8 Foods to Try in Buffalo

pan-fried pierogi dumplings in a frying pan on a table with a plate of pierogis beside

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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.

01 of 08

Buffalo Wings

pile of fried chicked covered with a red sauce and green garnish

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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.

02 of 08

Beef on Weck

beef on weck sandwich with a pickle spear

Courtesy of Visit Buffalo Niagara

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.

03 of 08


plate of crescent-shaped fried pierogi dumplings

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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.

04 of 08

Sponge Candy

pile of chocolate candy with a honeycomb center

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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.

Continue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08

Ethiopian Cuisine

plate of Ethiopian food with injera bread as a base and several spoonfuls of different colored curry on top

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In the last few decades, Buffalo has become home to increasing numbers of East African migrants, particularly from Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Sudan. These communities keep their culinary history alive by establishing restaurants, and there are a few great places to eat Ethiopian cuisine in Buffalo. In case you're not familiar with this type of food, it typically consists of a flat bread called injera, upon which servings of spiced curry made from vegetables, pulses, and meat are served. The idea is to use the injera to scoop up the curries, no utensils necessary. The West Side Bazaar is an ideal place to try Ethiopian and a range of other international food, as this small food court-type establishment serves authentic, inexpensive food and you can try lots of different types in one sitting.

06 of 08

Street-Style Thai Food

plate of stir fried prawns, squid rings, and greens

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Thai food is another worthwhile cuisine you can find at West Side Bazaar. While Buffalo is about as far as you can get from a Bangkok street food setting, if you're looking for something spicy, the Pattaya Street Food and Nine & Night Thai Cuisine stands in the West Side Bazaar have the goods.

07 of 08

Spaghetti Parm

plate of spaghetti with red sauce and cheese on top and cutlery beside

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In addition to Polish migrants, Buffalo became home to many Italian migrants in the 19th and 20th centuries, which has had a great influence on its cuisine. You can get Italian food at many places in Buffalo, but a typically Buffalonian type of pasta is spaghetti parm. It's spaghetti covered in marinara sauce and a lot of mozzarella cheese, and is particularly comforting on a cold Buffalo evening. As it's a particular Buffalo twist on Italian food, look for local Italian-style eateries to try spaghetti parm rather than "authentic" Italian restaurants. Chef's Restaurant is a classic choice on Seneca Street in downtown.

08 of 08

Buffalo-Style Pizza

Close up of pepperoni pizza

Courtesy of Visit Buffalo Niagara

Located roughly halfway between New York City and Chicago, it makes sense that Buffalo's own take on pizza lies somewhere between New York-style and Chicago-style pizza. And whichever side of the line you sit, you might find you like Buffalo-style pizza best! Buffalo-style pizza has little-to-no crust, a thick airy base, and is typically served topped with pepperoni. Grab a slice at Bocce Club Pizza, La Nova, Bob & Johns La Hacienda, and elsewhere.