Lizz Schumer
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Lizz Schumer

Contributor - Buffalo, NY

Lizz Schumer is a writer, photographer and journalism professor living and working in Buffalo. She teaches journalism at Canisius College and writes about food, drinks and living in Western New York for a variety of publications. Find her online at lizzschumer.com, @eschumer on Twitter, @lizzschumer on Instagram and Facebook.com/authorlizzschumer.

The 1950s decor isn't the highlight of Bertha’s Diner. It isn’t the creative twist on diner standards, either. Nor is it the cozy atmosphere or its walkable Hertel Avenue location. The diner's unique appeal relies on all of these, which have made it a Buffalo favorite. Blink and you’ll miss Bertha’s, nestled next to North Park Theatre on the bustling shopping s…

Vegans, vegetarians and diner fans rejoice: Amy’s Place is your haven. The unassuming Main Street storefront has been open since 1981 and serves all meals from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day. Amy’s is a no-frills, cash-only spot with all of the standards, as well as a large selection of meat-free choices. Most of the menu weighs in under $10 and is largely customizable.…

Buffalo’s poetry culture – like the city itself – is clawing its way from shadowy bars and coffeehouses into the streets, stages and public consciousness. Poetry in Buffalo is not new but a slew of players are keeping it as fresh as the Main Street medical campus, and growing just as fast. “Whether you write for the page, the stage or for the walls in your bedro…

It doesn’t get much more Buffalo than a Friday fish fry. And there aren't many places more old-school about it than Wiechec’s Lounge. The Clinton Street bar and restaurant fills up before quitting time on Lenten Fridays. Get there early if that’s your plan, and be prepared. We had a few brews at the bar during our hour-long wait. Most of the barroom knows what …

Helen’s Kitchen is housed in Transitown Plaza, surrounded by chains that dwarf the unassuming storefront. Blink and you’ll miss the red-lettered sign tucked in the corner of the strip. If you’re looking for a solid diner breakfast without the corporate vibe down the street, this is your spot. Advertising circulars doubling as placemats, thick-rimmed mugs and large…

Greek diners are a dime a dozen in Western New York, but Taki's serves its souvlaki with a side of witty repartee. The two-level dining room is adorned with posters like this one signed by Pandora: “I adore getting Taki’s Takeout – They always put my food in a box.” Then there’s the confession from Poseidon: “Don’t tell anybody, but I absolutely love Takis’…

Rachel Wright of Mes Que loves experimenting with wild fermented ingredients. Sarah Tierney of Ballyhoo plays with rose water. Kerry Quaile of Buffalo Proper enjoys using dimmi. Jeannie Alexander of Community Beer Works geeks out over the science of brewing and Allie Ralbovsky of Rusty Nickel Brewing Company reaches for IPAs. These women are part of a growing contingen…

The Wayside Family Restaurant might have the friendliest waitstaff in town. While being called "sweetheart" usually makes me prickle, it felt homey coming from our waitress. Courteous service goes a long way in making a dining experience worthwhile, and our waitress treated us like we were her own kids, sitting down for a bite in her kitchen. If that’s what earns W…

Classically trained Chef Victor Parra Gonzalez had a choice to make. “Do I want to be a French chef, or do I want to be a Mexican chef?” asked the Acapulco-born restaurateur. “Or can I be something in the middle?” With Las Puertas, a 35-seat gem on the West Side, Gonzalez’s creations answer for him. The restaurant opened on Feb. 9 after years in the making.…

When I was a kid, my mom never bought anything full price. From groceries to school clothes, that woman had a coupon for everything – and still does. An extensive list of deals and specials is not the reason Picasso’s Pizza is great, but it doesn’t hurt. Picasso’s has locations in Williamsville, West Seneca, Lancaster and Blasdell. That means if you haven’t …

In the Buffalo area, tacos are the new black. It’s not just Mighty Taco anymore. With everything from the artisanal Casa Azul and Lloyd Taco Factory, to Valle de Mexico and La Divina, almost every suburb has its share of Mexican outposts. Now thanks to Cantina 62, Lackawanna does, too. The diner in the shadow of Our Lady of Victory basilica features a breakfast and l…

Hamburg native David Busch grew up listening to his grandfather, Ray Gates, tell stories about his time behind the bar at The Steakhouse, an institution where Mason’s Grille 52 now stands. As he takes over the bar program at Carte Blanche on the corner where he used to work as a dishwasher at Buffalo Street Grille, he's right at home. “I came into a family atmospher…

Western New York is more slush than sand beaches this time of year but inside many local bars, tropical sensations are just a sip away. Carved ceramic mugs, garish garnishes and two handfuls of ingredients indicate that tiki is in the house. Tiki, as we know it today started 80 years ago with Don the Beachcomber in Hollywood. The restaurant was founded by Ernest Raym…

Nick’s Place on Amherst Street has been a Black Rock institution since 1994, surviving through neighborhood changes and several disasters of its own. Even after a fire ravaged the kitchen in 2009, the neighborhood banded together to get the business back on its feet. Earlier this year, a car ran through the front window, but Nick’s didn’t let that stop it. Plywood…

Lone Star Fajita Grill has been a Hertel Avenue secret for decades. The hole-in-the-wall spot north of the business district doesn’t look like much, but it’s solid Tex Mex for less than a Mighty run. Lloyd Taco Factory this is not. You won’t see any artisanal tortillas or unconventional toppings here. It’s a far cry from La Divina or Valle de Mexico, too. But what …