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Best Buffalo Restaurants

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The best Buffalo restaurants are hearty and passionate, like the city's sports fans, but don't think you only need eat spicy chicken wings and jalapeño poppers. Sure, those sports bar standbys are readily found at the city's many homey establishments, but top Buffalo restaurants also offer exquisite fine dining, many with organic or locally-grown ingredients. The “slow food” movement has arrived in Buffalo, courtesy of places like Sample, a purveyor of fresh ingredients sourced from local farmers. But Buffalonians, while appreciative of the influx of modern flair to their restaurant scene, are also a loyal bunch. They still line up for a Louie's Foot Long and wait their turn at Charlie the Butcher's Express for a hearty portion of beef on weck (kummelweck roll). No matter how many Michelin-star restaurants open up in this lake city, these local staples will never go out of style.

Buffalo Chop House

Neighborhood: Downtown Buffalo
Price: Expensive

Prepare to pop a button or two at the Chophouse, which has a slightly snooty setting (jacket required) and a high-end reputation, but will send you home stuffed to the gills. The restaurant is in a restored, three-story Victorian home, and it's got all the fussy frills of that era. Red velvet drapes, heavy velvet chairs, a big baby grand piano and even some plush, red-velvet booths take you back to the late-1800s. There's nothing musty about the food, however. It's straight up USDA prime beef—grilled, braised, broiled or sautéed as you like it. You can split entrees among friends (for $15 extra) or try to find lighter fare among the appetizers and salad dishes (good luck), but the Chophouse, to its credit, has a very generous hand with the portions.

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Tempo

Neighborhood: Allentown Price: Expensive

This is Italian food the way Grandma never would have made it. Chef Paul Jenkins gets all the classic flavors of Italy into his modernized version of dishes like mussels in finocchio (fennel), herb-and-sea salt carpaccio, grilled steak Fiorentina with gnocchi and garlic braised broccolini, osso buco, halibut with calamari and green olives, grilled bronzino and much, much more. His deft hand renders even the heaviest entrée—say, a mushroom risotto —airy and light, and if you do have room for a "secondi" pasta dish, go for the classic pasta Bolognese, full of al dente rigatoni, tender beef, pork and pancetta ragu, and covered with sharp parmesan cheese.

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Rue Franklin

Neighborhood: Allentown Price: Expensive

Rue Franklin's been the premiere French restaurant in town for over a decade, and while the menu changes, the dark, intimate, bistro-like setting doesn't. Luckily its first-rate food is a lot lighter than the decor. Fans of French fare will swoon for the veal sweetbreads in balsamic vinegar reduction, chilled beet soup with vodka gelee and creme fraiche, and poached sea scallops over lemon and chives—and those are just appetizers. The main menu centers heavily on meat: beef short ribs daube, filet mignon with white wine shallot sauce, Australian lamb rib fillet, or stuffed chicken with veggies. If you want a decadent night out with white tablecloths, flickering candles, hovering waiters explaining complex French sauces and Gallic wines, Rue Franklin's your spot.

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Gabriel's Gate

Neighborhood: Allentown Price: Moderate

You've heard about Buffalo's fabulous and famous Buffalo wings—here is the place to try them. Sticklers will say you must go to Anchor Bar (another Allentown joint that claims to have invented the spicy chicken wing) but Gabriel's beats them hands down. You can have your wings—as well as the chicken fingers, paninis and burgers—made to order here, so you can start with the mild and work your way up to blazing hot, if you dare. Microbrews and Canadian beers are on tap, plus there's a big patio in summer and a large fireplace to cheer things up in winter.

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Betty's

Neighborhood: Allentown Price: Moderate

Breakfast lovers will have a bash at Betty's, which is famous for its decadent Sunday brunches. Expect a line no matter how early you come—everyone's hungry for "poached egg pillows," aka variations on classic Eggs Benedict (there's a portobello Benedict, Russian Benedict with smoked salmon and dill sour cream, and more). Smothered cornbread, pancakes, French toast (challah bread!) and omelettes round out the menu at Betty's, a bright red single-row old home that's been converted into an airy restaurant with booths and an old-fashioned deli bar. Dinner and lunch tend more toward straight comfort food: quesadillas, burgers, fries, black bean burritos and a roasted veggie sandwich for the health conscious.

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Tabree

Neighborhood: Elmwood Village
Price: Moderate

In summer, there's no better place to sip cocktails and eat mussels than Tabree's backyard patio, which is about two times the size of their mini dining room. Whatever time of year you visit, squeeze into Tabree for a savory French experience—one salted with more than just a little Provençal tang. The roast duck club sandwich on brioche is a heady experience, with the fatty meat melting into an herbed, garlicky mayo; the escargot appetizer in Pernod cream with puff pastry and leeks is worth a second trip alone. Entrees include the standard bistro classics like coq au vin and steak au poivre, but there are surprises, too, like vegetable Wellington with mushrooms and skate wing schnitzel with haricot vert.

Sample Restaurant

Neighborhood: Allentown Price: Moderate

A jazzed-up version of a tapas bar, Sample's tiny treats are delicious little bites of flavor presented beautifully, but they won't stave off hunger for long. You can sit downstairs (rustic wood floors and warm brown walls soften the otherwise stark atmosphere) or head to the loft seats that overlook the bar. Sample's best-known for its cheese board, a caramelized onion, goat cheese and roasted pear butter panini, and aged provolone fondue, plus its fruity cocktails. Happy hour is a good time to visit if you want to try the honey lavender martini (honey lavender syrup with fresh lemon juice and gin). You can sample their version of fish 'n chips, beef on weck (kummelweck roll), steak frite, poutine (French fries with red wine sirloin gravy and melted cheese), and much more. All are delicious, but not exactly filling.

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Bistro Europa

Neighborhood: Elmwood Village
Price: Budget

The daily specials board at Bistro Europa is one long line of unpronounceable regional dishes from places like Poland, Portugal, Spain and Greece. Mike, the affable and portly owner and chef, who makes pierogi fresh daily (from his Polish wife's family recipe), may decide to offer chicken liver brûlée or house-made spaghetti with ricotta and black summer truffle. His inventive style has produced some jaw-dropping, mouth-watering results: Try the lobster PLT (that's house-cured pancetta, lettuce and tomato with chipotle aioli), the wild boar "meatball bomber" sandwich with smoked mozzarella and basil, chicken piri-piri with a chive-potato puree, or goblaki (beef, pork and rice stuffed cabbage).

 

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Louie's Foot Long Hot Dogs

Neighborhood: Elmwood Village
Price: Budget

Don't be confused by a pretender Buffalo hot dog stand selling Louie's Red Hots—the only-and-only Louie's, around for nearly 60 years, sells foot long hot dawgs, as the locals say. There are now three Foot Longs in Buffalo, all run by a member of the Turco family (the original Louie is still around). The one in Elmwood Village is easily spotted, thanks to its garish yellow and red entrance sign, a real standout amid the drab old buildings. There are burgers, fries, fish sandwiches and even a “carb-free” option, but really, everyone comes for the hot dogs. Try it with “the works” and you'll get a foot long with relish, ketchup, chopped onions and pickles. All the dogs are grilled over real charcoal, giving them extra crunch.

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Charlie the Butcher's Express

Neighborhood: Downtown Buffalo
Price: Budget

What the heck is beef on weck? It only takes one trip to Charlie the Butcher's to find out, and you'll be glad you did. The unofficial traditional Buffalo sandwich is served on a kummelweck roll (the origin of "beef on weck"). It’s piles and piles of fresh roast beef slathered in horseradish and dipped in the just-cooked beef's juices to make it as wet and sloppy as possible. Charlie has specialized in beef on weck for two generations now, but you can also grab a turkey, ham, corned beef or meatloaf sandwich if you prefer.

 

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