What happened this year in the local restaurant world, you ask? Well actually things were fairly quiet during the last 12 months. We still have an amazing number of really terrific places to eat for an area of our size and income.
But the cycle continued as it always does. A few restaurants opened and a few restaurants closed.
We mourn the loss of at least three worthies -- Enchante in Allentown, Sequoia on the Elmwood strip and the Savoy Supper Club on Niagara Square.
But at the same time we welcome the expansion of existing places like The Spot onto Elmwood Avenue and Falletta's, which moved out to the old Lyons Tea Room in East Amherst. Also the apparently successful operation of new restaurants in the Theater District.
And there are rumors of exciting places to be opened next year.
What follows now is our usual end of the year listing of restaurants that achieved a three star rating or above in 1999.
(Please note that our rating system changed on Nov. 12. The earlier five-star system meant three stars for very good food, four for excellent and five for extraordinary, a platonic (and never-quite-achieved-by-anyone) ideal. The new system is a four-star one, with three meaning good and four meaning excellent.)
An asterisk after the rating, as always, indicates the restaurant is new so the rating is provisional. In other words -- we'll be back before too long.
Alex's Place ***(March 19)
9322 Park Road, Batavia. (344-2999) A gold mine perfectly situated about a mile from the Thruway exit. Alex's Place serves steaks, ribs, and 99-cent shrimp cocktails, and the crowds are huge.
Biac's**** (Jan. 15)
581 Delaware Ave. (881-9439) Very sophisticated food is served in this restaurant -- the side dishes are equally as exciting as the main dishes themselves. Contemporary ingredients make up the beautifully presented plates.
Brownstone Bistro*** * (June 11)
297 Franklin St. (842-6800) A good looking new Theater District restaurant, casual and usually busy. The menu is set up so that diners can eat lightly or have a hearty meal.
Calvaneso's Cosmopolitan Grille*** * (Oct. 15)
5185 Transit Road, Clarence. (633-6683) This restaurant even looks sophisticated. Sandwiches, pastas and main dishes are on the menu. Quite chic but the prices are relatively moderate.
Daniel's**** 1/2 (March 12)
174 Buffalo St., Hamburg. (648-6554) Fine food in quietly luxurious surroundings. For such a small restaurant, there's a surprisingly large menu of contemporary selections.
E. B. Green's**** (Jan. 22)
2 Fountain Plaza, the Hyatt Regency (856-1539) They call themselves "Buffalo's Premier Steakhouse" and they sure do serve a lot of the beefy stuff. In luxurious surroundings, too.
Escabeche**** * (Aug. 6) 6 Picton St., Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. (888-669-5566) Located in the newly renovated Prince of Wales Hotel, it's a visual and culinary production: the Edwardian decor is complete to the very last tassel. Over the top, expensive and also great fun.
Fiddle Heads**** (Nov. 12)
62 Allen St. (883-4166) A sleek restaurant at the corner of Franklin Street that also offers a very sophisticated menu. The menu itself is short but varied, and food is prepared carefully. Pre-fixe menu a particularly good value.
Fritz Bistro**** (Aug. 13)
6010 Goodrich Road, Clarence Center (741-5085) Fritz has been open for over a year and the menu is now totally Fusian. Sleek and stunning, surroundings are every bit as impressive as the food.
Golden Duck**** 1/2 (Oct. 1)
1848 Maple Road, Williamsville (639-8888) Two menus operate in this Williamsville Chinese outpost. The single sheet marked "traditional" may be the one you want -- it features more unusual offerings.
Gramma Mora's***(Oct. 8)
1465 Hertel Ave. (835-9606) Much-loved Mexican restaurant has moved and reopened but the basically Tex Mex menu remains the same.
Harry's Harbour Place Grille***(April 30)
2192 Niagara St. (874-5400) One of only a few dining rooms on the river, Harry's offers steaks, chops and seafood plus terrific sunset views.
Hooligan's City Grill*** (May 14)
268 Main St. (856-2651) A spacious airy restaurant, situated in a handsomely restored building convenient to the ball park and the arena. Broad menu; interesting dishes.
Huth's**** (Nov. 19)
1375 Delaware Ave. (885-0074) It's small, it's busy and it can even be noisy but the food makes it all worthwhile. The menu is divided between "small plates" and "large plates," so you can eat as much as you wish.
Il Fiorentino**** (Nov. 5)
8485 Transit Road, East Amherst (625-4250) This Tuscan restaurant may be near a busy Transit Road intersection but it has the feel of the Italian countryside. The fresh-tasting food is authentic and mostly cooked to order.
5380 Genesee St., Lancaster (683-6542) Just a little Italian restaurant behind a gas station. This cute and busy place features hearty homestyle food.
Mark's**** (April 2)
561 Main St., Tonawanda (694-3700) A new version of Warren's, very small and very luxe. Beautiful plates, huge selection.
716 Elmwood Ave. (882-0772) Sleek little restaurant offers a long and varied menu. Everything from gourmet pizzas to grilled tenderloin.
Murphy Orchards Tea Room*** (July 23)
2402 McClew Road, Burt (778-7926) Handsome old house in the middle of farm country. Beautiful views. Tea and lunch only. Call ahead for winter hours.
Nero's*** (Dec. 3)
445 Delaware Ave. (849-2726) A very attractively decorated restaurant that specializes in Italian food. Menu features salads, sandwiches, pasta and entrees; special dinner items on weekends.
The Park Lane**** * (Feb. 12)
33 Gates Circle (881-2603) A Buffalo landmark re-invented yet again. This time with panache and originality. Order formally or informally as you wish in either the tavern or dining room.
Romeo's Bakery Cafe*** (May 7)
1197 Hertel Ave. (873-5730) Primarily an Italian bakery with a very small separate dining room on the side where sandwiches and other bread-based foods are served.
Saigon Bangkok*** (April 9)
512 Niagara Falls Blvd., Tonawanda (837-2115) The name describes the menu. This is a Vietnamese and Thai restaurant and the variety of food offered is extensive. It's also an attractive and restful place to eat.
Sinatra's Trilogy*** (Sept. 17)
838 Kenmore Ave. (877-9419) An attractive restaurant -- and not a large one -- that specializes in home-style Italian food. Guess who sings in the background?
Teta's*** * (Sept. 10)
9370 Transit Road, East Amherst (636-5944) Homestyle Middle Eastern cuisine is served in this small, simply decorated restaurant in Casey Plaza.
Zuzon Bar & Grille** ** (May 28)
5110 Main St., Williamsville (634-6123) An interesting Early Bird dinner is offered in this sophisticated bar/restaurant. Salad, main dish and dessert included; the food is served with panache.
Lest we forget
These restaurants were not reviewed this year but have received a**** rating in the past:
Asa Ransom House, 10529 Main St., Clarence (759-2315) Fine ole house; wholesome Americana menu.
Farfalle, in the Casino Niagara, Niagara Falls, Ont. (888-946-3255) Very serene, very elegant ambience for the high rollers among us.
Fanny's, 3500 Sheridan Drive, Amherst (834-0400) Glamorous setting for well-prepared food.
Hillebrand's Vineyard Cafe, Highway 55, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. (800-582-8412) Fine food overlooking the vineyards.
Hourglass, 981 Kenmore Ave., Kenmore (877-8788) Superb seafood; superb wines.
Quail Ridge Public House, 7128 Ridge Road (Route 104), Lockport (438-2040) Charming little restaurant amidst the fields of Niagara County.
Just Pasta, 307 Bryant St. (881-1888) Contemporary Italian food in handsome surroundings.
Ming Teh, 126 Niagara Blvd., Fort Erie, Ont. (905-871-7971) Fine Chinese cuisine. Closed until Feb. 14.
Oliver's, 2095 Delaware Ave. (877-9662) Fine food in glitzy surroundings.
Rue Franklin, 341 Franklin St. (852-4416) Beautiful restaurant; fine French food.
San Marco, 2082 Kensington Ave., Snyder (839-5876) Contemporary Italian with warm personalized service.
Tiger Lily & Wing, 37 Allen St. (881-1164) Asian bakery and cafe offers a large selection of buns and one soup and one main dish per day.
Truffles, 1141 Kenmore Ave., Kenmore (877-1111) Non-trendy, continental cuisine.