Buffalo NY Finally Gets it Wright

Last Updated on November 20, 2022 by Editor

WHY GO: Once the terminus of the Erie Canal, Buffalo NY had more millionaires than any other city at the turn of last century. Two US Presidents, Millard Fillmore and Grover Cleveland, spent time here. And one, William McKinley, was assassinated here.

Frederick Law Olmsted designed parks and roadways, industry flourished. The “Amazon.com” of its day – the Larkin Company – employed thousands. Frank Lloyd Wright was hired to design homes, office buildings and even a gas station. And the Pan American Exposition was held here in 1901, though the celebration was marred by the assassination of President McKinley.

Then came the Depression and this industrial city was hit hard. It never really recovered in the 60’s and 70’s, when other wealthier areas of the country demolished grand old buildings to make way for the ugliness of “Urban Renewal.” In the long run, this was to Buffalo’s advantage.

Now, exceptional architecture, a burgeoning medical research and development sector, waterfront development and repurposing of these iconic buildings is attracting a growing number of history buffs and epicurean–minded visitors to New York State’s westernmost city.

Buffalo continues to add fantastic restaurants and innovate by creating public spaces from once-decaying factories and institutions. The focus in 2022 is the waterfront: with a heritage boat-building initiative and historic carousel at Canalside; reliving Buffalo’s grain-port past on a Buffalo River History Tour; and cool goings-on (and a Bar) at the once abandoned Silo City, and so much more.

Buffalo NY is on such an upward swing, in fact, it’s inspired the exceedingly popular website BuffaloRising.com, which says it all. Read on for the current best of the best to do in this energized city.

Table of Contents

Things To Do In Buffalo NY

Grain elevators and silos relics of Buffalo NY's industrial past

TOUR: Buffalo River History Tour

To get an immersive sense of what Buffalo was like 100 years ago, book this fantastic 90-minute narrated Buffalo River History Boat Tour. Hear the story of the Erie Canal and Buffalo’s history as the largest grain port in the world (from 1850-1959) as you glide on the manmade river that snakes between the nation’s largest collection of standing grain elevators.

Grain elevators and silos from heyday of Buffalo NY grain port

It’s surprisingly thrilling to squeeze through canyons of concrete cylinders, once holding millions of bushels of grain, and hear stories of Buffalo’s scoopers — residents and immigrants alike — who worked the docks and mills, feeding the nation.

Steamer Columbia set to be restored on Buffalo River NY

You’ll hear about Buffalo River restoration projects, and pass the old, seen-better-days Steamer Ship Columbia, which was known for having the “largest ballroom and dancing hall on the Great Lakes.” This now seemingly unseaworthy ship is supposedly heading to Kingston NY for restoration.

General Mills is the only remaining grain company on the Buffalo River

As you wind around Silo City and Elevator Alley, you’ll learn about past disasters and the fact that the last canal barge delivered its load of grain in 1930. (From then on, grain arrived by rail).

Empty grain silos line the shore of the Buffalo River NY

The 268-silo “Concrete Central,” which collectively held 4.5 million bushels of grain, was, like most others on the river, abandoned by 1960. Now, only one company – General Mills – remains, and you can sniff the air to determine if it’s a plain Cheerio’s or Honey Nut Cheerio’s day. May-September, $25 adults, $13 kids.

Great Lakes Meets Erie Canal in Buffalo NY

DISCOVER: Canalside’s Longshed, Carousel, Commercial Slip

While Shark Girl is still an Instagram darling, American History fans will prefer Canalside’s Commercial Slip – the Western Temininus of the Erie Canal – and gateway to the upper Great Lakes from 1825-1918.

Commercial Slip Canalside Dead end of Erie Canal Buffalo

These days, there’s been lots of development along the Canal, both residential and commercial – with buildings appearing like they did during the heyday of the Erie Canal’s importance.

Wedding of the Waters Buffalo and Hudson River Erie Canal

That includes The Longshed, where you can witness a canal boat being built in the place where the Erie Canal opened in 1825. A sculptural plaque depicts the “Wedding of the Waters:” when a bucket of water from the Hudson River was dumped here (and visa-versa).

Building Canal Boat at the Longshed Canalside Buffalo NY

The Longshed

Boat builders at the Buffalo Maritime Center in the Longshed are constructing a traditional, full-sized reproduction of the Erie Canal Boat, “Seneca Chief,” to commemorate the Bicentennial of the Erie Canal, which will take place in 2025. The boat is being built “from scratch” by volunteers in full public view, and you can watch the action from both ground level and a viewing platform above.

Carousel at Canalside Buffalo NY

Buffalo Heritage Carousel

The fully restored Buffalo Heritage Carousel, a vintage, park-style, menagerie carousel, custom designed and manufactured in 1924 by Spillman Engineering in North Tonawanda for Massachusetts carnival owner, Domenick De Angelis, has returned to Buffalo.

restored carousel horse at Canalside Buffalo NY

From 1915 – 1925, carousels were the “it” amusement park ride, with Spillman Engineering pumping out partially molded, partially hand-carved merry-go-round animals at the rate of one carousel a day. This one, solar powered and enclosed in a landmark building, has one of the only ADA compliant sections (for a wheelchair and up to three attendants/family members) in the country.

Rosie the horse Canalside Carousel Buffalo NY

Choose to ride a high-gloss ostrich, sea dragon, or even Rosie – Domenick’s wife’s horse – identified by two pretty pink roses on her mane. It’s only $1 per ride!

Shark Girl Canalside Buffalo NY

More at Canalside

Yep – there’s still Shark Girl! In fact – Shark Girl is one of the Getaway Maven’s recommended Best Places to Propose in New York State.

Thanks to General Mills, the smell of Cheerios lingers in the Buffalo air, particularly by the industrial waterfront. Day or night, by foot or boat, this formerly shabby, now revitalized Niagara River/Lake Erie area sparkles with life, history and participatory events.

You might stumble upon a vibrant Zumba class. Or kids learning to hoola hoop. On Saturday mornings, the Artisan Market brings shoppers to the esplanade. Rent a kayak from Buffalo Harbor Kayak ($15 hourly) and you can paddle right up to factory buildings, like the Archer/Daniels Midland Grain Elevators, cement plants and General Mills Cheerio facility.

Silo City development Buffalo NY

EVENTS/MUSIC/DRINKS: Silo City

There are several ways that Buffalo visionaries transform former industrial zones into livable, play-oriented, districts. One is by carving out a recreational space, with zip lines, climbing walls, skating rinks, and a beer garden. E.g., RiverWorks.

Rick Smith developer-owner Silo City Buffalo NY

Another way is to preserve the past: in this case Buffalo’s grain port history, by creating performance, reading, and art installation spaces inside silos left derelict – and then building apartments, retail and gallery space, and a local “Cheers” watering hole, (with live music) in and around these industrial ruins. This is what local businessman, Rick Smith, the Stetson-hatted owner of Ridgidized Metals Co., envisioned – and is actually accomplishing.

Duende Restaurant and Bar Silo City Buffalo NY

Smith purchased the empty Silo City in 2006 – spending his own funds to stabilize the ruins – and, in 2012, started letting people “use it” for grass roots theater, music, spoken word performance. He and his team found relics onsite to fashion furniture and decor at the funky Duende Bar and Restaurant, which he opened in 2018 as a Silo City gathering place, with live music throughout the summer.

Silo and Duende Music space Silo City Buffalo

Smith has now handed most of the building reins over to Generation Development, which is creating reasonably priced living space for artists, and adventurous pioneers.

Darwin Martin House by Frank Lloyd Wright - Buffalo NY
The Darwin D. Martin House Complex, also known as the Darwin Martin House National Historic Landmark, was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and built between 1903 and 1905.

VISIT: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House Complex

The Martin House was built at a time when Buffalo was the 8th largest city in the USA, and one of the first to be completely wired for electricity. Consisting of five structures built 1903-1905, this complex was one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s largest commissions.

By the 1990’s three of the original structures had been demolished. Restoring them necessitated a painstaking restoration that began in 1997 and continues to this day.

Greenbatch Pavilion - Darwin Martin House - Buffalo, New York

Begin at the glass-encased Visitor’s Center, designed by contemporary NYC architect Toshiko Mori. There, opt for either a one or two hour tour of one the the country’s signature FLW sites.

LLoyd Wright’s Dynamic Views

Like all Wright designs, the main house consists of natural materials, with a dynamic view the minute you walk through the front door. A 175-foot pergola connects the main house to the statue of Winged Victory in a plant-filled conservatory.

Pergola at Frank Lloyd Wright Darwin Martin Complex
175 foot long Pergola, Darwin Martin Complex,

Wright urged the “Soul to Soar” through architecture. His spaces were compressed, but his designs were light-filled for those Victorian times.

Kitchen at the Darwin Martin Complex
Kitchen at Frank Lloyd Wright Darwin Martin Complex

Most homes of the day were finished in mahogany, but Wright favored the lighter fine-grained rift-sawn White American Oak. His iconic art-glass windows with iridescent gold-leaf rectangles filtered light into the interior generating green and golden hues.

Wright abhorred clutter, hiding books in innovative cabinets and heating grates behind art glass doors that once again have been meticulously restored by the best craftsmen today. Mon, Wed, Fri. Sat – one-hour tours begin on the hour from 10am (11am Jan-April) till 4pm, Sundays from noon – 3:30, $17 for one hour tour, $35 two-hour tour. Not wheelchair accessible. Must reserve tickets in advance.

Graycliff Estate - A Frank Lloyd Wright house in Buffalo NY
Graycliff Estate, Frank Lloyd Wright design, Lake Erie

VISIT: Graycliff Estate, Derby

Built on a cliff of gray limestone (hence the name) overlooking Lake Erie, Graycliff was constructed for Darwin Martin’s wife, Isabelle, as a “country house” to replace her beloved summer place in the Adirondacks.

By the early 1920’s Isabel’s eyesight was so bad, she consulted with Frank Lloyd Wright to design this getaway, 15 miles from Buffalo. Its walls of glass allowed views through to the lake, and plenty of natural light.

After Isabelle passed away in 1945, the Piarist Fathers purchased the property (in 1951). The priests covered up many of the fine features with additional buildings and lean-tos. In the 1990’s, when the Order vacated the property, it was slated to be torn down. That is, until a small, passionate group formed the “Graycliff Conservancy” and raised an initial $20,000 to stave off demolition.

Grassroots Restoration

Since then, funds have been rolling in to support the restoration, rendering the Graycliff Conservancy one of the most successful grassroots efforts in the region to rescue one home. Before one wall or floor could be restored, tens of thousands of dollars were spent on structural issues. Tons of dirt had to be removed from the basement, and cement chipped from flowerbeds.

A state of the art “misting” system was installed to prevent damage from either fire or too much water. Next, an asphalt roof installed by the Fathers was removed. It was replaced with 25,000 hand-stained cedar shingles, as Wright had designed. Exterior walls were re-stuccoed, using sand from the beach below.

Wright was a nut for nature – bringing gardens and patios inside whenever he could. The Fern Room features flower boxes and unique corner windows that open. Touring Graycliff provides a rare chance to witness a work-in-progress restoration of one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most unusual designs.

Tours various times through the year, so consult website. Open daily in summer and early fall, closed Wed otherwise. Most tours 10:30, 11 and 2 M-F, more on weekends.  $16 adults, $10 kids. Do not wear high heels!

Waterfalls of Niagara Falls

VISIT: Niagara Falls

Chances are you’ve been here. But if you haven’t, see one of the natural wonders of the world from several vantage points. It’s a short 20 minute drive from downtown Buffalo, so plan to stay in the city, and make the Falls a day trip. (Or make it a Winter Weekend Getaway).

Cave of the Winds at Niagara Falls, NY Cave of the Winds at Niagara Falls, NY

Experience Maid of the Mist – the US boat that takes you right into the thundering roar of Canada’s Horseshoe Falls, grinding the engine in the pummeling whitewater for several dramatic minutes. Then walk in the splash of the American Falls through the Cave of the Winds.

For both, you’ll be issued flimsy ponchos. (You will get wet, guaranteed). And, at the entrance of the Cave of the Winds, you’ll receive a complimentary sturdy water-sandal souvenir in your size. Open May – mid-October. Maid of the Mist, $25.25, Cave of the Winds, $19.

Sol LeWitt Installation, Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo NY
Sol LeWitt Installation, Albright-Knox Gallery

Since 1862, the Albright-Knox has been collecting “paintings while still wet.” The 1905 Beaux Arts building  boasts the second-most number of columns in the country. The first is the U.S. Capitol Building. A contemporary wing was added in 1962.

The Albright-Knox takes the long view of Modernism, with its strongest holdings in Post War American Abstraction.

After a world-tour, one of the most thrilling installations is back – Lucas Samara’s Mirrored Room. It’s joined by famous works by world-renowned artists. Permanent galleries feature works of Picasso, Renoir, O’Keefe, Warhol. Don’t miss the fantastic Sol LeWitt stairwell installation, created from millions of graphite scribbles. It looks from afar like steel. $12 adults, $5 kids, Tues-Sun 10-5.

Burchfield-Penny Art Center, Buffalo NY
Burchfield-Penney Art Center

VISIT: Burchfield/Penney Art Center

Though he was the first artist chosen for a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC in 1930, most people have never heard of Charles Burchfield. But a visit to this 2008 LEDE-Certified museum, moved from Buffalo State College across the street, will change all that.

Burchfield began his career designing wallpaper. Among the 30,000 objects of his here, you might just be mesmerized by Burchfield’s bizarre take on nature – a mashup of Munch, Van Gough, and Audubon on hallucinogens. Look for eyes in trees, stormy skies, Lucy in the Sky With Diamond colors. Tuesday-Saturday from 10am-5pm, Thursday from 10am-9pm and Sunday from 1-5pm. Admission is $10 (adult), $8 (senior), $5 (student).

Frank Lloyd Wright Gas Station, Wright's Cord L-29 Cabriolet at Pierce-Arrow Museum, Buffalo NY
Frank Lloyd Wright Gas Station, Wright’s Cord L-29 Cabriolet at Pierce-Arrow Museum

VISIT: Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum.

What was just until lately the vanity project of an antique-car collector is now the home to never-built-in-his-lifetime but now realized Frank Lloyd Wright Filing Station. But first, the museum itself.

Because Buffalo was the terminus of the Erie Canal, it was an engine of industry and manufacturing. Buffalo-based Pierce Arrow employed over twelve thousand people during its heyday. It turned out more trucks during WWI than any other car manufacturer in the country.

Ohio Electric Car with Patent Leather Fenders at the Pierce Arrow Museum, Buffalo NY
Ohio Electric Car with Patent Leather Fenders at the Pierce Arrow Museum

The high-class Pierce-Arrow Motorcar, the “Rolls Royce of America,” was the official White House vehicle from Taft to FDR. You can see several meticulously restored versions among a warehouse of other notable autos, including the “Playboy” – a white convertible brand put out of business by General Motors – and a cherry red Chevy Impala 409 of “she’s real fine, my 409” fame. The 1902 Buffalo Electric Car, designed primarily for women, didn’t require cranking.

Frank Lloyd Wright Gas Station

Frank Lloyd Wright Gas Station, Built from Renderings in 2014, Pierce-Arrow Museum, Buffalo NY
Frank Lloyd Wright Gas Station, Built from Renderings in 2014, Pierce-Arrow Museum

The pièce de résistance of this museum, though, is a Frank Lloyd Wright gas station that was never built. Until now. In 1927, having just completed Graycliff, Wright was broke, and in the midst of a nasty divorce and scandalous relationship with an underage foreigner.

Scorned and under a microscope, he was nevertheless hired by TYDOL to design a state-of-the-art gas station at a time when these pit stops were literally a pump and a shack.

Wright imagined a copper-roof filing station that would spoil travelers with fireplaces, deluxe restrooms, and an ingenious gravity-flow rooftop gas dispensing system.

The final design was much too expensive to build, and so it never was.  Now, you can see it exactly how Wright had envisioned it – gleaming copper roof and all.  Thurs-Sun 11-4, $10 adults, $5 kids.

Buffalo NY City Hall
Buffalo NY City Hall

TOUR: Architectural Tour

Start at the imposing 1932 City Hall and take the elevator to the 25th floor observation deck for a bird’s eye view of Buffalo and Lake Erie. (FYI, you’ll have to climb an additional 2 floors to get to it). It’s also a nice camera angle to capture the top of the Liberty Bank Building and its two 30-foot bronze replicas of the Statues of Liberty facing east and west. Take a free one-hour tour of City Hall Monday – Saturday at noon.

Two 30 ft. Statue of Liberty Replicas Face East and West Atop the Liberty Building, Buffalo NY
Two 30 ft. Statue of Liberty Replicas Face East and West Atop the Liberty Building, Buffalo NY

Hotel Lafayette

Next, the Hotel Lafayette, is notable for its creator, Louise Bethune, America’s first female architect. Built in 1905 with hot and cold running water and phones in every room, it was among the most technologically advanced hotel of its day. After a recent renovation, the Lafayette is back in vogue as a boutique hotel.

Ellicott Square Bldg

Ellicott Square Building Interior
Ellicott Square Building Interior

Next  – hailed as the largest commercial building when constructed, the Ellicott Square Bldg. features an incredible interior with mosaic floor, wrought iron railings, double-staircases, and spectacular glass ceiling. Bonus: you can get your Beef On Weck at Charlie The Butcher’s Express here for the ultimate Buffalo experience.

Louis Sullivan Guaranty Building

Louis Sullivan's Prudential Building, Buffalo NY
Louis Sullivan’s Prudential Building, Buffalo NY

Stop at the Louis Sullivan Guaranty Building, built in 1895 for Prudential Insurance.  Sullivan, called “The Father of the Modern Skyscraper,” covered exterior surfaces with spectacular terra-cotta ornamentation.

Buffalo Architecture tours through “Explore Buffalo.” This organization provides multiple tours per day on a double-decker bus for optimal viewing. Other tours by “foot, bike, bus, and kayak.”

Handwritten manuscript of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Buffalo Public Library
Handwritten manuscript of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Buffalo Public Library,

AMAZING FIND: Handwritten Huck Finn Manuscript at the Buffalo Public Library

Stand within inches of a portion of Twain’s handwritten Huck Finn story, discovered in 1990 in an old trunk that hadn’t been open since before the owner’s death in the 1960’s.

Twain had donated the other half to the library in 1885, when manuscripts weren’t worth much.  It’s here, in Twain’s own handwriting, cross-outs and all. Several pages plus the title page of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn on on display. Unbelievable.

VISIT: Buffalo History Museum

The Buffalo History Museum is housed in the only building remaining from the 1901 Pan American Expo, now within site of the Albright-Knox Art Museum and Burchfield-Penny.

Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site, Buffalo NY
Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site

VISIT: Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site

Like Lyndon Johnson on Air Force One, Teddy Roosevelt was hastily sworn into office at his friend’s home, following the assassination of President McKinley at the Pan American Exposition in 1901.

The Wilcox home is now a National Historic Site. Find videos and exhibits about the man who used the “Bully Pulpit” to push through anti-trust legislation, champion the conservation movement and increase consumer protections. Guided tour only, $12. Mon.- Fri hourly from 9:30-5, Sat/Sun noon-5. Last tour 3:30.

Ferris Wheel addition to RiverWorks Buffalo NY

GO: Riverworks

This multi-purpose space on the industrial riverfront has evolved rather organically from the ruins of humungous Wheeler-GLF grain silos painted to look like beer cans. Yep, there’s lots going on here, so hold on to your hats. (Especially if you take the party Cycle Boat or floating Tiki Bar on a quick jaunt).

Riverworks is home to the world’s first brewery inside a grain silo. The “Beer Garden” is dressed up with pretty floral landscaping in and around the concrete rubble. It’s just one place to enjoy your drink or bite ordered from a massive indoor bar overlooking the Queen City Roller Girls roller rink. (I said there’s a lot going on).

Kontiki hut and boat tour on Riverworks in Buffalo NY

You can also rent kayaks, hydro-bikes, or rock-climb on the exterior or interior of silos. Ride the new Ferris Wheel and then zip above the crowds on a Zip Line from the top of one of the silos.($35 weekdays, $45 weekends).

Larkin Square, Buffalo NY
Larkin Square, Buffalo NY

PARTY/MUSIC/FOOD TRUCKS: Larkin Square

Howard Zemsky and his wife, Leslie – the “Director of Fun: Larkin Square”  – took an abandoned manufacturing complex and turned the city around. Or at least this part of it. The Larkin Co. was “the Amazon of its day,” starting with soap making and then kitchen craft, fashion, home goods and furniture.  All goods were sold by catalog, or by women who earned furniture rather than an income. Larkin was one of the largest companies in America, but went out of business by the 1940’s.

Larkin Company, Buffalo NY
Larkin Company, Buffalo NY

The community-minded Zemsky’s saw opportunity in these abandoned buildings and repurposed them into new office space. But they didn’t stop there.

They carved out a public park – like a quad on a college campus – where people can gather, eat, sit in lounge chairs and play games for free.

Though nearly 2,000 people work here, many more come for “Food Truck Tuesdays,” “Live at Larkin Wednesdays,” and “Outdoor Urban Market Thursdays.” The renovated 1930’s Filling Station is now a locally sourced café, and across the street is the great pub, Hydraulic Hearth. Come on any given summer’s eve and the place is hopping.

Buffalo-NY-Bikes

BIKE TOURS: Buffalo Bike Tours

Combine the pleasures of a great food or history tour with the health benefits of peddling your own bike on a Buffalo Bike Tour. Yes, of course they offer a “Wing Tour”  – a 9.5 mile, three hour “journey into Buffalo’s most fabled and famous dish.” Samples galore. $55 if you use your own bike, $75 including a Buffalo Bike rental. 

BIKE: Reddy Bikes

Red bikes are ready for use (haha) as Buffalo’s new bike share. Just grab one from a rack situated around town and go.

GO/MUSIC: Colored Musicians Club

Jazz musicians have been playing at the Colored Musician’s Club, after their other Buffalo gigs, since 1917. Davis, Coltrane, Gillespie – all the jazz greats have jammed here after hours. When reopened, musicians are invited to join in on Sunday night jam sessions. It’s an intimate way to listen to live jazz, and you never know who’s going to show up. Colored Musicians Club going through expansion and renovation, with reopening TBD. Incorporated in 1935, it’s the country’s only continuously running Black-owned club in the United States.

Bubble Man on Corner of Allen and Elmwood, Buffalo NY
Bubble Man on Corner of Allen and Elmwood, Buffalo NY

SHOP/EAT/DRINK: Elmwood Ave.

A bit over two miles long, this street has boutiques, restaurants and – up until recently Bubble Man. Although he passed away, we honor the guy who for years blew bubbles from his second story window on the corner of Allen and Elmwood.

BUFFALO FOOD

Buffalo Wings at Anchor Bar in Buffalo NY
Buffalo Wings at Anchor Bar

Buffalo Wings

The now ubiquitous bar food wasn’t always. Invented on the fly at the Anchor Bar in 1964, Theresa Bellisimo needed to satisfy a hungry hoard of college kids with the scraps she had on hand. The deep fried, hot sauce snack, as we now say, went viral.

Beef on Weck sandwich from Charlie the Butcher in Buffalo NY
Beef On Weck from Charlie the Butcher

Beef On Weck

It’s rare roast beef on a salt and caraway seed kimmelweck bun. Get one quick at Charlie The Butcher’s Express while ogling the interior of a Buffalo icon – the Ellicott Square Building.

Sponge Candy

This chocolate covered crunchy confection looks just like a wild sponge. It’s a Buffalo thang.

Parkside Candy Interior

Find them at Watson’s or Fowler’s or Parkside Candy, an old-fashioned ice cream parlor (open since 1927!) that some folks argue serves the best sponge candy.

Where to Eat in Buffalo NY

The Little Club on Hertel St Buffalo NY

EAT: Little Club Restaurant and Wine Bar

The Little Club, on North Buffalo’s upswinging Hertel Ave., might be small in size, but it’s large on excellence. Small bites and large plate ingredients come from local farms, and wine from independent producers. Owned by the Lombardo family – of Restorante Lombardo across the street – this iteration is light on heavy Italian dishes and heavy on veggies and modern cuisine.

EAT/DRINK/MUSIC: Duende at Silo City

You’ll require a sense of adventure to venture out to hidden-in-plain-site Silo City. But, once there, you’ll be happy to settle in at Duende – perhaps at a table made from grain sifters – for great, elevated pub food and wickedly wonderful drinks.

Swan Street Diner Larkinville Buffalo NY

EAT/LUNCH: Swan Street Diner

This authentic Swan Street Diner, built in 1937, was moved to Larkinville and opened in October 2017. Also called Sterling Diner No. 397, it fills a breakfast/lunch niche in such an adorable way, serving up diner staples like pancakes and BLT’s – and also more, ahem, modern fare for vegans, such as the Tempeh Sandwich.

Salad at Toutant

EAT: Toutant

Named for the fish camp Chef/owner James Robert’s granddaddy owned in his native Louisiana, Toutant is a revelation. And Roberts is a culinary genius.

Every Creole dish that emerges from the kitchen is a brilliant – and brilliantly plated – twist on the traditional. From Shrimp and Grits ($24) to Buttermilk Fried Chicken ($20) to the in-house smoked Jambalaya Smoked Chicken ($19), you can’t go wrong.

Some greens in the just picked salad have been flash fried, lending a salty crunch to the dish. Everything is OMG great. But don’t pass up desert. You’ll want to try the Ooey Gooey Cake topped with Brown Butter Ice Cream. Go ahead – I dare you to stop at just one bite.

Five Points Bakery Toast

EAT/BREAKFAST: Five Points Bakery

It’s a “Toast Café!” Order the toasted bread of your choosing. (It’s a bakery, after all). It comes with sides either sweet or savory. This place goes way, way beyond Avocado Toast.

Tempo Restaurant, Buffalo NY
Tempo Restaurant, Buffalo NY

EAT: Tempo

You’ll find one of Buffalo’s top fine restaurants, Tempo, on Millionaire’s Row – Delaware Ave – in a stone townhome modeled after a Tuscan villa. Food is excellent. The low-lit atmosphere is appropriate for family pow-wows or an intimate tete a tete. The classy, knowledgeable waitstaff are attentive, but not overly so. Hand-rolled Gnocchi ($26) with gooey mozzarella is sinfully good, as is the light as air Chicken Milanese ($34) – delicately breaded cutlet topped with arugula salad.

Ballyhoo Exterior

EAT: Locals Love

There is no end to the growing food scene in Buffalo. Consequently,  the “Best Chicken Wings” debate extends into fine and casual dining as well. Consensus for best include Left Bank for Modern American. Hutch’s for Seafood. Lombardo’s – another fine Italian. Allen Burger Venture – for innovative, quirky burgers. Buffalo Proper – a posh cocktail bar. Ballyhoo near the GM plant – a cool new cocktail bar in the former workmen’s watering hole that was Malamute. And Rue’s Pierogi – the best of Grandma’s pierogi dough recipe with a modern twist.

Tipico Coffee Elmwood Village Buffalo NY

COFFEE: Tipico on Elmwood

Indicative of the indie-foodie scene in Buffalo, Tipico is but one of many charming non-Starbucks coffee shops in Buffalo. Fans love its Elmwood Village vibe, great coffee, and excellent food as well.

DRINK: Founding Father’s Pub

Locals love this quirky place.  Trivia Nights and free nachos make this friendly neighborhood pub an international favorite.

DRINK: Resurgence Brewing Co.

One of a bundle of craft breweries in town, Resurgence makes a “Sponge Candy Stout,” allowing you to both sample the beer and Buffalo’s signature confection at the same time. Resurgence also features a Beer Garden where you can munch on burritos and meat pies while enjoying your brews.

DRINK: Thin Man Brewing Co

Thin Man Brewing Co. is named for the Crash Test Dummy, invented in Buffalo NY. Fans are keen on Thin Man’s preponderance of sours.

Where to Stay in Buffalo NY

Inn Buffalo B&B Elmwood Village Buffalo NY

STAY: InnBuffalo

The 1898 Hewitt Mansion, on a quiet street in the heart of hopping Elmwood Village, is now the elegantly urban “old world” InnBuffalo. This nine-suite B&B has all the hallmarks of the glitz of the Gilded Age – stunning varnished woodwork, stained glass windows, gold leaf ceilings – mixed, of course, with modern luxuries like large flat-screen TV’s and gleaming bathrooms that feature heated marble floors.

(InnBuffalo was included on Getaway Mavens Best Romantic Hotels in the Northeast US 2022 list.)

Library with gold leaf ceiling at Inn Buffalo NY

First Impressions

Owners Joe and Ellen greet guests warmly, plying them with information about the house and with drinks, snacks, and candy. (Amazingly, some of my favorites were offered: Smart Pop popcorn, and York Peppermint Patties, for instance).

Common Rooms at Inn Buffalo NY

Each room in this grand home features fascinating elements – many untouched for the last 120 years. Most common rooms ooze man-cave charm. Dim, but beautifully appointed, you can almost smell the cigars from days gone by. One – capped with a vaulted gold-leafed ceiling, is particularly stunning.

Stained glass windows on stair landing at Inn Buffalo

Besides the gilded ceiling, other architectural elements have been undisturbed since the home was first built, including hand painted stencil work, silk damask, and century-old tapestries.   

Millard Fillmore Suite at Inn Buffalo

Guest Rooms at Inn Buffalo

Once disheveled rooms have been transformed into tranquil retreats, with oriental rugs on hardwood floors, antiques, mirrored wardrobes, some with fireplaces, and of course, the best in bedding for undisturbed sleep.

But all is not seriously Victorian. A copy of the Girl with the Pearl Earring, from Ellen’s childhood room, hangs over the King Bed in the Millard Fillmore Suite, lending a sense of whimsy to an otherwise stately chamber.

Sparkling bathrooms feature heated mosaic marble tiled floors, subway tile showers and curved pedestal sinks.

Snack and breakfast room at Inn Buffalo

Breakfast

Ellen and Joe make sure there are plenty of snacks available at all times.

Each morning, the star of the complimentary home-cooked multi-course breakfast is the “scone of the day.” These baked morsels emerge hot from the oven, and then right onto your plate, followed by homemade granola, berry parfaits, and a sweet or savory main dish.

Just the Facts

Rooms from $169-$269 per night include unlimited snacks and soft-drinks and hot breakfast for two.

Hotel Henry Buffalo NY

Hotel Henry 

**Hotel Henry closed mid-2021 due to Covid, but is slated to reopen as The Richardson in a date TBD.

This write-up is for historical reasons only.

Standard room, Mansion on Delaware, Buffalo NY
Standard room, Mansion on Delaware, Buffalo NY

STAY: Mansion on Delaware Buffalo NY

Built in 1869 as a home for a family of three (with 12 servants), the Mansion sat empty for 30 years before its debut as a 28-room 4 Diamond hotel in the early ‘aughts. And like that family of three, you’ll be spoiled rotten by a bevy of butlers at your beck and call.

Décor is stunning. It’s Marimekko meets Art Deco with bones and woodwork intact –  a mash-up of moderns highlighting the original architecture to beautiful effect. Even the smallest of rooms exude charm, with graphic-design pillows in rust and black, patterned carpet in hues of green, glass desk, and contemporary accessories.

European Breakfast Spread, Mansion on Delaware, Buffalo NY
European Breakfast Spread, Mansion on Delaware, Buffalo NY

But what makes this stay so unique are the “Butlers” on call 24/7.  Need your shirt and pants pressed? Call. Just call. First two items are complementary. Require ice?  “Please don’t do it yourself, ask us.”  Require a ride to a great restaurant? The house Land Rover will shuttle you within three miles.

Between 5 and 7pm, join other guests in the boldly decorated billiards room and salons while enjoying complementary wine and cocktails. (Two per person before honor-bar kicks in).

Memories are made of the “European” breakfast that includes cheese and smoked salmon and the most decadent, cream-centered chocolate croissants. Ever. Rooms $190-$450 include free wi-fi, parking, afternoon cocktails or wine, European breakfast, clothes pressing, shuttle service, butler service.

Urban hot springs at Curtiss Hotel in Buffalo NY

STAY: Curtiss Hotel Buffalo NY

Opened within a few months of Hotel Henry, Curtiss is South Beach wild to Henry’s New York cool.

Even before you walk through the front door, you can peek into the hotel’s “all weather urban hot springs.” This very public, but small, heated indoor outdoor pool claims space in a partially enclosed patio.

The interior swirls with Rococo-crazy moldings and designs. Buffalo’s old revolving bar, Chez Ami, was recreated here. And yes, it revolves. Roofdeck lounge, Vue, features patio “views” of the city skyline, Lake Erie, and Canada. $169-$799.

STAY: Hotel @ Lafayette

The first woman to be admitted into the American Institute of Architects, Louise Blanchard, designed this building in 1904. It’s now a trendy, contemporary boutique hotel. Rooms $170-$210 per night.

DO: “The Great Wright Road Trip” 

A consortium of Frank Lloyd Wright sites located in Western Pennsylvania and Western New York – just a four hour drive from each other, have joined forces, launching a road trip that illustrates the epic arc and grandeur of the legendary architect’s career.

Beginning with his groundbreaking Prairie Style of the early 1900s through his visionary development of organic architecture in the 1930s at Fallingwater, just recently inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, and concluding with one of his most breathtaking Usonian houses of the late 1950s, the Great Wright Road Trip gathers together one of the most representative and inspiring collections of his work in the United States.

Visitors can also experience the working environment where Wright created many of his late-career designs — the architect’s San Francisco office has been reassembled and installed as a permanent exhibit at the Erie County Historical Society-Hagen History Center in Erie, Pennsylvania.

The partnering sites include:

Pennsylvania Laurel Highlands

Fallingwater (UNESCO World Heritage Site), Mill Run, PA

Kentuck Knob, Chalk Hill, PA

Polymath Park, Acme, PA

Erie PA

Hagen History Center, Erie, PA

New York

Blue Sky Mausoleum, Buffalo, NY

The Filling Station at the Pierce Arrow Museum, Buffalo, NY

Fontana Rowing Boathouse, Buffalo, NY

Graycliff, Derby, NY

Martin House, Buffalo, NY

Buffalo NY

60 thoughts on “Buffalo NY Finally Gets it Wright”

  1. A very well researched article (not many people know about Bubble Man!).

    Could use a little love from a copy editor, though. (High “heals” – within “site”…).

    Plus, the photo used for Canalside is actually the Erie Basin Marina.

    Great stuff, though.

  2. Hi John – Thanks for reading and commenting. I actually took that photo in Buffalo last week at Canalside (at least – that’s what I was told it was as I walked from the Lighthouse to the Kayak rental place, snapping pictures). I’m my own copy editor – so rely on attentive readers like you to point out typos and misspellings! Thanks – Malerie

  3. DOWNTOWN
    Tours of downtown Buffalo’s architecture and history.

    Buffalo Classics
    Masters of American Architecture

    CRIME IN THE QUEEN CITY
    Tour the darker side of Buffalo’s history!

    Allentown Mob Tour
    West Side Mob Tour

    GILDED AGE SERIES
    Tours of mansion neighborhoods where Buffalo’s rich and famous have lived.

    Delaware Avenue Mansions
    Delaware Avenue Midway
    Hidden Gems of the Delaware District
    Lincoln Parkway

    NEIGHBORHOODS
    Tours of particular neighborhoods in Buffalo.

    Black Rock
    Canisius College Neighborhood
    Cottage District
    Elmwood Village Victorians
    Grant Street Revival
    Grant-Amherst Neighborhood
    Larkinville
    Midtown Buffalo

    BEYOND BUFFALO
    Tours of places outside the City of Buffalo.

    Hamburg’s Architectural Gems
    North Tonawanda: Lumber City
    Village of Williamsville

    WATERFRONT &
    GRAIN ELEVATORS
    Tours along the Buffalo River waterfront.

    Silo City Vertical
    Silo City Grounded
    Down by the River

    BUS TOURS
    In-depth tours on board a comfortable motor coach, covering a wider geographic area.

    Brewing Buffalo: Then and Now

    SPECIALTY TOPICS
    Tours focusing on a unique topic of interest.

    Art of the Subway
    Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus
    Grassroots Gardens Tours
    Grover Cleveland: Buffalo’s Other President
    Villa Maria Illuminated

    YOUTH & FAMILY TOURS
    FREE tours for children and their families, in partnership with the Buffalo Architecture Foundation.

    CUSTOM TOURS
    Custom tours are always available for groups. We provide private walking tours or step-on bus docents, and all of our tours can be customized to meet your group’s interests.

    SCHOOL TOURS
    We are proud to provide tours to schoolchildren, to instill in them an appreciation for Buffalo’s architecture and history at an early age.

  4. Hi – I did link to your website. Wish I had more time to take some of your quirkier tours. Malerie

  5. Chris – Rochester is certainly on my list to explore! I just might take you up on it! – Malerie

  6. My family moved to Western NY 25 years ago. This is the best kept secret in the country. We will never leave.

  7. Hi Malerie,

    I am the Retail Director at the Martin House. Nice piece on the Martin House. I would however like to point out 2 corrections and a plug. We are open on Sunday’s and we are wheelchair accessible and if I do say so myself, we have a really good museum store that is not just the shop at the end of the tour. Thanks, Joe Incao

  8. Thank you for your wonderful article. Grover Cleveland spent much of his life here, but he actually grew up in Fayetteville, NY and was born in Caldwell, NJ. He moved to Buffalo to work for his Uncle Lewis Fahey Allen, who owned a huge chunk of land which in no known as modern day Allentown. Great read though! Thanks!

  9. Thanks, Mickey – I see that Fillmore was born closer to the Finger Lakes, too. So I will fix. Thanks for reading and pointing out my error and for your kind words. – Malerie

  10. malery, you visited bflo at the right time. (late sept, early oct might be a bit special, also.) especially considering our winters season. only makes us appreciate this weather all the more. a suggestion, next time you are here , I suggest you visit the goldome bank downtown on huron and main, formerly bflo savings bank, now m&t. and whil your there go inside an see the lobby with the amazing mechanical bank collection. a hidden gem not to be missed.

  11. Malerie,

    Great article. I must pat myself on the back for covering every single thing in your piece. Might I also suggest The Roycroft Campus, the birthplace of the American Arts & Crafts movement and a National Historic Landmark. Located in East Aurora, about 20 minutes from Buffalo, it’s also home to Millard Fillmore’s house, Fisher Price and Vidler’s, the ultimate five and dime store!

  12. THANK YOU SO MUCH for highlighting our beautiful City! You are welcome back anytime, and tell your friends! 😉

  13. Malerie, good article on Buffalo. I just wanted to say you missed one other Frank Lloyd Wright gem I know of in the queen city at the foot of the Peace bridge, FLW’s Fontana Boathouse. Here is the link to it http://wrightsboathouse.org/

  14. Duffs! I feel like Duffs is missing from the best wings list. Thanks for the great write up. Our city needs all the praising it can get!

  15. In defense of the original caption, the “incursion” into the marina is only a few yards from the northern edge of Canalside. Also, in the interest of scrupulous accuracy, Bubble Man plies his trade from a third-story window (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qq2bUYFmFOA), which gives him greater range. (This is, of course, if you adhere to the American practice of referring to the ground floor as the first floor, Europeans disregard this digression.)

    And while where a politician is born, raised, etc., gives many places claim to him, Fillmore gets props for being buried in Buffalo (thus one of only 39 sites where a former president is in permanent residence!). And, as a organizer of the University of Buffalo (1846) and Buffalo General Hospital (1855), he was responsible for arguably the two most important drivers of the region’s economy in 2014: Eds and meds. (This is NOT to disparage the role of Dr. Roswell Park, whose work at the Gratwick Laboratories begat the first comprehensive cancer care center in the U.S., in 1974, by then the Roswell Park Cancer Institute.)

    Cleveland, while marrying a Buffalo gal (guess she came out that night!), was the local sheriff and mayor, and rose from sheriff to president in four years flat (making President Obama’s rise from local politico look glacially slow by comparison); unfortunately, he retired to New Jersey, not the city that launched his career.

  16. Good Lord… where is this writer from?…

    Most articles about my beloved Western New York tell the world that a bunch of fat-ass Buffalonians deal with snow and ice 12 months a year, as we ignorant slobs daily consume chicken wings by the bucketful and live in a bunch of crumbling steel mills…

    It looks like this writer ACTUALLY VISITED Buffalo!… Holy Crap!

    Well, young lady, thank you so much for coming to our area… Next time you come, you will have to visit Our Lady of Victory National Shrine and Basilica in Lackawanna, our world-class zoo, spend the day in Delaware Park, take a boat trip down the Erie Canal or visit Old Fort Niagara…

    Oh yeah… you don’t have to order chicken wings… next time, try the Beef on Weck – with horse radish sauce, of course…

  17. Great article! Read the HuffPost one first and there was one minor error in that. Elbert Hubbard’s Roycroft Campus (which is well worth a visit) is in historic East Aurora (not Aura, as stated in the article) which is also home to the HQ of Fisher-Price toys (since it was started in EA — everyone in EA knew Mr. Fisher and Mr. Price way back when).

    Incidentally, the grain elevator was invented in Buffalo and General Mills was essentially founded there (even though it is no longer HQ’ed there). Dun & Bradstreet was founded there as well (check out the Dun building — beautiful architecture).

  18. Hi Ian – Thank you for reading (both pieces) and for your comments. I will try to have the Huff Post editors change Aura to East Aurora – several other people pointed that out. I’ll have to go back and visit the Royroft Campus as well. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment! Malerie

  19. Hi Alan – Thanks for reading and pointing that out. I just fixed it. Wish I could have stayed in Buffalo long enough to have a meal in each of the restaurants I recommended! Malerie

  20. Hi Mark – thank you so much for your kind words. Yes I did visit Buffalo and LOVED it. Friendly, beautiful and the residents have such pride in their city! I do have to return and see everything I missed. Thanks so much for reading and commenting. Malerie

  21. Thanks for having a great city to champion. Buffalo is very deserving of praise. Thanks for reading and commenting – Malerie

  22. Hi Chris – great info here (and cleverly presented, too). I have to stick by my “second story” window re: Bubble Man, though. His perch seemed to be the floor above ground (1st). Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment – Malerie

  23. Hi Liz – I did hear quite a bit about Duffs, but I had to go with the place that actually invented the wings. Next time, I’ll try your favorite! Thanks for reading and commenting… Malerie

  24. Thanks, Lisa. I’m telling everyone! Thanks for reading and for your kind words…Malerie

  25. Hi Joseph – I loved the gift shop at the Martin House! As the daughter of a FLW-style architect and Mom of an Architect in training, there was so much there I wanted to purchase. I made the change about the Martin House being open on Sundays, but I was told (and it states the website) that the tours are not wheelchair accessible. Thanks for reading and commenting – Malerie

  26. Pingback: Spotlight on Buffalo, Ver. 66 | I Choose Buffalo
  27. Beautifully written article, Malerie. Really nicely done. As a citizen of Buffalo and a strong believer in the city and surround communities, you really did a great job conveying all of what makes Buffalo a spectacular place to live and thrive in. With the resurgence of downtown, business and jobs flocking to the city/surrounding areas, infrastructure updates and the Waterfront/Canal-side being revitalized, there is a lot to love about Buffalo. Thanks again for comprising a lot of information about Buffalo in a pleasant, succinct article.

    – John Osberg

  28. Some of the remaining (abandoned) grain elevators are being repurposed as “Silo City” and are starting to host various art & music events (some at the same time). The location on Childs St & tours are mentioned by a previous commenter. General Mills actually still uses some of theirs.

  29. Don’t forget how quickly & easily it is to get around. My 8 mile rush hour commute is 21 min; other hours is 12 min. Nothing is over 20 min away (by car)from anything else, including Canada (just remember your passport). Much of what is in the article is walking distance apart & the above ground portion of the “subway” (downtown portion of Main St) is free.

  30. Good catch even noticing thr bubbleman in Allentown. I work downtown & most of my coworkers don’t know of him. He doesn’t get out, so this is his small way of brightening the spirits of those who cohabitate/visit his small portion of this earth.

  31. Great promo for Buffalo Niagara! For more information on Buffalo and Niagara Falls visit our website. We also publish a beautiful hard cover guide that has more information. You can order your own copy online; these guides are featured in all the better hotels (in-room) throughout the Buffalo Niagara region.

  32. Very nice research especially with all the pics my wife and I have gone to Pittsburgh and Cleveland just because of their waterfront nice to see buffalo finally catching up

  33. Great article! The origin of Buffalo’s name is worthy of mention. Originally called Beau Fleuve, the name morphed into Buffalo and Buffalo have never been native to the area. Would love to see the original name used once again.

  34. Wonderful article….The Buffalo Botanical Gardens and Our Lady of Victory Basilica are also great places to bring out of town guests.

  35. not mentioned ……Parkside area……First planned suburban community in US with Delaware Park and Buffalo Zoo……Wide residential steets..etc

  36. A great collage of Buffalo interests. Been gone from WNY for over 20 yrs. but we love coming back yearly to enjoy the city and family. Christmas shopping on Elmwood was a treat this season. THANK GOODNESS the amazing and beautiful architecture is preserved. What about adding Sheas?

  37. Well you have gone and done it, every time I read an article like this I miss my hometown and seriously contemplate moving home. #buffalove

  38. Wonderfully presented summary of the best and proudest of so many BuffaloNY treasures. On the one hand, I am born and raised and educated here and that makes me somewhat amazed at the national interest in all things 716. Working at Main Place Mall in 1977 not cool. On the other hand, I have moved and lived elsewhere (twice) and moved back to the Buff twice so am thrilled to have links like this to back up my Buffalo Proud blah blah blah to friends. Thanks for a well done site!!!

  39. Great article Ms Cohen,

    Wish I had known you were in town doing research on my beloved Buffalo. Would have made sure you toured the Michigan Street Heritage Corridor. Not one but two centuries of African American History. Underground Railroad Church, the first church built by black people, orginally named the Michigan St Baptist Church. Rev Jessie Nash was the Minister during the Niagara Movement which led to the birth of the NAACP. Rev Nash’s orginal home is now the Nash Museum, a site to see complete with full size figures of he and Mrs Nash. Also located in the Corridor is the oldest Colored Musicans Club, complete with museum on the premises. Lastly and certainly not least is the site of the home of Mary B Talbert, one of the founders of Federated Womens Club.

    Oh so much more to love about Buffalo!!!!

  40. Frank – thanks so much for the kind words! I found Buffalo people to be extraordinarily friendly. Malerie

  41. Hi Amber – I think you’d be joining lots of expats who want to return if you did! Thanks for reading and commenting! Malerie

  42. Just noticed that Louise Bethune named in the item about the Hotel Lafayette became Louise Blanchard later in the Stay@Hotel Lafayette near the end of the article. Nicely done, all in all, and something to keep for our visitors. thank you.

  43. Amazing post! Buffalo is one of my favourite city! Certainly next year i will visit this beautiful place! Thanks for sharing these useful informations!

  44. Excellent article. And the two photos depicting Canalside are, indeed, the “replica canals” at Canalside. There are no photos in the article of the Erie Basin Marina.

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