Dining


by Matt Steinberg

If you’re craving Italian food, Buffalo has you covered. From Chef’s downtown to Cecelia’s in the Elmwood Village to Lombardo’s in North Buffalo, there are a ton of places here where you can satisfy your pasta jones. This is also community that loves mom and pop places – we are serious locavores. This being said, there is a chain place out in the ‘burbs that you should seriously consider trying. Bravo! is located on the ground level of the Walden Galleria in Cheektowaga, and I had a fantastic lunch there recently. My friend, who is an Italian cuisine connoisseur, recommended that we go there, and I wasn’t disappointed. She started with a delicious tomato bisque, followed by a perfectly pressed mozzarella, tomato and pesto panini, while I had salad and a wonderful plate of lasagna that seemed to be homemade. The decor is a fun, family friendly Romain ruin, and the menu had something for everyone’s taste.

I know what you’re thinking – it’s a chain, and it’s in the mall. But don’t let that stop you – Bravo isn’t your typical mall eatery. It’s definitely worth a trip.

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by Matt Steinberg

My family and I had lunch recently at Chef’s, my favorite restaurant in Buffalo, and one of the city’s landmarks. Open since 1923, Chef’s has served generations of Buffalonians understated but exquisitely prepared Italian fare like lasagna, veal parmesan and chicken cacciatora. However, on your first visit, one of your party must order their signature dish, spaghetti parmesan. Pasta doesn’t come with simpler ingredients or preparation – a plate of lightly sauced spaghetti covered in mozzarella, then baked, and served with a cup of their famous tomato sauce for dipping. I’m not sure what the secret is (I sure can’t replicate it at home), but decades of practice has perfected their technique. Combined with a loaf of warm bread, a meatball or sausage and a glass of wine, this is a classic (and filling) meal that I order almost every time I go. Aside from it’s delectable dishes, Chef’s is also where many of Buffalo’s movers and shakers congregate to make deal or just share a meal, so you never know what CEO, media type or ballplayer you’ll see in the dining room. One caveat – reservations are highly recommended any time, but are an absolute necessity whenever the Sabres or Bandits are in town; without one, you won’t get in.

For more information, check out www.ilovechefs.com, or take a trip to the corner of Seneca and Chicago Streets and taste it for yourself. This trip was my son’s first experience, and judging by the smile on his face, it won’t be his last.

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by Karen Huefner
Upon completing my final essay in graduate school, I pretty much vowed that my schooling days were over. That was until Wine School came into my life. Gone are the days of sitting in the back of class, doodling in my notebook waiting for 9th period to end. At Wine School, it’s chair closest to the teacher, arrive ten minutes early and ask as many questions as I can.

Bacchus restaurant located in downtown Buffalo on Chippewa Street offers Wine School every other Wednesday for those who want to have an intimate lesson on a grape’s most valued byproduct. Taught by a certified sommelier, each class touches on a specific type of wine from a specific region. The class I attended focused on Pinot Noir’s of California. Mmm…

There were 12 of us in the class and they sat us at a table right in the main dining room. With a set of wine glasses in front of each of us, we had a chance to sample 4 wines ranging in price and taste. Mike, the sommelier, gave a down-to-earth approach to the lesson and gave us a blow-by-blow as to what makes a Pinot Noir a Pinot Noir. It was fantastic!! The wine tasting also includes two food pairings. The leg of lamb and sea bass they served were incredible and the wine truly complemented the food beautifully. Mike answered everyone’s questions and provided personal suggestions and tips on wine buying. The class lasted about 2 hours and for a girl who used to only drink Riesling, I was rather impressed and left eager to sign up for the next one! Something different to do on a Wednesday night, especially if you time your trip to Buffalo right!

For more information, go to the Bacchus website. Salud!

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by Susan Braun

Visiting the Broadway Market in preparation for Easter has been a tradition in Western New York for more than 100 years. Although it is open all year round, this is the busiest time of year for the market which extends its hours on the days leading up to Easter. The aisles are filled with throngs of enthusiastic shoppers. Many of the businesses at the Broadway Market are well-known to regular shoppers because they have been owned by the same families who pass them from one generation to the next. Seasonal food and craft vendors are also on the scene at this time of year. Cakes, pastries and other baked goods, candy, meats, fish, butter lambs and prepared Polish foods abound. You can have a cup of coffee, eat a piece of poppy cake and listen to live musical entertainment. Bring your kids to visit the Easter Bunny and see how many marshmallow peeps they can consume in one minute at the second annual Peep Eating Contest at 1:00pm on Saturday March 27th. For more information about the Broadway Market and all the Easter-related events taking place there, visit broadwaymarket.org or call 716-893-0705.

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By Karen Huefner
The Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives caught my attention from day one. While some of us don’t want to admit it, some of the best local food joints are the tiny neighborhood hole-in-the-wall establishments that ooze charm and character. Those two qualities are exactly what I found when I bellied up to the counter at Lake Effect Diner – a recent stop for Guy Fieri and his “Triple D” crew. This old-fashioned dining car-style diner offers a hearty menu of homemade classics. Not being a regular consumer of this type of fare, I felt that in order to get an authentic experience I was going to have to opt for a meatloaf and mac-n-cheese entrée. That was until I opened the menu, and the chocolate chip pancakes were staring me straight in the eye. I don’t typically break the traditional dinner boundaries by ordering breakfast in its place, but today was the day.

With my first bite of the triple stack, my decision was confirmed as a positive one. The pancakes were incredible. Extremely moist and not overly-chocolatey (which is typically a downfall of adding chocolate chips to pancakes). The best part of the entire meal was the side of maple butter positioned at the top. Between the butter and the natural sweetness of the pancakes, no syrup necessary! The pancakes were THAT good that I needed to call our server over to ensure the compliment got back to the line cooks. She revealed that they cut their batter with a bit of 7Up to keep them fluffy – go figure! The side of ham I ordered was equally as tasty with just the hint of honey to tickle the tongue. I topped the meal off with a cup of Lake Effect’s coffee and my experience was complete.

If you’re looking for a nostalgic dining experience back to a time when life was as simple as pancakes and coffee, swing by Lake Effect Diner next time you’re in town.

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by Matt Steinberg

My wife and I decided to hit downtown for dinner this past weekend, and chose Seabar to satisfy my sushi jones. Chef Mike Andrzejewski’s two locations (Ellicott Street downtown and Main Street in Williamsville) serve the best sushi, sashimi and rolls in town, in my humble opinion. My wife ordered the seared steak special, while I, being very hungry, got the sashimi special, ramen bowl, spicy tuna roll and one of the most unique (and delicious) dishes you’ll ever have – Chef Mike’s Beef on Weck roll. The only thing it has in common with an ordinary sushi roll is it’s shape. A center of rare beef is surrounded by rice, another slice of rare beef, and finished off by coarse salt and the requisite caraway seeds, served on a plate with a drizzle of horseradish sauce. In spirit, it’s just like a bite size beef on weck sandwich, but so much more in this form. I can’t emphasize the following point enough – if you go to Seabar, GET IT. Don’t think about it, just order it. You wouldn’t go to the Anchor Bar and not get chicken wings, would you? ORDER IT.

As incredible as the beef on weck roll is, the other parts of our meal were equally delightful. My wife’s steak was extremely tender and tasty, and it was accompanied by a serving of delicious spinach and herb noodles (which she liked even more than the steak). I started with a small plate of sashimi, containing five different selections, including a wonderful Spanish mackerel. A bowl of ramen noodles was next, but this isn’t anything like the packets you ate in college. A rich broth contained hearty noodles, shrimp, and vegetables, and was very filling. I shared the aforementioned beef on weck roll with my wife, and then finished my meal off with a divine spicy tuna roll.

It being Lent, we skipped dessert, but I’ve had the tempura banana split in the past, and highly recommend it. If you’re looking to save a little money (and who isn’t), go between 4:30 and 6:00 for a 20% happy hour discount. For more information, check out Seabar’s website at www.seabarsushi.com

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by Karen Huefner

I love food. Love everything about it. Love preparing it, shopping for it, ordering it and most importantly love eating it. Needless to say, I rarely pass up seconds so Season Two of Nickel City Chef is no exception. In today’s world where Lagasse, Batali and Ray have become household names, food is king. Nickel City Chef embraces that and is equivalent to Buffalo’s own ‘Iron Chef America’, pitting two local chefs against each other to create the tastiest concoction out of a secret ingredient. (If I was the one in charge of that “secretive” intel, I’d go with cottage cheese. What could you possibly come up with to make with cottage cheese?)

Season Two kicks off this Sunday, February 21st with 8 events through the end of June. All throwdowns take place in the stunning loft showroom of Buffalo’s Artisan Kitchens & Baths. I’m pretty sure you haven’t been there so when I say it’s stunning, it truly is stunning.

Tickets are on sale NOW for this culinary competition and since you’re already on the computer, hit up www.NickelCityChef.com to get your tickets before they sell out. Your ticket price includes catered snacks and access to a cash bar during the event. Three days was all it took last year for tickets to vanish, so act fast.

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