To say that the past month has been challenging is a bit of an understatement. My husband has been overseas for work and in 15 years this is the longest we’ve gone without seeing each other. But with any challenge there is always a silver lining–in my case two! The first was in knowing that we have such a strong and healthy relationship we have gotten through this period fairly unscathed. We have had beautiful conversations, I’ve learned to accept Skype…mind you I say accept, not love or even like it; I’ve continued cooking healthy meals for myself, checking out new restaurants, and have taken care of the house and yard work. You’d be surprised to learn how much a good partnership does for daily house maintenance, and when you are without it you get to know yourself a bit better.
The second silver lining is I’ve had a lot of time to review some restaurants and catch up on writing. I’ve had some comments of late asking why I don’t write restaurant reviews every week. The answer to that is–unlike many other food websites/blogs, I only write reviews once I’ve visited a place three times. Not only do I want to do the restaurant and its owner justice, but I want to do the food justice and do right by my readers. I’m not just a food writer, I’m a food reviewer and really get my hands dirty when writing an article about a restaurant.
With all that said I have some great places that need to be on your hit list going into Memorial Day.
First up: Aro Bar de Tapas
Inspired by singularly delicious Spanish Tapas food, Aro in Williamsville offers up traditional tapas plates in three sizes. In Spain, tapas are a way of life; served as tiny plates in bars all over Spain to accompany drinks and not the other way around. This style of eating is a social way of life for Spaniards. However, the tapa originated in Andalusia (no not the place with the talking cartoon animals and everyone singing–that’s the movie Enchanted). A step into a Spanish tapa bar is a wonderful experience even if you don’t speak Spanish. It’s lively and animated as Spaniards like to talk–or so I’ve heard. Spain is on my hit list to visit, however, my next food experience destination takes me to England and Ireland so Spain will have to wait.
But the experience is very closely mimicked in this Williamsville locale. A beautiful dark, intimate atmosphere compliments the brightly colored artwork on display, and lends itself to plenty of conversation. Creative drink specials run mid-week, and food choices abound. From cured meats and seafoods to completely vegetarian plates, there is something for everyone. What appeals to me most is not only the robust flavor combinations, but they cater to healthier palates.
My favorite plates here include: Calamares Fritos ($11), Spanish Fried Chicken ($10), and Coliflor ($8)–this is roasted cauliflower with herbs.
Next is: 100 Acres at Hotel Henry
The Kitchens at Hotel Henry invites guests to experience food and drink in a 360-degree experience. Located in what used to be the Richardson Olmsted Complex, this unique concept presents a number of dining opportunities, atmospheres and interactions. The structure is gothic, the wooden arches are over the top, and the views of the city are breathtaking.
100 Acres provide high-low dining offerings and styles, and changes up the menu often. You never know what you’ll get, but you are guaranteed variety – variety of menu, atmosphere, and experience where guests will always find something new. The Rich gothic feel of this place and the beautiful park like setting around it makes me want to toll the bells in it’s honor. Think The Bells of St. Mary’s. You really do get a show when eating here. And their coffee can’t be beat!
This is a must for your Memorial Day weekend plans! (Originally slated to open May of 2016, The GM tells me it will now open Spring of 2017).
Don’t forget about: Carte Blanche (CB)
Opening early June in Hamburg NY, CB takes over the old Buffalo Street Grill space–only with major renovations. Now including a second level that boasts 360 degree views of the village, an outdoor upper-level deck, and a ground level patio complete with firepits, this restaurant is unlike anything in the Buffalo region.
Open the large Oak door and you step into an enchanted wonderland. It’s a cornucopia of charm, complete with forest elements, red washed brick, and cast iron lighting that make you feel like you’ve stepped into a scene of a Charles Dickens novel. Move up to the second floor and the rustic theme continues, laced with more of a cottage feel, antique trinkets adorning the walls, and a bit of Hamburg beach encased in the bar topper. Three full walls of windows lead your eye to the quiant village of Hamburg and all its goings on.
The food at CB is a unqiue experience that no one but Chef Murtha (owner of Juicy Burger Bar) can bring to the charming village vibe. Sourcing local ingredients, his own creative vinegars, and charcuterie plates that will include in-house cured and smoked meats, CB offers an intimate experience with food. Prices are very reasonable and each guest will be given a peek into the culinary genius that is Chef Murtha when eating any of his dishes (all made from scratch!). CB is helping turn Hamburg into a vibrant culinary food scene.
Look for my full length article on CB in the July issue of Buffalo Healthy Living Magazine.
Another new restaurant that takes us out yet again to Hamburg NY. I’ve written about the Grange previously (click here to view article). Opening mid June, keep an eye on this completely renovated restaurant. Housed in what used to be Tina’s Italian Kitchen, The Grange offers simple seasonal dishes locally sourced and prepared by none other than Chef Rowell (previously of Elm Street Bakery). Menus will change with our seasons, and great craft beers will be on tap.
A Hamburg native, Chef Rowell almost became a teacher before finding his way to Denver where he shucked oysters at Jax Fish House. After being introduced to the kitchen, Rowell knew there was nowhere else he’d rather spend his time. He ventured back to WNY where he worked for several years before finally owning his own restaurant with wife Caryn. Taking a bit of history and bringing it into present day, The Grange invites guests to step back to a simpler time and reintroduces patrons to the rich history that was and is Hamburg.
Last but not least: The Dish
Having opened its doors (imagine they have doors) May 20th, The Dish at canalside is a great place to venture out this Memorial Day weekend. According to our own Andy Parker, the weather will be sunny and warm–very warm. The Dish is a great spot to walk the canal, take in the grain mills, watch some rowing, and take in the electric scene of the new Buffalo waterfront. Prices range from $3.00-$8.00, and the menu is simple burger stand style food. They offer a unique spin on french fries, offering a pickle fries version (I’ve tried them–you must like pickle but they are good, although not very healthy.)
My favorite dishes include: Mediterranian Chicken Wrap ($7.75), The Turkey Reuben ($8.00), and their sweet potato fries ($4.25). And you can’t leave The Dish without one of their amazing milkshakes! Whenever I visit The Dish, I feel as if I should be holding a white lace parasol with my white gloves and petticoat, walking the boardwork of St. Louis. It really transports you to a time long ago when Buffalo’s waterfront, bustling with entrepreneurs, descended on Buffalo for its rich opportunities. The Dish is one example of how we have come full circle–and not stopping here!
Enjoy and happy Memorial Day!