36 Broadway Ave., Buffalo, NY 14203
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Buffalo Coffee Sandwiches Tea
"We really enjoyed the Sweet Potato Pie ($1.50), served in a perfectly small pie tin that was great to share alongside coffee, tea, and a small lunch: fresh and sweet, but not too sweet."
Have any plans for Easter? You probably do. But how about the day after Easter? Well, if you're in Western New York, there's a better than average chance that the answer is yes, thanks to Dyngus Day - also known as Easter Monday. In most parts of the world, Dyngus Day comes and goes without much notice, but Polish neighborhoods in Buffalo have been celebrating it for over 130 years, with certain venues hosting events for roughly a half-century; momentum built for a city-wide event, and an official parade started in 2006. To get into the spirit of the upcoming holidays, we decided this week to revisit the Broadway Market - one of 19 official Dyngus Day sites this year, and the starting point for the official Dyngus Day parade - as well as stop for coffee at The 2nd Cup nearby. Here's the story, along with a full interactive map of all of the sites where Dyngus Day 2009 is being celebrated.
Readers may recall that we last visited the Broadway Market months ago, finding it in rough shape: perhaps half of its vendors were open, then only partially, with very light foot traffic even on a weekend at noon. Boy, do things change at the Market when Easter and Dyngus Day approach: though the same vendors were there, so too were the other half, and business was extremely brisk. There was barely room to move between people within the now narrow aisles, as people lined both sides of each aisle waiting to buy everything from pussywillows to butter lambs. The pussywillows are used as switches, for guys and girls alike to flirt by tapping each other, and the butter lambs are traditional table items in Polish Catholic Easter meals. Our pictures show off some of this year's elaborate hand-molded lambs, offered by multiple vendors at the Market for prices between $3 and $13. Painted Easter Eggs, Polish pottery, and numerous other seasonal items were all on hand, too.
New to the Market this time was a small, temporary collection of local wineries who have set up shop on the previously closed off second floor. Vetter Vineyards from Westfield, NY was one we hadn't seen before, offering a collection of wines - including an interesting blueberry one - while Niagara Landing, Vizcarra, and The Winery at Marjim Manor all had tables set up, too. Separately, a local wine merchant was offering bottles from a number of different local wineries who weren't individually represented elsewhere upstairs. A quick trip on the escalators offers Market visitors a convenient way to sample some of the area's wines without doing a full wine tour; the bottles we saw on offer were generally affordable, selling for $10-$15 a piece.
The lead up to Easter and Dyngus Day also transforms the Broadway Market into an almost amazing snack food den. In addition to the numerous Polish and Italian desserts noted in the prior report, we spotted Crystal Beach sugar waffles being sold by the stack, and vendors such as the Bavarian Nut Company selling their glazed almonds and pecans by the bag - note: they're not as good cold in the bags as they are warm off the heating table. There were also a number of large sweet shops set up to cater to the crowds; Kelly's Country Store was just one of several that were packed from wall to wall with chocolates, jarred candies, and the like. It was amazing to see how much sugar the Market had waiting for its customers.
If you haven't been to the Broadway Market before, now's the time to visit, especially if you have Easter meal needs or haven't been shopping recently for meats or sweets. We even spotted a City restauranteur in line at one of the seafood stores buying fish - it's the only place nearby he can find good red snapper, he said. Who knows, maybe you'll find something worth bringing home, too?
Since we were in the area, we took the opportunity to stop off at a relatively new coffee shop, The 2nd Cup, to grab lunch. Located at the nicely cleaned up far end of Broadway, 2nd Cup isn't affiliated with the Canadian Starbucks-alike Second Cup, but it's commonly owned with the EM Tea Coffee Cup Cafe, a shop near Canisius on Oakgrove and Hughes. The staff are dressed in EM Tea uniforms, and the logo - a nearly empty coffee cup (get it?) on a saucer - is shared between the businesses, which like Spot Coffee's shops have made names for themselves by offering beverages, light brunch fare, and desserts alongside large rooms where members of the community can get together and talk. As we waited for our food to arrive, we found that the dining area was almost entirely filled by a meeting, which ended just as our dishes came out; like Chow Chocolat, another nearby drinks and sweets place, 2nd Cup's beautiful photo-lined brick walls, nice wood tables, and spacious seating area all give off the impression of a modern, clean, and safe locally-owned place to get a cup of coffee in the city.
The food and drinks ranged from okay to good. We really enjoyed the Sweet Potato Pie ($1.50), served in a perfectly small pie tin that was great to share alongside coffee, tea, and a small lunch; it was pretty fresh, sweet but not too sweet, and just unique enough in flavor to distinguish itself from pumpkin, taro root, and similarly sweet starchy pies. Another winner, albeit a little bit less impressive in ingredients, was the Portabella Mushroom Panini ($7), four pieces of fresh and perfectly toasted but plain white bread with provolone, roasted red peppers, onions, and a balsamic vinaigrette dressing. Served just right - hot - in temperature, the flavors were all spot on, with the vinaigrette adding a slightly sour tinge to the absorbent mushroom bits, but between the white bread, the goopy cheese, and the relatively small cuts of Portabella, the textures seemed a little off. It was good, but with better cheese and bread, it would have been great. We had our choice of bagged chips or a small salad with the Panini, and brought the chips home for a later snack.
A small, cardboard bowl of Jerk Chicken Soup ($3.50) was alright, a few pieces of lightly jerk-flavored chicken breast meat mixed with plenty of rice and a more traditional, creamy chicken broth. It was hot, tasted fine, and wouldn't have been identified as jerk chicken if we hadn't known to hunt for the flavor in the chunks of meat. The 2nd Cup served the soup with a sliced, outstanding croissant, which like the Panini was surprisingly good for something so simple - we alternately had the choice of an accompanying bagel. Costanzo's rolls are listed on the menu as an ingredient for the place's $4.50 deli sandwiches, and Bagel Jay's is the source for its bagels; if the rest of the bread comes from one of these guys, that would explain a lot about the quality of the food here. Less clear was the origin of 2nd Cup's desserts, which included plenty of interesting slices of $3.50 cake that appeared to be a day or so old; if there had been more than a lonely slice or so of Red Velvet left, we might have sampled that, too. The employees behind the counter were so friendly and charming that we had the odd desire to stuff ourselves trying things.
Bearing in mind that The 2nd Cup is a coffee shop, we were somewhat surprised to discover that the coffee and tea weren't fantastic. We ordered a Red Eye ($2.60), a cup of house blend coffee with an added shot of espresso, and a Chai Latte ($3.33), finding neither to be especially good or bad. Both were a little too watery; the coffee was served from a carafe rather than freshly made, and weak even with the extra espresso. Similarly, though the chai was freshly made with milk, the consistency was on the weak side and the flavor wasn't anything special. We'd lean towards Spot Coffee for drinks if we were in the area, but for a snack, we'd definitely visit again.