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Phil Wagner

Freelance local food writer with a passion for the staples and a palate for adventurous eating.


Food and Drink

Bruno Italian Grill has moved in to the space formerly occupied by Rachel’s Mediterranean on the corner of Chippewa and Delaware. Trusting a similar business model to Rachel’s but a different cuisine, Bruno is hoping its fast-casual, build-your-own Italian concept will hit the ground running in stride with the time-crunched business crowd it’s hoping to entice. Bruno…

Food and Drink

Mezza is no more, as Nine29 moves its textbook continental menu into the former Middle Eastern restaurant at its namesake location of 929 Elmwood Avenue. Open seven days a week, the late-night kitchen has left the ethnic fare behind in favor of done-up but affordable bar staples with surprising housemade touches. Like its sister restaurant Hearth & Press, Nine29 …

Gusto

Tucked away down a sheltered offshoot of Route 5 near Woodlawn Beach, Dos Amigos on The Lake has recently renovated and re-opened its doors with upscale menu offerings more akin to that of its popular sister restaurant Lucia’s on the Lake. With plans for a big summer on the shores of Lake Erie, the former Mexican-American restaurant has all but abandoned its Mexican dis…

Food and Drink

Expanding a small but growing category in the greater Buffalo area, Boone’s Hillside BBQ is throwing its hat in the ring as a new smokehouse contender in Cambria. Operating out of a quaint white-washed building on a rural northern hillside, it’s an inviting and rustic environment that says “BBQ," though the smell alone should put you in the mood. There’s a variety of…

Gusto

Recently reopened after minor renovations, Street Café is back to work selling an advertised assortment of “International & Mediterranean food” that truly delivers on the parameters of the definition. From Bangladeshi favorites to rib-sticking soul food, the menu at Street Café is a crossroads of flavors where East meets West at a price that’s easy on your wallet. …

Food and Drink

The Griffon House in Lewiston is a new extension of the Griffon Gastropub empire, which now includes locations in East Aurora, Clarence and Niagara Falls. Adventurous culinary parings in hearty fare, an extensive craft beer selection and a cozy yet classy atmosphere has thus far been their recipe for success. Although straying ever so slightly from their tried and true …

Food and Drink

On a mission to bring a new dining experience to Grand Island, Christy and Jason Zippier opened their new restaurant 773 North, serving trendy but humble dishes with an atmosphere to match. Packed to the gills on a snowy Thursday night just a few days into their opening, it’s clear the Zippiers are breathing some life into Grand Island’s antiquated culinary scene. Cl…

Food and Drink

Main Street Deli in Williamsville is the long-awaited venture of husband and wife duo Greg and Christine Gerard. The former Long Island residents opened their doors in November 2017 serving breakfast and lunch with a little downstate flair. Nestled next to Ellicott Creek in the heart of downtown Williamsville, the location is on prime real estate for foot traffic once t…

Food and Drink

A fresh façade has come to the space that was formerly J&L Automotive on Hertel Avenue near the Delaware intersection. Opening in late January, The Garage Café & Lounge is the first step in an ambitious plan to convert the former auto-shop to a dining, drinking and entertainment destination. There's plans for a bar, live music lineup and open-air beer garden on …

Food and Drink

A couple of the most enthusiastic men I’ve ever met have recently spun their food truck beginnings into a brick and mortar restaurant called Good Fortunes just off Main Street near the University at Buffalo South campus. Greg Whitehurst and Jo Jo of the popular Gourm-Asian food truck are cranking out off the wall Asian fusion munchies behind a modest walk-up window line…

Food and Drink

Founded in Pasadena, Calif., in 2011, Blaze Pizza is a rapidly expanding fast-casual restaurant that’s just opened its doors on Niagara Falls Boulevard near the entrance to the 290. Famously funded in part by NBA superstar spokesperson LeBron James, Blaze has big plans to grow to over 500 restaurants by 2020. It’s become abundantly clear their “Fast Fire’d” ultra-custom…

Food and Drink

A fresh concept newly settled on a sleepy strip of Abbott Road in Lackawanna, Sonny Red’s is bringing trendy Neapolitan-style pizza into the heart of “cup-and-char” pepperoni country. A sister restaurant to the iconic Mulberry, this new venture strays just far enough from its origin to establish its own identity while preserving some of the most revered items and stylin…

Food and Drink

The Barrel Factory in the Old First Ward is a mammoth complex hiding in plain sight nestled next to Gene McCarthy’s. Housing Lakeward Spirits, Pressure Drop Brewing, a beautiful event space and several other local businesses, Buffalo’s Best Cucina is its newest addition, serving up a broad menu centered around their pizzas and panini. The restaurant is the third establi…

Food and Drink

Stooges Stuffed Burger Bar is a fresh addition to Lockport’s slowly expanding dining scene. Serving up a familiar menu of homespun pub fare All Stars with trademark twists, the menu is anchored by their namesake “Stooges.” A take on the Minneapolis staple “Juicy Lucy,” these stuffed burgers come with a variety of signature stylings as well as a “make your own” option, r…

Food and Drink

The cold of our notorious winter is swiftly approaching, and The Gateway Café & Grill is looking to meet the chill head-on. Opening in November, the new Tonawanda lunch spot specializes in a seemingly endless variety of scratch-made soups that rotate daily, served alongside staple Buffalo comfort fare. For $5.49, a small 12-ounce container comes served with a chu…