It was a busy 2017 for those who love the arts, music, movies and theaters, including our staff at Gusto. In 2017, we reviewed 48 restaurants, more than 80 plays and just as many concerts, plus 170 movies throughout the year.
As expected, some of them were good and some not so good. But some were so superior that we gave them our highest ratings.
Here’s a look at our top-rated restaurants, movies, theater and favorite concerts of 2017. Links to the reviews can be found with each item.
"At its best, fine dining is an artistic performance that engages all five senses. Food and drink is at center stage, but a menu's star qualities can quickly be overshadowed by a second-rate supporting cast. Remarkable flavors can be soured by poor delivery, or a hubbub that suffocates conversation. The nights where everything goes right, and revelation follows revelation, are the finest dining of all.
Like the night recently at The White Carrot when conversation paused as we all spooned up velvety chicken veloute punctuated with juicy truffled celery nuggets, and crunched toasted brioche slathered with chicken liver mousse." - Andrew Galarneau
" 'A Ghost Story' is a minor movie miracle. It does something utterly ridiculous and it not only gets away with it but it builds on it to make the movie one of the most conceptually audacious of the past few years. This film has gone so far past any ordinary conception of originality that we expect in movies. It is one of the great films of the year – perhaps one of the great films, period.
If you ever loved movies and then lost faith in them in the summer season of obscene noise, money and spectacle, see 'A Ghost Story.' Something wonderful survives within it." - Jeff Simon
"2017 Oscar Nominated Shorts – Live Action" (reviewed by Mark Sommer)
“The Big Sick” (Matt Hanson)
“Chasing Trane” (Jeff Simon)
“Columbus” (Christopher Schobert)
“Disaster Artist” (Schobert)
“Faces Places” (Schobert)
“Florida Project” (Simon)
“A Ghost Story” (Simon)
“I Daniel Blake” (Schobert)
“Kedi” (Robbie-Ann McPherson)
“Lady Bird” (Simon)
“Lady MacBeth” (Simon)
“Last Flag Flying” (Simon)
“Long Time Running” (Miers)
“Stronger” (Michael Beebe)
"At 20 years old, 'The Lion King' still roars with all the magic that made it one of the most popular musicals ever. If anything, the production is more confident than ever, embracing its legendary status and doing nothing to tarnish it. It is, in every sense, a 'show.' ” – Melinda Miller
“A Christmas Carol,” Shaw Festival (reviewed by Colin Dabkowski)
“Elephant & Piggie’s ‘We Are in a Play!,’” Theater of Youth (Melinda Miller)
"Godspell,” Lancaster Opera House (Ben Siegel)
“The Lion King,” Shea’s Performing Arts Center (Miller)
"The Merry Wives of Windsor," Shakespeare in Delaware Park (Siegel)
"Middletown," Shaw Festival (Dabkowski)
"Million Dollar Quartet," MusicalFare (Miller)
“Peter and the Starcatcher,” MusicalFare (Miller)
4 rock shows we loved
Red Hot Chili Peppers, Feb. 2 at KeyBank Center
"It’s been 10 years, an eternity in pop music terms, since the Red Hot Chili Peppers performed before a Buffalo-area audience. But time has been kind to this quartet’s groundbreaking blend of L.A.-flavored punk-funk.
One was hard-pressed to note any diminishment of energy, enthusiasm, irreverence, or slavish devotion to the groove among the four men on stage at KeyBank Center on Friday, even after 30 years of hard funk, hard touring, and hard living. " - Jeff Miers
The Tea Party, July 6 at Canalside
"The Tea Party's music is huge, dramatic, deeply hued and broadly dynamic, which is to suggest that it is more than up to the task of filling a vast space. That's what happened straight out of the gate as the group tore into 'Writing's On the Wall,' and singer/guitarist Jeff Martin's agile upper-baritone resounded across the waterfront. ... I've seen this band some 30-plus times over the years. If this wasn't the best of the bunch, it was certainly close to it." - Jeff Miers
Bruno Mars, Sept. 27 at KeyBank Center
“If you weren’t at KeyBank Center on Wednesday night, someone you know was, and they won’t shut up about it. Thank Bruno Mars and his '24K Magic World Tour' for that. It was a ridiculously impressive show that I’m not sure anyone in attendance was prepared for.
The explosive show combined everything wholesome about a 1960s variety show, youthful about a 1990s MTV Video Music Awards, and cutting-edge about a 21st-century arena spectacular. Fireworks usually saved for a finale went off only two songs in. They weren’t the most impressive element, however. Just the cherries on top of a big sundae.” - Ben Siegel
U2, Sept. 4 at New Era Field
This show was about celebrating "The Joshua Tree." With the opening trio of "Where the Streets Have No Name," "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" and "With or Without You," the band did just this, transporting many back to a 1987-era Aud on the euphoric wave of echoing Edge chords. And this persisted into the thick of its set.
The political unrest of "Bullet the Blue Sky." The rarest of brass-backed thrills with "Red Hill Mining Town." The unbridled jangle of "Trip Through Your Wires," which Bono dedicated to the recently threatened Dreamers of DACA. All were working for a band still at the top of its game--and still injecting a spiritual charge into audiences game for salvation. - Michael Farrell