Best of Buffalo: Food Dissent

The Artvoice Best of Buffalo 2013 winners were announced Monday, and I suppose it’d be gracious to congratulate the winners, so congratulations. 

But voters, jeez have I got some bones to pick with you. 

Fat Bob’s Smokehouse

Best BBQ? Fat Bob’s location might be swell, and its food may be passable, and it might have a lively bar scene, but best BBQ in Buffalo? Absolutely not. The best BBQ joint in Buffalo is Suzy Q’s – hands down, and it’s not even a competition. This scrappy little joint up near the GM Powertrain plant is a diamond in the rough, which serves up smoked pork, beef, chicken, and Polish sausage that’ll make your taste buds sing and a grown man weep. 

Betty’s Restaurant

Not quibbling with this result, although it’s not my first choice. But do people even do brunch anymore? Is this still a thing? 

Grover’s Bar & Grill

This is a knee-jerk reaction people have, but it’s totally wrong. Grover’s had burgers the size of frisbees, but although the meat is still big, it’s not like it used to be. At a recent visit, the meat was gray and dry and totally unsatisfying, especially given the lengthy wait. Ruzzine’s Rock Bottom directly across the street is infinitely better.  The Roaming Buffalo makes a fantastic burger. Vizzi’s is good. People swear by the Sterling Place Tavern. But Grover’s? Only in your memories, not in real life. 

Mighty Taco

Mighty Taco deserves to be on no list. It is emergency food; when you’re too broke or too drunk to eat anywhere else. 

SPoT Coffee

If I can make it better at home, it doesn’t belong on a “best of” list. I can make better coffee at home. 

Lake Effect Diner

I have a problem with Tucker Curtin after his lobbying against the food trucks. I’m not a big fan of rewarding anticompetitive behavior. 

Papa Jake’s Saloon

Wiechec’s. But really, best fish fry is who can best dip a frozen fish from SYSCO into a Pitco Frialator. 

Anderson’s Frozen Custard

Are you out of your mind Buffalo? Anderson’s is fine, but my God the ambiance in there is 70s Burger King. The ice cream is ok, but it’s not the best in Buffalo. The best ice cream being made in WNY right now is Lake Effect Ice Cream out of Lockport. They make wonderful, rich ice creams and create innovative flavors.  Get your heads out of your asses. Hell, even for custard, Abbott’s and Hibbard’s are way batter. 

Chef’s Restaurant

I love Chef’s as much as the next fat white guy, but it’s not the best Italian food in WNY. Not by a long shot. It is a spaghetti parm factory. San Marco (caution: annoying noise)? Mulberry? Lombardo’s

Amy’s Place

I’m not in college anymore, so The Original Pancake House

La Nova

Not remotely. Romeo & Juliet’s, Trattoria Aroma, Siena, 800 Maple, Rocco’s, La Hacienda of Niagara Falls, Pizza Oven, Elm St Bakery all make pizza that’s head and shoulders above La Nova’s floppy stuff. 

Jim’s Steakout

I don’t know from after 2am, but the best subs are at DiBellas and Weggies

Russell’s Steaks, Chops & More

There’s room for improvement. 

That’s it. Get it together, Buffalo. Don’t make me tell you how to vote next year. 


  • re:fish fry. Just to dispel the myth regarding frozen fish from Syscos, I know for a fact Brother’s in East Aurora has fresh Haddock (and clams) trucked in from Boston every Thursday. I do not know for a fact but I guess Hayes’s in Clarence does something similar.
    Pretty much right on with the rest of the criticism.

  • About the BBQ. I would agree that for a while Fat Bob’s BBQ went downhill. It was dry most of the time and sometimes oversmoked. That said however, since it has been under new ownership, they have taken it to another level. I’ve been going a bunch recently and they are doing it right. Everything I’ve had in the last few months has been top notch with a great smoke flavor. I will admit that I haven’t been to Susie Q’s, but I don’t think you should so easily write of Fat Bob’s since the ownership change and the new menu. Plus, they never skimp of portions. They are some of the best ribs I’ve had in a very long time. Right now, they are by far my favorite BBQ joint in town. Everybody is about to get some stiff competition though as soon as Dinosaur opens.
    This is coming from someone who has spent several years now perfecting my smoking technique at home.

    • I haven’t been to Fat Bob’s in years after one too many unsatisfactory experiences there. It totally looks the part, but doesn’t deliver. Didn’t deliver, perhaps more accurately. I would give it another go if someone I trusted recommended it as being very good.

      But part of your comment reminds me of a scene in Annie Hall:

      There’s an old joke – um… two elderly women are at a Catskill mountain resort, and one of ’em says, “Boy, the food at this place is really terrible.” The other one says, “Yeah, I know; and such small portions.”

      • Like I said, I agree with your sentiment about it in the past, but I would definitely suggest trying again. The guys that own it are young and are definitely making a much better effort at the food. I’ve had the ribs quite a few times in the last six months and they have been awesome everytime.

    • Talk about a restaurant that has gone downhill… BW’s is leading the pack. Eating as the restaurant tastes like you’re getting their catering leftovers – overcooked and dried out. They are off my list of places I’ll eat. My last two visits, months apart, were highly disappointing. From what I’ve tasted – Suzy Q’s is #1, Kentucky Greg’s is #2, Smokin’ Tom’s is #3, R&R BBQ is #4.

  • I cannot believe people like Fat Bob’s. The current best is BW’s. Dinosaur Barbecue is a million times better than Fat Bob’s and will be a lock to win this category starting next year.

  • Chefs… its the choice of people who can’t think of anything else outside of Olive Garden. I feel like i’m in a bingo hall when I’m there.

    But Mulberry’s? C’mon. Slam dunk winner for the most overrated restaurant in WNY. The food is so bland there. The reason Mulberry’s is so popular is because everyone thinks its this hidden, out of the way place serving a meatball the size of a basketball that only they know about, when in fact everybody and their mother thinks the exact same thing… It has a certain appeal, for sure, but its got nothing to do with the quality of the food. Doesn’t hold a candle to Prospero, Vino’s, Santasiero’s, and a plethora of others…

    • Ridgewaycynic2013

      I noticed Mulberry’s links to a Buffalo News review from the Okun era. Like so many of her reviews and “I’m a personal friend of the owner” schticks, BN claims the review is unavailable. Big meatball = big booths?

  • Most of these are on point, but I’d like to pre-register a complaint about Dinosaur BBQ for when it wins next year. Dinosaur kind of sucks, too. It’s WAY too expensive and the pre-packaged biker bar ambience is played.

    • Also Duff’s wings are almost tied with Anchor Bar for worst in Buffalo. For a place that sells itself on how spicy its wings are, they are totally wussy. The entire method of “just add more sauce” when trying to make wings spicier is beyond me.

      The obvious choice for best wings in the area is the Bar Bill in East Aurora.

  • Agree with most of this but Dibella/Weggies makes a horrid sub mostly due to the monstrosity that is a roll. It’s too big and too heavy and ruins it. My idea of a perfect sub is what John’s Pizza and Subs puts out.

  • Try elmwood market at elm and north for subs. I usually get the bacon cheeseburger sub, i dont know if that qualifies as a traditional sub but it is very good. The guy who usually is cooking is pretty cool/funny as well

  • Agreed on Fat Bob’s. I’ve gone there regularly, recently, for the bar. The food is bland and the table service is awful. The fried pickles are good, though.

  • I have to agree with you on nearly all of this, but will rise to the defense of Mighty Taco. It is sui generis, but undeniably cheap, and good.

  • By the way, not that I have any problem with Charlie the Butcher as best beef on weck but holy crap, sit at the bar at Schwabls sometime and watch that old fart slice a wafer thin slice of meat like he was cutting a diamond, carefully pick off any fat, gingerly place the slice on the bottom half of the weck roll and then resume the whole process for the next slice. Finally dipping the top half of the roll in au jus. You sit there and salivate.

  • I hit up Wiechec’s as part of my Lenten fish fry reviews this past spring. I was dissapointed and i found it overrated. The best i found were Jade’s in Depew, My Little Margie’s in Depew, Frank’s in Lancaster and The Bellvue in Cheektowaga were alll way better.

  • Ridgewaycynic2013

    Any of you erudite epicureans care to rate Buffalo BBQs compared to Rochester’s Sticky Lips? We had a large family group meal there and all came away pleased (perhaps not the nephew…even more sour sort than I). I’ve heard a lot of Rochester thinks Sticky Lips is better than the Dinosaur BBQ there.

  • Ridgewaycynic2013

    As for “Best Italian”…what, no Valenti’s?

  • Alan, just had pizza at Romeo and Juliet’s in Amherst. What a find! Thanks for the tip.

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