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Pete's Place Food Shop slings top-notch food from tiny stand

Confession: I’m a suburbanite, but when my downtown-working brother tipped me off to a hot little spot that wasn’t getting much press, but was killing it with cheap prices and superb food, I knew I had to visit. 

I’m glad I did.

Pete’s Place Food Shop, which opened in March 2018, is buried within the first floor of the Swan Tower downtown. To find it, follow your nose, and the smells will serve as guide. 

We arrived on a mid-week afternoon, eager to sample what Pete’s had to dish out. 

Jesse Csuha, foreground, and owner Peter Flanagan prepare lunch at Pete's Place inside the Swan Tower. (Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News)

At first, Pete’s appears to be your average food stand, the kind where you can grab a subpar bagel, coffee, muffin and newspaper and be on your way. We quickly see where Pete’s departs. Specials listed include stuffed peppers, a chicken Parmesan quesadilla and crab cakes. My curiosity is piqued. 

Without the overhead of a sit-down restaurant, the prices for these items, and everything else, were all under $13. There’s no seating at Pete’s. It caters to the working crowd, many of whom return to the desk with to-go boxes. 

Three people hustle hard behind the counter, with two cooks manning the prep and griddle and another the ordering. We order a jerk chicken taco and steak taco (each $4.50), jerk chicken and shrimp rice bowl ($13), chicken Parmesan quesadilla ($10) and stuffed peppers ($12). The woman who took our order threw in a can of pop just because.

Crab cakes at Pete's Place inside Swan Tower. (Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News)

The steak gets tossed on the griddle, where it sizzles and spatters, sending off a tantalizing scent. It’s scooped into a corn tortilla, along with peppers and onions, and set, with a chicken taco tucked alongside, on the counter.

The rest of the food soon follows. We take everything outside, where, just a few steps in, the tacos tumble from their carton, falling tragically to the ground. I’m like a little kid who lost her ice cream scoops and bring the food back, preparing to pay, but they simply won’t have that.

The taco menu at Pete's Place inside the Swan Tower. (Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News)

This is the kind of place Pete’s is. They want you to leave happy — no matter what it takes, even if it means re-making a couple of tacos or throwing in a can of pop for no reason. Everyone there ordering seemed happy, too, with one guy turning to me and saying unprompted, “Pete’s is the absolute best. These guys are always so friendly.”

We quickly realize why Pete’s is earning word-of-mouth street cred. The rice bowl featured tender, flavorful jerked chicken and cooked-just-right shrimp. Rice is hard to get right, and this rice — fluffy with a spicy kick — was sublime. The quesadilla was a creative endeavor with melty cheese and chicken in a crunchy, fried quesadilla.

The tacos, sprinkled with micro greens and a mango salsa, were fresh and hearty, both held together with a thick corn tortilla. The peppers were stuffed with a blend of three cheeses and drenched in red sauce.

Pete’s also offers breakfast, from 8 to 11 a.m., and does catering. Its full menu, which is surprisingly large, also includes wraps, soups, sandwiches, burgers, salads and baked goods.

If you’re looking for top-notch food at cheap eats prices, and looking to get it quick, Pete’s is slinging some of the best. All you have to do is find it. 

CHEAP EATS

Pete’s Place Food Shop

Address: 290 Main St. (Swan Tower)

Hours: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday. Closed Saturday and Sunday.

Parking: street parking

Wheelchair-accessible: yes, from Main Street entrance.

Gluten-free options: Any menu item, except burritos and quesadillas, can be made with gluten substitutes.

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