C’mon now, snobby Torontonian—there’s more to Buffalo than outlet malls. Stay awhile and enjoy the whole urban package: sophisticated art, dusty antique stores, American microbrews, and, sure, a little tax-reduced shopping. There’s also some rather excellent food, and we’re not just talking about the chicken wings. (Don’t call them Buffalo wings. Only amateur tourists do that.) Just over the border, the city is ripe for a day trip, but that would mean missing out on its vibrant nightlife. Locals are extremely friendly, too, so if there’s something you need, stop and ask.
Erie Basin Marina
As soon as you get to the U.S., take a look back at where you came from. The marina on Erie Street just south of the Peace Bridge offers a great view of both a circa-1833 lighthouse and the point from which British soldiers launched their ships during the War of 1812. Flora fans will want to check out the half-mile garden walkway along the water, where companies experiment to see which plants and seeds will thrive in this challenging, humid-yet-maritime climate.
329 Erie St., 716-851-5389.
Modern art at Albright-Knox Gallery
Everybody’s hyped about the latest exhibit at this modern-art mecca: the huge, whimsical recreations of everyday objects by L.A.’s Robert Therrien. His giant folding chairs are lots of fun, but don’t miss the multilayered, multifaceted oil paintings by Clyfford Still in the permanent collection, or all the excellent installations outside, like Nancy Rubins’s constellation of canoes at the front entrance.
1285 Elmwood Ave., 716-882-8700.
Chicken wings at Gabriel’s Gate
This 44-year-old spot has an old-school hunting lodge vibe, with a row of non-ironic animal heads decorating one wall. The chicken wings are properly messy and also properly doused in vinegar, while the Cottage Street sandwich (more commonly called a beef on weck) is another Buffalo classic: soft slices of hearty roast beef served on kummelweck, which is a Kaiser roll with coarse salt and caraway seeds baked into its top.
145 Allen St., 716-886-0602.
Spend an hour or two browsing through the shops in this polished neighbourhood. Among the standouts are Penzeys Spices,
a charming spot where very friendly proprietors are happy to talk you through their host of aromatic seeds and blends. Anna Grace offers floaty, girly clothes—you can find labels like Covet and Matt & Nat in Toronto, but the sales tax here is a mere 8.75 per cent. Over at Reimagine, there’s mid-century modern furniture and design with lots of teak, pottery, and the occasional hit of industrial salvage.
Penzeys Spices, 783 Elmwood Ave., 716-887-9777.
Anna Grace, 799 Elmwood Ave., 716-332-7069.
Reimagine, 732 Elmwood Ave., 716-240-9387.
Silo City Rocks
If you visit later in the summer, you’ll be able to enjoy a clever bit of industrial reimagining. This cluster of grain elevators (which were invented in Buffalo, btw), now empty, has played host to pop-up concerts and flea markets but will get two permanent uses. On August 17, artist Max Collins will unveil a huge mural dedicated to the historically mustached men of Buffalo, including Grover Cleveland and Rick James. Then, in September, a rock-climbing gym will open on the inside and outside of one of the 140-foot-tall elevators.
Silo City Rocks, 105 Childs St., 716-228-9153.
Brews at Blue Monk
How many beers? So many beers—think 32 taps and dozens and dozens and dozens of bottles. Chatty bartenders are happy to help select the best brew (maybe a pale ale from Buffalo microbrewery Community Beer Works?) to enjoy in this tin-ceilinged pub.
727 Elmwood Ave., 716-882-6665.
Dinner at Betty’s
Everything here is homemade, from the tangy ranch dressing whipped up with real buttermilk to the picture-perfect coconut cream pie. Mains often have Latin American inflections, and the cocktails are inventive and well-stirred. The wrap-around patio offers plenty of space for marvelling at huge turn-of-the-century houses (and one could be yours for under $150,000).
370 Virginia St., 716-362-0633.
Bar-hopping in Allentown
Locals consider Allentown to be hipster central, so expect fixies, mustaches, and lots of tattoos. Nietzsche’s and Allen Street Hardware are right across the street from each other: Both have live music, and the latter boasts an impressive beer list. Inside what can only be described as a shack painted with green flames, The Old Pink has a checkered floor, vintage arcade games, and the start of a kicking dance party. Party on, then, but pace yourself—remember, last call in New York State isn’t until 4 a.m.
Nietzsche’s, 248 Allen St., 716-886-8539.
Allen Street Hardware, 245 Allen St., 716-882-8843.
The Old Pink, 223 Allen St., 716-884-4338.
This seven-storey terracotta building was designed in 1902 by Louise Bethune, the first officially recognized female architect in
the United States. It reopened last year after a $43-million restoration, with the original desk and Art Deco touches gracing the main floor lobby. The décor is early–20th century, but the conveniences are entirely modern.
391 Washington St., 716-853-1505.
Hotwire hit: You might snag a room at the four-star Hyatt Regency for $94.
Breakfast at Amy’s Place
This diner in University Heights offers every greasy breakfast treat one could hope for, as well as a selection of well-made Lebanese, vegetarian, and vegan dishes. Opt for nutty buckwheat when ordering the massive pancakes, and since it’s summer, throw some fresh fruit in there, too. There’s no espresso, yuppie, just bottomless drip coffee in mismatched mugs.
3234 Main St., 716-832-6666.
Yes, Buffalo once buzzed with money and industry, and the architecture exists to prove it. Built in 1930, the 32-storey Art Deco City Hall is covered in ornamental murals that showcase city symbols like pioneers and stevedores. The marbleobelisk in front commemorates President McKinley, who was assassinated in the city in 1901. That’s the same year the Buffalo Savings Bank opened—its shiny dome is covered in actual 23.75-carat gold leaf. Definitely don’t miss the Prudential Building, a skyscraper with intricate carvings winding all over its terracotta front.
City Hall, 65 Niagara Sq., 716-851-4200.
Buffalo Savings Bank, 1 Fountain Plaza, 1-800-724-2440.
Prudential Building, 140 Pearl St., 716-854-0003.
Village Beer Merchant
Booze shopping abroad is always bittersweet—why can’t we have a wide-ranging selection and creative picks like this at home, huh? Technically, you need to leave Canada for 48 hours to bring alcohol back with you. If nothing on the shelves here convinces you to break the rule, you don’t like beer that much anyway.
1535 Hertel Ave., 716-768-1436.
Treasure hunting at Gothic City Antiques
You’ll know you’ve found the right place when you spot a fenced-off yard filled with plenty of rusty junk. Next door, an old Masonic Lodge, of all places, is piled high with cool things, creepy things, and nostalgic things (just don’t use those mid-century Trojans, okay?). There are also well-priced useful items, like milky-glassed schoolhouse pendant lights for $180, similar to ones that cost around $300 in Toronto.
1940 Niagara St., 716-874-4479.
$29: Two admissions and parking, Albright-Knox.
$40: Lunch for two at Gabriel’s Gate.
$10: Two 1 oz. jars of spices at Penzeys.
$20: Two must-try beers at Blue Monk.
$80: Dinner for two at Betty’s.
$45: A night on the town.
$170: One-night accommodation, Hotel Lafayette.
$15: Breakfast for two at Amy’s.
$25: Souvenir (beer or junk).
In 1901, Buffalo was bursting with wealth and power and technological ingenuity—sort of the Silicon Valley of its day. City of Light unfolds against this backdrop, placing a tenacious heroine at the centre of a novel that moves effortlessly between murder mystery, political scandal, social commentary, and a love story packed with dangerous liaisons.
PLAY: Buffalo Club, a lame drinking game with a bad-ass backstory
The rules are simple: Players must hold and consume their booze with their non-dominant hand. If you screw up, you chug the drink while everyone bangs on the table, chanting “Buffalo!” The end. But here’s the backstory: The game traces its origin to the gun-slinging Wild West, when it was crucial to keep your quick-draw hand free (if not as crucial to keep your sobriety).
KNOW: A day that’ll live in infamy (in Buffalo)
May 27, 1975. The Buffalo Sabres and the Philadelphia Flyers met for game three of the Stanley Cup finals. It was a hot night,
the Buffalo arena did not have AC, and the resulting fog made it almost impossible to see. Yet out of that fog, Sabres centre Jim Lorentz spied something swooping low across the ice. It was a bat. He swung his stick. He struck the bat dead. The bat, however, went on to get its revenge: The Sabres lost the series, and haven’t won a cup yet.—Danielle Groen