A blizzard of restaurant openings blanketed Western New York in 2015. Here are my special snowflakes, the 10 new places that meant the most to me, for reasons plain or obscure.
Toutant437 Ellicott St. (342-2901, toutantbuffalo.com)
James Roberts’ restaurant did more than bring biscuits, jambalaya and other underrepresented classics from Low Country and Southern cuisine to downtown. Toutant’s behind-the-scenes attention to detail and uncompromising ingredient sourcing has redefined what casual restaurants are capable of in Buffalo.
Marble + Rye112 Genesee St. (853-1390, marbleandrye.net)
From an instant contender for the best burger in town (with a custom beef blend including a shot of bone marrow), to pickled onion rings, this understated restaurant has sneaky depth to its minimalist menu. Every place has chicken, steak, pasta and fish, but the scratch kitchen here gives plates a memorable touch.
The Mess Hall717 Ridge Road, Lackawanna (827-1134)
This small place, from the owners of Brick Oven Bistro and Mulberry Italian Ristorante, brought old favorites and a solid slate of new dishes to Lackawanna. Don’t let the name or the address fool you – this is an upscale casual place with lots of housemade specialties, practically in the shadow of the basilica.
Lucia’s on the Lake4151 Lakeshore Road, Hamburg (627-9752, luciasonthelake.com)
One dining genre Western New York has covered is upscale Italian, which Lucia’s kitchen does well, and serves with gusto. What made it particularly stand out in memory as the year draws to a close was its combination of robust dining and stirring scenery, in this case a great lake view. A recent expansion project has put even more tables in play.
Griffon Gastropub5445 Transit Road, Clarence (thegriffonpub.com)
The boast of nearly 100 beers on tap catches the attention of beer lovers, but it’s the food offered at the second edition of the Griffon that broadens its appeal to the whole family. From smoked Gouda mac and cheese to banh mi burger to short ribs, Griffon’s menu gives it a chance to stand out from the family dining crowd on Transit Road.
Fiero408 Evans St., Williamsville (631-4090, fierorestaurant.com)
Offering Moroccan flavors in dishes like tagines and bisteeya, Fiero’s owners gambled that Williamsville was ready for something different. Brick-oven pizza and much of the menu is familiar stuff, but the willingness to branch out, combined with a talented chef, makes Fiero a place adventurers can explore.
Allen Burger Venture175 Allen St. (768-0386, allenburgerventure.com)
Mike Shatzel’s heavy metal burger bar delivers proficient high-end burgers and backs it up with first-class draft beer and whiskey. It’s not just decor – manager and bassist Johny Chow has helped ABV become a place rockers relax after their last encore. ABV has other Allen fixtures wondering how to compete with an eatery that really rocks.
Lloyd Taco Factory1503 Hertel Ave. (whereslloyd.com)
Four taco trucks crisscross the Buffalo area, dishing up some of the best-loved truck offerings, but the restaurant’s opening means fans always know where to find a pork burrito. Add the flavor of tortillas made from corn ground on site, and a bar ready to preach mezcal to the masses, and Hertel has another solid draw.
Sato Ramen3268 Main St. (835-7286, satobuffalo.com)
The owners of Elmwood Avenue’s Sato opened a casual restaurant in University Heights with a menu centered around ramen, Japanese noodle soup. The housemade ramen noodles and flavorful broth choices, fried snacks and rice bowls, make it an outstanding new choice for quick, quality meals.
La Divina2896 Delaware Ave., Kenmore (447-8989)
The most casual spot on this list by far, La Divina is a taco counter at the front of a Mexican grocery. Place your order, find a stool, and give thanks to the taco gods that real Mexican tacos – plus tortas and a deep salsa bar – are available at $2 a throw in the heart of Kenmore.