While I have visited Buffalo many times over the past 35 years as my husband grew up in the Buffalo area and has many relatives in Western New York, we’ve never had the time to be “tourists” and check out some of the happenings in a resurgent Buffalo.
A late lunch would be a great way to start our visit, and a trip to the world-famous Anchor Bar (Amherst location) for classic Buffalo wings and Beef on Weck was a must. Yes, the original Anchor Bar location in downtown Buffalo is where “Buffalo Style” wings were invented.
The story goes, “on March 4th, 1964, Dominic Bellissimo was tending bar at the now famous Anchor Bar Restaurant in Buffalo, NY. Late that evening, a group of Dominic’s friends arrived with ravenous appetites. Dominic asked his mother Teressa, to prepare something for his friends to eat. Teressa deep fried some chicken wings (the part of the bird that normally went into the stock pot for soup), and flavored them with a secret sauce. The wings were an instant hit and it didn’t take long for people to flock to the bar to experience this new taste sensation. From that evening on, Buffalo Wings became a regular part of the menu at the Anchor Bar.”
The lunch special combo was more than filling. The wings were crispy and saucy – mild for me and medium for hubby – served with bleu cheese dressing and celery on the side. The slow-roasted rare roast beef was juicy and tender, piled high on a classic kimmelweck roll – a roll topped with kosher salt and caraway seeds – served with horseradish sauce. This sandwich is another classic Western New York treat that is hard to find outside of Buffalo.
The city is also known for its classic architecture built in the early twentieth century. At that time Buffalo had grown to become the eighth largest city in America. The booming commerce and industry provided great wealth and some of the most prominent architects of the era were selected to construct magnificent new buildings.
Explore Buffalo (explorebuffalo.org) offers a variety of tours focusing on various interests. There are several walking tours in the Downtown area, and Neighborhood Tours focusing on different parts of the city and the Beyond Buffalo Tours focus on surrounding suburbs. There are also special tours in the winter months that are mostly indoors, and in the summer, kayak and biking tours are added.
We selected the “Masters of American Architecture Tour” which showcased some of those beautiful turn-of-the-century buildings. We began in the lobby of the Hotel at the Lafayette on Washington Street. The docents led us on a two-hour tour with stops at the Guaranty Building (designed by Louis Sullivan & Dankmar Adler), the Ellicott Square Building (by Daniel Burnham & Co.), St. Paul’s Cathedral (by Richard Upjohn), St. Joseph’s Cathedral and the Old Post Office (now part of the campus of Erie Community College).
Comfortable walking shoes are highly recommended and cameras are encouraged (with the exception of the interior of a couple of buildings where photos are not allowed). This tour is $15 for adults; $5 for students. There is also an Explorer Pass available for $60 per person which gives you a year’s access to the over sixty tours and other events offered by Explore Buffalo.
While not part of the tour, just across the street from the Lafayette Hotel is the Largest Mural in Western New York (80’ x 160’), painted by international artist, Louise Jones. This mural, painted on the side of the Sinclair Building on Washington Street, was commissioned by the Albright-Knox Museum’s Public Art Initiative. The painting features flowers that are specific to New York.
And if after the tour you still haven’t had your fill of great architecture, head over to Buffalo City Hall. This art deco building, dedicated in 1932, is stunning both outside and inside, with a wealth of artwork and design work throughout that reflects the history of Buffalo and the area. The building is imposing in size and can be seen from just about anywhere in the city. You can take the elevator to the 25th floor and then climb 3 flights of stairs for spectacular views of Buffalo and Lake Erie.