Top 100 Buffalo/WNY Foods + Restaurants Guide 2010 (Part 1)

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Top 100 Buffalo/WNY Foods and Restaurants 2010
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The Editors of Buffalo Chow are proud to present the 2010 edition of the Top 100 Buffalo / WNY Foods and Restaurants Guide, an unparalleled independent look at the best culinary destinations in and around Western New York. Our Top 100 is unique: no advertisers, relationships with covered businesses, or external considerations have in any way influenced the creation of this list. Instead, our editors selected the Top 100 purely on merit, recognizing everything from the best of Buffalo's famous tavern foods to the most impressive fine dining establishments, and everything in between. Food quality was the single most important criterion, followed by value for the dollar, service, and ambience; some restaurants excel in specific categories, while others impress in all four.

Below, you'll discover that the 100 selected establishments are each briefly summarized, noting their geographic locations and at least a couple of great picks per restaurant. More importantly, you'll find full linked reviews for every one of the places, as well as photographs that let you know what to expect. While we have numbered the restaurants, they are not in rank order; star ratings and details within the reviews generally provide guidance as to how excellent the individual establishments are relative to local and national competitors. To keep the list manageable, we've split it into five parts, and will be rolling them out one per day over the course of this week.

Part 1: Family Dining: Barbecue, Burgers, European, and Latin/Tex-Mex (You're Here)
Part 2: Tavern Fare: Wings, Pizza and Beef on Weck
Part 3: Brunch + Sweets: Bagels, Coffee, and Desserts
Part 4: Asian Foods: Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai and Vietnamese
Part 5: Fine Dining: American, French, Fusion, Italian, and Steakhouses

The 2010 Top 100 is a labor of love, and the product of thousands of hours of dedicated tasting, discussions, and writing. We hope that it helps you discover some of Western New York's most wonderful meals, and enjoy them as much as we have.

Family Dining, Barbecue and Burgers

100. Chester's Cajun Grill. As much as we appreciate upscale versions of New Orleans cuisine, the down-home, affordable cajun menu at Chester's in East Amherst is an even bigger crowd pleaser; Po Boy sandwiches, ribs, salads, and seafood offer options for any palate. What's Great: The Crawfish Etouffee is the best crawfish dish we've ever tasted; we're also big fans of the Blackened Cajun Shrimp and the Chicken and Andouille Sausage Gumbo.

99. Chiavetta's Barbeque. Unlike any other place on our Top 100 list, Chiavetta's Barbeque is better known as a caterer than as a take-out restaurant, though it operates both types of businesses in Brant and Pendleton, respectively. What's Great: Chiavetta's distinctively vinegar-marinaded and barbecued chicken has become a staple at local fund raising events, the rare local recipe that draws crowds no matter where it's offered.

98. Dandelion's. Massive plates of affordable, quality food are the staples at Williamsville's Dandelion's, which sits tucked away behind a plaza on Maple; it would be almost impossible to leave this place less than filled for $20. What's Great: The gigantic Haddock Fish Fry will stun you as it hangs off the plate, and the Eggplant Parmesan is at least as enormous.

97. Dinosaur BBQ. With only some of the residual roughness of its biker bar roots, Dinosaur BBQ is the rare Rochester restaurant we felt obliged to include on our list, as its filling ribs, pulled pork, and ambience are a step above any Buffalo or suburban barbecue house - worthy of a drive. What's Great: Dinosaur's famous rib sauce is best experienced on its Ribs, sold in quarter-rack increments, but the BBQ Texas Beef Brisket is also a winner; we'd recommend a combo on your first visit. The Drunken Spicy Shrimp are an amazing appetizer.

96. Famous Dave's. The best barbecue we've found in or near Buffalo comes from the Cheektowaga location of this well-liked national chain, which won us over with its meat and - surprisingly - its fish. What's Great: The St. Louis-Style Ribs and Catfish Tenders are strong, as are the Cornbread Muffins.

95. Hayes Seafood Market. Decidedly and deliberately less than fancy, Hayes Seafood Market combines display cases of raw fish with a kitchen that will turn most of the items into instant fried, steamed, or broiled dinners - the equivalent of what you'd get at a fancy restaurant, minus all the gloss. What's Great: The Blackened Tuna, Fried Haddock, and Sauteed Soft-Shell Crabs, finished with a nice piece of Key Lime Pie.

94. Lake Effect Diner. Venues can make or break restaurants, and the beautifully restored art deco body of the Lake Effect Diner is a bright metallic sign of what Buffalo's Main Street could become; the menu's more interesting than the diner name would suggest, with some upscale choices. What's Great: Try the crab cakes, a sandwich such as the Beef on Weck, and one of the wide variety of different milkshakes.

93. Old Man River. Locally beloved for decades, Tonawanda's Old Man River peaks in appeal during the summer, when its waterfront view, seafood shack, and some frighteningly rich snack foods provide every incentive to sit outside with a big plate of chow and live music. What's Great: We'd go with the BBQ Chicken, Steamed Clams, and Corn on the Cob; if you're living dangerously, ask for the Sweet Potato Fries, covered in butter and honey.

92. Ruzzine's Rock Bottom Eatery. There are two broad categories of hamburgers - cheap or gourmet - and Ruzzine's Rock Bottom in East Amherst serves the latter, without question the best-tasting burgers we've had in Western New York. They're reasonably priced, and the rest of the menu is solid, too. What's Great: Grilled, Cajun, and BBQ versions of the vaunted burgers are offered - each with 7 or 12-ounce patties - and other dishes, including the Rock Bottom Mussels, are compelling alternatives.

91. Ted's Hot Dogs. Snowy winters and rainy springs aside, you might be able to flame-grill Sahlen's hot dogs just as well at home as Ted's Hot Dogs grills them at its seven suburban locations, but you'll be hard pressed to assemble the same choices of fresh condiments, or enjoy them with equally good fries, sausages, and loganberry. What's Great: We love the Foot Long Hot Dogs and Italian Sausages; the Loganberry Milkshake is also a treat.

European Restaurants

90. Chef's. The insane number of Italian restaurants in Western New York allows everyone to have a neighborhood favorite, but Chef's is popular enough to draw crowds from outside its City of Buffalo circle - delicious renditions of homestyle dishes are its specialty. What's Great: Go with the Veal Sciortino if it's available, otherwise, the Eggplant Parmesan or Veal Steak.

89. Natalie's Cafe & Deli. Of the many Greek and Mediterranean restaurants we've visited, Amherst's Natalie's may be comparatively small and plain-looking, but its food truly stands out from the pack due to consistently high-quality ingredients and preparations. What's Great: Start with the healthy-tasting Tabouli or Grape Leaves, then dive into the more filling Schwarma or Souvlaki pitas.

88. Pano's. Substantially nicer-looking than any other Greek place in the area, Buffalo's remodeled Pano's does a very good job with Mediterranean classics, and also offers a very nice assortment of American breakfast and nice dinner fare. What's Great: A great Spanikopita is just one of the many nice Greek dishes here, but Pano's is beloved for breakfast and brunch meals, when it's hard to go wrong with the pancakes or omelettes.

87. Prosit. One of the most memorably decorated restaurants in Western New York, Williamsville's charming Prosit offers a nice array of German and Polish specialties alongside neat salads, bread, and cheese. What's Great: If you're hungry, go with the huge Heiglschnitzel cutlet or Frau SchlauBraten brisket, then finish with the Edel-Kirsch Black Forest Chocolate Mousse.

86. Shannon Pub. On the border of North Tonawanda and Amherst, Shannon Pub wowed us with delicious Irish and non-Irish dishes at reasonable prices, transcending the typical local tavern with portions and preparation. What's Great: A decidedly different take on French Onion Soup, the big meat-and-potatoes Lamb Stew, and the classic Corned Beef with Cabbage.

85. The Irishman. The area's most charmingly decorated Irish pub and restaurant is Williamsville's Irishman, which draws crowds with a combination of neat dishes and great beers. Smaller than Shannon Pub, it's a little fancier, and even similar-sounding menu items taste different - impressive in their own right. What's Great: The Guinness Wings, Lobster Cakes, a sweet French Onion Soup, and the Corned Beef Reuben sandwich.

Latin/Tex-Mex Restaurants

84. Chipotle. Only a few restaurants in Western New York know how to make a really good steak taco or burrito, and the new Amherst location of this popular national chain is one of them; the quality and variety of its meats are top-notch by Tex-Mex chain standards. What's Great: We'd go with the Barbacoa or Steak Tacos, which spotlight Chipotle's marinated brisket or grilled meats, or a huge Burrito in your choice of Steak, Carnitas (pork), or Marinated Chicken Breast.

83. La Tolteca. As the only Mexican restaurant in Western New York we'd visit for a full, multi-course meal, Williamsville's La Tolteca offers the closest thing to authentic cuisine in town. The menu expanded recently to include more seafood dishes - a good start - and the dishes can be customized to suit individual tastes and spice preferences. What's Great: We're fans of the Taquitos, Tacos de Asada, Tamales, and Enchiladas, amongst many other options; finish the meal with authentic Flan.

82. Salsarita's Fresh Cantina. Roughly tied with Chipotle in offering high-quality tacos and burritos, Salsarita's benefits from having more locations - Buffalo, Cheektowaga and Clarence - and a cantina-themed interior that's more conducive to sitting back with friends for a drink. What's Great: Try the Shrimp or Steak Tacos, depending on your tastes; the Steak Taco Salad and Burritos are also quite good.

81. Solé. By combining quality South and Central American cuisine with attractive plating and a clean, modern dining room, Amherst's Solé offers the sort of upscale Latin food that can't be found anywhere else in Buffalo or its suburbs. What's Great: The nice Guacamole en Molcajete is made tableside as you watch, while the Tierra y Mar Salad - think surf'n'turf - is reliably great; specials, including the Pork Tenderloin, are frequently thrilling.

Tune in tomorrow for Part 2 of the Top 100 Buffalo/WNY Foods and Restaurants, focusing on Tavern Fare: Wings, Pizza and Beef on Weck.


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Comments (1)

Elaine :

THANKS for doing this for 2010. I am looking forward to trying some more of your top picks !

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