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As expats return home for the holidays, it’s time to show off everything new in Buffalo

“So … What’s new?”

It’s the Thanksgiving question that all generations dread. You look despairingly down at your squash and potatoes, trying to come up with something exciting. Whatever you come up with is never good enough. It just begs another question: “What else is new?”

Take heart. This year, we have answers.

“What’s new?” Let’s rehearse.

We have a lot of new things in Buffalo. The waterfront is almost unrecognizable. Flophouses are being fixed up, hotels we once thought were doomed are now showplaces. A Larkinville factory is being fixed up into condos, and ...

“So... what else is new?”

There is a rising tide of appreciation for the old, for our identity, our sense of place. Work is finally accelerating on the Richardson Complex.

Marti Gorman, the Buffalo booster who leads Buffalo Citybration, is taking things from the top.

She has masterminded a party from 4 to 6 p.m. Nov. 29 for expats and their friends and families on the observation decks of City Hall’s 25th and 28th floors. There will be a sunset reception with light refreshments, art by public school students, Buffalo photographs by Aspire. Videos showcasing every aspect of our resurgent Buffalo will be screened in the elegant Council Chambers on the 13th floor. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door.

“I want to get everyone excited about this resurgence,” Gorman said. “If you live in San Diego, or San Francisco, you can’t feel the excitement that we feel under our feet. This town is vibrating. I want people to bring these folks to the best vantage point in Buffalo and look out over this amazing progress. The HarborCenter. The medical corridor. We are going to be having aerial tours – Explore Buffalo docents are going to be pointing out what you’re seeing. ‘See that crane? That’s where the new Children’s Hospital is.’ ”

The folks at Larkinville have the same idea in mind with Food Truck Turkey, a holiday riff on its popular Food Truck Tuesday.

“We thought it would be fun to provide a kickoff to the weekend and a big reunion gathering spot for friends and family coming home to Buffalo for the holiday weekend,” said Larkinville Director of Fun Leslie Zemsky in an email. “Many out of towners have not yet had the opportunity to experience a Food Truck Tuesday (including our daughter, coming in from NYC for it).”

The event, from 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Larkvinville, features more than 30 food trucks and music by Gravy, a band that “covers everything.” A Salvation Army truck will be on hand to receive food and clothing donations.

The rest of us can pick up where Gorman and Larkinville leave off, and use the time around Thanksgiving to bring our visitors up to speed on what’s new, or worthy of appreciation, in Buffalo. We are, as they used to say in the last century, talkin’ proud. This is the season to show off the city to best advantage – and enjoy ourselves in the process. We want a mix of the new and the nostalgic. The dazzling and the down-home.

Ready? Set? Mix and match from the following options.

Bars and restaurants

Old taverns have found new life. Hot Mama’s Canteen and Rohall’s Corner in Black Rock. Schwabl’s recently reopened in West Seneca. And Ulrich’s, the historic German tavern, is also open again under happy new stars. New restaurants and bars abound. Hydraulic Hearth opened recently in Larkinville. Martin Cooks is in the old Horsefeathers antique shop on Connecticut Street.

At adorable Ballyhoo (211 South Park Ave.), formerly Malamutes, they advertise Links and Drinks. Owner Timothy Stevens has retained the blue-collar feeling of Malamutes, while adding modern elements with drinks like his specialty Jam Sessions.

Buffalo’s newest bar, 716, draws lines at the HarborCenter. The 13,000-square-foot space is a haven for sports enthusiasts who can catch a game on more than 60 televisions, including a massive 38-foot big-screen.

You can take a bike enthusiast to Handlebar, 149 Swan St., Buffalo’s first pedaler pub. They can revel in the bicycle theme prevalent in decor (the bar top is filled with discarded cranksets; chandeliers are made of used bike chains) and enjoy a rotating list of 12 beers on tap.

We asked Andrew Z. Galarneau, The News’ food editor, for a few snazzy new restaurants he would recommend we show our guests.

Buffalo Proper, 333 Franklin St., 783-8699. Located in the Theater District building that used to be Laughlin’s, Proper is pricey but worth it, Galarneau said. In his review, he raved about the “local produce elevated with technical skill and imagination to deliver moments of unexpected deliciousness.”

Bourbon and Butter, 391 Washington St., 253-6453 (in the Hotel @ the Lafayette). “Mike Andrzejewski’s luxe new venture,” Galarneau said, alluding to one of Buffalo’s most beloved chefs. “Probably the best craft cocktails in town. Tony Rials (who makes the drinks) is a genius.” A bonus to stopping by this dimly lit, atmospheric place is that you can show your visitors the beautifully reborn hotel.

The Black Sheep, 367 Connecticut St., 884-1100. The proprietors used to own Bistro Europa, the much-praised place on Elmwood, but their new location, where the Golden Key used to be, doubles their capacity. Their greatness is unchanged: Galarneau said informally, “Guy takes apart his own pigs, does wonderful things with it from snout to tail, and his wife, a baker, puts together the city’s best bread basket.”

Oshun Oyster Bar, 5 E. Huron St. 848-4500. “This is the place where people are going to walk in and go, ‘What?’ This is Buffalo?’ ” Galarneau said of this new downtown contemporary seafood restaurant. Look up from your oysters long enough to notice the frescoes and Art Deco decor. The restaurant was built in 1946 as the Waldorf Astoria luncheon counter.

That old sweet song

Returning Buffalonians like to hear bands they remember and visit venues that they love. Thanksgiving is a time when bands perform special reunion gigs and out-of-towners return home to play for family and friends.

Gen X folk troubadour Greg Klyma, who has lived in Somerville, Mass., for four years, while traveling the country with his music, has planned a Thanksgiving homecoming concert for months.

“Buffalo will always be home. My visits to family are fleeting and there’s never enough time to see everyone I know. I wanted to play a concert where we might all see extended family and friends and celebrate being here now, together,” Klyma said. He performs at 8 p.m. Wednesday in the Ninth Ward at Babeville, the bohemian basement bar, 341 Delaware Ave. $10. 852-3835.

Here are some other concerts:

• 7 p.m. Wednesday: at the Bakery in Niagara Falls, the Fugitives will be playing music from old-time Falls bars such as the Armory, the International, the Gallery, the Club, the Ontario House, the Treehouse, the Library and the Speakeasy. Celebrity bartenders from these bygone bars will pour drinks. At the Bakery, 3004 Niagara St., Niagara Falls. 282-9498.

• 8 p.m. Nov. 27: Young talent Erin Sydney Welsh returns home for the holidays to perform a solo set on the stage of her old stomping grounds, Nietzsche’s (248 Allen St.). Welsh made a name for herself through countless shows as part of the songwriter’s showcase in Nietzsche’s and currently lives in Syracuse, where she attends college and performs.

• 8 p.m. Nov. 29: The Skiffle Minstrels are playing the Pausa Art House. Use this as an excuse to introduce expats to this cool new Buffalo joint run by a UB professor and his wife. Even better, the Pausa proprietors say: “You can bring leftovers, or we can make you a turkey and Swiss.”

Stretching your legs

The World’s Largest Disco is sold out, but here are other ways to burn off that turkey.

• 9 a.m. Nov. 28: The Black Friday Boutique Crawl in Elmwood Village lets you see what’s new up and down the avenue. Shoppers will receive a boutique crawl punch card and an Elmwood Village Map and Guide. Shoppers who complete the crawl will be entered to win gift baskets from various Elmwood Avenue stores.

• 9 p.m. Nov. 28: Continue your exercise after shopping by dancing to the loopy, lovely music of the Grateful Dead. Workingmen’s Dead plays a “Black Friday Special” – two sets at the Sportsmen’s Tavern, 436 Amherst St. 874-7734.

• 2 to 6 p.m. Nov. 29: Lockport Historic Holiday Homes tour. Tickets are $25 and here is your excuse to stop in the historic Palace Theatre, Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., to buy them. The Palace is at 2 East Ave., Lockport.

Voelkers Bowling, operating since 1892, gets respect for its iconic neon sign showing the ball rolling and knocking down the pins. Go and do likewise. Open all conceivable hours, the venerable Voelkers has all kinds of specials, including the family special: one hour of bowling for up to five people, including shoe rentals, large pizza and pitcher of pop, for $39.95. Gutter bumpers, ball ramps and lightweight balls are available for the little ones. 686 Amherst St. 876-6020.

• What’s new at the zoo? Our baby gorilla, whose birth in September 2013 created an international stir, should be getting ready to take his first steps. Expats will go ape. The Buffalo Zoo (300 Parkside Ave.), is closed on Thanksgiving, otherwise it is open daily, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. rain or shine. Don’t worry if it snows. We love our seasons. Adult tickets $10.50, students $8.50, kids 23 months and under free. 837-3900.

Buffalo on display

• How many of us have actually been to the Pierce-Arrow Museum? How many of us have actually been there? And if you haven’t been there, as proprietor Jim Sandoro points out, it’s all new. Marvel at the Buffalo-made Pierce-Arrows, many custom-built and jewel encrusted and among the most luxurious cars ever built. Giggle over the Playboy Motor Co., a long-gone Buffalo venture. And the 1980 Hippomobile, a warning of what happens to people who sit too long at the Thanksgiving table. Open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. 263 Michigan Ave. 853-0084.

• The Colored Musicians Club Museum, 145 Broadway, 855-9383. Headphones, rare recordings and interactive exhibits give you a great Buffalo-centric journey through the history of jazz. Listen to the mighty pounding of barrelhouse pianist Pete Johnson. $10, discounts for children and military. 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

• The Buffalo History Museum, Elmwood Avenue and Nottingham Terrace, 873-9644. Tim Russert’s desk is what’s new here. Train Day is from 1 to 4 p.m. Nov. 28 with a model train diorama and fun for the kiddies. From noon to 2 p.m. Nov. 29, start your Christmas shopping at the 11th annual local author book signing.


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