Welcome to Buffalo, Bengal. You scored the jackpot in the neighborhood department -- perhaps that was a factor in your collegiate choice -- with the Elmwood Village, widely considered a hub of the city’s arts, culture and shopping.
After you’ve settled into your diminutive dorm room, hung your inspirational quote decals and indie movie posters on the wall, stuffed your clothes (you brought too many, didn’t you?) in the pea-sized closet and met your hopefully-quite-affable roommate, leave it all -- roommate in tow -- and get exploring.
There’s a lot to see here other than chicken wing joints and snowbanks, or whatever cliche people have been ringing off to you ever since you told them you chose a school in Buffalo.
Let’s eat something
Your college orientation informed you of the on-campus dining choices (good luck) but if you’re looking to escape your not-quite-exciting meal plan for the night and venture into a restaurant, there are plenty of price-ranging options.
West Side Bazaar, 25 Grant St.
Walking through the vendor market, wafting in the various smells of fryers and spices, peeking at others’ colorful meals, the number of choices feel pleasantly overwhelming. (The News' food editor Andrew Z. Galarneau can help you figure out just where to start).
For Puerto Rican food, find your way to Maria del Carmen’s Kiosko Latino. For Japanese/Malaysian, Kap Thang, a Burmese immigrant, has an extensive menu of ramen, donburi and sides at Thang's Family Restaurant. Mohammed Yaseen, a Burmese immigrant, serves Pakistani and Indian dishes at M Asian Halal Food. The portions are generous, prices are low and the options are endless.
Retail vendors sell handmade goods either made by them or imported from their home country, including jewelry, macrame art, paintings, woven baskets, clothing and musical instruments.
WEDI Buffalo (Westminster Economic Development Initiative) founded the Bazaar in 2011 to give immigrants and refugees a platform to become small business owners by sharing their culture, through food and goods.
The website features a breakdown of each vendor, their brief story and menu.
Taste of Siam, 810 Elmwood Ave.
This Thai restaurant offers three key things: inviting, on-trend atmosphere, reasonable prices and giant portions for leftovers that taste so appealing the following day, they won’t suffer a sad fate of being forgotten in the mini fridge.
The elevated dining room with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the bustling heart of the Elmwood Village sets the peaceful mood and might cause you to worry you can’t possibly afford this beautiful restaurant. But the prices aren’t bad. A heaping plate of pud Thai for dinner will cost $13 to $25 depending on which protein you get, the least expensive being tofu and most expensive is fish fillet.
Let's get your caffeine fix and free Wi-fi
Sweet_ness 7 Café, 220 Grant St.
The cafe coaxes visitors into a meditative state, with its relaxed, dark atmosphere, warm lighting and calming signs. By the counter, a sign reminds rushing customers “if you’re in a hurry, you’re probably in the wrong place.” If you have the time, nurse a dirty Chai latte and take advantage of the wi-fi and outlets (a long, blonde wood, communal table is home to power strips).
On the menu, any espresso drink you can think of sits alongside healthy, hearty breakfasts and sandwiches. (For more on check out News' contributor Jessica Kelly's review).
Adjoining is The Tabernacle, an old church that was recently turned into a bar/restaurant and live music venue. The jaw-dropping “Sistine Chapel”-like art adorning the walls and ceilings is worth a peek and has an appealing backstory.
Let's see some art.
Burchfield Penney Art Center, 1300 Elmwood Ave.
A part of campus, the art center offers free admission to Buffalo State students and is a pebble’s throw away. Charles Burchfield’s nature paintings remain a constant, as does the Charles E. Burchfield Rotunda, a circular, acoustically perfect room where one can stand in the middle and hear their voice’s crisp echo bounce off the curved walls.
Rotating, the gallery chooses installations with relevant social/political themes, such as the current “Enough Killing!” (on display until Oct. 28) shedding light on the country's murder rates and gun violence.
Albright-Knox Art Gallery, 1285 Elmwood Ave.
For more art, cross Elmwood Avenue to visit the other bordering museum, the nationally renowned Albright-Knox. Outside the gallery lies plenty of photogenic sculpture ideal for a pleasantly filtered Instagram photo. “Laura” a 20-foot-tall, marble sculpture of a young, pony-tailed girl by Jaume Plensa commands the museum’s Scajaquada-facing side.
At the back, across from Delaware Park’s Hoyt Lake, is “Karma,” a 23-foot, detailed sculpture of a young man carrying several creatures, all plopped on top of each other, covering their eyes.
Use your student discount inside to see the rest of the art from the permanent collection, which boasts Henri Matisse and Georgia O’Keefe, and contemporary, temporary exhibits.
New school year, new clothes
Elmwood's stretch of locally owned, upscale boutiques make for enticing window browsing, on-sale purchases or investment pieces, but for those on a tight budget, secondhand shop Second Chic is your go-to.
Second Chic, 810 Elmwood Ave.
Stylish store clerks survey the store in perfectly put-together, usually “thrifted” outfits. Like most secondhand shopping, some of the items require a bit of imagination, but less in this curated boutique than at a mass thrift store. Vintage garments are on one rack, other racks are categorized by item type, color and size.
Jewelry and accessories find their home on a table in the middle and styled in various throwback ways on the heads, necks and wrists of mannequins throughout the shop.
Pack that mini fridge with food
Dorms generally have a kitchenette, right? Whether it’s your turn to cook dinner for your suite-mates, or perhaps you enjoy cooking more than dining hall garb and eating out, neighborhood grocery stores and markets are ample near campus.
The Lexington Co-op (807 Elmwood Ave.) is a one-stop for local groceries, as well as gluten-free, vegan, dairy-free and other foods for dietary restrictions. Chefs cook up healthy meals daily for the hot bar and salad bar, as well as baked goods, which they also get from local bakery BreadHive.
Go to Guercio & Sons (250 Grant St.) for a loaded deli meat sandwich, or just the deli meat. The market sells fresh produce and specialty cooking ingredients. Here's a better look at what they have.
Put the books aside and go out
You mean you’re not staying in and doing homework every Friday and Saturday night? Blasphemy.
Coles, 1104 Elmwood Ave.
An American pub within a non-complaint-worthy walking distance from campus, with collegiate pennants covering inch after inch of its walls, it’s a start-your-night spot. Expect a younger, quasi-professional crowd.
Begin the night with run-of-the-mill, inexpensive mixed drinks and beers, perhaps while scarfing down a local signature beef on weck (roast beef dipped in au jus on a kummelweck roll) or a Buffalo wrap (chicken fingers, celery, blue cheese dressing in a tortilla).
It’s also right next door to…
Mister Goodbar, 1110 Elmwood Ave.
If your parents are from the area, chances are high they partied (or party, still) at Mister Goodbar. It’s dark, it’s dive-y and it’s a staple. One of the first in the area to hop on board the craft beer train back in the '80s, the current selection of IPAs, porters, goses and hefeweizens is broad. The bar's lovably dingey mood is embraced by locals as an end-of-the-night, 3 a.m. closer.
On the first floor, you’ll find pool, darts and TVs generally displaying a few sports games. The bar hosts weekly open-mic nights and karaoke. Thursday's local indie music radio station Alternative Buffalo's DJ takes over. Local bands play upstairs some nights, usually for a $5 or $10 cover.
For more history on Mister Goodbar, News contributor Dan Almasi took a closer look.
The Gypsy Parlor, 376 Grant St.
The night’s not over. On Grant Street, a short Uber ride into the West Side from the other two bars, is this urban oasis, which, after sticking to the floor of dive bars all night, will feel like a downright luxury.
For fresh air, the bar’s sidewalk patio yields a curtain-covered, fairy-light-entranced sitting area. The crowded bar concocts mystical cocktails like gypsy juice, any liquor mixed with apricot, ginger, lemon and blackcurrant ($7-$9). Witches Brew contains spiced rum and warm apple-pear cider ($8). A Zangaria is its luxe homemade sangria with cinnamon and cedilla acai liqueur ($8).
The entertainment is uniquely assorted and held most nights with Tarot-card reading, karaoke, live music, poetry slams, DJ sets, discos and burlesque shows. Your best bet is to check social media that day to see what sort of entertainment you’ll walk in on, although they do have designated nights.
Bonding with roommates is easier when you’re screaming "High School Musical"songs at the top of your lungs, guzzling down your fourth Zangaria.
Story topics: Albright-Knox Art Gallery/ Buffalo State/ Burchfield Penney Art Center/ Coles Restaurant/ Guercio and Sons/ Gypsy Parlor/ Lexington Co-Op/ Mr. Goodbar/ Second Chic/ Sweet_ness 7 Cafe/ Taste of Siam/ things to do/ West Side Bazaar/ Your Guide to WNY