Doing your Christmas shopping in Allentown gives you a great excuse to walk through Buffalo’s coolest neighborhood.
You’ll find the city’s best art and antiques, its most diverse selection of galleries, shops and restaurants, all the while surrounded by some of the richest history, architecture and culture the city has to offer.
Here are some favorites.
Lavender and Sage Sundries, 125 Elmwood Ave. This place opened about seven months ago and is filled with elegant, new and vintage home decor and furniture in the “French laundry” style. There’s also an art gallery in back.
Everything is staged beautifully in little vignettes to help you envision how to make each item at home in your life. There are small- and large-scale pieces from local artisans, such as wrought-iron candlesticks and wine racks; antiques from around the world and repurposed showstoppers, such as reupholstered antique benches and handpainted chests of drawers.
The beauty is hard to describe. It’s better to go and see it for yourself. Closed Monday and Tuesday.
Dovi and Girls African Market, 224 Elmwood Ave., rear. Imported, handmade goods from all over Africa. Owner Dovi and her daughters sell imported cloth by the yard ($8 and up), including traditional African kente cloth, and make custom-designed clothing. You can bring a picture of any dress and she will make you a similar one. Couples can choose a matching combo, with a handmade dress (up to $135) for her and a handmade bow tie ($25) and scarf ($19) for him in the same fabric.
You’ll find handmade jewelry from Ghana, Kenya, Senegal and Mali, starting around $10 for a pair of earrings. South African Zulu baskets are $25, round woven bowls from Kenya are $34, baskets from all over Africa are priced $35 to $50. Pure shea butter from Ghana and Togo is $8 for 16 ounces. Wooden “drinking giraffe” and “drinking zebra” bowls are $27. Drums from Ghana and Senegal start at $20 and go up to $250.
A separate shop next door, called the Next Door, has clothing, jewelry and accessories, mostly imported from India. There are some handmade items, including West and South African cloth earrings and bracelets ($15 to $18) and traditional West African Waist Beads, which can be worn like a belt, starting at $15. Both stores are open from 9:30 a.m. “until dark,” Tuesday through Saturday.
Freshly Dipped Clothing Lifestyle Boutique, 93 Allen St. Hip-hop clothing and accessories with the emphasis on “hip.” If you’re looking for a matching hoodie and leggings set in a stylized rose and cigarette butt print, this is the place. Brands include ALIFE, Bobby Fresh, Crooks & Castles, Rastaclat, Odd Sox, Unkomn and Stacks and Kicks. Closed Sundays.
Black Cat Vintage, 85 Allen St. Vintage clothing and furs. Me-yow!
The Art Gallery at Buffalo Big Print, 99 Virginia Place. The current local artists exhibit, “The Power of Motion and Stillness,” features paintings by Wendy Caldwell Maloney and pottery by Sally Danforth.
Antiques Allentown, 146 Elmwood Ave. A fun and funky collection of antiques and vintage items.
¡Buen Vivir!, 148 Elmwood Ave. An art gallery with exhibitions focused on social justice and ecological issues.
Casa de Arte Gallery, 141 Elmwood Ave. Art exhibitions, lectures, workshops and cultural events by artists from Mexico or inspired by Mexico.
El Buen Amigo, 114 Elmwood Ave. Fair trade art, crafts, clothing and coffee from Latin America.
New Phoenix Theatre on the Park, 95 Johnson Park. Performances are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. Tickets are $30 or $20 for students and seniors. Mary Chase’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Harvey,” directed by Tom Makar, is playing through Saturday.
Carl Slone Antiques, 65 Elmwood Ave. A glorious collection of lighting, including gaslights and early electric lights. There is also stained, beveled and leaded glass.
Dana Tillou Fine Arts, 417 Franklin St. A fine art dealer for serious collectors, since 1966.
Little Allen Fashion, 152 Allen St. Affordable urban women’s fashion, shoes and accessories. You’ll find polka-dot leggings for $16.50, fragrance gift sets for $13.98, cocktail rings starting at $5, dresses starting at $35 and funky, wooden earrings for $3. Gift wrap is included, and shoppers from the surrounding neighborhood get a 10 percent discount.
Antique Man, 234 Allen St. An offbeat store jam-packed with antiques and vintage items, including a big selection of vinyl records, CDs, DVDs and books as well as musical instruments, lighting and collectibles.
Glow Gallery, 224 Allen St. Contemporary art gallery featuring local and regional art.
Prism Gallery, 224 Allen St. An art gallery dedicated to LGBT artists. It also hosts the MyBuffaloPride Gift Shop, which sells quirky gifts such as metal banks, rainbow clocks and cat toys.
Sweet Temptations du Jour, 220 Allen St. It uses locally sourced fruits and Eastern-European family recipes to make pies, strudels, sugar waffles, cookies and all kinds of delightful baked goods.
Head Space Smoke Shop, 67 Elmwood Ave. Smoking accessories. You know, for that one brother-in-law.
Essence of Nature and Gifts, 168 Elmwood Ave. Retail and wholesale Grade A body oils, fragrance oils, bath and body products and hand-rolled domestic and imported incense. You’ll also find men’s and women’s apparel and jewelry sets.
Paint the Town, 74 Allen St. A paint and sip studio. A two-hour session is $25. Book the studio for a group of 10 or more and bring whatever you want to eat and drink. Gift certificates available.
Rick Cycle Shop, 55 Allen St. Who wouldn’t want a bicycle under the Christmas tree? This is the place to get it. The place is staffed with passionate, friendly experts.
Studio Hart, 65 Allen St. Artisan, handcrafted jewelry, art, fine crafts and artsy gifts by local artists. There are charming Little Wood People wooden figurines starting at $10, handcrafted flower magnets for $9, ceramic bowls starting at $15 and Zodiac cat cards for $4.
Lonnie B’s, 81 Allen St. African clothing and accessories, handmade jewelry, leather bags and shea butter.
Allen Street Dress Shop, 89 Allen St. Unique, artsy women’s clothing and accessories from small manufacturers, many of them made in the United States. Prices range from about $38 to $120. It carries such brands as Cut Loose, Flax, Free People, Urban Outfitters and Kiko.
El Museo, 91 Allen St. El Museo has been showcasing Western New York artists of color for nearly 35 years. You can buy an individual membership for $50 or $25 for artists and students.
Rick’s Sports Apparel, 201 Allen St. Athletic footwear and sports apparel, including a big selection of Nike, New Era Cap Co. and Timberland.
Exotica, 152 Elmwood Ave. Antiques and vintage home decor. This store is closing by the end of the month, so things are priced to go, plus 10 percent off. I spotted a lot of cool ’80s-style pieces that I haven’t seen elsewhere, including a zebra-striped chair ($100), a bamboo aquarium ($250) and an eight-piece wicker set ($300). It’s open daily from noon to 9 p.m.
Everything Beauty Salon and Spa, 156 Elmwood Ave. The boutique has a huge range of very affordable new and vintage women’s (and some men’s) clothing and accessories in a big variety of styles, as well as gifts, body oils and home decor. You can find new earrings starting at $1, vintage jeans for $5 and handmade pillows for $10. There are also custom-made bathing suits, cover-ups and sportswear.
The salon that the shop is in is known for its mink eyelash extensions, which are on sale through Christmas for $80 per full set. There’s also a 70-minute full-body massage for $40. Gift certificates are available.
Theatre of Youth, 203 Allen St. This beloved children’s theater is showing “A Little House Christmas” through Sunday, then “Number the Stars” beginning Feb. 6. Flex Passes make great gifts, because they can be redeemed for a ticket to any show in any section.
Pausa Art House, 19 Wadsworth St. A boutique concert venue and art gallery. Open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 6 p.m. to midnight.
Spirits of Allentown, 257 Allen St. A staple liquor store since 1973.
Where to eat. I love Allen Street Poutine Co., 242 Allen St. Try the large pulled pork poutine for $9.20. The Towne Restaurant, 186 Allen St., has been a staple for more than 40 years. Betty’s, 370 Virginia St., is beloved; it serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. The delightful, 30-year-old Founding Fathers, 75 Edward St., has yummy pub fare and is filled with history memorabilia.
You can’t go wrong with a hoagie from Jim’s Steakout, 194 Allen St. Melting Point, 244 Allen St., specializes in grilled cheese sandwiches, starting at $1.99. Grindhaus Cafe, 160 Allen St., is a coffee shop serving vegetarian and vegan food. Cafe 59, 62 Allen St., has brunch from noon to 6 p.m. on Sundays.
Fast n’ Tasty, 69 Allen St., has Halal Ethiopian and Middle Eastern food as well as breakfast starting at 6 a.m. Allen St. Hardware, 245 Allen St., opens for dinner at 5 p.m.
Don Tequila, 73 Allen St., and Cantina Loco, 191 Allen St., both serve Mexican fare. Colter Bay Grill, 561 Delaware Ave., serves Western food and handcrafted beer. Gabriel’s Gate, 145 Allen St., is an old favorite known for its wings. A.B.V., 175 Allen St., has burgers to die for. Savoy, 149 Elmwood Ave., makes a mean Moscow Mule.
Cafe Taza, 100 Elmwood Ave., is a tiny, hidden cafe. Allentown Pizza, 94 Elmwood Ave., has $1.50-off coupons on its website. Cafeology, 23 Allen St., serves specialty coffee drinks. Preservation Pub, 948 Main St., has daily lunch specials during the week.
Where to park. Bring quarters for metered street parking or scan the side streets. There is free parking behind Casa de Arte on evenings and weekends. On Allen Street, there are parking lots between Nietzche’s and Exchange on Allen and between Mulligan’s Brick Bar and the Old Pink. The Towne also has a parking lot for patrons.