There are hard-to-miss openings of Buffalo-area restaurants, bars and cafes, such as Inizio – in the old Joe's Deli/Off the Wall on Elmwood Avenue – and Jazzboline, the Iskalo restaurant affiliated with the Reikart House in Snyder.
But small businesses, such as Fig Tree Patisserie in Kenmore, may open to the public but fly under the radar for a time, in part because of a lack of advertising and marketing money, the desire for a "soft opening" and the general busy nature of summer.
Here are 11 restaurants, bars and cafes that have opened in the past six months that might have sneaked past you.
Where: 9504 Heath Road, Colden
Opened: May 1 inside the Colden Lakes Resort
Who runs it: Joe Caldarelli, president of Mike Barney Nissan, and Julie Fronckowiak
Why it's interesting: Colden is not as far away as you think (and if it is, at least the drive is scenic). The Colden Lakes Resort has been around for four decades and catered wonderfully to the snowmobiling crowd, but the Tipsy Goat – the first building visible upon entering – is new and eager to entertain.
The former Whelan's is spacious, with room for 200-250, across four separate areas: the bar, the dining area, an outdoor area and a live music/stage area. A 10-foot-by-6-foot projection screen will grace the stage for Buffalo Bills games this fall, while live music is expected to be roughly twice per week.
What to order: For the food and drink, Caldarelli is "trying to live up to the bar's tipsy reputation." There's honey hot habanero moonshine wings – for which the Belle Isle flavored moonshine is not fully cooked off – that start sweet and tangy and finish with peppery heat, as well as an Adult Mac & Cheese, which features bacon and bourbon intertwined with the classic comfort food.
Caldarelli is proud the Tipsy Goat sells glasses of Beringer wine for $5, almost half the price for a glass of the same version in the city.
Hours: 4 to 11 p.m. Monday, closed Tuesday, 4 to 9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 4 p.m. to midnight Friday, 1 p.m. to midnight Saturday, 1 to 8 p.m. Sunday.
Where: 6600 Niagara Falls Blvd., Niagara Falls
Opened: Soft opening in mid-June
Who runs it: Owned by Khanh Vo, managed by owner's son, Thomas Vo. Khanh quit his job in machining/programming to pursue his dream of owning a restaurant, but he does have an unorthodox culinary background: he volunteered to cook for his church every Sunday for more than a decade.
Why it's interesting: Vietnamese food has long had a presence in Western New York, but the journey for the area's best pho – the culture's classic, soul-warming soup – is still a hot debate. Enter this Niagara Falls contender, which presents a healthier version by limiting processed sugar and flavor enhancers commonly used.
Part of the health initiative stems from the Pho Spot's location – next to an LA Fitness – and its desire to distinguish itself from competitors by presenting a more modern, brighter atmosphere with better plating. The Pho Spot isn't huge – it seats roughly 35 – and there's no alcohol.
What to order: There's a whopping 13 different varieties of pho ($11.95 regular, $13.95 large), many of them subtly different versions of meats. The best seller is P1, the combination special pho, a flavorful broth with rare beef, flank, brisket, tripe, tendon and meatballs. Versions with well-done beef are available, too.
Thomas noted that the Pho Spot has introduced several chicken dishes – including hard-to-find chicken pho – as well as a grilled chicken vermicelli bowl.
There's a banh mi-inspired stew, too, served with French bread for dipping. See the full menu.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Closed Monday.
Where: 9416 Transit Road, East Amherst
Opened: July 11
Who runs it: Arnold Audelo, who moved to Buffalo from South Carolina, and his uncle, Roberto Audelo, are partners in the new business. Arnold's father owns El Ranchito in Clarence.
Why it's interesting: Andale – pronounced "UN-duh-lay" – means "to get going" in Spanish, and that's precisely what's happening at this East Amherst Tex-Mex restaurant that's close to the Tops Markets, not far from where Transit Road meets North French Road.
Arnold Audelo describes his first Buffalo restaurant as a "small, cozy place" with a casual vibe. Seventeen tables seat between 60 and 70 people in total. The owners are awaiting approval on their application for a liquor license; a full bar with a variety of margarita flavors is the plan.
What to order: Andale is still in its infancy, and the base menu reflects Arnold's father's at El Ranchito. As the new eatery finds its footing, though, expect more creative specials – the shrimp poblano sold well in its short run last week – that might lend a little more authenticity.
Chimichangas, fajitas, large burritos and a slew of taco options – such as carnitas, al pastor, chorizo and more – are familiar fixtures on the menu. A Taco Tuesday, where tacos are discounted, will begin soon, Audelo said.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
Where: 4208 Clinton St., West Seneca.
Opened: March 2019.
Who runs it: Juliana Krajewski, a 23-year-old recent Alfred State College graduate who grew up in West Seneca.
Why it's interesting: Krajewski has opened a bakery out of her personal interest in pop culture – sparked by an early fondness for the Harry Potter book series – and her passion for baking, which began with Christmas cookies with her father and continued in the baking and pastry program at Alfred State.
The Clinton Street site is adorned with pop culture posters and more than 100 Funko Shop collectibles, and Krajewski (cry-EV-skee) hasn't lost her affinity for the wizarding world.
The Sorting Hat cookies hide a specific color inside, which will point the eater to their specific Harry Potter house. Pun-driven names – Obi-Wan Cannoli and Lord of the Almond Rings, for example – grace the menu.
What to order: The Chewie Chewbacca Cookies, distinguishable through the Star Wars' character's belt, are an oversized cookie with chocolate across the middle. For a summer treat, the Sansa Lemon Bars ($2) are refreshing and stand for the Game of Thrones character, Sansa Stark.
Hours: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Closed Sunday.
Where: 41 East Ave., Lockport
Opened: Soft opened June 15, opened in earnest a week later
Who runs it: Jason and Katie Mussachio, a husband-and-wife team that ran the Bubble T in Williamsville until 2004. Both are also teachers at online school Connections Academy.
Why it's interesting: In describing Lockport's food landscape, Jason Mussachio called it "omnipresent sandwich and pizza," and he saw a desire for something different. The simple, familiar ingredients of crepes, inspired originally by a Nutella crepe from a Parisian stand in the shadow of the Notre Dame Cathedral, made sense to the Mussachios.
"There is a French phrase, 'Simple comme bonjour,' which means, 'Simple as hello,' " he said in a message. "That kind of says it all for us. Tasty crepes, a great cup of coffee, and a bright location."
What to order: Jason noted that customers, especially in pairs, buy one sweet crepe and one savory crepe and then share. Each 16-inch crepe is made to order and folded into quarters.
The s'mores crepe is the most popular of the sweet options so far, while the sun-dried tomatoes, goat cheese and artichoke crepe tops the savory list. Gallettes, square-shaped buckwheat crepes, add more depth. Here's the full menu.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.
Where: 77 N. Main St., Angola
Opened: March 15
Who runs it: Husband-and-wife team Matthew and Jennifer Podoba. Both are self-taught restaurateurs who've worked in other fields – Jennifer in psychology and Matthew in information technology.
Why it's interesting: The Podobas bought the Main Street, Angola property, once built by Ford to sell Model Ts but abandoned more than 20 years ago, at a tax auction, then painstakingly reworked the dilapidated site into a cafe. The result is Veronica's Village Bistro, a breakfast-and-lunch eatery that Matthew calls "blue-collar upscale."
First and foremost, the Podobas want Veronica's to help the surrounding community, a "depressed area" that "begs for something a little more upscale." The owners have been supportive of nearby young businesses – such as Gram's Pierogi House and Frosted Fairytale Bake Shop – even selling the latter's pastries at their cafe and planning to eventually incorporate their bread.
Taking advantage of the 400-500-square-foot garden behind Veronica's – which has produced lettuce, peas and peppers, among other ingredients, for the menu – the young bistro takes local sourcing seriously. An application for beer and wine is pending, as the Podobas eye mimosas and bloody marys to complement their daily brunch menu.
What to order: Veronica's fleet of sandwiches ($6.95) is named after throwback celebrities – Frank Sinatra, John Wayne and Lucille Ball, for instance – with the great American crooner representing the most popular order. The Frank Sinatra is an Italian-style sandwich with cooked salami, ham, pepperoni, roasted red peppers, Dijon mustard and melted mozzarella.
Matthew also highlighted the crepes ($6.95), which may be filled with either strawberry, blueberry, banana or chicken Florentine filling. The prices are all under $10. Check out Veronica's menu.
Hours: 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday and Thursday. Closed Sunday.
Where: 9544 Lake Shore Road, Angola
Opened: May 3
Who runs it: Dave Smith, nicknamed Pappi by his son and his son's friends, including now-Pappi's Place chef Jeremy Schiffmaker. Smith's son worked for several years at Mickey Rats, where Smith visited regularly. Born in Cheektowaga, Smith has been a native of Angola since 1991.
Why it's interesting: Smith, who recently turned 61, was eager to work for himself, so he opened a small restaurant by the water, less than two miles from Mickey Rats. It's not huge – there's seating for only 18 people – and there's no alcohol.
But the intent is to do comfort food well, as Smith and Schiffmaker focus on handcrafted burgers and loaded tater tots (Reuben, Supreme, $6.50, sometimes discounted to $5), putting their spin on classic summer foods.
What to order: Smith emphasized that Pappi's makes its 8-ounce burgers fresh every day and serves close to 15 varieties ($9.95-$10.95), including the Rodeo burger, a mushroom burger and the Schiffy – a 16-ounce burger with four slices of bacon and four slices of cheese ($14.95).
Eight different styles of hot dogs, plus Pappi's Sandwich (choice of protein topped with french fries, coleslaw, melted cheese and tomato, $8.95) are also on the menu. Pappi's recently added seafood options, a Garbage Plate-style conglomeration and a $5 box special.
Hours: 4 p.m. to midnight Tuesday through Thursday, 2 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday, 2 to 10 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday.
Where: 444 Borden Road, West Seneca
Opened: Aug. 7
Who runs it: Wife-and-husband duo Carmela and Neil Eckert, who grew up in Lancaster and West Seneca, respectively. Carmela's sister and brother-in-law have owned Muscarella's Pizza, on Main Street in Williamsville, for more than a decade, offering plenty of sound advice for starting Annangelo's.
Why it's interesting: Carmela, a hair stylist, has jumped into the pizza business with her husband, Neil, taking over the old Pizza Factory in West Seneca after the owner's death.
Renaming the pizzeria after their kids – 7-year-old Anna and 6-year-old Angelo – the Eckerts have established a family-oriented restaurant with a more inviting design and paint job.
The Eckerts kept on a former employee to lend advice, and the decision was made to bump up the quality of the pizza ingredients. The owners throw their own made-from-scratch dough, shred their own Sorrento mozzarella, rely on the sauce recipe of Carmela's Sicilian-born mother and add their own twist to the crust, a garlic butter version.
What to order: The Eckerts' emphasis is on the quality ingredients in the pizza, so sharing a large cheese and one topping pizza, for $17.40, is a wise way to go. For those seeking more, there's a bevy of additional toppings to pick, plus specialty flavors such as stinger, chicken finger, taco, steak and white. Kids options are available, too.
Hours: 3 to 9 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday.
Where: 6935 Ward Road, Wheatfield (from its former location, at 3964 Lockport Road in Niagara Falls)
Opened: July 18
Who runs it: Business partners are Denny Soliday with Sean MacKenzie and head chef Jeff McMahon.
Why it's interesting: Thanks to Soliday's successful catering and restaurant menu, owner Denny Soliday had been on the hunt for a more spacious location for some time. He stumbled upon the former JT Wheatfield's/Westby's space, which measures 8,500 square feet plus a patio, seating 300 as opposed to 70 at the former spot.
It's an 8-mile move east – near the border of Niagara Falls and Wheatfield – for the sports bar with high culinary standards. A wealth of beer options – more than 100 bottles available – are a nice match for the wealth of TVs.
What to order: Two of Soliday's most popular dishes are the pot roast poutine ($8) and the Brother Bear "sammich" ($8/$11), which is essentially French onion soup in sandwich form. Steak-and-cheese subs and a 10-inch pot pie are additional hot picks.
In the new space, Soliday's will now make burgers ($10-$12) with wagyu beef, and have added a few dinner options – such as stuffed calamari manicotti (calamari tubes stuffed with steak and cheese, then breaded and baked, served on risotto, $16) – to the full menu.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
Where: 3500 Main St., Amherst in University Plaza
Opened: Aug. 8
Who runs it: David Vu, who came from Vietnam to Buffalo five years ago, is also a partner in Pho Dollar, the West Side Vietnamese restaurant.
Why it's interesting: Geared toward the UB South Campus student population – which still boasts a sizable Asian contingent – Cow Bubble Tea bustled in the early days of business in the Tops Markets plaza. There's seating for more than 30 people, free Wi-Fi and plenty of natural light streaming in through the windows.
In a competitive local market, there's little room for powder-based bubble tea, and that's why Vu named his solo business "Cow," to emphasize his milk-based, house special teas, which come in five flavors (original Cow tea, Thai green tea, butterfly pea flower, green coffee and brown sugar boba milk).
Vu elaborated briefly on the three- to four-hour process it takes to cold-brew his product with water, the loose-leaf tea and milk; all of his teas are cold for the summer. The only food item on the menu is a Vietnamese banh mi, which comes in four forms: the Special (with Vietnamese ham, pate and pork belly), cold cut, Vietnamese ham and char siu (Chinese barbecue pork).
What to order: The butterfly pea flower tea is unusual, creamy and absolutely worth a try. It's an attractive light blue color and tastes refreshingly floral which, with unfamiliar fruit alternatives such as lychee and longan, is an adventurous perk of bubble tea shops.
Even more uncommon are two toppings: the cream cheese jelly and cheese milk foam, which can be added to any drink. The former, a tiny block of cream cheese encased by a coconut-flavored, gelatinous bubble, is a whirlwind of textures (definitely an experience, and not one universally loved among those who tasted) immersed in the drink, while the latter is a frothy foam that lays over top of the drink for textural variation.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. daily for now, with hours eventually expanding to 11 p.m.
The Gin Mill and the Gin Mill Carriage House Bar
Where: 26-30 Washington St., Ellicottville (previously at 20 Washington St.)
Opened: Aug. 1
Who runs it: Maribeth and Ed Rick, who've owned the Gin Mill business since 2007.
Why it's interesting: The Ricks celebrated their 12th anniversary of owning the Gin Mill, which has endured since the 1920s when it opened as a grocery store, by moving the Ellicottville bar-restaurant a quarter-mile down the street. But the new digs are much bigger – seating has increased by 30% – and it's far more modern in its structure and function.
For those reading with serious concern about the changes that accompany the short move, fear not: the 7-foot-long fake shark was marched across the street and now hangs over the new bar, and the food menu, staff and prices are identical to the old location. Beer taps increase from 26 to 30, with an emphasis on area breweries (East Aurora's 42 North brews the special Gin Mill Lager), with three wines and Truly, the popular hard seltzer, also added as tap handles.
Also exciting: Maribeth detailed the plans for the adjoining Gin Mill Carriage House Bar, an old, rustic carriage house attached to the side of the main building. The Ricks have taken plenty of care with the design – tables have been handmade from the previous floor joist, for example – and laid out a menu of craft cocktails, small plates and fancy wines. The Carriage House Bar is tentatively expected to open in mid-September.
What to order: The wings, beef on weck and the Gin Mill Burger are among the must-try staples among the pub food options, but Maribeth emphasized that the Gin Mill boasts one of the only full breakfasts in town. The corned beef hash and sausage, biscuits and gravy all have a chance to shine in a village where visitors often stay overnight.
Hours: 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily.
• The Critchen, 3377 Clinton St., West Seneca. Takeout and catering only for now.
• The Olive Leaf, 6310 Robinson Road, Lockport.
• Olmsted Coffee Company, no physical location.
Story topics: Andale Mexican Restaurant/ Annangelo's Pizza/ Colden Lakes Resort/ Gin Mill/ niagara falls/ restaurant news/ restaurant openings/ The Geekery/ The Pho Spot/ Tipsy Goat/ Veronica's Village Bistro