I moved back to Buffalo nearly seven years ago, so I’ll gladly take credit for the renaissance that is going on in Western New York. The Buffalo/Niagara Medical Campus, Canalside, HarborCenter and the seemingly constant renovation of historic gems have this area booming for the first time in most of our lifetimes. The greatest thing about this uprising is that while a lot of the new development is exciting, some of the local stalwarts remain, namely the local restaurants.
I took a look back at my Buffalo News restaurant reviews from high school, and was thrilled to see that most of the restaurants remain in business nearly 20 years later. A few of them have changed locations, or expanded. The key here is that there was a successful economic base in Western New York in the form of restaurants — we love to eat and eat well (more than wings).
The renaissance is working because it’s adding to the great history that was already here. For example, one of my reviews was of Pizza Plant, which, of course is now adding its first downtown Buffalo location right in Canalside. So now, restaurants that my generation went to growing up, are expanding into the revitalized areas of Western New York. It’s great for our city’s future.
I typically reviewed places I had been to multiple times – so the reviews are quite positive (I was also 15, so my descriptions aren’t particularly detailed). Apparently the rest of Western New York agrees with me:
January 28, 1997 – Schwabl’s Restaurant
Buffalo has always been known for its roast beef. In my opinion, Schwabl’s at 789 Center St., West Seneca, is one of the main reasons why.
From the first moment you enter to the last bite on your plate, you will absolutely love Schwabl’s. My favorite meal is the roast beef sandwich on white bread, soaking in gravy. The beef is cooked perfectly to your liking. When I ordered it rare, it was about as rare as you could want, and extremely tender. The roast beef is also served on kimmelweck rolls (covered in salt and caraway seeds), a Buffalo tradition.
(UPDATE: Still thriving at the same location – and still great).
March 4, 1997 – Chef’s Restaurant
Located at 291 Seneca St. at Chicago Street, Chef’s is very close to North AmeriCare Park and Marine Midland Arena. It also is one of the best Italian restaurants in the Buffalo area.
Chef’s restaurant is well-known for a very good reason: the incredible food. If you are going to get an appetizer at Chef’s, I recommend the zucchini salad, which consists of zucchini with red peppers and Italian dressing. My favorite meal at Chef’s is veal parmesan, which is breaded veal with melted mozzarella cheese and meat sauce. If you don’t want veal, you can order the chicken parmesan, which has a similar flavor.
(UPDATE: They’ve expanded and added takeout, but that didn’t affect the quality. On a personal note, my wife and I held our rehearsal dinner in the French Connection room. Oh yeah, and the nearby ballpark and arena have new names…)
June 3, 1997 – Original Pancake House
At breakfast time, I suggest getting the buckwheat pancakes. These are dark brown and served with maple syrup. They are more flavorful than regular pancakes and are truly delicious. Another excellent item is pigs in a blanket. The “pigs” are link sausages and the “blankets” are buttermilk pancakes. These are served with “tropical syrup,” which combines orange and pineapple flavors.
(UPDATE: Three locations throughout WNY. I mentioned in my original review that I was not a fan of the omelettes, but they have grown on me over the years.)
February 3, 1998 – Taste of India
Indian food is a rare delicacy in the Buffalo area. When I first visited Taste of India, located in the Northtown Plaza in Amherst, I had not experienced Indian food. When I completed my meal, I had acquired a taste for traditional Indian cuisine.
Every weekday at Taste of India, a lunch buffet is served. It is all-you-can-eat and includes many items that are on the regular menu.
Indian food is very rich, so you have to pace yourself. My favorite dish at Taste of India is the sang panner, a homemade cheese mixed with curried spinach. It is truly extraordinary. The cheese is all melted, but its flavor stands out. The sag paneer, which melts in your mouth, is one of the Taste of India’s many vegetarian specialties.
(UPDATE: Well – the Indian restaurant boom must have come after this review. They are all over the place, including Taste of India’s sister restaurants Jewel of India and India Gate, which are on Hertel and Elmwood, respectively.)
June 22, 1999 – Franco’s Pizza
My favorite item at Franco’s is the Franco’s Super Sub. This is not part of a healthy diet, but I save my calories for it. This enormous sub contains Italian sausage, ham, capicola, hard salami and fried peppers and onions. It also includes mayonnaise or oil and melted cheese. Warning: This is a very large sub . . . no sane person can eat a whole one by themselves. It is 12 inches long. If you plan to eat it yourself, order a mini (8 inches).
The regular pizza at Franco’s is pretty standard. However, the Mexican pizza is outstanding. It comes with beef, piquant tomato sauce, Mozzarella cheese, sweet peppers, onions, black olives and cheddar cheese. The combination of flavors creates an amazing pizza.
(UPDATE – Still very much in business, now with five locations – I’ve been sticking to the regular pizza there lately and it’s great.)
Oliver is a Senior Public Relations Manager for Martin Davison Public Relations. The UConn grad also worked at ESPN and First Niagara Bank prior to joining MDPR.