For decades, the restaurants along Delaware Avenue, Kenmore’s main artery extending into the Town of Tonawanda, have shown what it takes to feed a village – and part of the town. In recent years, though, a new burst of international flavors has made this traffic-heavy part of the community a destination for culinary sensation-seekers.
A stretch of street once best known across Buffalo as a place to watch your speedometer closely now has cars slowing down to look for restaurant signs.
The dominant flavor has been Italian-American. As you head from Tonawanda toward the village, you reach Marotto’s and Manzella’s, Italian restaurants that have been open next to each other, at 3347 and 3365 Delaware Ave., respectively, with only Legion Drive between them, since 2000.
They each have a clam shack, a place to hang out on in the breeze with some steamers and broth and adult beverages, throwbacks to the Niagara Street clam shacks of yesteryear.
There may be other spots in Western New York where two upscale restaurants with such similar menus have survived for 15 years next door to each other. Maybe not. Either way, it speaks to the community’s collective hunger for plates of clams, veal marsala and chicken piccata.
Covering the Italian beat at the southern end of Kenmore, a mile away, is Jovi’s (2795 Delaware Ave.). That means almost the entire village is no more than a 10-minute walk from fresh clams casino.
Jovi is on a block with Jinlan (2789 Delaware Ave.), an ornately interiored Chinese restaurant that has been offering American-Chinese classics like egg foo yung, pupu platters and tiki drinks for decades.
Chinese places aren’t known for desserts, but that’s fine because just a brief waddle north is King Condrell’s (2805 Delaware Ave.). This leading site for ice-cream-based thrills can sell you a sundae that has everything including the kitchen sink.
Greek veteran The Plaka (2904 Delaware Ave.) has been satisfying needs for pancakes, souvlaki and rice pudding for more than 20 years. More recently, the Greek ranks have been broadened with the arrivals of Eggsperience Vasilis (2878 Delaware Ave.) and Greek on the Street (3198 Delaware Ave.).
But what really started to shake off the community’s placid reputation was La Divina (2896 Delaware Ave.), a Mexican taqueria that opened in mid-2015 in a former Iraqi grocery. A short-order griddle turned out tortillas packed with marinated meats customers could top off at the salsa bar. Coolers dispensed beer, Mexican Cokes and Jarritos fruit sodas.
What made La Divina such a draw – and keeps the place busy despite an immigration raid last year – are the eaters who want a more Mexican taco experience. Al pastor, pork with pineapple, is a regular offering, as is lengua, or tongue. You can get shredded cheese on ground beef here, but you have to special order it.
Just a few blocks north, Home Taste (3106 Delaware Ave.) became another authentic destination, offering a roster of Northern Chinese noodles, dumplings and other dishes. Its flavors – and value pricing – first brought Chinese students from the University at Buffalo, then other customers.
Chicken stew with potatoes, carrots, ginger and chiles, served in brown gravy on broad housemade pasta serves four for $18, or a perform for a couple for days.
India Star (3167 Delaware Ave.) has been serving a standard Indian menu for years. A few blocks away, though, is the only Pakistani restaurant in town, at 3054 Delaware Ave. It started as Zaiqa, but recently shed its buffet-first motif and was renamed Clay Handi. It serves meals of curries, rice, bread and tandoori-roasted meats in clay-intensive surroundings. Serving vessels, right down to water glasses, are pottery.
Soon Kenmore will be home to another draw, the brick-and-mortar home to the popular O.G. Wood Fire food truck, which specializes in Neapolitan-style pizza. It’s going to be at 2872 Delaware Ave., possibly open by the end of summer.
With its lineup of veteran people-pleasers and its smattering of new sensations, the village is prompting people elsewhere to try something new: saying “I’m hungry for something different – let’s go to Ken-Ton.”