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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
Part 2: Tavern Fare: Wings, Pizza and Beef on Weck (You're Here)
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.
Tavern Fare: Top Restaurants for Buffalo's Famous Wings, Pizza and Beef on Weck
80. Amherst Pizza & Ale House. From the staggeringly topping-heavy pizzas to the big, interesting wings and nice variety of drinks, the clean, modern Amherst Pizza & Ale House sets a high water mark for suburban taverns; a great pick for families, couples, or groups. What's Great: The Crown Royal Wings are strong on barbecue flavor, while the Meat-Lover's Pizza will redefine your understanding of generous portion sizes.
79. Bar Bill. Tiny and located in East Aurora, Bar Bill is never going to be the first place tourists visit to experience wings, but it's the sort of restaurant that serious enthusiasts need to visit at least once - a real bar that tackles local favorites with unusual vigor. What's Great: The crispy, spicy Buffalo Style Jumbo Sized Wings are amongst the area's best, and the meat in its Beef on Weck is strong, too.
78. Becker Farms. Though it's best known for its pick-it-yourself produce and the recent wines of its Vizcarra Vineyards, the foodie draw at Gasport's Becker Farms is the Becker Brewing Company, maker of some impressive local beers that are worthy of a visit independent of all the place's other attractions. What's Great: Skip the wines and go straight for the caramel-hinted Oktoberfest beer if you visit in September or October; otherwise try the light Local Lager or the spicy Rooster Red, served year round.
77. Bocce's Pizza. Two Bocce's Pizza locations - one in Amherst, one in East Amherst, each owned and managed by different people - are equally worthy of recognition for their superb pizzas, ones that have been so popular as takeout items for decades that neither restaurant has much seating capacity. If any recipe has distilled the best qualities of Western New York pizzas, it's this one. What's Great: All of the ingredients are as fresh as can be, but we're partial to a pepperoni, mushroom, onion, ham, and green pepper pizza; order a half pizza if you're just sampling, or a full pizza to have leftovers.
76. Braun's Family Restaurant. It's a drive, and the venue's rough, but in an area known for its chicken wings, Newstead's Braun's is the rare restaurant that dares to be different - and succeeds - with a different recipe; its Hawg Wings are deliciously glazed pork shanks that rival chicken wings in potency and satiation. What's Great: Resist the temptation to order the Hawg Wings with Buffalo-style hot sauce mixed in, and go with the Braun-B-Q Mini Hawgs.
75. Brennan's Bowery Bar. Years ago, we loved Brennan's in Clarence solely for its wings and Beef on Weck, but these days, we appreciate it as much for its other entrees, soups, and selection of beers; a fun place for singles and groups of four or six, but sadly, the once-great wing recipe was screwed up on our most recent visit. What's Great: The Beef on Weck and the Mussels here are amongst the best in the area.
74. Buffalo Brewpub. Between the peanut shells on the floor and the serve-yourself popcorn, Williamsville's Buffalo Brewpub looks like a homey tavern; the standout quality of its beers and ribs are the draws for us, but it does local specialties well enough, too. What's Great: High-quality meat makes the Beef on Weck sandwiches and BBQ St. Louis Ribs easy picks; the Brew City Fries are a great accompaniment, as is the Brewpub's Weis beer.
73. Charlie The Butcher. Spread across a number of locations ranging from Cheektowaga to Buffalo and Williamsville, Charlie The Butcher makes some of the area's best Beef on Weck sandwiches, and the very best Prime Rib on Weck - encrusted with herbs - we've had anywhere. What's Great: The Herb Roasted Prime Rib on Weck is the very best variation on Beef on Weck we've ever tried, served only one day a week at certain Charlie locations. Otherwise, the standard Prime Rib on Weck and Beef on Weck are nearly as good.
72. Duff's. No place, and we repeat no place, does wings as well as Amherst's Duff's - the restaurant we'd take any out-of-towner to visit far before the continually shaky Anchor Bar - and the new Depew location is not only on par with the original, but larger and closer to the airport. What's Great: Duff's is known for its wing sauces, which are hot even at the medium level and insanely hot at the peak "Death" level. Daredevils, save your stomachs and cap yourself at the Hot or Suicide wings; everyone else, start out with Medium if you like spice, or Mild-Medium for a less challenging kick. The Beef on Weck is very good here, too.
71. Eckl's. It's not a tavern - it's actually close to an old school fancy restaurant in service, without the required formal attire - but Eckl's in Orchard Park offers an upscale twist on tavern food. What's Great: Try the Beef on Weck sandwich, which is one of the area's best, and prepare to be wowed by all the tasty lobster in its equally impressive Lobster Bisque.
70. Ellicottville Brewing Company. As the fountainhead for the widely carried, locally produced EBC series of beers - some of which are Buffalo Chow favorites - the actual Ellicottville location of Ellicottville Brewing Company combines a fun restaurant with a bar that sells and refills German Growlers of EBC beverages. What's Great: Though we're partial to the Blueberry Wheat Beer and wouldn't miss an opportunity to grab it here, most of the beers are very good, and dishes such as the Spicy African Peanut Soup and BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich go well with the homemade brews.
69. Gabriel's Gate. Using a unique recipe that adds black pepper to traditional red wing sauce, Gabriel's Gate has some of the City of Buffalo's best wings and ribs - we'd go here before the Anchor Bar, any day. What's Great: The meaty, peppery wings are a must for connoisseurs, and the pork ribs are so huge that you'll think they're from a cow, only with better texture and flavor.
68. Great Northern Pizza Kitchen. We mightn't be huge fans of pizza by the slice, but the Williamsville location of this small Rochester chain does them and salads better than any other place we've visited in the area. What's Great: Whether you go conventional with the Chicken Caesar Salad or a little crazy with the Nutty Goat, the salads are sure to please - and customizable. Pizzas are a little more hit and miss, but the Fresh Mozzarella and Basil is always fantastic.
67. Just Pizza. Untraditional and sorta-California-style pizza is the star attraction at this locally-grown chain, which boasts locations in the City and most of the suburbs, excelling at creative and frequently delicious take-out pizzas; the wings and subs are pretty good, too. What's Great: Spice fans should head straight to the Fra Diavolo Pizza, customized with hot peppers and either sausage or shrimp; the Sicilian White is also a very strong pick for those seeking something different from the norm.
66. Luigi's. Eye-popping portion sizes and a great red sauce are the most memorable traits of Luigi's Pizza and Catering in East Amherst, which produces great, fresh pizzas, big wings, and generous renditions of Italian favorites. What's Great: Prepare to be filled by one of the Traditional Pizzas - make sure you try the pepperoni - and the Chicken Parmesan is huge and delicious, too; wings here are notably large and tasty.
65. Palladino's. One of our favorite places for wings and pizza in Amherst is Palladino's, a tiny takeout- and delivery-only parlor that's as non-descript in a plaza at Harlem and Sheridan as possible. What Palladino's lacks in beauty, it makes up for with delicious food. What's Great: The garlic bread with mozzarella cheese may sound boring, but it's consistently superb here - our favorite, anywhere - while the pizza and wings are distinctive, too.
64. Pizza Plant. One of the best-known pizza purveyors in Western New York has charmed locals with its funny ads and innovative pizza pods for decades; the pods remain standouts, while other pizzas and complementary Italian dishes are always good. What's Great: We're huge fans of the garlic dough Pods with only a few traditional ingredients, but the wide range of sometimes unusual toppings tempt people into experiments - say, the chicken wing-inspired Wingy Dingy pod - that we wouldn't recommend; your mileage may vary. The Stuffed Pizza is another menu highlight.
63. Vizzi's. Known for its "Monster Burgers," which we liked, Kenmore's decidedly tavern-class Vizzi's is even more impressive in the Beef on Weck category, delivering a massive, two-person version of this local favorite, plus wings and other classic tavern fare. What's Great: The burgers here are bun and topping heavy, but made from good meat; we'd recommend sharing the Beef on Weck with a second person and sampling the wings.
NOTABLY NOT INCLUDED: The Anchor Bar. It's the place where Buffalo's famous chicken wings were invented, but these days, The Anchor Bar is as close to a tourist trap as Western New York has for foodies. Just when the wing recipe at its City location seemed to be coming back from sad, lean years, quality control problems became obvious: a different, weak recipe at its new Buffalo/Niagara Airport location, bad wings at its booth at Buffalo's annual Chicken Wing Festival, and pathetic licensed versions served from under heat lamps at Tops supermarkets. We hate to say it, but the Anchor Bar name is more often associated with forgettable wings now than good ones; thankfully the other wing restaurants above have more than picked up its slack.
Tune in tomorrow for Part 3 of the Top 100 Buffalo/WNY Foods and Restaurants, focusing on Brunch and Sweet Venues: Bagels, Coffee, and Desserts. Click here for Part 1 on Family Dining: Barbecue, Burgers, European, and Latin/Tex-Mex.