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In the 1960s, psychedelics evangelist Timothy Leary popularized the term “set and setting” as shorthand for conditions that could shape the experience, for better or worse, of someone who has ingested hallucinogens. I flashed back to the term as I tried to crystallize my experience at Shamus Restaurant in Lockport. Before I ingested dinner there in early June, my last v…

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In recent years most of my efforts to explore local Chinese offerings have concentrated on taste sensations new to town. I’ve described regional specialties previously unavailable making appearances including Shaanxi whole roast leg of lamb at Xi An Gourmet, Sichuan hot pot at Amherst’s China Star, northern Chinese specialties like steamed bread and hand-pulled noodles at …

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On the first truly pleasant spring day of 2019, I was at the Little Club on Hertel Avenue, trying to become a better restaurant critic. One recurring reader complaint is that I don’t offer much wine insight. It’s a fair cop, as the Brits say. Which was why I was across the street from Ristorante Lombardo, in the family’s new wine-bar-slash-graduate-seminar. General Mana…

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It wasn’t until I tried to explain the appeal of Frank Gourmet Hot Dogs to a retirement-age friend that I realized what the little Kenmore restaurant is up against. I had just finished extolling the virtues of a delightful handful of adventure called the Violet Beauregarde, which tops a custom-made frank with spicy blueberry barbecue sauce and frizzled shoestring onion …

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Before it was wiped out for a highway ramp, there was a restaurant called Desiderio’s on William Street in Cheektowaga. From 1968 to 1989, Michael Desiderio helped supply the neighborhood with chicken Parmesan, spaghetti and meatballs, and other Italian American standards. Another specialty, it would become clear, was Italian American restaurant owners. One of Michael’s…

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“Upgraded tavern menu” is the great white whale of restaurant concepts. It’s on the lips of every other operator, but the true beast is rarely glimpsed. It’s an obsessive subject because giving customers noticeably better versions of dishes they already want sounds like a high-percentage shot at restaurant success. It’s hard to find because it’s difficult to offer fa…

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Buffalo is known for three things: snow, sports teams that are 0-for-eternity championship-wise, and chicken wings. Could Buffalo pizza make it four? The Wall Street Journal recently published a front-page article on the spreading popularity of cup-and-char pepperoni, a sign that another one of Buffalo’s culinary specialties has started to get the attention it deserves.…

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It’s almost like the restaurant at 3720 Lake Shore Road is trying not to get your hopes up, starting with the name. Generations ago, when Bethlehem Steel was cranking just up the street, it was Armondo’s. Steelworkers roomed upstairs. Later Champagne Theatre would put on Neil Simon comedies there. But that couldn’t last forever. It would become J.L. Crithens, then the C…

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Call me shallow, but I travel to eat. Taking a car or plane to eyeball majestic vistas, historic buildings and art museums is nice, but my favorite vehicle for broadening my horizons is a table. So when given the chance to try an ancient and vibrant cuisine, no passport required, I jumped. Despite our area’s sizeable Yemeni population, there haven’t been many succ…

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Eating companions can make a huge difference in the quality of your meal, especially friends who can help you pick fantastic dishes out of the stack of possibilities. At Gin Gin Restaurant, one of the area's oldest traditional Chinese restaurants, going in blind is particularly frustrating. Gin Gin Ren, the proprietress, has 352 listed dishes on her regular menu, includ…

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Oatka Creek provided the water power that built LeRoy, as the businesses whose gears it drove prospered along its banks. It also provided the building materials for One Main Street. The masons who laid its fortress-like walls built them of Marcellus shale, some slabs dark as blackboards, hauled out of the creek bed while James Monroe was in the White House. Step down…

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If Betty’s is not the heart of the Allentown community, it at least qualifies as a vital organ. Born in 2004, if Betty’s was a kid, it would be studying for a learner’s permit. Its community center feel, reinforced by poetry readings and walls lined with local artists, has always explicitly included vegetarians. Before vegan entrees were a staple in Buffalo restauran…

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From its first announcement, Waves promised to offer a kind of dining new to the Buffalo restaurant scene. In the former Papaya spot on Chippewa Street, it would combine the offerings of a pan-Asian place, classic Vietnamese, Thai and sushi, with the lure of all-you-can-eat restaurant, while still offering standard by-the-dish ordering. Since the current all-you-can-eat…

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The Buffalo-style chicken wing has conquered the world, having been served on all seven continents, even Antarctica. In its birthplace, many diners expect restaurants to offer their take on the classic, just as dinner at an Amalfi Coast trattoria should include a pitcher of the local rustic red wine. Wings are a piquantly sauced canary in the coal mine, because a kitche…

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The first time I ate dinner at Coco, Maura Crawford’s ode to French standards like coq au vin, steak frites, and buckets of mussels with more fries and aioli, it was 2013. Seven plates, I decreed, griping about dim lighting and languid service that might have suited namesake Coco Chanel, but didn’t leave me time for dessert. Two days after the review was published th…