10Best Selects the Best Restaurants in Buffalo, New York
By Amber Nolan
Buffalo's restaurant scene may surprise visitors. While the city is known for its pub grub like beef on weck and chicken wings, a number of restaurants offer a more sophisticated dining experience and eclectic menus designed by well-known chefs.
Long-time favorites such as EB Green's and Oliver's continue to provide excellent service and cuisine that is perfectly prepared, with an impressive wine and cocktail list to match. With a rich Italian heritage, Buffalo has a wide variety of Italian food, including Salvatore's Italian Gardens and San Marco Ristorante, two elegant restaurants that are ideal for a night of fine dining.
Newcomer Mike A's is set in the jaw-dropping Hotel Lafayette, an architectural gem that features art-deco decor and a five-star dining experience.
Out of all the restaurants in a city, 10Best narrows the options to those places with the most appeal and the best reputations. We offer carefully vetted selections to let you explore Buffalo dining on your own. If time is really tight, though, and you don't have the leisure to look through all our offerings, we present our list of the best restaurants in Buffalo. Here, we distill the best businesses down to a special selection of ten. These places promise a stellar experience and a taste of the city that you just can't miss.
10 Laughlin's Hearty Buffalo Bistro
While many of the city's beef on weck sandwiches can be found in diner-like settings and pubs, Laughlin's is a ideal for a more upscale experience and makes a great stop before or after a show at Shea's Theater. Exposed brick walls, black leather furnishings and a long, angular bar grace the bi-level interior of this stylish yet comfy bistro. An upscale contemporary twist on Buffalo's best home-cooking is reflected in the menu, which offers a sumptuous carved roast beef on kummelweck and fried bologna steak with melted cheese, peppers and onions. Outdoor seating available. Be aware that they are closed on Sundays during the summer. (716-842-6700)
9 Left Bank
Artists and intellectuals are drawn to this unique downtown bistro for an evening of fine wine, foreign beers, enlightened conversation and soul music. Housed in a century old historical building, the Left Bank dining room features exposed brick walls and beautiful artwork. An interesting menu complete with decadent pastas, seafood, steak and vegetarian specialties delights guests. The gorgonzolla cheese fondue, served with beef tenderloin, focaccia points, portobello fries and asparagus spears, is perfect for sharing. Stop by for Sunday brunch from 11:30am to 2pm and enjoy live jazz music and a unique offering of breakfast items. On Wednesday nights, they offer Thai and Vietnamese specials. (716-882-3509)
Elegant sophistication defines both the cuisine and décor at this Buffalo mainstay. Since 1936, Oliver's has been a premier choice for the city's elite. Appetizers such as grilled sea scallops with arugula or Oestra caviar may be included on the seasonal menu and might be followed by lobster with dill-lemon sauce or tournedos of beef tenderloin with truffles, twice-baked potatoes, and shallot glaze. For dessert, the house specialty, baked Alaska served with chocolate and caramel sauces, is spectacular. Be sure to ask about their specials menu; the soup of the day is consistently a quality appetizer. Be aware that lunch is only available Wednesday through Friday. (716-877-9662)
7 San Marco Ristorante
Superb Northern Italian cuisine inspired by Tuscan and Venetian flavors highlights the seasonal menu at this quiet, elegant restaurant. After moving to Buffalo from Italy, owners Grimaldi and his then fiancee, Nancy, opened San Marco. The husband and wife duo have created a following and received much recognition, but they can still be found in the dining room and the kitchen each night. The grilled quail sauteed in cognac and shallots may be served as an appetizer with porcini mushrooms or as an entree over wild mushroom risotto. Game dishes are their specialty, such as tenderloins of wild boar, red tipped venison, and fresh deboned white rabbit. The excellent wine list offers vintages from Italy and California. (716-839-5876)
6 Rue Franklin
Situated in Buffalo's theater district, this bistro-style restaurant offers contemporary French cuisine, superb service, and a charming ambiance. The lovely outdoor courtyard and garden is ideal for an intimate dining experience, upscale night out with friends, or even a business meeting. In addition to daily specials, the seasonal menu may feature grilled swordfish with little necks clams, vegetables á la nage, and basil oil or braised lamb shank with green lentils and creamed salsify. A prix fixe menu is offered Tuesday to Thursday, featuring an appetizer, entree and dessert for $28 to $32. It's clear that the friendly waitstaff is there to accommodate guests and make their dining experience a pleasant one. (716-852-4416)
5 Salvatore's Italian Gardens
Enjoy superb Italian dining in a delightfully flamboyant ambiance at this renowned restaurant. The classic menu features such favorites as osso buco, marsala, and rollitini, along with rack of lamb, Maine lobster, and roast Long Island duckling. The also serve one of the best steaks in Buffalo. The extensive wine list (18 pages long) includes local New York wineries as well as fine wines from Italy, France, Chile, Spain, and many other countries with a sommelier to guide you into the perfect wine selection. A private dining room and outdoor patio cater to your personal dining experience, and a florist is on hand for special events. (716-683-7990)
4 E.B. Green's
E.B. Green's a popular, independently owned restaurant in downtown Buffalo adjacent to the Hyatt Regency and is known throughout the city for its steaks. There's plenty to choose from, including prime rib and porterhouses, New York Strip, Kansas City Strip, and filet mignon. In fact, the restaurant has been honored on several occasions and won numerous awards over the last 10 years for its steaks. Other menu items include Alaskan halibut and salmon, rack of lamb, scallops, and duck all served with a house salad and baked potato. An extensive wine list complements the menu, and E.B. Green's also offers live entertainment Tuesday through Saturday nights, including jazz performances. (716-855-4870)
3 Bacchus Wine Bar
Inventive small plates, stylish decor and great wine (of course) attract crowds to this fun wine bar. Patrons nibble on delicacies such as fried brie and seared tuna with Asian noodle salad, and the award-winning wine list, boasting over 200 labels and offering many selections by the glass, allows you to sample a variety of interesting choices. The menu is designed by Chef Brian Mietus, and includes large plates like shrimp crusted mahi mahi, roasted duck breast with cherry porcini, and pork milanese, and there is even a separate menu entirely dedicated to cheese pairings. Service is skillful and attentive. (716-854-9463)
2 Mike A's
This dazzling addition to the Hotel Lafayette is quickly becoming a favorite new restaurant in Buffalo. Acclaimed Chef Mike Andrzejewski brings an eclectic menu to the fine-dining establishment. First courses include items such as glazed smoked pork belly and beef tarter, followed by sea scallops with red wine glaze, duck breast with chorizo stuffed figs, and filet mignon. Hand-crafted cocktails designed by an award-winning mixologist and served from the art-deco bar set the tone for an elegant evening. A lunch menu is also available with photo-worthy burgers, soups and salads. After your meal, wander through the opulent halls and lounges of the hotel and you will feel like you've been transported in time. (716 253 6453)
With a bistro ambiance that features white table clothes, dark lighting and a stylish bar, this restaurant offers interesting combinations of Asian, Italian, and American dishes. The cuisine is creative and features items like grilled fresh calves' liver with caramelized onions, jambalaya pasta with Gulf shrimp, and pepper-crusted tenderloin with brandy cream sauce. The saefood options are especially diverse and can include monkfish, oysters, Atlantic Halibut, Australian lobster, and Faroe Island Salmon. Attire is casually elegant, and reservations are recommended. Hand-crafted cocktails are made from scratch, and there is attention to detail on every small plate, large plate, or featured entree. (716-885-0074)
About Amber Nolan
Originally from upstate New York, this restless traveler has a knack for befriending interesting characters. You can usually find her just about anywhere that has a hammock. Amber's favorite places are Iceland for its remoteness; Panama for its parties; and Peru for its history. Her work can be found on MSNBC.com, Frommers, and Sherman’s Travel, where she served as the Cruise Editor and Senior Producer. She is currently working on a comic novel about her shoestring travels as she hitchhikes on airplanes across the country in an effort to visit all 50 states. See Jethiking.com.
Read more about Amber Nolan here.