trucks participating that it would take you a few years of summers in Buffalo just to try everything they have to offer.

The Bard has been played in Delaware Park for over 43 years now!

The Bard has been played in Delaware Park for over 43 years now!

Listening to funk, soul, and disco at  The Buffalo Central Terminal , an art-deco masterpiece that needs a little love.

Listening to funk, soul, and disco at The Buffalo Central Terminal, an art-deco masterpiece that needs a little love.

Architecture

One of the many murals in Buffalo City Hall.

One of the many murals in Buffalo City Hall.

For far too many years, Buffalo was perceived to be a gray, depressed city where the loss of the steel and harbor industries left their scars. The renewing of the city that has happened in the last few years isn’t about knocking down the old and bringing in the new. The buildings and homes that were built to last (and have lasted, in some cases, for over a hundred years) are now being restored, reused, and adapted.

The most well-known architect in Buffalo is probably Frank Lloyd Wright with his Martin House as a prime example of his Prairie House ideal. Yet there are many other buildings old and new that speak to the history of the city. From the Art Deco masterpiece that is Buffalo City Hall to Louis Sullivan's Guaranty Building, a 13-story, steel-frame masterpiece clad in elaborate terra cotta panels (where I interned one summer for US Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan). As I wandered around the parks and enjoyed the festivals and concerts, I saw homes that spoke to the care and respect folks are taking when they live there. Gardens, trees, flowers, and green spaces make this an eye-pleasing place to wander.

Getting Around

I didn’t have a car with me this trip so I relied on public transportation and friends to get from here to there and everywhere. There are nine, yes nine, colleges and universities in Buffalo, with nearly 54,000 students attending. That means they need to get around as well, so the city has made it easy with a subway (that I jokingly call “The Elevator” as it only goes from one end of Main St. to the other), buses, bike-shares, bike lanes, and bike paths. The bike lanes and paths aren’t as extensive as some other cities, but I give the city credit for getting it going. I bought a week-long Metro Card for $25 dollars and it more than made up for it’s price as I grabbed buses and hopped on the subway. The longest I waited for anything was 15 minutes. Not bad at all.

Lake Erie

There are so many ways to enjoy the lake that made Buffalo what it is today. You can head down to Canalside and wander or bike along the bike path on the shore, rent a kayak, paddle-boat, or booze cruise, or even hop into a boat that a friend owns to buzz out into the open water. I had the luck to be able to visit a friend up in Crystal Beach, Canada, where she has a house. A day spent sunning, swimming and laughing reminded me of summer’s spent camping at New York State lakes when I was a kiddo. Erie Lake is utilized in every way during the summer, which may make up for the way it blasts the city with its lake effect snowstorms come wintertime.

The Buffalo skyline as we sped by in a friends boat.

The Buffalo skyline as we sped by in a friends boat.

Don’t forget to bring your passport and sunblock when you head to Crystal Beach in Canada!

Don’t forget to bring your passport and sunblock when you head to Crystal Beach in Canada!

Food

Now stay with me here. Sure, Buffalo is known for Chicken Wings, Pizza, Beef on Weck, and hot dogs, and rightly so. While I was there I also had Pakistani, Burmese, Cambodian, Japanese, Palestinian, Thai, Ethiopian, Indian, Chinese, and Jamaican cuisine. And I ate vegan at every single one of them. I also found vegan eats at a family-run hot dog stand, a hipster coffee shop, brewpub, food trucks (aplenty), and a Canadian omnivore restaurant. I was very surprised to find vegan pancakes on the menu at Original Pancake House! I did my darndest to stay away from the sweets at the different bakeries around town, but I did eat a LOT of wonderful bread. North, south, east, west, downtown, and beyond there is food for every taste.

Pakistani Chole at  Appletree Halal Restaurant  just east of the Fruit Belt neighborhood.

Pakistani Chole at Appletree Halal Restaurant just east of the Fruit Belt neighborhood.

There is an entire vegan menu at  Louie’s Original Footlong Hotdogs , right along with the omnivore items. Deb at the counter not only told me about their other vegan offerings, but she sweetly told us to get a move on after eating as we were on our bikes and a storm was coming in. City of Neighbors indeed!

There is an entire vegan menu at Louie’s Original Footlong Hotdogs, right along with the omnivore items. Deb at the counter not only told me about their other vegan offerings, but she sweetly told us to get a move on after eating as we were on our bikes and a storm was coming in. City of Neighbors indeed!

A plate full of plant-based goodness from  Abyssinia Ethiopian Cuisine , who, when they aren’t serving up at the Bidwell Parkway concerts, can be found over at West Side Bazaar.

A plate full of plant-based goodness from Abyssinia Ethiopian Cuisine, who, when they aren’t serving up at the Bidwell Parkway concerts, can be found over at West Side Bazaar.

The Build-Your-Own Toast at  Five Point’s Bakery  means you get their bread topped your way.

The Build-Your-Own Toast at Five Point’s Bakery means you get their bread topped your way.

Rin Thai Bistro  on Elmwood is small, but these Fiery Udon noodles were hearty and spicy!

Rin Thai Bistro on Elmwood is small, but these Fiery Udon noodles were hearty and spicy!

Local chain  Naan-Tastic Indian Food  has a bowl for every mood.

Local chain Naan-Tastic Indian Food has a bowl for every mood.

Hummus, Veg and Pickled Onion board brought folks together over their beers at  Resurgence Brewing Company . (The one down near the water.)

Hummus, Veg and Pickled Onion board brought folks together over their beers at Resurgence Brewing Company. (The one down near the water.)

Nothing to see here, just a veg packed beet sandwich at  335 On The Ridge  in Ridgeway Ontario, and ya can’t beet that!

Nothing to see here, just a veg packed beet sandwich at 335 On The Ridge in Ridgeway Ontario, and ya can’t beet that!

The vegetable bao (bun) from  007 Chinese Food  and that plate of deliciouus garlic noodle salad from  Rakhapura Mutee and Sushi  brought China and Burma to my lunch that day at  West Side Bazaar !

The vegetable bao (bun) from 007 Chinese Food and that plate of deliciouus garlic noodle salad from Rakhapura Mutee and Sushi brought China and Burma to my lunch that day at West Side Bazaar!

A half-loaf of rustic bread from  Bread Hive Bakery and Cafe  made for a lot of tasty toast!

A half-loaf of rustic bread from Bread Hive Bakery and Cafe made for a lot of tasty toast!

The hummus was lovely, and those falafel? Well they don’t brag about them being the fluffiest in Western NY for nothing at  House of Hummus , where you can find many Palestinian specialties.

The hummus was lovely, and those falafel? Well they don’t brag about them being the fluffiest in Western NY for nothing at House of Hummus, where you can find many Palestinian specialties.

A salt bagel with rosemary at the  Elmwood-Bidwell Farmer’s Market  is a very hard-to-beat flavor combo!

A salt bagel with rosemary at the Elmwood-Bidwell Farmer’s Market is a very hard-to-beat flavor combo!

Japanese curry ramen with fried tofu was spicy, full of noodles and flavor at  SATO Ramen .

Japanese curry ramen with fried tofu was spicy, full of noodles and flavor at SATO Ramen.

This massive plate of Jamaican beans, rice and, plantain and was the “small” portion. The vegetable patty and 1/2 that mound were a fantastic lunch at  Kalypso Restuarant .

This massive plate of Jamaican beans, rice and, plantain and was the “small” portion. The vegetable patty and 1/2 that mound were a fantastic lunch at Kalypso Restuarant.

This is The Biff sandwich from  Amy’s Food Truck , who was just one of the numerous trucks at the Larkinville Friday festivities.

This is The Biff sandwich from Amy’s Food Truck, who was just one of the numerous trucks at the Larkinville Friday festivities.

Peanut butter and banana smothered all over the top of these vegan pancakes at  Original Pancake House,  where I was very surprised and happy to see them on the menu!

Peanut butter and banana smothered all over the top of these vegan pancakes at Original Pancake House, where I was very surprised and happy to see them on the menu!

The Con of Buffalo in the Summer:

Humidity

Please notice that there is no plural in con. Honestly, the humidity is the only thing I would have changed. There were times when I was standing still and my ears were dripping, my ears! I don’t know if there is a way for them to de-humidify the whole city before I come back next year, but nonetheless yes, I will return.