Road Trip: Buffalo Not-Wings

Hot Dog! Ted's.

Hot Dog! Ted’s.

Amongst all the wings, we ate other things too, on our recent Buffalo trip.  We also spent part of a lovely mid-70s-and-sunny day at Niagara Falls, which was awesome, but we didn’t eat anything there.  Not much on the U.S. side other than a nice grassy park, and the Canadian side is horribly touristy — we almost ended up at the Hard Rock Cafe but thankfully Mrs. Me, more clearheaded than the rest of us, vetoed that detour.

Here are some capsule reviews of our Buffalo non-wing food consumption:

Pearl Street Grill & Brewery: we did have wings here, but also other stuff, including an excellent “fish fry” which I guess is Midwestern for fish & chips.  Moist fresh fish inside a crisp savory exterior, with solid fries and above-average tangy tartar sauce. They brew some good beers there at Pearl Street too, in addition to Lake Effect IPA we got a giant 100 ounce “Widow Maker” tube of Sabre’s Edge, a double IPA-barleywine melange that we tapped ourselves at the table.  Buffalo, it turns out, is a beer town.

Ted’s Hot Dogs: like wings, I don’t know if a hot dog can transcend its own people without becoming something else, chorizo or bratwurst or whatever, but Ted’s comes awfully close. They “charcoal grill” their dogs and it sure seems to work well, resulting in a full-dog char bursting with flavor.  After consultation with locals, there are two prime ways to play the dogs, depending on preference: go with either chili and cheese, or else “the works” which is basically ketchup and mustard and relish and, crucially, Ted’s special hot sauce, which is better than any of the wing sauces I tasted all weekend.  Naturally I ordered one of each kind of dog, and although the chili is pretty bland, and similar to Ben’s in DC, the dogs themselves were so good that I powered both down in mere minutes, Takeru Kobayashi style (not really but that’s what it seemed like).  Ted’s also had the best fries of the weekend, fresh and thin and reasonably crisp and salty.  And good shakes if you like that kind of thing.  I think Ted’s has gotten the “touristy” label but, like the Anchor Bar, and really even more so, in my experience the food lives up to the hype.

Anderson's Cone Beckons

Anderson’s Cone Beckons

Anderson’s: purveyors of frozen custard and Buffalo’s beloved “beef on weck” among other drive-up fast food delicacies.  People who like frozen custard like Anderson’s frozen custard a lot.  I was all about this new-to-me beef-weck thing, which turns out to be sliced roast beef on a “kummelweck” roll that is topped with salt and caraway seeds, with horseradish sauce as the other key component. Salty beefy bready horsy wecky goodness.  Anderson’s is a classic 50’s-style drive-up joint so this wasn’t exactly gourmet, and I am informed there is better weckage out there; the Anderson’s version is basically like Arby’s but with better beef and a more interesting roll.  Serious Eats says go to Charlie the Butcher. Next time!  Not everyone digs caraway but I can (dig it).  Fries are okay if a little soggy, dill pickles are good, Anderson’s is good.  Especially if you like creamy frozen desserts.

Dug’s Dive: right on Lake Erie, great views, lots of outdoor seating. It helped that we were there on a lovely 75-and-sunny day. This strip of lakefront used to house factories, all closed now and mostly torn down but a few desolate shells are still up. Not sure about possible soil toxicity, but the alcohol will kill that stuff, right?  You can’t have Superfund without SuperFun!  We only had drinks here (beers and large strong gin & tonics), but they have food too.  Our kind of dive.

Anderson's Beef Weckage and Curly Fries

Anderson’s Beef Weckage and Curly Fries

Spot Coffee: I don’t know if Buffalo is really a coffee town in the same way that, say, Portland and Seattle are, but they sure do like their local coffee spots, including and in particular Spot Coffee, which was jumpin’ every morning while Starbucks (right across the street in one instance) was pretty vacant. Some in our group tried it and liked it, but I can’t attest personally.  About a half dozen locations in greater Buffalo plus a few elsewhere, including one random one in Florida.

Embassy Suites: served not only a full hot free breakfast every morning with eggs cooked to order, but also offered guests a free happy hour in the evening, with a bartender (hi Sharon, you rock!) slinging mixed drinks, wine, and beer.  The accompanying snacks – I think some pretzels, cheese, fruit, like that – were fairly desultory, but whaddya want with your free hotel happy hour beverages? We chatted with some people going to the Rod Stewart/Santana concert that night – but neither Rod nor Carlos hit the hotel bar while we were there.  No matter.  Well done, Embassy Suites Buffalo.  Rooms were good too.

Queen City Kitchen: airport bar conveniently located right across from the gate where our friends’ plane was supposed to already be, but was not, due to a broken seat which had to be fixed before takeoff.  They were delayed just long enough for us to establish a beneficial relationship with the bartender, quaff two refreshing Helldiver APAs from Buffalo’s Flying Bison Brewery, and polish off a spicy chorizo flatbread that wasn’t great but wasn’t bad and went down easy with the Helldiver.  Certainly exceeded expectations for an airport bar.  But which is it, Buffalo: Queen City or Nickel City?


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