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Three and a half years ago, I was appointed restaurant critic of The Buffalo News. Some 200 restaurant reviews later, my view of my job has expanded a smidge. My core mission is still giving readers actionable intelligence on where to spend their dining dollars. Put another way, it’s my job to find and proclaim the best in Western New York’s eating life. “The best” is a …

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The new (old) world of cocktails has our heads spinning, but in a good way. With the holidays here, meeting up with friends for a drink takes on a whole new meaning these days. We noticed at the swanky Bourbon and Butter, not only can we try a House Original signature cocktail, but we can take a mini trip without ever leaving the barstool. The "Modern Classics" section o…

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Four bartenders and four judges sized up the Buffalo cocktail scene’s progress in the fourth annual Industry Night cocktail competition last week. It started Monday night and ended in the wee hours of Tuesday, and in the end the outcome was familiar. Tony Rials, of Bourbon & Butter, won for the fourth year in a row, with his “No Talking, Just Head” cocktail, a Hornito…

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In three years and change, I’ve reviewed 173 restaurants in Western New York. (There are excellent places I haven’t reviewed yet, for which you have my apologies.) Of those, here are 20 places I recommend first. I rate restaurants on a scale of plates, with 10 being my top rating. Plates are an indicator of overall happiness, with quality of food, service, room and pric…

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Here are five top-notch cocktails to enjoy from the Buffalo area bar scene. Supressor #21 Lombardo Ristorante 1198 Hertel Ave. (873-4291) A smooth, velvety after-dinner drink, Lombardo’s Supressor #21 is the perfect blend of earthy, bitter and forest-fruit sweet. The sherry and umami Cynar are decadently rich, while orange bitters perk up the finish. -----------------…

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There can be a fine line between innovation for its own sake and elevating an old favorite to new heights. Tony Rials at Bourbon and Butter walks that line expertly, almost every time. Rials may be the best bartender in Buffalo, and the crowd at his rail on a weekday night shows his skill is no secret. He’s a man of few words, holding court in the turquoise and ivory art …

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Buffalo needs more grand rooms, places where dinner offers the potential for romance, for dazzle, for a night to remember. Where you can star in your own black-and-white classic movie, your table a stage for acts of deliciousness performed by expert practitioners of the culinary arts. Something more than the nutritional equivalent of pulling into a gas station to top off t…

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When you have a particular person in mind, but can’t think of what object would best express your holiday wishes, consider giving them a night to remember. That’s what restaurant gift certificates can be, if the place delivers something the giftee is looking for. Here’s five places that might help you cross that special someone off your list. Oshun, 5 E. Huron St., 848-…

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One of the talents that wins chefs fans is the ability to elevate familiar flavors, to put pedestrian dishes in fancy duds and make them dance. Case in point, the pork belly appetizer that Chef Bruce Wieszala has started offering at Bourbon & Butter inside downtown's Hotel @ the Lafayette. It's on the specials menu now, but the $14 dish may join the regular card after…

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Local Restaurant Week, wherein places offer $20.14 specials and other deals in a group effort to seduce eaters off their couches and out of their familiar dining ruts, is not always dining at its finest. Chefs used to making dishes that go for twice that have to feed the masses, cheap. Because the masses will show up, some gripping computer printouts like a map to Incan t…

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In the 1953 Ian Fleming novel “Casino Royale,” James Bond introduced the world to the Vesper martini, named for the beautiful and dangerous Vesper Lynd. Bond’s version is three parts gin, one part vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet with a slice of lemon peel. Some say there’s never been a better martini. Enter Bourbon and Butter’s The Vesper?, an original take on Bond’s…

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Mike Andrzejewski has become one of the most successful chef-owners in Buffalo, with SeaBar, Cantina Loco, and Tappo, by mixing upgraded versions of classic dishes with adventurous twists aimed at getting Buffalonians to step outside their comfort zone. How many timid Buffalo diners souls agreed to the first sushi ever because a Beef on Weck Roll, rice around rare beef wr…

Food and Drink

Today, Buffalo Chophouse will officially raise the curtain on a “top-to-bottom overhaul” aimed at freshening up the city’s veteran steakhouse. Outside, there are new signs and blacktop. Inside, new carpet, drapes, furniture workstations and more. The place has gone through a “top-to-bottom” overhaul, said owner Mark Croce. “Since we opened the Chophouse in 2002, it’s bee…

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With Bruce Wieszala leaving for Bourbon and Butter, owner Bryan Bryndle didn't have to look far for a new captain. Sous chef Dustin Murphy, trained by Wieszala, is fully capable of making the salumi that have become a favorite at Tabree and sister restaurant BillyBar in Williamsville, Bryndle said. “We’re going to put Murphy in charge of the kitchen, there’s no doubt abo…

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Chef Bruce Wieszala is leaving Tabree to join Bourbon and Butter. Wieszala, known for his deft hand with locally sourced produce and charcuterie, will start at the Hotel @ the Lafayette restaurant Sept. 16, he said. Tabree owner Bryan Bryndle said he didn’t expect major changes at his Snyder restaurant, which received 10 out of 10 plates in an October 2013 dining review.…