For the restaurateurs of Buffalo, this will be a winter of discontent.
This year has brought a bumper crop of new restaurants, the largest sustained burst of restaurant openings in modern history. There has not been a corresponding explosion in Buffalo’s population, or in the disposable income of its residents.
It would be nice to pretend that this is a stable state of affairs. But restaurants operate in the “real world,” a plane of existence defined by worker’s compensation premiums, taxes, minimum wages and other unforgiving boundaries.
Today, for all those reasons, restaurants loved by generations are close to shutting their doors for good. I can’t tell you which ones, because I don’t know. The remorseless arithmetic will find its victims anyway.
[Related: Century Grill announces that it will close, and not by choice]
So let me take a break from my exploration and celebration of the new places to recommend something unusual: Take a moment to remember your dining past. Remember that place where you and your loves shared a meal, with food and surroundings and service that allowed you to slip out of time and care?
The place you have not returned to since?
Make plans to go back before winter comes. It might be your last chance.
Maybe it will make a difference in the restaurant’s survival. Maybe not. Either way, I hope it cuts down on the number of mournful emails I get after another family favorite closes its doors.
They had been meaning to return, often for years, they say. The restaurant had meant so much to them over the years, the countless baptisms, birthdays and anniversaries celebrated within its welcoming walls. Yet even though they know their server’s name, they have somehow never made it back.
What, they ask, can they do now for one last chance?
Without a time machine, I ask?
Perhaps I should be more sympathetic. I am part of the problem, after all. By spending so much of my time in this space telling readers about new places, I am clearly encouraging a search for new sensations.
It might not be immediately clear, but I am trying to temper that effect by diversifying the list of restaurants I review. In any four weeks, I aim to present two restaurants that have never been reviewed in The Buffalo News.
Usually the other two are places that have been reviewed previously, but not by me. I try to make those one family restaurant or moderately priced place, and one finer restaurant, with tablecloths and wine lists and such.
In that way, I might be able to remind you of a grand old place you have forgotten, but your own memories are your best guide.
There will always be something new. Next time you get a say in where to eat dinner, consider showing one of your old flames a little love. Judging from reader outcry, there are few dining slights more painful than hearing news of a place’s demise while looking at the gift certificate bearing its name, tacked insolently to your refrigerator by a magnet.
Therefore, I would suggest that if you have a gift certificate hanging around, make plans to spend it. Preferably before the snow flies.
Gather ye gift certificates while ye may.