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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
Part 3: Brunch + Sweets: Bagels, Coffee, and Desserts (You're Here)
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.
Bagels and Brunch
62. Bagel Jay's. Resurrected from the locally beloved chain Bagel Brothers, Bagel Jay's is the best place in Western New York to find fresh, well-made bagels and accompanying brunch items. City of Buffalo, Williamsville, Hamburg, and Getzville locations offer wide selections of flavors and clean, nice-looking dining rooms. What's Great: Though we're fans of the garlic and onion bagels, most of the flavors here are really pretty wonderful - especially when toasted - and breakfast bagels such as the Egg and Cheese are full of delicious joy.
61. Globe Market. As one of Elmwood's most charming lunch destinations, Globe Market does reasonably-priced salads and sandwiches with the sort of balance and sophisticated little touches that make a difference to discerning diners. What's Great: The Grilled Veggie Sandwich, BBQ Pork Sandwich, and Portabella Sandwich are all great, as are the surprisingly tasty Caesar and Caprese Salads.
60. It's a Wrap. One of the newest restaurants on this list, Clarence's It's a Wrap names its fresh, very well-made flatbreads, wraps, paninis, and salads after movies, and serves them with surprisingly tasty side dishes. What's Great: Pick ingredients that sound good to you, and they will be; we loved the chicken and mozzarella Godfather panini and the cinnamon apple side.
59. The Original Pancake House. There's no place - no place - we'd sooner go for breakfast or brunch than The Original Pancake House, a national chain that feels like a local institution in Williamsville, Orchard Park, and Amherst. What's Great: The debate rages on as to whether the Apple Pancake or the Dutch Baby is the greatest breakfast treat in the history of mankind, but on occasions when we want to restrain ourselves, Kijafa Cherry Crepes, Chocolate Chip Pancakes, and Potato Pancakes are similarly great picks.
58. SoupHerb Gourmet. Williamsville has two restaurants that turn rotating lists of fresh soups into entrees; SoupHerb Gourmet isn't the famous one, but it's the one with better pricing and food. Sandwiches and salads are also available, but it would be a mistake to miss some of the great soups. What's Great: The Red Pepper Gouda soup is one of the all-time greats; a Baked Goat Cheese Salad and the Grilled Vegetable Wrap are also fantastic.
57. Clarence Center Coffee Company + Cafe. Though it's nestled away in Clarence, this independent coffee shop makes great drinks - blended coffees, teas and smoothies - and also has a robust lunch menu with bona fide good food. What's Great: The Lattes, Red Tea Chai, Italian Veggie Panini, and Mango Smoothies are each worth trying - pick one or two depending on your mood and the time of year; the Smoothies are outrageously impressive any time, but especially worth a visit during summer.
56. Coffee Culture. As the first in a series of U.S. locations planned by a Canadian chain, the brews, lunch items, and sweets at Williamsville's Coffee Culture put competitor Tim Horton's to shame. What's Great: Fans of sweet coffees and teas will especially enjoy the the Caramel Latte and Chai Chiller; the Almond Croissants are a standout snack.
55. Spot Coffee. The king of locally grown coffee houses started in Buffalo and now has outposts in Williamsville, Rochester, and Toronto; everything from the drip coffee to the blended drinks and desserts here is way above par. What's Great: Cappuccinos, lattes, teas, and even the blended drinks - particularly the Cinco Shake - are worthy of ordering and re-ordering; we've lost count of all the well-made pastries in its display cases.
54. Alethea's. We can and do appreciate chocolates from other shops, but we're hooked on the homemade sweets from classic Clarence candy and ice cream shop Alethea's; the candies are beautiful and delicious, while the ice cream's sold in a retro-styled, fancy parlor and a little expensive. What's Great: The blue foil-wrapped Kentucky Bourbon Cherries are outstanding, but the fudges and numerous other confections in the candy store are compelling, too.
53. Anderson's. We sometimes take them for granted, but Anderson's custards and other dessert selections are local classics, and visits are all but mandatory in the summer. Seven locations span Buffalo and all the major nearby suburbs. What's Great: If you're not an ice cream fan, try the equally wonderful, smooth, and chilly loganberry and lemon ices; otherwise, go with any one of the frozen custard cone flavors that appeals to you.
52. Chocolate Bar. Recently franchised to a new location in Cleveland, Buffalo's original Chocolate Bar has some of the best chocolate desserts and drinks in town; it's the rare upscale dessert place that might make you want to skip dinner altogether. What's Great: The standard Chocolate Martini is spectacular, and the Molten Lava is worth trying, for sure.
51. Chow Chocolate. Once just a gourmet candy and coffee shop - the reasons for its inclusion on our list - Buffalo's Chow Chocolate now also serves light breakfast and lunch fare, as well. What's Great: Available in roughly 20 flavors, the handmade chocolates include elements such as salted caramel, Jasmine tea, and gingerbread to excellent effect.
50. Cold Stone Creamery. In the absence of a truly great frozen yogurt place, we continue to really enjoy Cold Stone's "Creations" - mixes of ice cream with candy, nuts, and/or fruits; Orchard Park, Buffalo, Tonawanda, Amherst, Lockport and Williamsville all have locations. What's Great: The "Apple Pie a La Cold Stone" or "Coffee Lovers Only" ice cream Creations, each in a waffle cone, the latter in a chocolate-dipped one. With two spoons.
49. Dessert Deli. There are only a handful of truly superb dessert-focused bakeries in this area, and Dessert Deli is Williamsville's best - a place where virtually everything chocolate, cake, or pie is good. What's Great: The Chocolate Raspberry Ganache Cake is just one of the chocolate highlights; a unique spin on Carrot Cake is also very sharp.
48. Di Camillo Bakery. Though it can be appreciated as a coffee shop, Di Camillo Bakery has made its name in Niagara Falls, Williamsville, and Lewiston by baking wonderful breads and desserts, as well as selling boxed Italian favorites; it's worth stopping in for a snack, and even more valuable as a take-out place for wonderful things to serve at home. What's Great: Between the Italian bread, the cheese Danishes, and the miniature dishes - chocolate-tipped cannolis, tarts, and cakes - anything that catches your eye will likely impress your tongue.
47. Dolci. From the homemade gelato to the cakes and cookies, Dolci is the City of Buffalo's standout Italian dessert shop; its old-fashioned Elmwood storefront offers little external clue to the wonders in its display cases and freezers. What's Great: We'd go with baked desserts such as the Flourless Chocolate Cake and Sicilian Double Chocolate Balls, but the oft-experimental gelato flavors may be as tasty to you as they were interesting to us.
46. Dunkin' Donuts. Locally ubiquitous and increasingly popular nationally for its inexpensive coffee, Dunkin' Donuts is the place we'd pick for individual or dozens of donuts. What's Great: We get excited about the French Crullers, the Bavarian Kreme Donuts, and the quality of the inexpensive coffee, all of which put Tim Horton's versions to shame.
45. Muscoreil's. If any dessert shop in this area stands out on the raw beauty and artistry of its products, it's Muscoreil's in North Tonawanda, which could teach almost any other cake place in town a thing or three about creating masterpiece-quality sweets. What's Great: It's hard to choose only a few highlights from this eye-popping place, but on flavor alone, we'd go with the Turtle Cake, the White Almond Raspberry Cake, the Almond Claw, and the Cannoli.
44. Ohlson's Bakery. Tucked away in Clarence, Ohlson's has the look of an old country bakery with strong religious overtones, but its desserts are good enough to tempt anyone to feats of gluttony. What's Great: The Almond Horn and the Chocolate Decadence.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Until they leave town for a while, Western New Yorkers don't realize that pastry hearts - phyllo dough pastries with a thick white icing on top - are actually a local speciality, and Russ's Pastry Shoppe (also known as Russ's Bakery) makes the very best version we've had: big, fresh, and with a slightly goopy top layer of frosting. Sadly, its Tonawanda and Cheektowaga locations have both closed, leaving only a Buffalo storefront on West Ferry. For another hometown specialty, Sponge Candy, we're fans of the milk and dark chocolate versions sold at numerous Watson's stores and the specialty versions produced by Palace of Sweets in Clarence and Batavia.
Tune in tomorrow for Part 4 of the Top 100 Buffalo/WNY Foods and Restaurants, focusing on Asian Foods: Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai and Vietnamese. Click here for Part 2 on Tavern Fare: Wings, Pizza and Beef on Weck.