The Western New York city of Buffalo has been experiencing somewhat of a culinary and cultural renaissance over the past decade or so. A city that was once best known for its extreme winter weather and glory days long past is now an exciting destination in its own right, not just as an afterthought on the way to or from nearby Niagara Falls. When it comes to food and drink, you could spend days touring Buffalo’s restaurants, bars, breweries, and food carts. Some Buffalonian favorites derive from the city’s older immigrant communities, especially Italian and Polish, while others are from its newer immigrants, particularly people from Southeast Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Here are eight foods you must try in Buffalo.
Undoubtedly Buffalo’s most famous contribution to North American cuisine, Buffalo wings aren’t actually called that in the city of Buffalo: locally, they’re just called wings, or chicken wings. Buffalo wings are unbattered, deep-fried chicken wings that are then slathered in a spicy sauce made from ketchup, vinegar, sugar, and red pepper. They’re also served with blue cheese sauce and sticks of carrot and celery.
Legend has it that Buffalo wings were invented at a particular bar in Buffalo’s central Allentown neighborhood in the 1960s. However, the truth may not actually be that clear-cut. Serving fried chicken this way was probably more likely a slow process that developed in various places across the Midwest and Great Lakes region, particularly Chicago. But don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story! If you want to try authentic Buffalo wings in the place many believe they originated, head to Anchor Bar. The original branch is on Main Street in Allentown, but there are several other branches across the greater city area, including at Niagara Falls, Williamsville, and Amherst. You can find wings on practically every bar menu in Buffalo, though.
Beef on Weck
Beef on weck is a classic Buffalo sandwich that consists of carved roast beef inside a hard-shelled kummelweck bread roll with caraway seeds. The beef is typically cooked medium-rare on the inside and crisp on the outside. It’s often served with a pickle on the side, horseradish sauce, and German-style potato salad. Beef on weck sandwiches are German in origin and can be traced back to 19th-century bakers in Buffalo.
A favorite place to get beef on weck sandwich is Schwabl’s, a restaurant in West Seneca (south-east Buffalo) that’s been operational since 1837. Another perhaps more convenient option is Charlie the Butcher, a shop with several centrally located outlets, including Elmwood Village and the Ellicott Square Building downtown.
Buffalo became home to many immigrants from Poland in the 19th century, and this cultural heritage can still be seen in the city’s cuisine. Pierogis are a typically Polish dish that can be found in many eateries in Buffalo. Pierogis are dumplings filled with all kinds of things—potato, onion, cabbage, and meat are common—and then either fried or steamed. Try them at Babcia’s Pierogi, a take-out stand in the historic Broadway Market, a traditionally Polish part of the city on the East Side. They even make sweet pierogis and a beef on weck pierogi! Babcia’s also distributes its pierogis to several delis and markets around the Buffalo area.
Sponge candy is also known as honeycomb toffee (or hokey pokey in New Zealand) and is a popular and traditional candy in Buffalo. Variations can be found around the Midwest, but it’s not usually called sponge candy. Crunchy-yet-airy honeycomb is coated in a layer of chocolate so it’s very sweet. Find it at traditional-style confectioners’ shops in Buffalo, including Parkside Candy—which does an orange chocolate version, and has several outlets—and Watson’s Chocolates.